Catch them young: Teaching kids about handling garbage

Teaching school kids to handle waste is a great move that will help make the future generation more responsible and cities more sustainable.

Where did that banana peel go? Where does it go when it leaves my home? Where does it go when it leaves my street? Where does it go when it leaves my city? We throw away so much. But where does it all go?

Bengaluru city generates approximately 4,000 tonnes of waste everyday but where does this all go?

Nobody cares where it goes, we only want it to leave our houses, our streets, our neighborhoods and our city.

While there are policies like the ‘2 Bin 1 Bag’, which has been directed by the  Karnataka High Court to Bengalureans to use two separate bins – wet and dry waste to ensure that the waste is segregated at the source level, not many in the city follow it diligently. Policy will lack effectiveness if people are not aware of waste management programmes.

Last week, I read an article on the Times of India on how the civic agency in Bengaluru had sent out an open letter addressing schools and colleges to pledge to their garbage generation, I thought it was a great move. Students can be change agents in society. Teaching them the importance of segregation and composting will help a sustainable food system in the country.

But if you’re wondering what you can do to reduce waste generation, the answer is a lot! Well, I’m sure you are aware of the idea that talks about reducing, recycling and reusing. Lessons on the 3Rs are plenty. What is imperative however, is that we practice what we already know.

After segregating, compost! Compost made up of wet waste (which is all your food waste),  dumped in a separate bin (absolutely no mixing) will reduce the amount of waste that has to be trucked to the landfill. Put that banana peel, apple core and melon rinds in your composter and see the cool critters at work; breaking down the waste materials into compost. It’s fun to peek into the bin from time to time.

How about some perspective? Say you generated a lot of waste last month, and say you segregated it at source. And imagine if you composted all the organic waste and sent it to a farmer, whom you rely heavily upon everyday.  Wouldn’t it be brilliant if they could use the compost you sent to them to grow safe food – the kind of  food without pesticides or chemical and unnatural fertilisers?  Think about it!

Healthy food comes from healthy soil.  In the current scenario of agriculture, the health of the soil is deteriorating due to pronounced use of fertilisers and pesticides.  Pesticides in food are a threat to your health and the environment. However, cities can play a role in  improving soil health by channelising good quality compost back to agriculture thereby enhancing overall soil health and its resilience to climate change induced shocks such as drought. Additionally, it can be used to grow your own fruits and veggies in your garden.

It’s time to get something stirring. I bet you’ve had enough of waiting around for permission and everyone else, so let’s roll our sleeves up and do some composting in our backyards. It’s the local actions that will transform our neighbourhoods and our lives and add up to the global change that we all expect to see.

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