Waste Management – A relay race gone wrong
What are the characteristics of a typical relay race? Firstly, all the team members share a
common purpose i.e. victory of the team. Secondly, each runner is not only expected to run
his/ her personal best but also to pass the baton correctly to the next runner. Dropping the
baton is disastrous and can disqualify the entire team. This makes a relay race truly a team
Waste Management is sort of like a relay race. The waste generator runs the first lap and is
expected to segregate the waste and pass it on to the waste collector, who in turn has to
ensure it is passed on correctly to the next person in the chain. This could be a waste
aggregator, local kabadiwala or the worker of a local municipal body who is taking it for
further treatment. This chain continues till the waste reaches its correct destination, could
be a recycling plant, composting yard or an upcycling unit.
Its a complex chain which has multiple points of failure. Moreover, its not necessary that
everyone shares a common purpose unlike the relay team. Waste generators in most cases are
keen to get rid of the waste as soon as possible and don’t always see the environmental
impact of burning, littering or dumping of waste. They are also at times oblivious or
insensitive to the economic benefits that can accrue to waste entrepreneurs in the chain if
waste is segregated properly.
Producers of consumer goods on the other hand are keen to ensure sale of the product but not
as keen to ensure that post consumer waste is picked up or not generated in the first place.
Local bodies like municipal corporations have a critical role to play but they seem to be
facing a number of challenges to ensure all stakeholders work in unison.
In a consumerism driven world, the problem of waste is getting more and more complex by the
day. We probably need innovative platforms to bring all the players together, agree on a
common shared goal and follow certain SOPs so they do the right thing. . Unless that happens
the baton will continue to get dropped and the race to end the waste problem will remain