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Blog Posts (13)

As a 20-year-old organisation, Saahas has implemented waste management across the country in cities and villages, from high end apartments to slums, Tech parks to public parks. We believe that with proper training and awareness, people of all classes and backgrounds can easily segregate if the waste collection is regular. Our biggest challenge remains non-recyclable waste and its rapidly increasing volume not just in the cities but also in rural areas. We often hear that Plastic is 100% recyclable and the reason for not getting recycled is blamed on people misbehaving, littering and not segregating hence enough clean waste is not available for recycling. A good example is China who were well known for their cheap labour to sort and segregate waste which made it a ready market for the recycled raw material. China couldn’t evolve an environmentally and economically sustainable way of recycling the waste exported from countries like Japan and Germany where people segregate their waste in 10-20 categories.

There are some fundamental problems specifically with recycling, plastic in particular.

First, the properties of plastic-based material degrade significantly even with one round of recycling while paper can be recycled 5-6 times, metals 10-20 times and glass can be recycled infinitely. Second, we add 100s of additives and fillers to plastics as a result the recycled material has significant contamination. Last, plastic is produced from a very cheap material, crude, which is getting cheaper by the day as the world shifts to renewable energy. The recycled material is unable to compete with the virgin material.

We cannot brush these challenges under the carpet, the industry needs to acknowledge these issues in order to be able to solve them. Governments and the Industry will have to truly STEP up:

  • S stands for Standardised products and packaging. Today we have 1000s of different shapes and sizes of packaging boxes and containers. If we can standardise them, we can have economically viable multi brand, multi-product container deposit and reuse systems. Similarly, we have just 1-7 number markings to classify plastics for recycling but there are several materials with different additives and fillers that need to be checked and optimised.
  • T stands for Taxation on products based on environmental impact and circularity, driven by their life cycle, repair-ability, reuse and recyclability ratings. All these aspects must also be prominently displayed on labels and not just utilize recycling symbols.
  • E stands for Entrepreneurship which emphasises on the need to drive entrepreneurship around dismantling and repair clinics, re-manufacturing, product servitization and shared economy based on asset lease and rental models. This would also generate local jobs all over the world, curbing migration.
  • P stands for Public Engagement which focuses on fixing an individual’s responsibility. People need to be involved more actively in decisions that impact their lives. Approval of materials, waste movement across international borders etc., should be allowed only with wider public consultation and hearings. If the people of Malaysia don’t want waste from Germany, they should be able to decide it.

    The big question is how will these changes happen? As citizens, should we wait for our governments and businesses to STEP up? The odds are stacked heavily against these ideas and we will have to put together our collective might to turn things around.

    While the amended EIA draft has been grabbing headlines, another critical environment related guideline had been out for feedback in July 2020 which was the much-awaited framework of EPR for plastic waste management. Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR concept was adopted by the government in the Plastic Waste Management Rules in 2016, the draft guidelines are finally out after 4 years.

    Thomas Lindhqvist who had coined the term Extended Producer Responsibility in the year 1990 defined it as: EPR is an environmental protection strategy to reach an environmental objective of a decreased total environmental impact from a product, by making the manufacturer of the product responsible for the entire life-cycle of the product and especially for the take-back, recycling and final disposal of the product. The Extended Producer Responsibility is implemented through administrative, economic and informative instruments. The composition of these instruments determines the precise form of the Extended Producer Responsibility.

    Wednesday, 29 July 2020 17:18

    City and Village - revisited

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    In one of his lesser known essays titled City and Village, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has talked about how the city has evolved from the village and the need for a harmonious rather than exploitative relationship between the two. In many of his articles in Harijan and earlier in Navjivan, Mahatma Gandhi has also written extensively on his idea of an ideal village and how “independence must begin at the bottom with every village being a Republic or Panchayat with full powers”. (Click the link below, to read on)

    My message to everyone reading this is – Just start with one thing. Swap out one thing in your life that’s 'wasteful' for something else. The place most people start is their toothbrush or swapping paper towels for handkerchiefs. Make one small change and then another when it feels right, and once you start doing this, it just turns on your brain to ask, ‘Is this wasteful?’ or ‘Is that waste necessary?’ And that changes your whole perspective every single day… (Click the link below, to read on)

    Monday, 11 May 2020 18:16

    TERE BIN - A case for the Third Bin

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    Growing up in the 80s in India, I found myself surrounded with messaging about “Small family, Happy family”, “Hum do, Hamare do”….and yet around me there existed families having the Government defying third child, with the child made to feel as if it was brought forth more as an afterthought. The story of the third bin, the Red Bin, is similar to that of the third child. One whose very existence is questioned at first, and who eventually becomes an integral, essential and dear member of the family, treated with love equal to the older siblings by the parents.

