Tuula Virman-Ojanen and Sangita Kulathinal
India is rapidly moving towards globalisation and adopting many ways of industrialised countries toward improving infrastructure. Now-a-days, advertisements of housing societies/apartment buildings/residential areas with modern amenities are often seen in the newspapers and television. These amenities include schools, health clubs, parks, clinics among other commonly sought facilities. Nevertheless, what about the tonnes of garbage and human waste generated daily? Where will that go and where will it really end up? Should not this question be a concern of a layman? A beautiful beach at Tithal in Gujarat is a popular place of visit by locals as well as tourists. Go and walk there and the first sight is that of plastic bags spread all around (see photos 1, 2, 3, 4). People are quite fond of eating at picnic places, but around the Tithal beach, a garbage disposal bin is hard to see. The next question is, if garbage disposal bins were available then would people have used them efficiently? While travelling by public transport, you tend to see people dumping waste by the roadside, keeping one's own place clean. But then this practice is like defecating in one's own plate and eating in the same! A natural question which we must ask ourselves is, where does one get education about such issues of civic sense - at school, at home or where else? This is just one example of a public place and even though India has so much to offer in way of culture, history, nature and diversity, there is a reluctance to visit because of lack of cleanliness. Read more on how to stay healthy while travelling in India in the article by Cook.
The relationship between the number of people and the amount of pollutants is alarming (Singhal and Pandey, 2001). In fact, it forces us to say that "number of pollutants" is really some multiple of "number of people" (may be ten times?). As with everything else, things which are of common concerns do not shake anyone, possibly due to the thinking habit that somebody else will look into it. The rate at which India's population is growing, the waste generated is growng several times rapidly. In some cities, there is a provision for door-to-door collection of garbage, provided by the municipal corporations. Once the garbage is collected, it is dumped in some "dumping ground" and a massive task of segregation (separating different types of garbage) then takes place. Could you imagine doing it yourself even for just your own house's garbage? There is a way to handle this mess, garbage segregation at source!
The term "recycling" is usually used to refer to the industrial process where used materials are transformed into new ones. "Recycling" can, however, also be used more loosely as a synonym for the process of separating household waste into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. The garbage can be classified into two types: (1) recyclable, and (2) non-recyclable. Recyclable garbage and waste include many items and after processing these items, they can be reused in some or the other form. A good home-maker does recycling at all stages daily. The purpose is to reduce the wastage. For example, rice cooked for lunch could be mixed with vegetables to make vegetable fired rice or biryani and chapaties can be used to make chiwda by frying onions and chillies. The same principle is applicable to garbage also. The newspapers, cardborads, tins, containers as well as milk plastic bags are handled properly and given to raddiwallahs (collectors of household waste). One reason for this is that these items fetch money. Jain (2004) writes about the process that follows after the household waste is bought by the raddiwallahs.
We briefly review the current situation of municipal solid waste management (MSWM) in India before describing how it is managed in Finland. Gupta (2001) describes the current situation of the waste management policies and practices in India. Kumar (2005) evaluates the present situation of in India based on published information and NEERI's (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, India) expertise towards MSWM. He also presented an approach to design a sustainable MSWM system to meet the future challenge. The efforts by a community-based organization to promote a sustainable integrated waste management in mega cities and lessons learnt from EXNORA's (an Indian voluntary organisation) Zero Waste Management Scheme in South Indian cities has also been outlined.
A local non-governmental organisation (NGO) called EXNORA initiated a community-based organisation to promote a sustainable integrated waste management system in Indian mega cities in 1989. This was based on a 'zero waste management scheme' which was set up, run and financed by the residents themselves. Colona and Fawcett (2006) report results from a survey of the two schemes that used various tools to assess both their performance and sustainability in selected residential areas of two Indian cities, Chennai and Hyderabad. The results indicated limited success of the schemes both in saving a significant fraction of the generated waste from dumping, and in rehabilitating the local poor. However, they show that motivated individuals can successfully set up and manage waste collection systems that lead to overall environmental improvements. The GEF small grant programme funded a project during 2003-2006 to create awareness and a sense of commitment to a clean city among the Indian citizens. The project demonstrated the management and the feasibility of municipal solid waste and hospital waste management through community participation in two pilot areas of Patna city. Organized and targeted public awareness campaigns had been used as a vehicle for the successful demonstration and impelmentation of the project. This has resulted in wide scale awareness amongst the community regarding waste management and replication of the model to other wards in the city.
