How To Efficiently Manage And Minimize Plastic Waste At The Community Level

The menace of plastic waste in urban sectors has become a monstrous reality. Even though India has the most comprehensive Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, it is largely just a directive on paper without effective enforcement and implementation. Substantial efforts have not been made to train and build the capacity of all stakeholders involved.

The government needs to educate and inform communities before executing any policies so that the desired results can be obtained. Such a joint effort would also result in huge savings by way of privatization and utilization at source, thus leading to reduction of manpower, transportation, and health services along with creation of livelihoods for the weaker sections of the society. Here is how this can be achieved:

Utilizing waste at the source

Urban areas typically have municipal parks both within and outside of the localities which are suited for composting. Considering how plastic waste fetches a price, rag-pickers end up unloading waste on the roads and carrying out the sorting for resale. This leaves the entire area dirty, inviting stray cattle and dogs who further spread the waste and lead to unhygienic conditions. Therefore, upon segregation, the waste should be collectively taken to the composting area. This would reduce manpower and transportation costs for the municipality and ensure that only 10% of the waste goes to the so-called ‘landfills’, which are virtually dumping sites. The same rag-picker would also get a substantial income by being employed at the composting site. Essentially, the profits from the sale of recyclable waste and compost could be shared between the residents’ association and the rag-picker.

Bringing together the rag-picker community

The rag-picker community is an important part of the waste management system. They are involved in segregation of waste and sale to the next level. This ensures a stable daily income for underprivileged individuals. The income would not only provide employment but also acknowledge their important contribution to the society, thus being a laudable step towards dignity of labour. The activities of rag-pickers are not systematic at present as they scavenge around from one locality to another. All rag-pickers in a particular locality should thus be brought together by municipal authorities, assigning them areas of responsibilities and introducing them to resident associations. The rag-pickers could also be trained for composting of waste and a certain amount from the sale proceeds can be allotted to them.

Catalyzing community action via NGOs

NGOs play a very crucial role in the catalyzing of any community action. These organizations have the expertise of systematically initiating programmes, putting in place the system, monitoring progress, and providing valuable guidance. Thus, forming a consortium of like-minded NGOs can help impart orientation training and hand-holding of resident associations till the system is set in place. To keep the enthusiasm intact, NGOs can engage children and organize competitions in neighbourhoods. NGOs may also involve the local residents and other charitable institutions to avail financial support for effective implementation.

In essence, plastic waste management cannot be successful without active involvement of all stakeholders, be it the civic agencies, communities, rag-pickers, NGOs, and the government. Efficient management is a concerted effort of all stakeholders, with each playing a vital role to play in successful implementation of the schemes. It is a win-win situation for all stakeholders while helping make our localities clean and green.

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