    Saturday, 25 April 2020 13:22

    Looking at COVID-19 impact from 3R Glasses

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    In these gloomy and forlorn times of COVID-19 pandemic where we have only been hearing of loss of lives and livelihood, most of us would have also come across some positive statistics, pictures and videos showing how the earth has begun to heal. With all economic activity coming to a standstill and humans locked inside their homes, the other beings of this earth could come out and what belongs to them as well. My personal favourite, unfortunately a fake news clip (it was real but pre-covid), was that of a deer frolicking on a sea shore with complete abandon, like a small child!
    This lockdown has shown us what a massive impact we can make by slowing down and that it is very much possible to slow down. The lockdown unfortunately was like applying breaks to a car that was speeding at 200 Kms/hr hence the human suffering has been tremendous but we have survived this. Going forward, as we pick pace, can we accelerate slowly and also set a reasonable speed limit? While the primary focus of the world right now is on fighting the virus and coming out of the crippling economic crisis and the resultant human suffering; it is critical that we deliberate the lessons can learn from this pandemic in addressing an even bigger challenge, Climate Change.
    Looking at the future, using my 3R* glasses, while I see a lot of challenges, I sense more hope than despair with regard to sustainable waste management.

    Tuesday, 26 November 2019 16:01

    GST(Goods and Services Tax)

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    October 14th, 2019, saw the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council convene in Goa, with the industry watching on with bated breath. The Indian economy hit a six-year low of 5 percent in the first quarter of the 2019 financial year. The Union Ministry hastened to launch a financial stimuli package in June 2019, while reducing the GST on consumer goods to boost domestic consumption.

    Around the same time, the government was planning to ban certain single-use plastics to reduce plastic waste generation. The Prime Minister, in his Independence Day speech in August 2019, urged citizens to shun single-use plastic. A supposed watershed moment for sustainability and environmental consciousness for India, given that 60 major cities in the country generate around 25,950 tonnes of plastic waste in a day[i].

    The proposed plastic ban was shelved amidst pressure from the industry and a fear of the economic slowdown. However, these GST tax rebates will create liquidity in the domestic economy and increase demand for consumer goods- meaning an increase in the quantum of waste generated. Thus, while waste management is becoming one of the biggest challenges for the government, economic policies continue to drive waste generation.

    Tuesday, 26 November 2019 15:06

    Single Use Plastic

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    The 2nd of October was eagerly awaited this year, especially for all of us working in the waste management sector. To mark the 150th year of Gandhi Jayanti, the central government was expected to make a key announcement regarding banning certain Single-Use Plastic items. The government adopted the UNEP[1] definition of single-use plastics as, “…disposable plastics, commonly used for plastic packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include, among other items, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups, and cutlery.”

    Disappointingly, the much-anticipated ban did not come through. However, with the government declaring the year 2022 as a deadline to phase out single-use plastic, the writing is on the wall. A positive development is the growing, public and policy, focus on the term 'Single Use' in India. The public discourse on waste management in the country has shifted from waste recycling to waste reduction and reuse. A large majority is misguided in believing that shifting to recyclable products is enough to solve the problem of waste, while as per the established waste management hierarchy[2], recycling is placed below reduce and reuse from the overall sustainability perspective. This is because recycling is also a polluting activity, and there are technical and financial limitations on what and how much can be recycled.

    Wednesday, 19 June 2019 15:28

    Saahas the winner of FICCI award

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    We are proud to announce that Saahas has won FICCI’s Indian Circular Economy Award 2019 under the category Not for Profit. The Indian Circular Economy Award is India’s exclusive awards program on Circular Economy with the objective to identify and reward organizations and individuals in India that have made notable contributions and brought in a change.

    Thursday, 11 April 2019 13:30

    For the Want of a Storm Water Drain

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    For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

    For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

    For want of a horse the rider was lost.

    For want of a rider the message was lost.

    For want of a message the battle was lost.

    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

    The SWM Plant soon after the construction in June 2016


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