Waste Matters

Waste Matters

To be honest, waste management is an issue of which, I really had not given adequate thought to in the past. Our visits to Wasteless and the Pondicherry dump changed this for me, and ideally for several classmates as well. Not unique to other subjects, learning about waste management in a classroom compared to taking the rare opportunity to stand in the middle of the Pondicherry dump was surprisingly a humbling experience, and one that allowed us to quite literally put ourselves in the middle of viewing both the increasing amount of trash (56m high), and the increasing relevancy of the issue of the waste management into daily life; the vast majority of inhabitants in Auroville neglect to separate compostable waste from non-compostable waste, let alone are aware that certain daily habits are an issue. For example, the abundance of flies that are attracted to waste that is dumped outside the front steps of homes can transmit multiple types of diseases.

Our visit to Wasteless was thought-provoking and the presentation was relatable and engaging. Wasteless is an NGO based in Auroville that focuses on knowledge sharing of proper waste management and why it matters, particularly by educating youth. Wasteless has developed interactive games and activities for children, who have proven to be the more useful target market by subsequently influencing parents at home about simple, proper waste management tactics. One game Wasteless has developed is Garbology 101, a school curriculum comprised of 101 environmental, multi-intelligence activities focusing on empowerment which targets primary and middle school children. kNOw plastics is another example of a game in which children have the ability to learn about proper vehicles of managing waste; for example, one-time use plastic water bottles would be much more of a waste of compared to using reusable, stainless steel and glass water bottles. Children tend to be more receptive and able to pick up knowledge because of their younger age, and these games promote discussion amongst children and at home. We learned about the importance of conscious consumerism, the horizontal perspective of integrating positive change, and the effects of greenwashing. Greenwashing is one way in which the effects of particular marketing strategies can influence consumers. A company is guilty of greenwashing when, for example, it makes itself appear to be more eco-friendly and sustainable than it really is to boost profit and increase brand loyalty and retention. For example, take a look at the advertisement example below. Wasteless used this example to show us during the presentation. Also, the more modern push for increased transparency in supply chain logistics and accountability could help begin to remedy this because consumers would have access to see where the product comes from and be more consciously aware. Whether or not consumers choose to access this information is a separate, arguably ethical issue.

Externalities of consumerism run high, but it is important to be aware that problem-solving competence is an area of which we have the capacity to share with others. Waste management, put much more simply than the depth of the issue itself, can be analyzed in a linear process; from extraction, to production, to production, to transportation, to purchasing, usage, disposal and dumping, waste management is a complex and impactful subject of pertinent importance, regardless of geographic location. But the issue runs deeper; there seems to be a lack of shared knowledge that waste management is a detrimental issue to people, communities, and the environment, why proper waste management is integral to incorporate into daily life, and what role and minor adjustments people can make to contribute to mitigate the effects of insufficient waste management. One point which resonated highly with me was the point made that the trash we throw away, never really goes away. The garbage is contained within our planet, and can reappear in one form or another, and we need to adapt this cyclical form of thought. For example, the small piece of plastic that is nonchalantly disposed of into the ocean can be consumed by marine life, who is mistaking the plastic of jellyfish. Over time, this plastic moves up the food chain until it reaches us as consumers; we must be conscious that we then consume that microplastic. Long-term, mass consumer awareness and commitment to sustainability is necessary to ensure positive social change can withstand over time, but it must also come from legislation by way of voters. Although generally not an advocate for a top-down approach in terms of development aid projects, taking a top-down approach by way of legislation would be ethologically appropriate to implement sustainable waste management standards. As consumers, we must be conscious of our actions, but also willing to implement the changes we can. It’s quite simple to overlook small misgivings in a busy schedule, but awareness of an issue is the first step. As consumers, we have a social ethically derivative duty to understand what steps we can take to help. Turn the water tap off when not in use; ‘talk trash’ about the issue and ramifications of improper or nonexistent waste management in your communities; bring Garbology 101 to the virtual educational space. Crowd funding strategies and campaigns can prove effective. Acknowledging that this type of behavior of proper waste management cannot really be changed instantaneously, awareness can be implemented, which leads to discussion and positive social change with long-term, unified consumer commitment.

Caitlyn Fitzgerald

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