The Waste Paradox
A flourishing economy is signalled by a growing GDP; which is the manifestation of a rise in production of goods and services. To support the production growth, extraction of raw materials also increases. However, when the extraction takes place without proper management and inefficient technology, raw materials get wasted - leading to an increase in the solid waste produced by the country. If we look at it from the demand side, when an economy grows, its purchasing power increases. Consumers demand more goods and services, which in turn creates an influx in production. Consequently, extraction and waste of raw materials grow at the same pace.
The graph attached below is a graph comparing the percentage change in GDP of India and the percentage change in Solid waste generated in the country from 2013 to 2020. The slope of both the growth rates (GDP and solid waste generated) is analogous in most years, implying that the rate at which India's GDP increases is the same as the rate at which the solid waste produced in the country rises.
The second graph compares the percentage change in Singapore's GDP with the percentage change in solid waste generated from the year 2013 to 2020. The trend of comparable growth rates mentioned above not only exists in India but holds for Singapore as well. However, according to the graph, the growth rate of Singapore’s GDP was analogous to the growth rate of its solid waste generation only from the year 2013 to 2014. Between the year 2014 to 2015, Singapore's growth in GDP was downward sloping while its solid waste generation continued to soar. Finally, from 2016 onwards, Singapore’s GDP escalated at an upward sloping growth rate whereas its solid waste generation was declining at an increasing rate. Even while the economy continued to grow, the total solid waste generated in the country started to fade. This change in trend was nudged by the Singapore Green Plan reviewed in 2012 – which advocates waste minimization and efficient recycling.
Singapore was experiencing the same trend as India until 2014. Singapore's yesterday is India's today. The challenges faced by Singapore in its journey of waste minimization are no different from the challenges that India has faced for decades and continues to face even today.
Both India and Singapore are countries with a tropical climate. The tropical climate makes the countries vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious disease caused by the piling of waste in landfills.
Furthermore, Singapore's increased industrialization landed the country in a scarcity of land sites for landfills, owing to its dense population. However, this obstacle is not limited to Singapore but poses a challenge in India as well. Moreover, both the countries experience a relatively high cost of recycling than expected, hence are unable to recycle as efficiently as it needs to. When they end up recycling, the quality of the waste material separated for recycling is inadequate for direct sale, leading to further wastage of resources. Therefore, Singapore wasn't unscathed by challenges that India continues to face today, but it has managed to wriggle out from the trap of inefficient waste management.
Instead of resigning themselves to fate, they made it their rallying point and the divergence of the direction of their serves as a testament of their grit. They strategically planned their waste management program and employed the strategies detailed below.
1) VOLUME REDUCTION:
Incineration – Incineration translates to "destruction of waste material, through burning". Singapore has been reaping the fruits of Incineration plants for years but SGP 2012 aimed at reducing the need for additional incineration plants. From one new plant every 5 to 7 years to one in every 10 to 15 years or longer. As a result, the cost of incineration declined over the years - decreasing the volume of waste in the country.
2) WASTE REDUCTION: It engaged the industries, communities and schools in waste recycling opportunities.
To begin with, Singapore's government levied a fee at waste disposal facilities, to deter the industries from wasting unnecessarily. Along with that, the government also invested 20 million dollars for the development of innovative environmental technologies that aids recycling.
To reiterate the gravitas of the situation, agencies such as The National Environment Agency of Singapore also extended information on recycling and paved a way for them to tread upon.
Reaching out to schools and communities:
Furthermore, the country hosted several programs such as Annual Recycling Day, National Recycling Program and Recycling Corner Programs to create awareness on the perils of waste generated in the country.
In addition to that, they diligently placed depositories at every corner of the country. While the government was playing its role in spreading awareness to the industries, the schools executed field trips to incineration plants, to instil a sense of responsibility amongst youngsters.
3) WASTE MINIMISATION:
While incineration and recycling enable us to treat the waste efficiently, countries need to cut waste at its source, even before it is produced.
Therefore, Singapore initiated an agreement - the Voluntary Packaging Agreement, which aimed at reducing waste at producers end by handing them the baton of product stewardship. As a result, it instilled a sense of responsibility of packaging waste in a cost-effective way.
Finally, the strategies detailed above uprooted the burden of waste from Singapore and is capable of doing the same for India. India has already geared up to improve the efficiency of waste management in the country but by adopting the strategies initiated by Singapore, India would pose to be a strong resonating force in the global waste management initiatives.