Waste management plays a crucial role in an era when countries are not only looked for the number of jobs they offer, but attitude towards the environment

Words: Steffi Mac

Development’ is probably one of the most subjective terms we have today. Each individual’s definition of the term is so different and yet so correct in its form that one cannot really restrict the word to only a certain set of activities or ideas.

But everyone will agree that when it comes to the ‘physical development’ or the ‘face lift’ of any country in any part of the world, waste management becomes the biggest question to answer. Whether it is a result of something that has been constructed or a result of human habitat, the negligence of humans is always questioned and put on the line with the ever growing waste/unusable products every day.

In an era where countries aren’t only looked upon by the number of jobs they offer or the population they have, but on their attitude towards the environment and their motivation to contribute to preserve it, waste management plays a crucial role.

India has shown promise in the field of innovation when it comes to waste management. Surely, there is room for a lot of improvement, but there is immense hope as well.

The use of plastic is convenient but has also turned into a nuisance the world over. Prof Rajagopalan Vasudevan, who teaches chemistry at a Tamil Nadu university, devised a way to transform common plastic litter into a substitute for bitumen – the main ingredient in asphalt used for road construction.



Take for instance the roadways. Singapore has 3,324 km of modern, well-maintained roads of which 150 km are expressways. But to avoid congestion, the city has priced vehicle entry into its central business district since 1975. These are used to develop more transport infrastructure.

And if you decide to commute by trains, do not think twice. Singapore has one of the most organised railway networks in the world. During the occupation in World War II, the rails to Port Weld (now known as Kuala Sepetang and located in Malaysia) along with 150 miles of the East Coast Line were used by the Japanese to build the Burma-Siam Railway, also known as the Death Railway.

The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Singapore consists of the North-South, East-West and North East lines, with a total track length of 138 km and served by 64 stations. The trains are connected to high-speed broadband internet.


India’s rapid economic development has witnessed a surge in plastic waste. Converting the common plastic litter into bitumen actually saves 15% of the investment made by the government for road constructions.

Naturally this is bringing down plastic waste in the country by leaps and bounds. It has already been tested in about 11 states in India since 2004 and the results have been remarkable.

An IIT Kanpur team came out with a mechanism where the vortex movement of water cleans the pan surface when the toilet is flushed and pushes the solid waste downwards into a tank located at the centre.

While the centrifugal force acting outwards from a centre of rotation presses the water to the surface of the pan, the geometric design of the surface guides it through a circular path downward toward the separator.

The solid waste thus collected can be used for making compost, while the filtered water is sent to an overhead tank for storage purpose. In community toilets, the water can be sent to an overhead tank using a hand pump instead of electricity.

However, it would be required to pump twice or thrice a day. These toilets are not only eco-friendly but also economic. The micro filters cost just `100 and last for at least a year, while building a basic toilet would cost just around `8,000. This mechanism is being used by UNICEF on a trial basis in community toilets.

Sweden leads the bandwagon when it comes to waste management. It has already made its place in history for its well-known progressive environmental strides.

The country’s waste-to-energy system efficiently provides direct heating to 950,000 Swedish households and electricity to 260,000 homes. The trash management and its recycling are incredibly exemplary in Sweden with less than 1% of the total trash ending up in the landfills.
Unlike other countries, Sweden sees garbage as a commodity and imports it from other European countries to fuel its power needs, with 700kg of rubbish translating into up to 250kg of energy and fuel.

Waste products and litters are always seen as the side effects to ‘development’, but if the attitude of these countries is anything to go by, development may soon have no environmental side-effects at all.