At the national policy level, the ministry of environment and forests has legislated the Municipal Waste Management and Handling Rules 2000. This law details the practices to be followed by the various municipalities for managing urban waste. It documents a practice of source segregation of waste for cleaner composting and recycling and would have given an excellent management system if only the rules were to be followed. Under "Segregation of municipal solid wastes", it says that "In order to encourage the citizens, municipal authority shall organise awareness programmes for segregation of wastes and shall promote recycling or reuse of segregated materials. The municipal authority shall undertake phased programme to ensure community participation in waste segregation. For this purpose, regular meetings at quarterly intervals shall be arranged by the municipal authorities with representatives of local resident welfare associations and non-governmental organizations." How many such awareness programmes have been really organised and how many have you attended?
Both national and international level conferences have been organised over the years to discuss the solid waste and hazardous waste management problems. In spite of many articles, documents and policies prepared in recent years, a proper and simple guide to types of waste, segregation of waste, places where hazardous waste can be disposed off, and how one can contirbute towards reducing the waste generated at home and composting one's own waste are not readily available. The purpose of this article is to document the solid waste (household) management practices obsereved in Finland, individual's role in the management, and what India can easily borrow from Finland's practice of managing household wastes. In the process, some suggestions are made for preparing informaiton brochures which can be made easily available to people to help in managing the waste.
A solution to management of household waste largely lies with the facilities made available not at the city level but at the local area level. A colony of certain number of households should have a common place in the colony for composting (where segregated biodegrable waste is dumped) and disposing of other recyclable and non-recyclable items. With the proper information and guidance, it would be possible to reduce nearly 85% of the household waste which is recyclable from going to the landfill!
There are important social and economic advantages to efficient recycling. First, recycling saves resources. Recycled materials can be used to produce new products that would otherwise have to be made out of new raw materials, such as oil, wood, or metal. Second, recycling biological waste reduces the methane emissions from landfill sites and thus prevents global warming, as methane is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases. Third, recycling reduces the amount of waste ending up on landfill sites, which decreases the contamination of the soil and saves land for other purposes. The options for recycling household waste usually differ depending on where one lives. Some options exist for everyone, and some only for people living in certain areas or cities.
Finland, a Scandinavian country, gives an ideal example of well-managed and widely practiced garbage segregation at source and recycling of wastes. Only recently that the trade between India and Finland has increased but we know very little about this country. So, let us begin to know it by learning about its excellent practice of handling garbage. The purpose of this article is to bring out the importance of waste management and document the waste management practices in Finland (mostly of household waste) and to give a practical guide to making your own compost. Most of the material presented here is taken from YTV - Waste Management and Marttinen (2004).
In many places in India, defecating still takes place on the road-side or in some ground in open. Toilets, which are simply a shed with a big drum and wooden planks, could be easily built. Soil can be kept in the toilets to cover after defecating. This can also be used for compost. This is an example how human waste can be managed so that the environment is kept clean. We do not elaborate on eco-friendly toilets here but more information can be found from here.
Ecological thinking has emerged more strongly in Finland since the late 1980s. On all levels of society, environmental concerns are being taken into account more carefully than before. Finland actively supports international environmental agreements, environmental organisations and ecological lifestyles have become more popular, and the number of companies marketing the ecological aspects of their products has increased. On a very practical level, every person has the possibility of contributing to the well-being of the environment. One can reduce the amount of waste that ends up on landfill sites by separating household wastes that can be recycled and reused, possible at the household level. Recently there was a call for people to use diaper which is reusable so that the waste generated can be reduced. In India, the store bought diaper may not be affordable to all and may not be suitable for all children, hand made diaper which are washable and hence, reusable provides a good alternative.
A study about Finnish people's attitudes towards recycling was accomplished in Tampere area (see Marttinen, 2004). The study also compared the attitudes towards recycling in a large city Tampere and a rural community Kauhava. People were asked to fill out a questionnaire and the most important question was: Why do you recycle? There were varying answers for this. Most commonly, however, people answered that they recycled because they wanted to protect the environment. After environmental considerations, the second most common reason for recycling was a little surprising: people recycled because it was a habit (routine) that they usually did not even think about. Equally many people thought that it was sensible and wise to recycle. The ease of recycling was also mentioned as a reason for doing it. Some people also felt that, for them, recycling was a question of fulfilling their duty as a citizen, or a way of soothing a conscience that was troubling them because of wasteful habits. Such a study in Indian scenario would prove very useful in planning education towards waste management since it is a rather common practice to discard waste just where it is generated.
