What You Can Do

Here are some suggestions from Almitra Patel on ways in which we can creatively and safely handle household waste items that pose a risk to waste pickers as well as to the environment: ( See http://www.almitrapatel.com/  to learn more) 

Batteries:  The Battery Assn of Japan has started to promote a nationwide collection and recycling programme for all batteries, including NiMH and Li-ion, in a voluntary system.  In Canada, there are commercial firms specializing in battery-waste collection for a fee and also NGO groups (see www.rbrc.org) that encourage every photo store and electrical / computer-supply outlet to have counter-top “piggy-banks” into which used Nickel-Cadmium button cells can be dropped, for periodic pick-up, monthly or quarterly.

This is something easily done in India, once we identify an end-use for the collected button-cells, such as heavy-metal-scrap traders, or a foundry whose melt compositions can use nickel-cadmium additives etc.

Sharps:  the BioMedical Rules specify ways for bulk generators like hospitals to handle these.  But the All-India Chemists Assn can be persuaded that every chemist shop should have a pilfer-proof metal tin into which, for example, all the used needles from their diabetic customers can be dropped in, instead of throwing them into the garbage with resultant hand-and-foot injuries and maybe AIDS or hepatitis.  Again these tins can be collected periodically and added to a foundry melt for full destruction.

Broken Glass:  This can be imaginatively collected in a “Kaach Hundi” by every Ganesh-festival association for instance, and the funds collected from its annual sales used for community festivals.  Similar “hundis” can be set up at mosques, churches and temples for annually feeding the poor or whatever, from the proceeds.  Food World and similar chain stores can keep item-specific drop-off boxes for the convenience of their patrons.

Nuisance wastes like PET, Tetrapaks, multi-film pouches become urban hazardous waste when left uncollected in quantity.  India’s existing PET recyclers are not willing to pay what it takes to make it worth-while for waste-pickers to collect and return the used PET bottles.  The Bombay recycler will pay a kabadiwala only five paise per 20-gram PET bottle.  The Chennai recycler will pay 20p per bottle at his factory door, squashed and baled for the economy of transport.   This is because, faced with stringent laws and costlier alternatives, the West is prepared to dump its PET waste almost free on Indian shores.

The generators of this waste, the Pepsi-Coke-Bisleri and other producers, must come up with ways to make bottle return attractive.

For example, every 10 bottles can be exchanged for an Eco-Lottery ticket, as is done in a middle-east country.  A desi version could be that whoever turned in  100 bottles would be entitled to a place in a draw, with a good chance of appearing on Kaun Banega Crorepati or some such popular program.  The Tetrapaks could all be printed with serial numbers for a periodic lucky draw.  Paan-parag pouches: twenty handed in (for recycling, not throwing away!) could be exchanged for one full pouch, plus some free ones for the retailer who collected and returned all these.

PolyStyrene and Foam Packaging:    Encourage industry to use alternatives like pulp packaging or folded-cardboard, or to take back and re-use their bulky packaging for refrigerators etc.  PSI Bangalore recycles all its inward foam packaging for outward use and finds cut-and-paste cheaper than buying fresh foam.

For marriage halls, tea and coffee dispensers, either ban or boycott those using polystyrene cups and plates and bowls.  Use paper or moulded palm-leaf instead.