Growing amount of waste is one of the major environmental hazards in and around urban centers these days. When we throw away what we call rubbish or trash, we think it is gone but it only disappears from our sights and come back in other forms.
Roam around in any city and you will find spilling over municipal waste receptacle or dumps of garbage in streets and open places. Some time waste pickers are seen collecting plastic, glass and other resale able items from them. Canals and rivers flowing through or near cities are chocked with sewage and surface overflows along with items thrown in water (those living in Rawalpindi may remember what is the condition of Leh nullah). Worst still, dumps of mixed waste are incinerated in the residential areas. These practices are not only hazardous to the environment but also add to pollution in the cities. In developing countries like Pakistan, the problem is exaggerating due to the absence of sustainable waste management practices and lake of awareness.
People are producing more waste than ever before. Some of the increase is linked to population growth. Moreover, our lifestyle has changed and consumption of variety of consumers’ items has gone high. Besides households, industries, hospitals, and other human activities are producing more and more waste.
Worst types of waste are those items (chemicals, paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, medicines and pesticides) that contain harmful components. These products, if improperly disposed of, can be dangerous to health and may cause injury or illness to human being and or domestic animals. Other non-biodegradable material, which does not decay with time, like glass and plastic are also damaging.
How to reduce production of waste? The best way is source reduction that is also called waste prevention. It means preventing the generation of waste by consuming less and throwing away less in the first place. It is the most preferable method of waste management and goes a long way toward protecting the environment. Every one of us should also be conscious while throwing away any thing.
Reusing and recycling are next bests. Recycling, though not yet popular in our part of the world, is growing into a big environment friendly business elsewhere mainly in developed countries. Recycling process converts materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. Collecting recyclable materials is the first step in a series of actions that result into hosts of benefits: financial, environmental, and societal benefits.
NGOs and informal sector are doing whatever possible for them. In addition to waste pickers and small collection points, there are some 1000 waste dealers (commonly called Kabarias) operating in Karachi alone. But responsibility of waste management rest with the governments.