Visit a landfill and what you see there will make you think twice about how you perceive your dustbin!
Most of us see what is convenient to us and often we turn our sight away when what we see is too difficult to digest. Sight is selective then, just as the worlds we live in are quite small. We tend to focus on what is beautiful and reject what seems ugly and decrepit.
A pile of waste growing at the corner of our street is not a pretty sight and even without looking at it carefully we look away in disgust.
Yet unless we look and observe at what this pile of waste contains it is almost impossible to see the potential for beauty in it. Thankfully the desire for beauty is an equally strong force as the disgust with waste.
Vision is in fact the first step of creation.
In an age when we spend most of our hours looking at screens we have lost the habit to look deeper. To endure the first instinct to turn away and face what may seem unappealing and to question what we see at first sight.
This kind of inquiry is what is involved in waste audits. A waste audit is a process where you carefully locate and backtrack the source of the waste being created by an individual, an organisation or a neighbourhood with the intention of addressing these and reducing the waste.
It starts from peeking into your dustbin.
Ask yourself the following questions when you spread the contents of your dustbin out onto the floor to do a personal waste audit.
1. Are the contents primarily man made or natural?
2. How much of this is biodegradable?
3. From the rest of it how much of it could actually have been used a few more times before being thrown?
4. Where is the bulk of this non biodegradable waste coming from – for eg is it stationary, is it packaging, is it equipment?
5. Do we know where this item is going to go eventually?
6. Do we know what would happen if this item was burnt or buried?
7. How much time would this item take to degrade?
And then you can also quantify it…
1. How many plastic bottles have been thrown away today?
2. How many kilos of wet waste have been collected? Etc.
After having done this systematic inquiry, now ask yourself once again… What do we see here?
How much of the problem do we understand? Are we beginning to see some small solutions already?
One of the biggest problems with urban environments is that things are out of sight. And therefore out of mind as well.
Urban citizens neither see the source of their nourishments nor see the disposal of their waste. And this short sightedness caused by large scale urbanity disconnects them from both the source of their life and the impact of their life choices. In rural areas, where people see directly both what happens to fields when they are polluted and how their drinking water gets contaminated, at least things are not out of sight.
It is imperative that we then make an extra effort to look beyond the obvious – to show our children what cannot be seen even if we have to take them to areas outside the city to show them farms and landfills.
And this habit of looking deeper and further can start simply by looking right into our own dustbins!
These articles form a series in the Green Idea campaign called The Beauty of Recycling conducted by eCoexist and Studio Alternatives and sponsored by the Government of Maharashtra, Environment Department. They aim to raise awareness about the aesthetic and financial potential of recycling. To read more visit www.beautyofrecycling.in