We cannot afford to waste in our quest to become developed. Countries must adopt decentralised approaches for waste management. It has become the need of the hour in order to reduce the quantity of waste generated at source. Municipal Council/ urban local governments/ municipalities must keep segregation at source Save & Exit at the heart of their solid waste management system.

It is the responsibility of urban local bodies to ensure compliance with segregation of waste at source. It must be made mandatory for citizens to perform segregation at source. Door-to-door collection and transport must ensure that this segregated waste is not mixed. The local bye-laws also must have provisions don’t on segregation of waste.

The key reasons why cities should adopt decentralized waste management approach are:

1) Reduced dependence on land with emphasis on source segregation, decentralized processing and provision of incentives to support segregation.

2) Reduced cost on collection and transportation: Upto 40–50 per cent of the municipal funds allocated for solid waste management are spent on salary of the staff and contractual workers, 20–40 per cent on collection and transportation and only 5 per cent on disposal. By adopting a decentralized approach, the cost of collection and transport will considerably reduce as waste will be treated much closer to the source.

3) Additional resources will be generated from composting and recycling, which means additional income for a large set of people (waste collectors, informal workers, recyclers etc.) in the chain.

4) The environmental costs incurred due to pollution of land, water and air resources from unsanitary landfills will also reduce drastically.

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Adoption of Minimalist and Alternative Lifestyles

In India, and in many other parts of the world, people are looking to find alternative lifestyles to the resource rich, industrially driven and heavily consumerist social structure of today. Whether it is living responsibly, trying to reduce waste or consuming fewer belongings, the minimalist life style breaks down to modern conceptions of consumption and production. Those who choose to adopt this mode of living have found inspiration from examples around the world.

Marie Kondo’s Book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of De-cluttering and Organizing, for instance, has sparked interest around the world for its helpful strategies for a more simple, minimal and organized lifestyle. This guide essentially describes how to reduce clutter by feeling content and respecting your belongings.

In Scandinavia, concepts such as hygge in Denmark and logom in Sweden have become increasingly popular and have also exported around the world. Hygge (hoo-ga) essentially describes the concept of coziness, contentment and well-being by enjoying simple things in life.

The CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark considers it as a defining feature of the Danish cultural identity. The term has even become Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 “word of the year”. Similarly, in Sweden the term Lagom (lah-gum) translates into living a balanced, slower and simpler life, with ‘not too little, not too much’. Effectively, mindfulness and contentment are at the root of the adopting a more simple and minimalist lifestyle.

On a larger scale, a city like Freiburg in Germany is considered a great example of sustainable urban living due to its efforts in terms of transportation, energy, waste management and land conservation. It has created a green economy of sorts, supported by a population who integrates these principles in their daily lives.

After the city was destroyed by bombings in WWII, Freiburg was rebuilt to include many pedestrian areas, an extensive public transport system and efficient housing. Since the 1970s, Freiburg has been a stronghold of the green movement most famously by protesting against a nearby nuclear power plant. It then became an example of socially and environmentally conscious urban planning, a development which is still too rare for many cities around the world.

In Berlin, we see a similar trend. Sustainable consumption patterns have also become a part of the urban landscape with the rise of green ‘zero-waste’ supermarkets, ethical clothing stores, vegan restaurants and eco-friendly Christmas markets for instance. In most households in Germany, recycling and sorting in various containers is a part of daily practices. Houses, apartment buildings and streets are designed to make space for several garbage bins and collecting sites. The meticulous segregation and recycling system can be linked to the German concepts of efficiency and has deep seeded roots in history. The push for an efficient recycling system dates back almost 80 years, when scraps were salvaged during war time periods.

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More recently, the European Union has also been pushing for the adoption of a circular economy: where resources are reduced, by closing the material and energy loops. This entails making producers responsible for their products at the end of their life cycles – a system that India has been trying to integrate into their waste management legal frameworks in recent years.

These alternative conceptions of the global economy, urban planning or personal lifestyles have the potential of entering the main stream, if only through strong political will, social movements and legal steps. But as the example for Germany show, history has a strong role to play in how minimalist, sustainable and conscious lifestyles become part of the cultural fabric of a country.

For India and other developing countries, waste is not just an issue of management, it is an opportunity to rethink and question the modern way of living, consuming and producing. Adopting alternative lifestyles can help shape the future of India’s development towards sustainable living.

Swati Singh Sambyal