13 Dec Lessons in Waste Management
It was a day of fun and learning for the children and volunteers at the YMCA Boys Home, Perungudi. Starting at around 8:30 AM from the center in a packed mini-van, a group of 25 children and 3 volunteers made the field trip to the solid waste management facility at Shollinganallur operated by Hand in Hand, (an NGO working in rural areas for the empowerment of women) to learn the importance and understand the process of waste management.
Solid waste management is one of the most pressing problems any big city faces and Chennai with its huge population is no exception. The trip helped both the children and the volunteers understand the nuances of the issue and to fully appreciate the work done at the plant in Shollinganallur by Mr. Francis, the supervisor, and his retinue of “green friends”.
After the initial introductions, Mr. Francis went on to explain the major processes involved in solid waste management and how they went about doing their work. He pointed out that the waste produced in a household can be categorized into three types, namely, bio-degradable (mostly organic waste that helps in producing manure by the use of compost pits), non-degradable (recyclable material which is sorted and then sent to its respective recycling units) and mixed products (products such as cloth and diapers, which are not easily degradable and cannot be recycled either). The students learnt the types of waste and were then shown how each of the above waste was sorted and handled. The children were particularly fascinated to learn the process of handling organic waste. The tour of the compost sites given by the supervisor was an eye-opener that helped us understand that what we generally consider as waste is not entirely useless, but can be made useful, effective and even profitable when proper steps are taken.
Next, we toured the yard where the recyclable materials were sorted and classified. Mr. Francis explained how the plastic waste that we throw away carelessly, if properly segregated, can save the environment and the habitat from harmful diseases. Sadly, it is the indiscriminate use of plastic and its improper disposal that leads to blocked drains, which in turn causes many water-borne diseases. The burning of plastic also poses problems, as it releases dioxins, polluting the air and leading to many health complications. The children learnt that small and easy changes in one’s lifestyle such as the proper segregation of waste in our homes could go a long way in saving the environment.
The trip proved to be highly informative and the kids were able to easily comprehend the importance of such waste management plants in the society. More importantly, the children learnt how they, as individuals, could help society and the planet by avoiding the use of plastic and other non-degradable materials while using eco-friendly alternatives. They also understood that they could play a part by spreading awareness within their own circles.