A larger city such as Tampere has a greater need for efficient waste management than a small rural community like Kauhava, because of the sheer amount of waste that is produced everyday and the lack of places to store it in a densely populated area. Due to its special needs, Tampere has had a longer history of organising recycling facilities, and people have had the opportunity of doing it for a longer time than the people in Kauhava. These might be the reasons why people find it easier to recycle in Tampere and why recycling has become a common habit. In Kauhava, the need for recycling is not so great and recycling is not so common yet. As a result, recycling is seen more as a moral issue rather than a necessary everyday habit. This could be why the moral aspect was predominant in the answers from Kauhava.
The question Why do you not recycle? is as important as its counter question, as it reveals both deficiencies in the recycling system and more personal factors behind why people may not have started recycling. The answers to this question were not as uniform as to the previous one; the opinions were distributed more evenly among the various alternatives.
Reasons connected to a lack of information were mentioned a number of times. Many people did not know where the collection points were or what materials could be taken there, or what they could recycle in the first place even if they wanted to. Reasons connected to deficiencies in the recycling system were very common. Either the collection point for recyclable materials was situated too far away, or there was no collection point for certain materials.
Some people said that they had not started recycling because it was difficult to store the recyclable materials for a long time. Bio-waste may start to smell in an improper container, and a milk carton will attract banana flies if it has not been washed properly. Some people simply do not have enough room in their kitchen for several different containers - a problem which, according to one person, should be attacked already in the design of Finnish kitchens. A number of people also mentioned that the amount of certain recyclable materials (bio-waste, metal, glass, for example) which they generate is so small that it did not seem rational to start separating them. However, all the previous factors can be associated with a lack of time or energy - or rather, commitment - to do something concrete for the environment, and thus recycling could actually be a simple question of willpower.
Finally, two people claimed that it does not make any difference whether one recycles or not. The efforts of one person seem useless, since not everyone recycles anyway. On the other hand, one person turned this point the other way around, and said that every person's small and simple efforts are meaningful because, when combined together, they can make a real difference.
The question about the ease of recycling has already partly been answered. On one hand, recycling is considered easy when the collection points are situated close by and there is an effective system in place for recycling. In addition, many people pointed out that recycling is, indeed, only a question of commitment and willpower rather than a question of it being difficult. On the other hand, recycling is regarded as complicated or too demanding if the collection points are far away or do not exist in the first place.
Here we describe in detail the measures taken by the city for the ease of handling the household waste in residential areas. In Helsinki area the local waste management company has printed a brochure called Instructions for Sorting Waste and is distributed to each household in Helsinki.
Each housing complex or a society has a small enclosure with four/five covered bins.
Apart from this, a local grocery shop has a place to dispose off glass and canes. There are separate bins for coloured glass (bottles) and white glass. A big shopping mall has a wide range of cabinets with all sorts of items like tube lights, batteries, discs, metal, wood etc. In addition, medicines have to be given to the nearby pharmacy or medical shop for recycling. There are recycling centres which accept used furniture, electronic goods and cars/car parts. At some places, you have to even pay some money for recycling your (waste) goods. This is what the society does with regard to garbage segregation at source.
There are some regulations which have to be followed in the cities. For example, in Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council the inhabitants of a residential building must separate biowaste from other waste, if there are ten apartments or more in the building. Also cardboard and carton are to be collected separately, if there are twenty or more apartments in the same residential building. The waste paper is not allowed to be put into the bin of mixed waste. In rural areas people are recommended to build a compost of their own for biodegradable wastes of their household. Click here to see a How-To on "Composting biodegradable waste".
While there is still much to be done before the general ideals can be reached, some significant progress has occurred in Finnish recycling policy. The progress is, however, quite a recent phenomenon. The Ministry of the Environment was established in Finland only in 1983. Especially since the emergence of the concept of sustainable development in the late 1980s, environmental protection has been taken into better consideration on all levels of society. The government and municipal authorities have created a number of recommendations and regulations aiming at a better environment. For example, cities are required to give waste management regulations that conform to the Finnish Waste Act (see YTV's instructions for household waste).
