I Proudly Segregate My Garbage


Solid waste management is a polite term for garbage management. As long as humans have been living in settled communities, solid waste, or garbage, has been an issue, and modern societies generate far more solid waste than early humans ever did. Daily life in industrialized nations can generate several pounds of solid waste per consumer, not only directly in the home, but indirectly in factories that manufacture goods purchased by consumers. Solid waste management is a system for handling all of this garbage; municipal waste collection is solid waste management, as are recycling programs, dumps, and incinerators.

To the great benefit of archeology, early solid waste management consisted of digging pits and throwing garbage into them. This created a record of the kinds of lives that people lived, showing things like what people ate, the materials used to make eating utensils, and other interesting glimpses into historic daily life. When human cities began to be more concentrated, however, solid waste management became a serious issue. Houses that did not have room to bury their garbage would throw it into the streets, making a stroll to the corner store an unpleasant prospect. In response, many cities started to set up municipal garbage collection, in the form of rag and bone men who would buy useful garbage from people and recycle it, or waste collection teams which would dispose of unusable garbage.

Types of solid waste

Solid waste can be classified into different types depending on their source:
a) Household waste is generally classified as municipal waste,
b) Industrial waste as hazardous waste, and
c) Bio-medical waste or hospital waste as infectious waste.

Municipal solid waste.

Municipal solid waste consists of household waste, construction and demolition debris, sanitation residue, and waste from streets. This garbage is generated mainly from residential and commercial complexes. With rising urbanization and change in lifestyle and food habits, the amount of municipal solid waste has been increasing rapidly and its composition changing. In 1947 cities and towns in India generated an estimated 6 million tones of solid waste in 1997 it was about 48 million tones. More than 25% of the municipal solid waste is not collected at all; 70% of the Indian cities lack adequate capacity to transport it and there are no sanitary landfills to dispose of the waste. The existing landfills are neither well equipped nor well managed and are not lined properly to protect against contamination of soil and groundwater.

         Garbage: the four broad categories

  1. Organic waste: kitchen waste, vegetables, flowers, leaves, fruits.
  2. Toxic waste: old medicines, paints ,chemicals, bulbs, spray cans, fertilizer and pesticide containers, batteries, shoe polish
  3. Recyclable: paper, glass, metals, plastics .
  4. Soiled: hospital waste such as cloth soiled with blood and other body fluids
  Over the last few years, the consumer market has grown rapidly leading to products being packed in cans, aluminum foils, plastics, and other such no biodegradable items that cause incalculable harm to the environment. In India, some municipal areas have banned the use of plastics and they seem to have achieved success. For example, today one will not see a single piece of plastic in the entire district of Ladakh where the local authorities imposed a ban on plastics in 1998. Other states should follow the example of this region and ban the use of items that cause harm to the environment. One positive note is that in many large cities, shops have begun packing items in reusable or bio degradable bags. Certain biodegradable items can also be composted and reused. In fact proper handling of the biodegradable waste will considerably lessen the burden of solid waste that each city has to tackle. Household wastes that can be categorized as hazardous waste include old batteries, shoe polish, paint tins, old medicines, and medicine bottles.
There are different categories of waste generated, each take their own time to degenerate (as illustrated in the table below).
The type of litter we generate and the approximate time it takes to degenerate
Type of litter Approximate time it takes to degenerate the litter
Organic waste such as vegetable and fruit peels, leftover foodstuff, etc. a week or two.
Paper 10–30 days
Cotton cloth 2–5 months
Wood 10–15 years
Woolen items 1 year
Tin, aluminium, and other metal items such as cans 100–500 years
Plastic bags one million years?
Glass bottles undetermined

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