Waste continues to be a serious problem in the country. Although efforts are being made to address this problem, the issue seems to be getting worse. On International Day of Zero Waste, March 30, volunteers collected 3,000 kilograms of waste, further evidence of this growing problem. It is high time that we take a closer look at what is causing this rise in waste production and what can be done differently to address this problem.

One of the primary reasons for the increase in waste generation in the country is the rise in population and economic development. With the increased economic growth, people have become more consumer-oriented, leading to an increase in plastic packaging, non-biodegradable products, and electronic gadgets. Moreover, waste collection and management have not been able to keep up with the pace of growth, leading to an accumulation of waste in public places. It is, therefore, imperative that we focus on the implementation of effective waste management systems that cater to the specific needs and realities of the communities.

The myth of disposability is another major reason for the increase in waste production. Many people think that anything can be disposed of easily and that it will eventually disappear. This myth encourages people to consume more and to throw things away without much thought perpetuating the problem. Here, education and awareness programmes could be useful to sensitise the public and teach about the ways to reduce waste production and how to dispose of it more effectively.

But, more importantly, there is the issue of a lack of infrastructure for effective waste management. Garbage trucks and landfills are inadequate and need to be upgraded – with a better management system comes better maintenance of the environment and a reduction in health hazards caused by waste pollution. The situation is even worse in rural areas where there is an acute shortage of waste management facilities. In many parts of the country, people still practice open burning of waste or dumping it into nearby rivers and streams, leading to severe environmental degradation, air pollution, and contamination of water sources, among others.

What we need urgently today is an integrated approach that seeks to change the mindset of people and improves the infrastructure for better waste management.

Efforts should focus on educating the public about the negative environmental impacts of waste disposal, enforcing stricter regulations for waste collection and disposal, and providing the public with the necessary tools and infrastructure to dispose of waste more effectively. This includes mobilising resources and ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place for effective waste management at all levels of society.

We have been observing Zero Waste Hour since 2019, but the problem of waste continues to grow. It’s high time we changed our approach and worked towards adopting an integrated approach that will help us achieve zero waste. This approach should be inclusive of education, infrastructure, and the implementation of effective waste management practices. Only by developing such an approach can we arrest the growing problem of waste in the country, and be the leading environmentally conscious country we strive to be.