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Why it’s important to segregate waste at home

dry and wet waste
Citizen social responsibility (CSR) puts the act of categorising your household garbage at the top of the pile of personal duties. Take ownership of the waste your home generates, say local municipal corporations. But why is it so important to segregate waste at home? 
If waste is not separated properly, it all gets mixed up in landfills. Waste segregation basically means keeping wet and dry wastes separately so that dry can be recycled and wet waste can be composted. The government of India is pretty serious about this. According to the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, generators (which refers to citizens like you and me) are the ones responsible for segregating waste into three distinct categories — wet, dry and hazardous. We are also supposed to personally hand over the three separated categories to authorised collectors.  
Thanks to high-speed urbanisation, India is facing a massive waste management challenge. Over 377 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per annum, according to the online publication Down to Earth.
If you want to make the nation, and the world, better for tomorrow’s adults, it is your personal CSR to take steps towards solid waste management for a healthier environment and less pollution. Effective solid waste management begins with this crucial act of dividing disposable contents at the source. Here’s how.

What happens when you segregate waste at home?

When you segregate waste at home daily, you are winning half the battle as a responsible citizen. This habit will considerably bring down the problems for your municipal authorities to manage solid waste. The best part is, neither does it cost you any extra money nor does it take up much time. The only thing you need is awareness and the desire to act on it.
Segregation at the source is necessary for recycling in the same way solar panels need to be placed in direct sunlight to generate solar energy. When you segregate waste at home, it helps the waste pickers and disposal workers to tell the degradable components from the non-biodegradable ones. 
Degradable waste is organic in its contents and does not cause harm to the earth. Non-biodegradable waste damages the environment, increases the ‘pollution load’ on the earth and generally becomes a nuisance. However, its inorganic nature makes it good for recycling units and that’s where it should be headed. Of course, you don’t need to search for a recyling unit. The local kabadiwala or scrap dealer will do. These people are an essential part of the recycling chain. 


Bio-Degradable Waste

1. Vegetable
2. Fruits
3. Flowers
4. Leaves from garden
5. Wood shavings, pencil shavings

Non-Bio Degradable Waste

1. Plastics
2. Paper
3. Glass
4. Metal
5. Frooti , and other tetrapaks
6. Dusting cloth
7. Aluminium foil
When you separate your dry waste into smaller categories like paper, plastic, cardboard and metal, you can easily sell them for a small price to the scrap dealer. He will eventually pass them on to the manufacturers who will use them as raw materials in recycled products. What was “rubbish” in your household goes on to acquire new value in the manufacturing process. It will be used to make a functional product. When you segregate waste at home, you are also contributing to the nation’s economy and reducing the pollution load at the same time.

Good for the pickers

Segregation protects health. When waste pickers put their hands into the waste to clean it up, it results in cuts that further lead to infections, resulting in deterioration of a waste picker’s health. It becomes our responsibility to help these waste pickers by carefully segregating the waste that is generated in our homes.

Good for the planet

Waste segregation is included in law because it is much easier to recycle. Effective segregation of wastes means that less waste goes to landfill which makes it cheaper and better for people and the environment. It is also important to segregate for public health. In particular, hazardous wastes can cause long term health problems, so it is very important that they are disposed of correctly and safely and not mixed in with the normal waste coming out of your home or office.

6 things to do at home

1. Start segregating waste in your own house now. Segregation is one of the easiest practices to follow.
2. Keep separate containers for dry and wet waste in the kitchen
3. Keep two bags for dry waste collection – paper and plastic, for the rest of the household waste
4. Keep plastic from the kitchen clean and dry and drop into the dry waste bin.
5. Send wet waste out of the home daily.
6. Keep a paper bag for throwing sanitary napkins

Waste management in residential complexes

1. Form a group of like-minded people
2. Explain waste segregation to your family / neighbours in your apartment building.
3. Get the staff in the apartment building to understand how it works
4. Get separate storage drums for storing the dry waste and wet waste
5. Have the dry waste picked up by the municipal Dry waste collection centre or your local scrap dealer.

Composting during COVID-19

Once you begin segregating waste at home, you can generate more value from waste by composting. The COVID-19 pandemic is a good time to turn to the practice of composting. This is because you will be contributing your personal CSR towards the local municipal government by managing organic solid waste yourself. Composting at home during COVID-19 takes the load off waste pickers and municipal authorities who are struggling with social distancing. The benefit you receive is free compost to use for your plants or sell to gardeners.

Home composting for beginners

You don’t need a huge space for home composting. It  can be done on the building terrace, balcony or even in the kitchen sink. A whole range of products are available online for this purpose, from bio bins to ecobins which are designed to fit into small spaces.
Assuming you have segregated the kitchen waste, the first thing to do is to buy a composting bin or use a bucket or earthenware pot. Place old newspapers under the compost bin to prevent spillage. Drill small holes around it for ventilation. Layer container with soil at the bottom.
Add kitchen wet waste (fruit and vegetable peels) and dry waste (sawdust, dried leaves, paper scraps) in alternating layers. Never add meat or bones to the pile. Add semi-composted soil for quick results. Toss the pile to let air in every few days. This helps the decomposition process.
If the pile smells like eggs gone bad, it has too much moisture. Toss it for letting some air in. If it smells like ammonia, there is too much wet waste. Add some more dry waste and soil. 
Wait for 2-3 months for all the contents of the pile to turn to a rich brown compost, ready to enrich your garden!
The mantra for a cleaner environment: segregate waste at home and be a responsible citizen.