Zero Waste Lifestyles

One component of tackling climate change

The unstable way of life in Pakistan is one of the largest potential contributors to climate change, which has been deemed an existential hazard. Pakistan is not an exception to the global world, especially the urban population, which has evolved into a society that is mostly driven by consumption. This excessive consumption and consumerism, along with the growing population, cause billions of tons of waste to be produced every year. Only 15 percent of this garbage, which totals billions of dollars in worth, is recycled; the remainder is dumped in landfills or dumped openly. In addition to causing loss of finite resources, this also causes other major issues.

Due to a lack of proper waste management systems and general civic illiteracy, Pakistan’s excessive garbage generation poses an even greater challenge. Zero waste, which is defined as “producing little or no waste,” is one of the potential solutions. Our civic duty as a community is to practice zero waste.

The collection, treatment and disposal of waste material have been causing significant harm to human health and the environment. And we need to get serious about managing this waste tracking, separating and then treating it sustainably, instead of the unscientific and unregulated manner it has been handled over the years

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Lack of waste management infrastructure in Pakistan, like in other developing nations, is causing major issues with the environment and public health. In addition to producing an excessive amount of solid garbage every day, the nation has also, and more worryingly, emerged as the primary repository for hazardous waste in the globe. In urban Pakistan, our problem is that we view garbage as kachra (waste), something that is unwanted and needs to be thrown away. The crisis in solid waste management that can be seen every day on Pakistani urban streets is caused by this mentality.

The solid waste management sector functions as an interconnected “process chain” with management beginning even before waste generation, with the goal of lowering waste generation levels, as by regulating or advocating decreased packaging. Reuse, recycling, and segregation can thus take place in the home, thereby lowering the amount of garbage that needs to be collected and transported. Reuse, recycling, upcycling, and energy generation components may be integrated at different points throughout this cycle.

Many inorganic waste components can be recycled in homes, much as they were in the past, and kitchen trash can be composted to support healthful activities like kitchen gardening. Once the waste journey extends beyond the home and if your vision is to pursue zero waste rather than disposing and burning as is the case currently, many interesting opportunities for promoting start-ups and entrepreneurship emerge. In these situations, community-based entities and the private sector can join the “circular economy” cycle to create jobs and businesses, resulting in a healthier, more environmentally friendly city. It is possible to reuse a lot of inorganic waste parts.

The fact that we close our eyes to such chances defies sense. The government has failed to launch and promote composting-based projects in a metropolis where more than 50 percent of garbage is organic, where the result not only serves as recovered waste but may be linked with an objective of environmental protection. Recycling still takes place in the unorganized sector with little access to technology and expertise, but because the products are inferior, recycling does not maximize economic benefits.

Around the world, recycling of e-waste, as well as recycling of plastic, wood, and metal-based materials, is a lucrative industry with significant amounts of value addition. In order for these businesses to succeed, it is also necessary to connect the dots and build the necessary economic and policy environments.

The United Kingdom alone dumped approximately 40,000 tons of waste in Pakistan last year; Pakistan lacks the capacity to segregate ordinary and hazardous waste, raising major environmental and health problems; this information was recently given to the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change. The remaining 25,000 tons came from Iran and over 20,000 tons from the United Arab Emirates. Despite being a member of the Basel Convention, industrialized nations use Pakistan as a disposal site for over 80,000 tons of electronic and plastic trash, posing risks to the environment and public health. Because recycling e-waste is more expensive, wealthier nations frequently export their waste to developing nations.

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Senator Sherry Rehman, the Minister of Climate Change, emphasizes the importance of capturing imported hazardous waste materials, noting that “our country has been receiving all types of packed garbage from different parts of the world with an average annual tonnage of 80,000.” We have developed a long-overdue policy to address this.

Many things need to change in order to move closer to the zero waste objective, including priorities, policies, mindsets, and the governance architecture that supports them. Decentralization should be planned. To encourage private enterprise, a supportive policy and regulatory environment must be mapped out. The promotion of standard practices and the backing of locally created technology are both necessary.

The associated cross-cutting benefits, such as a greener city, increased economic prosperity, a healthier city with lower health costs, and revitalized public spaces by reclaiming and designing vibrant public spaces that are currently contaminated with garbage, need to be captured when designing sustainable cities.

The collection, treatment and disposal of waste material have been causing significant harm to human health and the environment. And we need to get serious about managing this waste tracking, separating and then treating it sustainably, instead of the unscientific and unregulated manner it has been handled over the years.

Rimsha Malik
Rimsha Malik
The writer is a researcher at the Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK, and can be reached at [email protected]


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