India Combats 165 Million Tons of Trash Daily

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At a workshop last week in New Delhi, Vijai Sharma, secretary of India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest, announced that the country produces more than 165 million tons of trash each day.

The workshop looked into technical textiles, such as Oekotech, which are used for environmental protection by means of landfill waste management in India. Products prevent leakage of refuse in landfills and assist with the reuse of waste.

The use of Oekotech in India is one of the many proactive moves the country is making to combat its history of waste management problems.

Photo: Flickr/mackenzienicole

Recycling is done mostly to make money. More than one million “rag pickers” earn their living in India by digging through trash and selling recyclable materials to dealers. Photo: Flickr/mackenzienicole

According to Sharma, “We have to increase consciousness of the community about the need for sustainable development and waste recycling. And there is an urgent need to set standards, a higher level of definitiveness and create synergy between industry and government to increase the use of the Oekotech group of technical textiles,” reports the Times of India.

With a population of 1.2 billion people as of July 2009, as well as rapid urbanization and unplanned development, the country has struggled to keep up with waste management needs.

One reason for these problems is the country’s size. While India has nearly four times as many people, it is only one-third the size of the U.S.

Drastically less space for disposal, coupled with overpopulation, leads many people to make their homes in landfills.

No more than 20 percent of the India’s municipal waste is recycled in an environmentally friendly way, leaving the rest in landfills, said Sharma.

Waste collection is a major problem for India. Uneven distribution of waste bins often makes it necessary for people to travel long distances to dump their waste.

Additionally, small, unpaved roads hinder collection of the bins. As a result, many are constantly overflowing, creating unsanitary conditions.

However, in the past 10 years, an increase in the number of nongovernmental organizations have actively worked to improve the working and living conditions of rag pickers (people who sift through garbage for valuable items). Door-to-door collection is available to some households. According to a report by The World Bank, these efforts have significantly improved the living conditions of hundreds of rag pickers.

Another step being taken is the reuse of plastic waste to pave roads. The plastic roads not only reduce the amount of waste in landfills, but they also provide better traction.

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