In the opening scene of the trailer of the award-winning documentary Waste Land, one of the protagonists, standing inside Rio De Janerio’s Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill site, tells director-artist Vik Muniz: “This is not the future.”
Truly, it cannot be either for Brazil or for that matter any other city in the world.
But the unfortunate truth is that many countries, including India, seem to be losing the battle against waste, and unless and until some drastic — by that we don’t mean only laws — and innovative measures are put in place, our urban hotspots would soon be floating on a sea of waste.
This is because most of our existing landfills are full, or nearing their threshold limit, and getting land for new dump yards is increasingly becoming difficult as India is urbanising at a fast clip and there is a lot of pressure on land.
A Hindustan Times report on Tuesday said the land fill meant for Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, a city of more than 1.8 million people, is overflowing and cannot be used anymore and the city doesn’t have a second one — or a Plan B.
Waste management will become increasingly difficult over time as more and more people pour into our under-equipped cities. The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) in New Delhi has estimated that by 2047, waste generation in India’s cities will increase five-fold to touch 260 million tonnes per year.
To avoid a catastrophic situation, India must implement waste management rules properly, consumer awareness must be raised about the need to segregate waste and recycling and changes must be made in the way people lead their lives. In fact, the habit of recycling and reusing was a part of India’s culture but along the way many seem to have lost those instincts.
Along with the behaviourial change of consumers, industry must invest in developing products that have a longer shelf-life, are reusable and re-purposed and the State should do all it can to support these projects.
Industry must also realise that by reducing waste, it can create efficiencies and reduce costs, helping to improve margins while reducing risks. There are many companies that have invested in building reusable/re-purposed products but unfortunately — like organic food products — they occupy a niche market because their products are more expensive than the normal ones available in the market. This has to change because sustainable living can no longer be the privilege of a few.