Thursday, March 30, 2023

On this World Recycling Day, let’s all remember how important it is to have a solid waste management plan in place.

The usage of fossil fuels in the production of single-use plastics accounts for 98% of all such plastics.

The time it takes for one plastic bottle to disintegrate is 450 years.

Around 400 million tonnes. Waste plastic accumulates annually.

The World Bank and the World Economic Forum provide these and other frightening numbers that we must face. Now, we face the reality of overflowing landfills, damaging emissions, and oceans full of plastic debris. Today, the fate of our planet and its inhabitants rests on our ability to effectively conserve and reuse its finite supplies.

Every year on March 18th, people throughout the world celebrate World Recycling Day to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and reusing materials. That bottle of shampoo you have. The plastic or paper bag your rice or atta came in at the store. Cases of milk. Bottles of pop. Toothbrushes. More than 700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2) emissions might be avoided annually if people recycled common household items.

Sruti Harihara Subramanian, a filmmaker and the founder of Goli Soda Sustainable Solutions, thinks that separating recyclables, compostables, and garbage is vital. It ought to be a way of life for everyone. Waste sorting is the first stage in recycling. Make sure to separate your paper and plastic trash from your wet garbage by placing them in separate containers. From a customer perspective, it is not acceptable to arbitrarily sort and throw these things into different containers. Before throwing something out, make sure it’s clean and dry. The recycling process can be thwarted by the presence of even a trace amount of foreign material. In any case, when we sort, we do it in the hopes that the bottle or carton we discard will find its way to the appropriate destination along the supply chain. We don’t want it to end up in a dump where it will sit for decades.

Yet Sruti also warns us that recyclers have a false sense of accomplishment since they think they’ve helped the planet as much as they can when, in fact, this is not the case. “Recycling is a useful tool for waste management, but it may not be the solution to the energy and water conservation problems we face. Generally, we follow the sequence “Reduce, reuse, recycle” while attempting to cut down on waste. Upcycling, among other methods, can of course be investigated before recycling. To sum up, recycling should be the final resort when dealing with trash. The optimum choice is “reduce,” because once a product has been used, it enters the recycling process. Then there is the massive quantity of resources like water and electricity used. We can begin with PET bottles made of plastic. Many of these are not recycled in the nation of origin and instead transit through a series of collecting centres. This results in massive shipments of PET bottles to places like China.

After that, a lot of water is needed to get them clean, and a lot of energy is expended to get the bottles down to their component parts. In the end, a lot of chemicals, energy, and water are used to alter the bottle’s molecular structure so that it can be repurposed as, say, a toy. As a result, downcycling is the norm when it comes to recycling. Recycled plastic has a finite lifespan before it can no longer be used for anything. Recycled versions of a product rarely maintain the same level of quality as the original. Most plastic that has been recycled is of very poor quality. This message on Global Recycling Day is not meant to dissuade you from recycling, but rather to inform you of the processes involved so that you can make an informed decision to first minimise your consumption.

World Economic Forum estimates that in 2022, 36% of plastic production went towards making packaging, of which 86% ended up in landfills. The usage of plastic has become controversial recently, with many people debating its pros and cons and offering their own suggestions for plastic substitutes. Consumers will be able to make more informed choices about what to buy, what may be reused and recycled, and what should be avoided as a result of the push for “truth in labelling” on packaging.

The other day, while I was passing by a supermarket, I saw that the banana bunches were meticulously packaged in reams of cellophane. Doesn’t each of them have thick enough skin of its own? I found it so ludicrous and wasteful,” says Bharathi Shetty Mehta, a volunteer with three Groups that specialise on trash management. Shop from stores that are conscientious about how much packaging they use. As a customer, that’s the first step. Find out who walks the walk by investigating their credentials. Second, practise saying no to things you don’t need, including single-use plastic bags and three-month-old fashion fads. It’s not just plastics that need to be recycled and disposed of correctly. Cardboard, aluminium cans, and glass containers all have their own unique set of challenges. It also bothers me when people discard edible food. Compost your leftover food rather than throwing it away.

Even though it breaks down over time, adding to landfill emissions, you could think it doesn’t need to be dealt with because it’s biodegradable. You should, of course, sort your trash. It is essential to the efficiency of recycling that all materials, whether wet, dry, biodegradable, or non-biodegradable, receive the appropriate treatment and disposal. Another issue that needs to be addressed is electronic trash, which is especially pressing in India. According to the United Nations, the United States is the fifth greatest producer of electronic waste, with 95% of that garbage being incinerated or deposited in landfills. Amazingly, the unsung heroes here are trash collectors, who have no formal education but nevertheless manage to provide for their families. Some of the electronic debris is collected and recycled, but there is still a long way to go.

No matter how you slice it, recycling is a crucial part of the waste management process that often gets left until very late in the game. Indeed, ours is a world in which there is no shortage of buyers for temporary pleasures. By reducing waste sent to landfills and seas, recycling can help us get closer to a cleaner, safer world.

After all, you can’t just move to Planet B.

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