A brilliant way to help the country fight climate change
Pakistan always seems to be in the middle of turmoil and our national conversations understandably revolve around heavy issues such as terrorism and political instability. Notwithstanding the seriousness of the aforementioned topics, we seem to be significantly less concerned about one of the other great dangers that perhaps pose a grave threat to our existence – Climate Change.
If that seems like hyperbole, consider the heavy floods and other natural disasters that are not only occurring more rampantly but are also returning with more venom; consider the risk our mainly agrarian economy continues to face from erratic weather patterns and the rising food insecurity marginalising millions of our people; and if you are still not convinced, consider that experts are greatly concerned about the future of our great river Indus that spawned our ancestral civilisation and continues to be our life source.
It’s been said on numerous occasions but the time to act to mitigate the effects of the changing climate is now. And while arguably many of the actions that are really needed can only be taken by the state, there certainly is a role that individuals can play as well.
One of the simpler actions we can all take is to reduce our carbon footprint by consuming fewer resources – and in the process decrease our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The physical reduction of waste is a critical factor in this equation as wellsince accumulating garbage poseshazards to the health of humans and other species.
According to a recent research by the Pakistan Environment Protection Department, the country generates about 20 million tons of solid waste annually and that number is growing by about 2.4 percent each year. Sadly, the waste management methods in Pakistan remain poor.
Karachi, our most populous city, generates an estimated 9,000 tons of waste daily and garbage collectors cannot keep up which leads to the excessive burning of waste on street corners everywhere. The solution to this growing menace is recycling and it can be done by each one of us without any real outside help.
If each of us learned to recycle properly, then things like cans, plastic bottles, glass jars, and newspapers won’t be seen littering the streets or being set on fire. Also most car parts, clothes, furniture, playground equipment and DVDs are made from the stuff that can be re-used by those who need them.
Many of the items we throw away as ‘garbage’ can be cleaned and used as utensils around our house and work place (you might need to use knowledge gained at those art classes you once attended at school or Google a bit).
Then there are some brilliant organisations like ‘Gul Bahao Trust’ and ‘Kaghaz Kai Karnamay’ who gather used paper, plastic, glass and dry garbage and apply their skills to create wonderful articles ready to be re-used by most of us. Gul Bahao actually builds homes out of rubbish, using materials such as bubble wrap, thermoco, aluminum foil and etc.
‘Waste Busters’, a Pakistani waste management and recycling firm, goes door-to-door collecting garbage bags. In Lahore alone, the company services 70,000 homes and repurposes the contents. From inorganic trash, Waste Busters derives a form of fuel; from organic waste, they create compost.
Then there are manufacturing companies like Dawlance, which is encouraging consumers to recycle through its awareness campaign and placing instructions about recycling on its product cartons.
Certainly some good work is being in this regard but undoubtedly more needs to be done – quite simply more people need to be involved. Recycling is more than just something that environmentalists do. It is a business around the world, and creates new employment opportunities whereby people haul, process, and broker recovered materials and new companies manufacture and distribute products made with these recycled materials.
So in essence, recycling creates more jobs than landfilling as it adds value and employs people at every step of the process. On the other hand, as garbage is landfilled in Karachi and other cities of Pakistan, the materials are collected and disposed of without any opportunity for continued economic activity.
The government will have to step in and manage the entire process, but the change can start now through our individual (and collective) efforts. The movement is simple in concept if not in execution: recycle to give back. There will be hiccups along the way, but organisations like Gul Bahao, Kaghaz Kai Karnamay, Waste Busters and corporations can provide a way forward, while individuals would need to learn the basics about recycling and teach others to create a chain reaction.
Recycling not only conserves natural resources and reduces the amount of waste that must be burned or buried, it also reduces pollution and the demand for energy. It’s certainly an effort worth making to give back to our country.