Turning Waste Into Employment Opportunities

Turning Waste Into Employment Opportunities

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In India there is disturbing laziness when it comes to the disposal of waste. People just don’t see the daily recycling of newspapers and water bottles as impactful. A recent survey by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) showed that almost half of people in the 35–45 age brackets were unwilling to differentiate their waste at all. A lack of space for multiple bins and a lack of trust in local authorities to handle recyclables were understood to be the major reasons.

India produces more than 55 million tonnes of solid waste annually. The amount of plastic and other waste along Indian road sides would be enough to put most people off the task of urban waste management. The sheer size of the waste is intimidating. But one man is doing his level best to make a difference. Social entrepreneur Ravi Agarwal has been working to change a system which has the potential of improving health and environment in the country where one sixth of the world’s population resides. The figures would overwhelm Mr. Agarwal. His stratergy has been to involve different sections of society such as women’s groups, schools and rag pickers associations.

Some groups have traditionally been crucial to India’s waste management. Recycling is mostly carried out by the informal sector, though the nature of the work has changed. “Waste has become very complex”, Agarwal explained.

“Recycling is not as simple as it seems. It is no longer simply sorting glass from paper and tin cans. We now have multi-layered plastics and all kinds of new materials coming into packaging. These cannot be recycled without high tech recycling units.” The demands of a rising middle class and illegal dumping from foreign countries mean that electronic waste is a growing problem.

Through innovative ways of communication, he aims to reach the next generation of environmental leaders. Educating the youth is a key part of the strategy, said Agarwal. “Once they are fully aware of the dangers to their own bodies and the environment, they won’t accept the situation as it is.”

In our country of 1.2 billion people, consumption per capita is still lower than in many developed countries, but urban planners fear that the country’s exceptional growth will affect the system. The official Census of India statistics in 2011 showed that Bangalore’s population alone rose by 47% in just ten years, making it the second fastest growing city in India.

Last month a study released by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) showed that as many as 8,500 mobile phones, 5,500 TVs and 3,000 personal computers are dismantled in Delhi every day for reuse of their component parts and materials. In the capital alone, it is estimated that over 150,000 workers are employed in official and unofficial e-recycling units. Acutely aware of the danger of disappearing income opportunities for the waste pickers, Agarwal turned the changing substance of waste into sustainable employment for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. He believes that industry and government need to step up to the plate, but that consumers will hold the real power to demand change.

Sustainability spending in India to touch $29 bn

A year ago period, spending on green It, sustainability initiatives were at $24.8 billion

Spending on green IT and sustainability initiatives in India is expected to increase 17.6 per cent to reach $29.2 billion in 2013, from $24.8 billion that was spent in 2012. Indian companies are now taking sustainability seriously. They will now be investing heavily in sustain-
ability measures.

According to a report, a few leading organisations in India are beginning to implement green IT and sustainability solutions and incorporate them into business operations. The report, however, said that this was through a piecemeal approach that relied more on the hype surrounding the solutions than on the real benefit of the solution to the organisation’s sustainability and green IT vision.

Many Indian organisations still lack the strategic focus that comes with clear understanding of the core issues and key technologies that bring about real change in the vision for sustainability and green IT in an organisation. Therefore, policy initiatives and regulatory measures from the Indian government will be the key drivers for the implementation of some of the technologies (such as advanced metering infrastructure, carbon capture and sequestration, intelligent transportation system) necessary to usher in low-carbon sustainable growth
However, the unique challenges faced by India, such as an unreliable power infrastructure, a growing urban-rural divide and increasing population migration to urban areas, will also provide businesses there with the opportunity to innovate and test new cost-effective approaches and green technology solutions that may then be adapted elsewhere — in other developing, or even developed nations.

The recent policy and regulations announcement by the Indian government with regards to e-waste handling has heightened the hype around this set of technologies. The expectation is that Indian organisations will frame their strategy for e-waste handling in line with the government regulations, leading to mainstream adoption in the next few years.

Tradeoff’s for India’s economic growth and environmental sustainability

As India progress, there is rampant combustion of fossil fuels. These fuels other than emitting energy produce harmful, toxicating particles that are harmful to the environment. This has serious health consequences and with the rapid growth in the economy these impacts are increasing. At the same time, economic growth is an imperative and policy makers are concerned about the possibility that pollution reduction measures could reduce growth significantly.
There is a need to address this problem. Using a state of the art technique called Computable General Equilibrium model, we evaluate the impacts of a tax on coal or on emissions of particles such that these instruments result in emission levels that are respectively 10 percent and 30 percent lower than they otherwise would be in 2030.
The main findings are as follows:

1.The taxes reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by about 590 million tons in 2030 in the case of the 10 percent reduction and 830 million tons in the case of the 30 percent reduction.

2.A 10 percent particulate emission reduction results in a lower gross domestic product but the size of the reduction is modest.

3.Taken together, the carbon dioxide reduction and the health benefits are greater than the loss of gross domestic product in both cases.
4.Losses in gross domestic product from the tax are partly offset by the health gains from lower particle emissions.

About the author

CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.