Civic Sanskriti: Games of change to redefine your perspective on garbage
The Zilla Parishad office has asked for suggestions on waste management. I think we need to play some games and conduct some workshops.
The first game is Needs and Wants.
Imagine that the city is to be evacuated and you have only a few hours to pack essentials. What will you take? Imagine, if you could only take 10 things or five items – what would they be? Do we really need all the things we acquire?
The second game is Tales Tails Tell.
Take an item, say a pair of jeans and put it on a flat surface like a bed or a table. Then add one or more “tails” behind it, with name cards, to show all the stages of production – from cotton (and water, seeds, fertiliser, pesticides) to cloth production. The metal rivets (mining, ore transport and refining, metal production, rivet production, transport) will be another tail. Add another for the zipper. Combine the tails to the fabrication of the jeans, the transport to the shop and your home. The idea is to realise that each stage produces waste and pollution. What is to be done with the jeans when one longer needs them?
The third is the Segregation Game.
Make a list of the items of waste produced in your house in a week. Classify each item as dry or wet. Do you already segregate these? Do we need more categories of bins?
Learn to place diapers and sanitary napkins into paper bags and mark these with a red dot so that waste collectors can safely deposit these for further processing.
When will they degrade? Dig up a patch of soil about four to five inches deep and bury a banana peel, a piece of paper, a bit of plastic. Check on them after a couple of weeks and a couple of months.
Wash before you bin
Many people order food and dump the containers with leftover food right into the trash. It’s an invitation to flies, cockroaches, rats and ants. A little care to rinse out the food containers will help to keep your home more hygienic and improve the work conditions of those who have to handle the waste.
Then we should have projects for the entire family and online workshops for each ward or neighbourhood.
One, on how to set up a compost unit and another on how to set up a rooftop garden, where you can use the compost and also, keep your roof cool, and get some fresh veggies and herbs.
How about a craft workshop to convert coconut fibre into kitchen scrubs, and coconut leaf fronds into brooms?
Arrange a V-Collect Mela every few months to give away clothes, toys, electronics and household items you don’t need.
Play SimCity in real life with a neighbourhood walk and a map to plan area-level waste management. The aim will be to place material recovery units, biochar units, and storage space for construction and demolition debris to be used when needed.
Now is a good time to slow down and think these things and the materials in our lives. How would they continue their journey in the earth’s natural cycles once their productive life in our homes is done?
When life was simple, we would classify waste as wet and dry, and be done with it. Dry waste included paper, plastic, metal, glass and wet waste, was just veggie peels and leftovers.
For many years now, we use complex materials. Some packages lay aluminium and plastic to hold chips, while others pack paper and aluminium to hold liquids like milk or juice. Napkins and diapers are not made of cotton but layers of plastic with super absorbent polymer. Suitable solutions to manage complex wastes need some whole-of-system innovations, from producers to consumers to recyclers.
We need to be smart with the materials we use and the systems we set up. Neighbourhood-scale, decentralised and humane methods of waste management that can function even during lockdowns. Collection of household waste should be done with non-polluting handcarts and wheelbarrows, avoiding trucks on diesel.
We can start by working with the city and the Zilla Parishad to shift to Zero Waste. Each house or society should set up an individual or collective compost unit, keep dry waste clean and give to waste collectors for recycling; keep sanitary waste separate and mark it with a red dot; promote re-use of household items with V-Collects; and support safe working conditions and fair wages for waste collectors who help everyone lead a healthier life.
Note: The ZP needs to strengthen the Covid Waste collection and management system too.