While we cheer on for the Swacchh Bharat movement, the task at hand is half done as long as we do not pay due attention to recycling the waste. The Government of India rolled its sleeves and asked us to clean our surroundings. We the people, took our time to come around to keep places other than our homes and society clean.

Most of us have grown up in households where the elders taught us to consider our homes as sacred as temples. They would go on to lecture us on maintaining hygiene and cleanliness inside the house, while we would throw empty crisp bags under the beds and stuff candy wrappers in crevices which could only be discovered using laparoscopy. But all such talk of responsible behaviour vanishes along with etiquette, the minute we step out on the street.

Not my home, not my problem, is the motto which is our answer to almost all our social grievances.

We continue to litter in public places, just because it’s not our home, and everyone else is doing so as well.

If you look beyond the politics which goes around it, Swachh Bharat movement was long overdue in this country. But “not littering” isn’t the only aim of the clean and green India drive. What happens to all the waste collected from homes, societies and public places like parks, restaurants, bars etc? We can expect the government, municipality and the proprietors to take up the responsibility of cleaning public places. But our homes and society are where we need to take lead.

Merely tossing the garbage in the garbage disposal van is not enough. You have to dispose it of correctly. The government has issued clear directives as what goes into “wet garbage”, “dry garbage” and the recycle bin. Yet time and again, people throw out coriander roots into the dry garbage (because it is dry duh!), and wet milk bags into the wet garbage.

Despite garbage vans playing out instructions on speakers, the importance of segregating waste products is lost on most people.

Here, the problem seems to be with the use of simple terms like “wet” and “dry” instead of biodegradable and non-biodegradable.  Management of waste, and how we can use it to reduce our carbon footprints is yet to dawn on them. As a result, most of the waste accumulated end up in the landfills, instead of recycling plants.

According to an article published in Royal Society Open Science, more than 90% of waste in India is believed to be dumped in an unsatisfactory manner.

Mysore city is setting a great example for all of us

We need to take a lesson from Mysore which is amalgamating availability of cheap labour, with traditional methods and modern plants, to dispose of its garbage properly. Residents here properly segregate their waste into two bins biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Sanitation workers collect this garbage using some 400 push carts and 170 auto-tippers. They carry it to the nine recycling centres and one compost plant. Here they segregate trash and sell recyclable things like bottles, metal, footwear and plastic cups to scrap dealers. They compost the remainder and sell it to farmers.

Merely making India clean is not enough, if we are going to dispose our garbage at landfills or dump it in the sea. Recycling waste is as important as collecting it. For a country with 1.2 billion people, it is important that we reduce our carbon footprints. If we want to leave behind a better country for our future generations.

Also Read : Disposal of Sanitary napkins and the Swachh Bharat Mission

Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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