Stories of Change | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Government of India.

Stories of Change

Recycling for Life

July 05, 2022

Karaikal, a seashore town on India's south coast, has faced a trash challenge for many years. Garbage was strewn throughout the landscape due to a lack of solid waste disposal facilities. This is a problem that many other Indian cities are experiencing as well. The garbage has an influence on the environment and poses a threat to the residents.

"It was normal for people to collect trash in plastic bags and toss it wherever they went." "The garbage was carried by the winds, and garbage was found everywhere," laments K. Mala, a local resident. Uncollected and untreated garbage can cause a variety of issues. Plastic pollution in the sea can degrade into microplastics, which can harm marine life. Non-biodegradable garbage has the potential to contaminate a community's drinking water. "Because every family generates waste, the effectiveness of any waste management programme will be determined by the community's behavioural and attitudinal changes."

Hand in Hand India (HiH India), a pan-Indian non-profit organisation dedicated to sustainable development, launched a waste management initiative named "Recycle for Life" in November 2016, with the goal of maximizing trash recovery through composting, recycling, and reuse. This method reduces the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills by requiring waste to be segregated from the start, ensuring that organic waste such as food scraps is not mixed in with recyclables such as plastic bottles.

The Green Friends initiative, which hires and trains sanitation employees participating in the door-to-door collection, transportation, and processing of municipal solid waste, is a fundamental pillar of this strategy. They collect rubbish on a daily basis, they get to create rapport with the female members of the home who are in charge of the key domestic responsibilities like putting out the trash. They have been able to effectively express the need of segregating their household waste, as well as strengthen the behavioural and mental changes that they have been able to promote.

Karaikal's community-led garbage segregation efforts have yielded promising results, with 50% of homes agreeing to sort their trash before giving it over to the local Green Friends teams. "On a daily basis, Karaikal creates roughly 41,000 kg of rubbish," Amuda explains, "yet only about 10% to 15% of the waste collected ends up in landfills." The rest is either organic trash that is composted or recyclable goods such as plastics and metals."

"Earlier people saw rubbish solely as garbage," Mala, who serves the community as a member of the Green Friends, has noticed this development. However, they are now separated and recycled as fertilisers. It is no longer seen solely as rubbish, as it is employed in a variety of applications. Littering has decreased now that trash is gathered from home to house."

While rubbish dumping and open burning remain the primary disposal practices in other parts of India, Karaikal represents a dramatic shift of hope for the country's environmental protection and sustainability.

"Now the community perceives things to be much better — the lakes are clean, and rubbish is collected from homes, so there are no difficulties." They appreciate the work we perform for their safety, and they now speak favourably about it," Mala explains. "We must maintain Karaikal's current cleanliness. That is also my wish."

Source: First-hand research

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