In general, basic household waste can be divided into dry residual waste, hazardous waste, and recyclable materials. Materials that can be recycled in Finland - at least in some places - include paper, bio-waste, metals, glass, brown cardboard, carton packages, and plastics.
Finnish communal waste is managed by companies that are owned by groups of municipalities. These companies collect both recyclable materials and dry residual waste. They also collect hazardous waste and many other materials and products that cannot be used anymore and have to be disposed of, such as construction waste and large objects like refrigerators.
The companies that manage waste maintain three "levels" of waste collection points where recyclable materials can be taken after they have been separated from other household waste at home. The three levels are:
Transporting the waste to an appropriate recycling centre can sometimes be problematic. The eco-centre might be situated far away, which is the case for example in Tampere. There are only two centres for 200,000 people in Tampere, one of them on the edge of the city, so some people are bound to live quite far away from them. Some people do not have a car of their own, and some objects, such as old refrigerators, can be difficult to transport even if one has a car. To help in transportation problems, Tampere Regional Solid Waste Management Ltd. has organised a scheduled mobile collection called Repe & Romu for hazardous waste and electrical appliances (Repe & Romu). The service is free, which makes it easier for people to properly dispose of materials and objects that are harmful to the environment.
Waste treatment by modern standards is expensive. Domestic waste management in Finland is not funded with taxes. It is funded with the fees collected. Even recycling waste incurs costs and an environment burden. This is why a recycling fee is included in the price of some new products.
It is obligatory for every household to have a collection bin for dry residual waste. Several households may share a bin, but nevertheless there has to be one. The functioning of the waste management is funded by monthly fees collected from waste bin owners. People living in blocks of flats do not usually have to think about the fees in detail, because the housing company takes care of them, and charges for them in the rent. People living in single-family houses, however, have to decide upon the type of waste bin they are going to buy on the basis of how much waste they produce. The bins of individual households should usually be emptied every two weeks.
More than one million inhabitants and 50 000 enterprises within the YTV (YTV = Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa) catchment area produce more than one million tons of waste per year. Half of this amount ends up in the waste treatment centre of Ämmässuo in Espoo. About 55% of the waste produced in this area is recycled or otherwise taken into utilisation.
The waste treatment centre is the largest in the Nordic countries. It receives waste from five municipalities (Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi). The total number of residents in these municipalities is over one million. There are many different functions in the waste treatment centre: landfill area, reception of different recyclable waste, a composting plant, preparation and storage of compost and a Sortti Recycling Centre. Potential environmental problems caused by waste treatment include for example leachate water, the formation of methane and odour and the littering of the near surroundings. Therefore special attention is continuously paid to the environmental issues. For example, extensive water collection systems have been built to drain the waters from the landfill area to a municipal waste water treatment plant. Methane emissions from the landfill have been monitored systematically since 1988. Landfill gas is gathered with gas-collection systems. A considerable proportion of the landfill gas generated at Ämmässuo is utilized in the production of district heating at E.ON Finland's plant in Kivenlahti, Espoo.
See YTV for more information on waste management.
The points which are made above in section Why do people not recycle? are applicable in India too. The lack of information and hence, the lack of proper knowledge is a major factor in many practices in India. If the waste management education is introduced as a part of school education, and printed brochures giving information on different types of waste and how to handle them are provided then there is a scope of seeing clean cities in India.
Another way of educating school children is to motivate them. For example, Tampere Regional Solid Waste Management Ltd challenged senior grades of basic schools to attend a short film program during the spring 2005. The idea was to produce short films about consumption and its influence on the environment. Students were tutored by a project coordinator who offered environmental education and assisted in shooting films. See Tampere Regional Solid Waste Management - Reel Time for more details.
After educating people about the consumption and the resulting waste, the local municipalities should plan waste management by fees, probably dependent on the number of people living in household and the amount of waste generated. The same could be employed for the use of water. Each apartment building can have combined bins which can be closed properly.
In summary, an information brochure which is easily available should be prepared and distributed. Secondly, a study of some selected residential areas providing additional informaiton to the residents about segregation and reduction in day-to-day to waste should be planned. Proper garbage bins should be set-up in residential areas for putting segregated waste and data should be collected on types of waste generated. Well-planned and well-maintaned compost bins should be made in residential areas. With active involvement by all Indians we should be able to see cleaner cities in India.