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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Moving towards Zero Waste !

It was too much of a coincidence that I had this blog post in the works, and received a blog from Indiblogger about the Stayfree Time to Change contest. They ask "If you could change something around you, what would it be?". So here goes:

I have been composting my kitchen waste for a few months now, but there was something still bothering me - the amount of waste that went into my garbage bin and therefore into a landfill was still too much, and there were too many plastics in it which I knew would not be removed along the way.

It is no use to keep lamenting that the "government" or the "authorities" don't do anything about it. This is something that can only work if it is got into at the grass root level of each household segregating their own waste and disposing it effectively so as to move to a zero waste model as much as possible. In fact there is a lot of support provided by different organizations that we don't know about just because we don't bother to find out about it!

First step - I got a lot of information from some experienced folks like Vani Murthy who's an active member of the Solid Waste Management Round Table or SWMRT and very vocal in spreading the word about this cause. Their page also has a Directory of Recyclers which gives the contact persons in various organizations who would collect your dry waste. The first in the list was Samarthanam which is an NGO known to me and quite close to where I live, so I thought I must start out with them. When I spoke to the contact person, he mentioned that they even come and collect dry waste from my area, but I decided to drop it off myself to try and understand better about how the system works.

Next step - Figuring out how to prepare the dry waste. Now this is still a learning process for me, but listing out the ones I'm doing right now:

  • Milk packets have to be washed and dried out else bacteria could develop. 
  • Some small stickiness like crumbs of biscuit remaining in a packet is ok I was told so I decided to let it be. 
  • Any plastic packets that had food items in them I wash out and dry before putting it into the dry waste. 
  • All slips of paper like bills, flyers that come in with the newspaper, or the tear-offs from my day calendar go in directly. Also all envelopes, including the plastic window ones, all scraps of paper torn up from the children's work.
  • Thin plastic containers like the Vim Drop one which are not taken by the local raddiwala also go into this collection.
  • I have not yet had any e-waste or batteries to dispose, but will check on how to safely dispose these when I have them.
  • Glass containers that I've been collecting for a while and are too many for me to reuse are being disposed to the raddiwala or are being returned for recycling to the organizations I bought the products from. So even my kitchen drawers get cleaner by this exercise ;).
The key of course is "dry" waste :). I have dropped off one batch already, and hope to continue to do so every monday from now on! 

The whole journey starting from composting to kitchen gardening to now trying to move towards zero waste has opened my eyes to the possibilities of empowering oneself if only we are willing to look around and find the wealth of information out there. And though I have never considered myself a typical green warrior but have come to believe that doing our little bit towards improving our environment can go a long way if all our little bits come together for the greater good :). And do I have to add we would be leaving a legacy behind for our children too, not just a better environment but the example we set to them about how to contribute in our own way!

It's definitely the Time to Change isn't it ? :)


  1. oh how wonderful, Aparna!
    I applaud you for taking so much interest and initiative to bring about the change. You are clearing walking the talk.
    Loved this post. All the best for the contest! :-)

  2. Thank you so much dear Uma :) !

    Entry for the contest is more for publicity for the topic than really a hope of winning amongst all the entries, though I'm not turning up my nose at an iPad either ;).

  3. You are just amazing!!! I have a few questions -- I'll come back from work today and post a further comment here. With so much work going in, I hope you win that i-pad :)

  4. I checked out the downloadables from SWMRT but the listing are mainly Bangalore (a couple in chennai). Have to check what facilities exist for Gurgaon - would you know about other cities by any chance or some resources which I can check online? It seems to me that with a slight effort one can do a good job of segregating the dry waste. I do give off all the plastic and glass dabbas, newspapers and waste papers to the raddiwala. I'd like to do this myself - so any pointers from you would be appreciated. I'll also do a check online over the weekend.
    Again, great job! I think you should put up some of these resources on fb.
    Also wanted to say I like your blog's new look a lot - have I said it before? Clean yet vibrant.

    1. You are too sweet :), and thanks so much for the support and encouragement!!

      Yes the site seems to be oriented a bit towards Bangalore, let me check around with the veterans if they can give hints on getting Gurgaon related info. Will get back to you on FB, most of these resources were discussed on the Second to None and Organic Terrace Gardening groups already, in fact there may be docs with the info saved too, if not will add :).

      You mentioned the look, but I'm thrilled to hear it again anyway ;) !! And please don't miss that I'm trying to add a Recipes tab, maybe i'll add a Gardening/Green tab too soon ;).

  5. Aparna, This comes very handy to one like me who stays in Bangalore. You have taken a great initiative to blog this. Thanks for letting us know!

  6. AkilsMom, thanks so much for dropping in and for your kind words :). Would be great if the info is useful to someone starting out on this activity just like me!

  7. Hey Aparna....really the amount of dry waste that goes into our bins is sinful! I admired the fact that you were converting ur wet waste into compost but now this - hats off to you!! I've been wanting to do something with the dry waste too...will see if there is some place close by I can dispose them off or get someone to collect. I'm totally inspired by you :)

    1. Thanks Poornima :) So nice to know that reading the post gives you an idea on how approachable the whole process is, exactly what I was hoping for! :) Most of these organizations seem to collect from all over the city, so I hope you should be able to find someone who comes to your side of town too, or atleast has a collection point close to where you are where you can drop off once a week or so.

  8. Way to go! Natural next step indeed! We have been at it for more than 2 years now, but zero waste is an idealistic thing in this modern world. The fact is that we depend too much on unnatural things that doesn't easily follow a natural cycle. Plastics were a bad thing that human beings invented which is going to hasten the demise of this world soon IMO. At least we are thinking about these things, but the rest of the world don't even realize that this is a problem(a huge huge problem here in our town!). I am at my brother's wedding here in Kerala and it was a disaster from waste management perspective. My mother don't let any waste out usually and though the caterer claimed his plate was eco-friendly, it sure was not going to disintegrate for ages. So finally we polluted the air destroyed couple of banana plants by burning the damn thing using some petrol. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see very little plastics at the girls' place which is a bit remote from where we are. While I am not letting my efforts down a bit on this(even at the cost of unsettling some folks), I think these are just drops in the ocean nevertheless! But that is what is in our control - but that may not be enough to save this planet from the downward spiral! But do keep sharing you experiences!

  9. Thanks so much for the encouragement Jayadeep ! it helps to hear from the veterans who have been doing it for a longer time :). Don't even get me started on weddings, from the amount of plastics used to just the wastage and over-pomp it gets to me too quite a bit.

    Even to get things organized at a household level one has to go through so many barriers from the help/maids who don't understand why ma'am has suddenly gone crazy and they keep throwing plastics in the bin (this after I've told them I don't expect them to wash out anything for me, I do it myself). But anyway slowly plodding along, I am managing to segregate most dry waste - atleast 90% successful I would say.