One of the definitions of waste as per google says - "unwanted or unusable material, substances, or by-products".
Another one says - "(of a material, substance, or by-product) eliminated or discarded as no longer useful or required after the completion of a process".
In this context, if a product is not useful to us, does it really become waste? Actually no - because one man's waste could be another's treasure. The clothes discarded in the name of fashion can be used by others for a long long time.
The food that goes waste across the globe every day - if used to feed the hungry will ensure that no one is hungry in this world anymore.
So before defining something as waste, we should understand if it could be used constructively in any way. Waste is actually not waste but a misplaced resource.
Kolkata generates over 4000 tons of solid waste daily
Kolkata generates over 4000 tons of solid waste every day. This amount of waste is humungous and we must understand this solid waste which all goes to the landfill is one of the biggest causes of pollution and climate change.
All studies clearly point out that the volume is growing and plastic waste has turned into a big peril for Calcuttans, clogging sewers and drains and triggering waterlogging across the city.
CO2 and methane gases generated from the landfill are extremely harmful. Our first thought should be why so much waste?
The amount of waste that our ancestors generated was far less than this. We must ask ourselves this question - how did they do that?
Their wants and needs were less. Our material ambitions today are endless. We want to buy more and more. Very often we think that buying and owning materialistic things will fetch us happiness.
Yes, buying new things may give us momentous happiness. But that's all. Once the happiness is gone, we again repeat the cycle and this is a vicious and endless cycle. We must understand the difference between our needs and our greed.
Our home generates organic and inorganic waste daily
Waste that leaves our home has a lot of things - kitchen and food waste which is called wet waste or organic waste. Paper, cardboard, metal, glass, plastics are dry waste- some of which are organic and others inorganic.
If we do all the dry and wet waste in one bin, we lose out on a lot of resources that could otherwise have been recycled and reused.
When these things segregate at source, we save a lot of time, energy and money. We also save the Virgin resources for our future generations. We have already used up more resources than we should have.
How can you become conscious buyers?
First of all, we should become conscious of our needs and be responsible buyers. Ban disposables that are plastics. The use of harmful and toxic materials is causing pollution in our land, water system and air. Human selfishness is causing suffering not only to themselves but for all other living creatures.
The only way to handle this is to become conscious and responsible humans and instead of using harmful and unnatural products, we should only use natural and eco-friendly products.
We should stop using harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers for growing food but switch back to natural farming methods. Eating natural food rather than processed foods will help us become closer to our land.
For centuries our land has given us plentifully. It's time we should return the favor.
(Lata Bhatia is an eco-warrior who leads by example. She tries to lead a zero-waste life herself and to help others do the same and has started a zero-waste store ( first in eastern India) in Kolkata. She promotes zero waste living by giving workshops and presentations across the country)
(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)