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The Story Behind Sorting

A few years back, waste segregation became mandatory in Mumbai and many other cities. In addition, when something new comes as a rule without clarity on the need, it feels like a burden and is overwhelming.

Initially, I started segregating my waste out of obligation, but it all changed when I learned why it was so crucial.

Did you know that although honey and ghee both have immunity and nutritional values if mixed in equal proportion, it could be unsafe? Or that an Apple is one of the healthiest fruits, but its seed is toxic? Just like how certain food combinations are unsafe, the same holds for different types of so-called waste (much of which is actually a resource) in a much deeper manner.

Isn’t organic waste biodegradable?

The food and plant waste do not ALWAYS biodegrade and do not return to the soil! Surprised? Even I was.

I thought that all green and food waste biodegrades in a landfill or wherever it goes after being collected from the houses.

In fact, organic waste needs oxygen to biodegrade, and most landfills are so compacted that they release Methane Gas, which is far more dangerous than CO2.

So how does correct sorting help HERE?

Waste segregation enables wet waste to be composted, dry waste to be recycled, and e-waste to be refurbished.

Only the remainder, which is the medical/hazardous waste, needs to be treated or may get added to a landfill.

So what can be done?

Sort whatever goes out into 4 broad categories – Wet, Dry, E-waste, and Hazardous Waste.

WET WASTE:- Currently, along with waste segregation, certain housing societies also need to tackle their wet waste on their own. That means wet waste treatment, i.e., composting the same. This is mostly done either at the societal level or outsourced to people undertaking commercial composting.

This compost, in turn, is used to reduce or eliminate the dependence on outside fertilizers at the societal level if a garden is maintained. So wet waste converted into manure is used to grow greens and give fresh air. Isn’t that an amazing way of how what was actually a part of the waste bin, when sorted, becomes a resource?

But for that to happen, it requires that the organic waste doesn’t contain the other types of waste.

To give an example, if plastic or batteries are mixed, they will block the breathing of the other wet waste items and will also release microplastics, chemicals, toxins, etc. Also, we might lose out on the resources that could be created with this plastic & battery.

DRY WASTE:- Remember that dry waste doesn’t mean dry food or plant-based items. Dry waste, in simple terms, includes most recyclables like Paper, Plastic (certain types), metals, and Glass.

When these items are separated properly, they can be recycled to create new products. Certain plastics are recycled to create benches, thus saving wood/metal, and avoiding this plastic littering, clogging, and pollution. (This doesn’t mean that we increase our plastic use as they can be recycled only a certain number of times).

Metals require a lot of energy resources from extraction to the final product. However, when metal is recycled, the extraction cost is saved, and most metals like aluminum can be indefinitely recycled.

Again, when they are sorted properly, they help create items that save us energy, conserve limited natural resources, and reduce pollution.

E-WASTE:- There are multiple items needed to create every electrical/electronic device, with the number of items increasing depending on the functionality.

So these items, which may not be of use to you, could be either refurbished if in usable condition, or parts can be extracted, especially metallic parts, and reused in making other items.

Hazardous items:- Medical and medical-related waste and sanitary waste are the key items falling in this category, which need to be sent to specific centers like Common Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities. As of now, very few places will have separate bins for these items. However, you can at least mark your waste clearly, so that the waste picker/sorter can at least take precautions.

To Summarize:- Segregating waste is not just a mandatory task, but it helps generate resources when disposed of properly, overall bringing down your footprint.

Interesting Fact: Panaji segregates waste into 16 categories, and that is rocking.

Pro-Tip: You need not buy 4 bins if you don’t have them.

  1. Use any carton boxes or buckets, etc., for Dry waste and Hazardous waste.
  2. Collect the dry waste over a fortnight and give it to a scrap collector or deposit it in multiple drives being done by NGOs nowadays.
  3. You can collect your e-waste over a month or quarter, which will be more infrequent.

Refer to our upcoming post on the List of Recyclers for Dry and E-waste in case any collection facility in your area is yet to be started.

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