Energy Diet

While I was trying to understand the life-cycle of waste management in this part of the world, I got to know about a few interesting things. I talked to a few people who are responsible for waste management in the locality where I live and realized that ecosystem evolution plays a very important role here.  Instead of ideal Reduce –> Reuse –> Recycle  –> Recovery –> Landfill model, what I found here is quite disturbing.

Because of economic disparity and extreme poverty, 1,500,000 people in India earn their livelihood by collecting garbage like plastic, paper, metal and glass, so this ecosystem has a real economic advantage. Sixty percent of all the waste from all four major metro cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta & Chennai) is picked by the rag-pickers. Read more on India’s ragpickers; another interesting story on India’s Rag Pickers Compete For Lucrative Trash and they earn just US$3 per day. Waste management is not regulated here, and I admit that I can’t help much, except reducing the waste I generate.

Every time I look at the thickness of  Sunday morning newspaper, it reminds me of a quote from James G. Watt: “They kill good trees to put out bad newspapers.”

Steps I am taking to reduce and control waste generation:

  • Increase number of dustbins at home. Already bought two for the balconies.
  • Segregate plastic and glass from the waste collected before it leaves my home.
  • Sell/give plastic and glass waste to some scrap dealer. Already identified one.
  • Stop buying black bin plastic-bags. Instead I will reuse polybags I usually get from marts.
  • Buy durable products, instead of disposable ones. Not sure how to replace foil wraps and plastic wraps.
  • Stop buying cheap plastic stuff.
  • Repair items before replacing them.
  • Reduce the amount of packaging and store packaging material for re-use.
  • Keep a few cloth/jute bags in the car and reject polybags from shops and hawkers.
  • Cancel subscription of paper bills from the broadband/mobile/cable company and paper statements from banks. I get 11 paper bills every month and I have already canceled five.
  • Cancel subscriptions of magazines that I don’t read on a regular basis. I decided to read online or buy online version if necessary.
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones. I am not sure if I can replace all because of the immediate cost involved.
  • Somebody also suggested me to go for electric shaver instead of razor blades. Currently I am a bit skeptical about this idea.

I hope I could do more than that, but it seems futile to me.  I live in an apartment and don’t own a garden where I can start composting.  

I am ready to take suggestions and do my best to make this earth a little greener, as I strongly believe in this quote from Marshall McLuhan:

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.


  1. Christina
    February 7, 2011, 4:25 pm

    Good ideas, Yogesh. Your note about the rag-picker issue is very sobering and informative. So is there no recycling collection at all where you live? Have rag-pickers completely taken over this function, rather than municipalities?

  2. Yogesh
    February 8, 2011, 10:35 am

    Municipality is there, but not successful in waste management sector. There is no recycling collection around here. Though there are scrap dealers you can call home every fortnight and sell collected recyclable stuff, which every family does here.
    Waste management is run very informally here. In this pyramid, ragpickers are at the bottom, small traders in the middle and large local companies that need recycled materials at the top.

  3. Nikita
    May 22, 2012, 12:07 pm

    What does the quote by Marshall McLuhan mean?