Garbage: Segregation is the Only Solution

By Ashwin Tombat
04 July 2019 13:52 IST

It’s on our highways. It’s in our rivers. It’s on our beaches. It’s out on the streets. It’s everywhere except where it should be… Goa has got to solve its garbage problem. Otherwise, this state is going down into the dumps.

For the last month and more, all the talk has been about Sonsoddo. Margao’s garbage dump was in flames. And, despite all the mud piled on the garbage, the fire is still smouldering underneath, fuelled by all the methane (the main constituent of natural gas) that rotting organic waste produces. Hopefully, the monsoon rains will put it out.  

Last week, Panaji’s garbage was in the news when the Saligao treatment plant stopped taking it. Apparently, a temporary garbage treatment plant is to come up at Patto in 10 to 20 days. That may mean an almighty stink at the entrance to the state capital.

There are only two ways of safely disposing unsegregated garbage.

One is the ‘sanitary landfill’. It requires a large tract of land in an area that is sparsely inhabited, because garbage stinks. Sonsodo near Margao and the Kadamba Plateau near Panaji were once good garbage dumps. In time, both cities have expanded to include these dumping grounds. Goa has no uninhabited areas close to big cities. Landfill is not a practical solution for the state.

The other way is large incinerators that can burn garbage at high temperatures. Sweden generates 8 per cent of its heating needs from waste incinerators. The US disposes of 14.5 per cent of its municipal solid waste by incineration. The European Union burns almost 42 per cent of its waste.

Garbage burns in a special chamber at over 1,000 °C, a temperature at which plastics emit much lower levels of toxic dioxin. The heat from the burning garbage is used to generate electricity. The ash left behind is just 5 per cent of the volume of garbage, and can be easily landfilled. Combustion gases are filtered for contaminants before being released into the air. Goa’s late Chief Minister Dr Wilfred de Souza proposed this solution for our garbage in the 1990s. But it never happened.  

Large garbage incineration plants can generate electricity to supply thousands of houses. But studies show that recycling plastic waste saves more energy overall — by reducing the need to extract fossil fuel.

To efficiently recycle plastic, metal, glass, etc, garbage needs to be segregated, into wet and dry components. If it is segregated, garbage can be managed.

And it’s not at all difficult.  

I live in Porvorim in a panchayat area. Every morning, the garbage collector comes to the door with two carts, one for wet garbage and the other for dry. Everybody has two garbage bins; one for wet garbage and the other for dry. The wet garbage is taken to a treatment facility, where it is turned into compost. The dry garbage is taken to a sorting centre where the recyclable garbage is separated and sold. The remaining — a very small proportion of the total — is taken to a landfill.

If garbage is not segregated, it rots and stinks. The wet garbage cannot be composted because it contains plastics and other dry waste. The recyclable garbage cannot be separated because it is wet, rotting, and full of germs; a health hazard for garbage sorters.

Successful segregation requires educating citizens on identifying wet waste and dry waste, so as to not mix them up. Garbage collectors too must be trained; to refuse mixed garbage from citizens. This is not a one-time effort. Every new person who comes to live in an area must be educated, otherwise segregation levels go down and everyone suffers.

Each family or housing society can even compost its own garbage. In our house, the composting bin is just outside our kitchen window. All our kitchen wet waste goes into the composting bin, except raw fish waste. The composting bin doesn’t smell. Once a year, it gives excellent compost for the garden.

Segregating garbage is not stressful or difficult. It took us just a few days to get used to it. Now, it’s a matter of habit. If everyone makes it a habit, Goa’s garbage problem can be easily solved. Madgavkars should segregate their garbage. Otherwise, there is no solution to their problem.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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