“Chee, look at that!” “What a shame, so dirty…” The common uttering or similar thereof when passing a pile of rubbish in Sri Lanka. Plastic bags, bottles, wrappers, lunch packets strewn along the roads from Trincomalee to Arugam Bay or where other stretches of smooth tar meet dense shrub- land, forest and mangroves.
We are becoming advanced, they say. More developed, they say. Travel time is definitely less, but the roadside plastic heaps and landfills have increased. Groundwater and soil contamination as a result of untreated waste, increase in greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and increase in wildlife deaths both marine and terrestrial due to consumption of plastic. In 2010, Sri Lanka was responsible for dumping nearly 1 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean (Jambeck et al. 2015).
Is it development if we still choose plastic bags over cloth sacks? If we are not aware of where our household refuse ends up? If we are dismayed at roadside rubbish but yet just drive on…
Is it development if we still consider waste worthless, and not as value? Is it smart economics if we don’t consider the cost of garbage that is not recycled and disposed of properly?
Waste is a part of the economy – it is a by-product of economic activity, by businesses, government and households. Waste is also an input to economic activity, whether through material or energy recovery. The management of waste has economic implications – for productivity, government expenditure and of course, the environment (DEFRA 2011).
In Ontario 47% of residential waste is diverted from disposal sites through practices such as recycling, composting, and reusing waste material, while only 11% of the non-residential waste (industrial, commercial and institutional sector) avoids disposal (Conference Board of Canada 2014). Studies indicate that increased waste diversion is a significant opportunity for Ontario – if Ontario’s rate of waste diversion reaches 60%, it would support almost 13,000 jobs and add about $1.5 billion to provincial gross domestic product (Conference Board of Canada 2014).
Firms’ decisions over how to manage waste impact on their profitability. Where the benefits outweigh the costs, firms can reduce their overall costs and improve productivity by reducing the use of expensive raw materials, whether metal in industry or paper in commerce (DEFRA 2011). Equally, costs can be reduced by optimising the management of waste which arises. The decisions of consumer in demanding goods and services which lead to waste impact not only on the environment, but also on the level of government spending required by local authorities to collect and manage household waste (DEFRA 2011).
Waste is of value not just to governments or private companies, but even to households or the individual. Certain recycling centres will pay you to bring them your “waste” and some companies will pick up segregated waste from your house.
So how do you start?
- Inquire from your local municipal council or garbage collector for a recycling center nearby.
Have a look at:Central Environment Authority’s list of centres for disposal of plastic waste
Neptune Recyclers is a private company which offers a free bin for signing up to their service and even picks up your recyclables whether home or at office!
- Segregate your waste! Start from home, have different bins for your plastic, paper and glass.
- Separate your food refuse or agricultural waste and put these along with your grass clippings into a compost bin to generate compost for your own garden!
- Spread the word! If you find a place which does recycling close to you, tell your neighbours and maybe you can even work out a system to take turns in dropping off recyclables.
Most importantly, put pressure on your local municipal council for a better system in solid waste management.
- Conference Board of Canada (2014) The Value of Garbage: Greater Waste Diversion Would Boost Ontario’s Economy [online] Available at: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/press/newsrelease/14-05- 29/the_value_of_garbage_greater_waste_diversion_would_boost_ontario_s_economy.aspx
- DEFRA (2011) The Economics of Waste and Waste Policy, Waste Economics Team, Environment and Growth Economics, Defra, UK
- Jambeck, J. et al. (2015) Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean In: Science 347(6223): 768 – 771