This is Week 4, and this week we look at how to waste segregation according to type – so we can either recycle, or dispose of them responsibly. How I’d arranged this Zero Waste Kitchen series is that we first tackle paper, then plastic, and then look at composting organic wet waste. These three form the three major types of garbage that gets tossed out from most homes. Now, this week, we’ll bring all the aspects together and figure out how to segregate waste. I mean, if I had done waste segregation is Week 3, then you’d have your wet waste sitting separately – but without knowing how to deal with it. Now, thanks to Week 3’s composting tips, you know! (I’m so awesome, I know:P)
The waste we use – before we completely embrace the Zero Waste Lifestyle – can be broadly classified into Dry and Wet waste.
Under Dry, there’s paper of various types (newspaper, magazines, cardboard, etc), plastic (water bottle, fizzy drinks bottles, plastic bags, cutlery, food boxes, etc), glass, metal, and fabric, etc. Remember, we’re just looking at the kitchen, so don’t get mad that I’m not including bathroom waste or bedroom waste, for example.
There’s also hazardous material waste – like insect repellents, chemical cleaners, etc. Even medicines. Also included here are batteries and electrical and electronic items. These are (or can be) very toxic, and have to be disposed of carefully. (Plus, you’re much better off not using any of the toxic chemicals. But since we’re just now transitioning to Zero Waste, I’m assuming you do use them, and are looking into safe alternatives.)
Wet waste, of course, is your food scraps and leftovers, uncooked food materials (probably because they have passed their use-by date), and other similar organic waste.
Segregate and Conquer Your Waste
Separate your waste in the kitchen before you toss it in the dustbin. Wet waste goes into a container (to be later dropped into the composting bin). Dry waste gets sorted and either goes back into your home, or goes into the stash for the scrap dealer to collect.
Reuse // Repurpose
Look at your Dry waste, and ask yourself if you can still possibly use it in any way.
Can you use the waste paper for gift-wrapping, craft, or something else?
Can you use the metal and glass items for storage or craft?
Can you donate the cloth, or use it as a cleaning rag?
Can you use the plastic….? No! Get the plastic out of your home.
All the salvageable material that you have no use for can be sold or donated to your local scrap dealer.
Hazardous Material Waste
Medicines: If they haven’t passed their expiry date, donate them to your local hospital or nursing home. An organization called Give Medicines was active until 2016, but I’m not sure about now. If you live in Delhi, get in touch with Mr. Omkar Nath Sharma, who collects useable medication (his numbers are 9250243298 and 9971926518).
If the medicines have passed their expiry date, well…there’s no way to properly do this in India yet, from all my research. But please try your best to not send them to the landfill (just store them at home until we find a better solution!). If you have a huge stash of expired medicines, please speak to your doctor about how to safely discard them (and do let others know as well).
Other hazardous waste, such as aerosol cans, flammable chemicals, etc, should be, again, disposed of responsibly. Speak to your trash collector or Local Corporation authorities for solutions.
Waste Segregation – What Remains
The remaining waste – which you could not recycle, upcycle, or reuse – will go to the landfill. Statistically, this is between 5 to 10% of the total waste. It’s way better for our landfills to have to deal with this 10% rather than the entire 100% of your home’s unsegregated waste.
Stop buying plastic bin liners. Since you are separating the wet waste out, you don’t need to have the plastic bag in your dustbin. Just line it with newspaper (ha! Found a way to reuse that old paper!), since you’re only dropping in dry waste, and wash it whenever it gets dirty.
A Note of Caution
This process will be challenging at first. And even frustrating. You will develop a system to deal with your waste, and you will also figure out how to reduce your waste, so as to make this entire process more effective. As you think about how to discard your waste, you will realise that we have very bad public systems in place for this specific purpose. What happens currently is that we all mindlessly toss everything into the bin, which gets tossed into the garbage collection points on the road every morning (tossed “into” is actually rare; we like to spread the garbage around the bin like some decoration). This gets collected by some wonderful smelling trucks (once a day, if you’re lucky) and taken to the landfills.
Now this is where it gets very disturbing. Little kids, teenage kids, young men and women – or ragpickers, as we like to call them – sort through this giant mound to salvage items they can sell for a pittance. They risk disease to trudge through our garbage, since the alternative is to face hunger. Desperately poor people sort through this trash for edible food, and have stray animals and birds competing with them. Meanwhile, contaminants leach into the groundwater, the air and the soil.
Sometimes the trash at the landfill gets incinerated, sometimes it gets segregated there. Most of the time, it just lies there, rotting, as if waiting for magical gnomes to come and deal with it.
We, as individuals, cannot do much about what happens at the landfills. But we, as individuals, can do everything about what happens in our homes, and what goes out of our homes. This is where we can make a difference, if we keep at it.
And what a huge difference it can be.
Want to get a head-start and do it your own way? Check out these books (affiliate links):
Advanced Zero Waste: Building Your Kitchen Garden