5 ways to reduce waste at home

Often as individuals we overlook some easy but important low hanging individual actions that can help in better managing the household waste. Here are 5 simple initiatives individuals or households can take up to reduce waste at home.

The problem of managing solid waste remains one of the most poorly addressed in India, with 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste generated per annum by 7,935 towns and cities. Out of this, only a fraction i.e. 11.9 MT is treated while 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites (Lahiry 2019). At the current rate, by 2030, it is estimated that India will need around 66,000 hectares of land that is roughly the size of Bengaluru city in the form of landfill area for dumping all the waste generated in our urban centres. Hence, it is in the country’s best interest to shift to better solid waste management practices. Improved solid waste management practices have a large number of benefits. Some of these include reduction in GHG emissions, decrease in water pollution from leachates and reduced health risks from increased pathogens, odours, vermin activity, and dusts among others.

In recent years, there has been an increase in policy focus on urban solid waste management in India, for example the Swachh Bharat Mission launched in 2014 or the revised Municipal Solid Waste MSW (Management & Handling) Rules in 2016. However, often as communities we overlook some easy but important low hanging individual actions that can help in managing the waste conundrum. Below are 5 simple initiatives that individuals or households can take up to reduce waste at home – 

  • Adopt composting at home

Composting can reduce household waste generation by 30 per cent. Estimates suggest that composting one metric ton (1000 kg) of wet garbage can yield up to 200 to 300 kg of organic fertilizer which is beneficial for plant growth and can be used in home and kitchen gardens. There are many home grown companies (ex: Daily Dump) that are engaged in designing and selling products like household composter for decentralized waste management at household and community level.

  • Stick to traditions – leverage the Kabadiwala system

India has a very strong informal waste management system, locally known as the kabadiwalas, which plays an important role in managing recyclable municipal solid waste. Leverage such systems for discarding recyclables at home like paper, glass, metals and plastics, and reduce the overall cost of solid waste management for municipalities. In today’s digital world, selling your scrap has even found an online presence through social enterprises like Karma Recycling for e-waste, The Kabadiwala, or Waste Ventures India among others, which offer digital doorstep recyclable waste pickup services.

  • Avoid single use plastics or disposables

Say no to unnecessary single-use plastics like disposable cups, straws and plastic cutlery. Invest in a few good quality reusable items – a reusable water bottle, cloth bag for groceries, a coffee mug and lunch containers for work and even portable reusable cutlery and straw sets. If you are getting food delivered at home, you can choose not to have unnecessary plastic cutlery sent along with it. When travelling, instead of buying new travel size toiletries like shampoo sachets, purchase reusable bottles, that can be filled with necessary products. Such changes don’t take much effort, and save both the environment and your pocket from recurring costs.

  • Buy items with the least packaging

We are often guilty of buying many items that are packaged prettily for convenience and presentation. Often such packaging is unnecessary and not needed for product or food safety. It is important to be thoughtful and choose products that are free from unnecessary packaging. Fruits and vegetables serve as a good example – if there is an unwrapped option, choose that one or choose one where the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable. This is a great way to reduce your waste, your carbon footprint and support brands that are actively reducing theirs and greening the environment.

  • Segregate your waste

In India, the main constituent of the municipal solid waste generated in urban households is organic matter around 35%–40%, followed by recyclables like glass, plastic, metals (MoUD 2013, 2016).  These different components of waste can be easily segregated at home using colour coded dustbins and then safely recycled through alternative pathways like composting. For example: green for organic, wet and biodegradable wastes; yellow for glass, paper, and metal; and blue for plastic and other non-biodegradable wastes. Segregating waste at your household or community level reduces the pressure on Indian landfills, which otherwise receive around 60%-90% unsegregated MSW from urban centres that is directly disposed into landfills in an unsustainable manner.

There are many such small ways of contributing to better waste management. It is important that we start right now and there is a no better place to start than our homes. Being environmentally friendly is also good economics for both our homes and for the earth, as often such solutions are the more frugal options. We can all strive to make such small changes to live a greener and more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Sudeshna Maya Sen | Deputy Manager – Climate Change

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