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What are Garbage Components and What Can You do to Deal with Garbage?
Waste materials (or rubbish) especially household wastes, are called garbage. It is called ‘kooda’ in Hindi. Every household produces a lot of garbage (or wastes) daily which is collected in dustbins. The shops, offices and schools also produce garbage or rubbish everyday. What does the garbage (or rubbish) consist of ? This will become clear from the following discussion.
We peel off many fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking them. Sometimes cooked food also remains unused in our homes and it is called left-over food. The leaves of potted plants also keep on falling everyday in our homes. The peels of fruits and vegetables, left-over cooked food and fallen leaves of potted plants are thrown away as garbage.
Every household buys a large number of packaged products such as flour (atta), rice, pulses, biscuits, chocolates, milk and oil, etc., which are packed in plastic bags, cardboard cartons, paper wrappers, plastic containers, tins and many other kinds of packing materials. All the packing materials are useless and go out as garbage. We also tear off various kinds of papers (including those from our notebooks) and throw them into dustbins. The waste papers also generate garbage.
In every household, some old, unwanted and useless plastic objects such as polythene bags, plastic bottles and containers, broken plastic toys, etc., keep on collecting which are ultimately thrown as garbage. A lot of glass articles such as used glass bottles, other glass containers, broken window panes, broken mirrors, and broken glass tumblers, etc., also make up garbage. Many old and useless metal objects such as used aluminium foils, rusted iron grills, door handles, etc., find their way to garbage: The old clothes, discarded shoes and slippers are also thrown away as garbage.
When people get off from a bus, they throw the bus tickets on the road; some people eat the groundnuts and throw their shells in buses, trains and other public places; whereas others throw banana skins on the road. Every time we throw away something, we are producing garbage. Though the garbage produced by a single person may be small but a small amount of garbage thrown by many, many persons in an area can make a big heap of garbage. In fact, we are generating mountains of garbage everyday !
If garbage is not removed from our homes and surroundings regularly, our homes and surroundings will become dirty. Some of the garbage (like left-over food) will rot giving off foul smell. The rotting garbage will become a breeding ground for disease-causing organisms such as cockroaches, flies and mosquitoes. They will spread diseases to us.
The garbage collected in dustbins in our homes, shops, offices and schools is taken away by sanitary staff (safai karamcharis) of our area and put into big garbage dumps constructed by the Municipality at various locations (see Figure). From the garbage dump, garbage is loaded into trucks and disposed of in a number of ways depending on the nature of garbage. We will now describe what are the main types of garbage; how we can use some of the household garbage ourselves in a useful way; how a part of the garbage can be recycled or reused; and how the remaining useless part of garbage is disposed of properly in a way that it does not harm our surroundings.
Garbage has two types of components in it : useful components and useless components.
- Those things present in garbage which can be converted into useful products, recycled or reused are called useful components.
- Those things present in garbage which can neither be used in any way nor recycled are called useless components.
The useful components of garbage are also of two types :
(a) Fruit and vegetable peels, left-over cooked food (called kitchen waste) and fallen leaves, etc., which can be converted into compost.
(b) Used paper, some plastics, glass and metal articles which can be recycled or reused.
The first step in dealing with garbage is to separate useful part of the garbage (which can be converted into compost, recycled or reused) from the non-useful part which cannot be used at all. The separation of useful part of garbage can be done in our homes ourselves. It is also done at garbage dumps by the people called ragpickers.
Some Garbage Rots Whereas Other Does Not
Garbage such as fruit and vegetable peels, left-over cooked food and fallen leaves, etc., rot (or decay) when buried in soil for some time. We say that they are biodegradable. Actually, when fruit and vegetable peels, left-over food and plant leaves are buried in soil, they are decomposed by the micro-organisms (tiny organisms) present in soil to form harmless substances.
On the other hand, the garbage such as plastic bags, glass bottles and metal articles (aluminium foil, etc.) do not rot (or decay) when buried in soil. We say they are non-biodegradable. The garbage such as plastic bags, glass bottles and metal articles cannot be decomposed by the micro-organisms present in the soil.
We can now say that the part of garbage which can rot (or decompose) in nature to form harmless substances is called biodegradable. All the garbage from plants (such as fruit and vegetable peels, left over food, leaves, paper, cotton, jute etc.) and from animals (such as wool, silk, leather and cow dung) is biodegradable. Biodegradable garbage is also known as organic waste. On the other hand, the part of garbage which does not rot (or decompose) in nature is called non-biodegradable.
The garbage which consists of plastics, glass and metal objects is non-biodegradable. In fact, all the garbage which is not derived from plants or animal sources is non-biodegradable. Getting rid of non-biodegradable part of garbage is a problem because it does not rot or decay when buried and some of it (like plastics) gives poisonous gases when burned. We will now describe a simple activity to show that some type of garbage can rot in nature to produce useful materials whereas other type of garbage does not rot on its own and remains as such.
Collect the garbage from your house before it is thrown into dustbin and separate it into two groups as follows :
(i) In the first group we take garbage from the kitchen (called kitchen wastes) such as fruit and vegetable peels, left-over cooked food, tea-leaves and egg-shells, etc. We also include dry leaves, paper bag, cotton cloth, wool, jute bag and an old leather belt in this group.
(ii) In the second group we take a plastic bag (polythene bag), broken plastic toy, synthetic cloth, broken glass and metal objects such as aluminium foil and iron nails.
We dig two pits in the ground about 30 centimetres deep. In one pit we place garbage from the first group and cover it with a layer of soil. In the other pit we place garbage of second group and also cover it with a layer of soil. Leave these materials buried in the pits for about a month.
After a month, we dig up the buried waste materials or garbage from both the pits and observe them. We will find that the garbage made up of fruit and vegetable peels, left-over cooked food, tea-leaves, egg-shells, dry leaves, paper bag, cotton cloth, wool, jute bag and leather belt buried in the first pit ‘rots’ completely to form a black looking substance resembling soil. This means that all these waste materials present in the garbage have been decomposed by the micro-organisms present in soil, so they are biodegradable.
The garbage containing plastic bag (polythene bag), broken plastic toy, synthetic cloth, broken glass, aluminium foil and iron nails does not rot at all. It remains as such. This means that the waste materials present in this garbage have not been decomposed by the micro-organisms present in soil, so they are non- biodegradable.
In some cities and towns, the Municipality provides separate dustbins for collecting the two types of garbage. These dustbins have different colours : one is green and the other is blue (see Figure). The green dustbin is for collecting kitchen wastes and other plant and animal wastes (which can be used to make compost). The blue dustbin is for collecting waste materials such as plastics, glass objects and metal articles which can be recycled and used again. We will now discuss the various methods of getting rid of garbage.