Yes In My Backyard! A Case For Decentralized Waste Management
Waste management is a problem globally and in India it is obvious in all cities because waste litters the road. Waste is actually a symptom of capitalism and consumerism putting distance between the average consumer and the source and destination of all of the items we use on a daily basis. This results in lack of awareness of the products we put in or on our body, or interact with. And where these products end up after we use them, is rarely considered.
Historically, waste has been associated with a negative connotation. Generators of waste experience an economic common phenomenon called ‘NIMBY’ Syndrome (Not In My Backyard) where they are happy if the waste is cleared from their homes or offices. With this feeling of no responsibility, the outcome is that there is not much care nor thought about the destination of waste, illegal dumping and burning of material, use of child labor, or not paying minimum wages in this sector.
Although there are many potential ways to handle waste, decentralized waste management is a simple method to process waste, it provides a transparency on what happens to your waste, and opens doors to having a positive impact on your community.
In a circular economy, we can embrace the idea that just like sewage, municipal solid waste can be right in our backyards. Bulk generators, like corporate companies, tech parks, residentials complexes, and institutions can set a few goals and put plans in motion in order to make the change to onsite waste management.
Not Rocket Science
With onsite management, 90% of your waste can be handled onsite and the intriguing thing about is, if managed properly, it is simple to do. There are of course different streams to process: at the highest level wet (organic) material, dry (recyclable) material, and sanitary/rejects. Professional waste managers know how to quickly set up standard and custom processes for all of these streams. With some lightweight infrastructure, training for waste generators and handlers, and a plan for ongoing operations, getting a waste management unit up and running can be possible in a few weeks.
Composting requires a 30-40 day cycle and sorting recyclables can be handled daily. If you have high quantities of waste, having an onsite biogas plant can also be a solution that has a decent ROI. Just like modern onsite Sewage Treatment Plants, onsite waste management plants can operate smoothly, clean, and odorless. At Saahas Zero Waste, we leverage nature, people and technology to make managing waste easy for our clients.
Beyond the practicality of installing an in situ waste management system, there are economic benefits to consider.
The first is that if you partner with an expert in zero waste, you would receive recommendations on how to reduce waste generation ranging from minimizing use and throw disposables, to finding alternative products, to reducing food waste etc. At Saahas Zero Waste, for many streams of waste we give different approaches that organizations and can take in the short and long term to see a difference in waste quantities.
You would also reduce your transport cost of sending your waste off to a far away land. Right now, transport of waste includes vehicle costs, labor costs, and many times tipping (disposal) fees, removal of processable waste can become costly if your service provider is compliant with statutory regulations (meaning they are paying their staff minimum wage, not employing child labor, and not paying bribes). By processing waste onsite, you will easily save on transport costs.
Further, especially with wet waste, by processing organic material onsite, you will generate an output, either usable compost or biogas that can be reused onsite thereby offsetting other costs that you may be incurring to manage your garden or your kitchens.
Lastly, by creating an onsite ecosystem for waste, it is possible to remove the daily expense of having bin liners. With a bin to bin system (waste is transported directly from collection bins to processing bins), you don’t have to purchase plastic bags for the handling of waste. By making a one time investment in sturdy washable bins, you can remove the need for an unnecessary ongoing expenses.
Increasing your impact
Of course, by managing waste on site, you would be a pioneer in the industry: someone who is willing to take a chance that may seem strange to others, but is completely logical and for the improvement of your society. These sort of benefits generally are unfortunately not captured in an economic sense, but it doesn’t mean that they are not worth pursuing.
Reduction in waste to landfill and GHG gas emissions: by handling as much waste as possible on site, you are ensuring that you are minimizing your waste being dumped informally and therefore are preventing the release of greenhouse gasses which cause climate change and have severe impacts for the state of humanity
Increase in recycled materials: extending the life of material is critical, as our resources are limited and we have the technology to retain value from the materials that we feel no longer serve us a purpose (This is closing the loop!)
Compost back to the soil: as large scale agriculture and development ensues, our soil quality is rapidly decreasing. Food waste, if processed properly into compost, provides incredible nutrients that are vital to the health of the soil and will help provide a safe environment for plants to grow. (This is also closing the loop!)
Employment and livelihoods: by engaging with partners who employ underprivileged women and men, you provide dignified, safe, and reliable careers to people who cease to work hard.
Accountability for your waste: at the end of the day, with your waste being handled in your backyard, it is easy to know the destination. The knowledge that you are compliant with local rules and regulations, and not polluting the earth for this generation or the next, can give you peace of mind.
So take some time to consult local experts on managing waste on site – we promise, it’s easy to get started!