Decoding India’s Inherent Behavior Towards Waste Management

Anyone who has been to India from outside will wonder why is it not so clean here. But we have not been always like this.

Can you recall the Indian movies of the 80s and 90s consisting of song videos shot betwixt a beauteous backdrop with serene and green meadows? Not very long back, I’m talking about just 20 years back when all you needed was a camera and what you wanted to shoot was right there. But it has become hard to find that in reality now. Just 20 years forward, now, if you were to make a movie scene outdoors, you will first have to clean the entire grassland plagued with plastic by hiring some people. Those were the days when only very minimal and selected products came in plastic wrappings. Now, about anything that you get from a supermarket is buried in some kind of plastic. That is just an instance I cited to stress how far we have come.

Let’s see the larger picture.

What is really the issue?

Plastic pollution is widespread, and its enormous amount is the issue. It is estimated that around 10 million tons of plastic waste are being added to the oceans each year. This is the equivalent of emptying one garbage truck of plastic into the oceans every minute. The situation might get worse: predictions are that if uncontrolled the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

An observation

If you’re in India try observing in your locality, if you could spend the time to take your bikes for a stroll to just look around, only this time you must pay attention to your surroundings, not anywhere else, but in your own neighborhood. You will hardly find one piece of land that isn’t filled with plastic wastes. I tried it a few times and I failed to find one.

Statistics suggest that in India alone during the year 2010, around 8 million tons of plastic waste made its way into the ocean — nearly the total amount of plastic produced across the world in 1961!

India pumps more than 0.6 million tons of plastic waste into the ocean annually. The rest are on our streets.

India’s condition

Leaving all the statistics aside for the nerds and environmentalists to worry about, like we commonly do, if we try to understand the psychology behind why our population is imprudent, we may have some insight into this quandary.

To figure this out, we may have to talk about the won’t that majority of our population have.

1. Our very fundamental attitude towards the idea of cleanliness has to be redefined

Our idea of disposing of wastes has just been this so far – to just get rid of a waste. We don’t care how or where or when or if our method is appropriate. And once we are done with our wastes we think we are clean. Maybe we are. But our country isn’t.

2. We have no basic schooling on how to dispose of the different kinds of wastes

The inadequate education among the masses that when there are so many methods to produce one product, then there should definitely be an appropriate method to dispose-off the same, is of grave concern. In an average Indian street’s garbage container, the electronic wastes, say batteries, for instance, may find its place along with rotten tomatoes.

The discarded toothpaste tubes or an LED bulb may be found along with discarded banana leaves, which may, in turn, find a place in the stomachs of stray and hungry animals, as most of our garbage bins are left out open or are not at all used, even if present.

3. The non-prevalence of the collective idea that ‘clean is good’

That should at least have been a picture seen in cities where the educated thrive, however, that is not the case. And since the educated lot neither show nor teach, the illiterates who relocate to cities do the same. Needless to say more on this as a random peek at a city dwelling teenager’s cupboard or even his room may give it all away.

4. Face it: We are lazy

We lack the patience to follow recommended procedures for disposing of wastes let alone separating them accordingly. Be it banks or ATMs or school admissions, we just hate the queues; we simply are one of the laziest people lacking orderliness or discipline. Although the local corporation has given two different baskets colored White and Green to help people distinguish between the recyclable and non-recyclable wastes, we surprisingly find less time in a day than Elon Musk to even segregate them when throwing them off.

(Picture above) Our negligence can be spotted from the sight of garbage bins, which in many cases be ‘lying around’ among a heap of trash rather than ‘containing’ them.

(Picture above- Two Japanese nationals waiting in line patiently with their garbage to get on the ferry to Shiraishi Island. Generally, Japanese people don’t expect others to take care of their waste).

5. Awareness about how non-management of wastes affects other lives, our ecosystems and in-turn, us

Waste management is not seen as a field of education. In fact, we don’t care to manage them at all. When it comes to the Indian society especially, we can also blame it on philosophy-less and culture-less education.

How many of our schools even have ‘Moral Science’ in our curriculum and give it some leverage, let alone habituating morals and ethics? Knowledge of moral science imparts truthfulness and reasoning. Though these qualities may not make you a successful person, it will, however, enhance the perception of society in general and help the life worth living. Therefore, creating a culture of awareness and education is paramount. Everyone should be made to realize the gravity of the devastating consequences tied to plastic litter and it should become socially unacceptable behavior to litter.

“Why should commoners care? Let the government care about it” attitude should go.

A large amount of plastic in India is a problem although a bigger issue is the widespread practice of littering wherever we want. MNC companies institutionalizing the Japanese techniques of ‘5S’ to dispose of the wastes orderly show us that we are totally capable of “not” littering and being tidy. But the moment we step out of our company, negligence steps in. If we consider our entire country as a company that we are working for, we may keep it clean. Or if we get paid to follow, we would definitely try that, wouldn’t we?

Why should the commoners care? In fact, the citizens have more to care because residential wastes form more than two third’s waste.

Clean drive campaigns of the recent ‘Swacchh Bharat’ movement may have worked out, but that is a quick fix and not a permanent solution. Not to litter anywhere in the country should be brought about more stringently.

Our curriculum is such that it’s in place only to help us in our daily bread. A crow, a dog or even a worm does that so effortlessly. Earning a living isn’t what a school should teach but that’s what even our next generation kids are lining up for. Education is something where we learn about things that would actually help us grow in current circumstances as a better, disciplined and noble human being who is novel in thoughts. What should our education be cultivating is not only to bring out ideas that enhance our lives but also to care that it elongates our planet’s ‘sustenance’.

Some more statistics

It is to be noted that 20 countries accounted for 83 percent of mismanaged plastic waste that entered the ocean. In 2010, 275 million tons of plastic waste was generated in the world’s 192 coastal countries.

It’s a shame on humans that we have taken over the world for ourselves, we exploit as much, sully the nature, find new ways to protect ourselves from our own mess but give nothing back to this plant and other beings and leave them wretched.

Although it’s a problem of all nations of the world, we should try to understand that India will have to deal with the worst, for the kind of population we have a big number of educated illiterates piling-up every year, and those pile-ups keep on piling up more and more plastics.

IT STARTS WITH OUR COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY AS A SPECIES.

Collective Consciousness can only be brought about with the conscience of the individual responsibilities. The responsibility can only arise in the presence of compunction in everything we do.

Compunction can happen only if there is a culture of moral schooling.

Moral schooling can only be brought about when we realize our collective responsibilities as human beings!

If you still think we need plastics to keep going, please watch this video of a sea-turtle suffering in silence to get a plastic straw out of its nostrils – the straw that we use to sip juice – that ended up in the oceans and ultimately inside the poor, innocent turtle’s nostrils.

“ONLY IF WE TERMINATE ‘USING’ PLASTICS,

THEY WILL DESIST FROM ‘PRODUCING’ PLASTICS”.

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