It’s something we have read about before, but this story by Tehelka puts all the canards and reports in perspective: India has become the ultimate receptacle of the first world’s trash. As if we don’t generate enough of our own.
According to an estimate, India imported around 16.8 lakh tonnes of ‘waste paper’ in 2005-2006, valued at about $290 million. However, environmental activists say that much of the socalled recyclable waste that is imported is trash and ends up in Indian dumps, landfills and sometimes, even farmlands. In September last year, environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman discovered that ITC’s paper factory in Coimbatore had dumped hundreds of tonnes of municipal solid waste — household garbage, in other words — from the UK into agricultural wells in the area. “These paper factories import only ‘low level sorted’ waste since that is cheap. However, usually only about twenty percent of such waste can be reclaimed or recycled. The rest is trash and is dumped,” says Nityanand. Given the millions of tonnes of ‘waste paper’ entering the country each year, if this is the ratio of recyclable to non-recyclable items in imported waste, this could mean that India, a country with enough waste of its own, could be importing a truly colossal amount of non-recyclable waste from other countries. According to details in TEHELKA’s possession, the top five importers of paper waste at the Tuticorin port account for about 2 lakh metric tonnes annually. ITC, Kolkata alone imported about 1 lakh metric tonnes of paper waste through this port in the period between 2007-2009.
To think that we are greedy for the world’s trash is a frightening indicator of what our people will do for money. What else the floodgates of greed will let in we do not know.
And then again, from The Fun Theory, a nice reminder that getting people to put their trash in the right place is actually possible. All it takes is some imagination and a sense of humour. So effective that people will refuse to throw their trash anywhere else.