Trash – recycling?

There is so much trash.

There is so much trash. In one sense, nothing seems to be recycled; on the other hand, some people say, everything is recycled. In any case, there is trash everywhere you look.

Bangaloreans seem to ignore the trash all around them; dumped in the creeks that pass through the city, heaped on vacant lots, and scattered about the streets and alleys.  Even here on the beautiful IISc campus, trash is inexplicably left here and there, caught in the weeds beside the road or dumped in the woods.   Indeed, the standard operating procedure for contractors seems to be to simply dump their refuse in the woods, beside the road, not even out of sight.  When electricians came to our apartment to replace old light fixtures, we later found all the old fixtures and packaging materials dumped in the back yard.  Around the academic buildings there are clear piles, some old and some new, of bricks, tiles, old sinks, and the like.  Despite the 100th anniversary celebration coming up in December, nobody seems concerned about the trash and dumps around campus.

Many people drink bottled water – when we go out to eat, it’s the only thing safe to drink. So India is awash in plastic bottles.  It is very hard for me to simply throw plastic bottles, beer cans, and wine bottles in the trash, but there is no other option.  

On the other hand, as one IT company person told me, everything in India is ultimately recycled anyway. The poorest people go through the trash, picking out bottles and other useful items. Pavan Varma writes, “A million kabadiwallahs (peddlers of junk) make a living from finding something of value in trash.  They are willing to buy or sell any junk, from newspapers to empty bottles.  Their business premise is simple: everything has the capacity of being recycled, because everyone is looking to minimize costs. Thus the neighborhood grocer keeps paper bags made out of trashed newspapers, the poor look to make a bargain on the throwaways of the rich, and used plastic bags are recycled by plastic manufacturers.  It is estimated that 60 per cent of India’s plastic waste is recycled, compared to 10 per cent in China and 12 per cent in Japan.” [BeingIndian] Not bad, considering that I’ve never seen a single recycling bin in India.

trash dumped behind a wall, not far from our apt.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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