Posted in April 2016, Uncategorized

A problem that sticks: How does Chewing gum effect our environment?

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Image from khanfood.com

We can buy chewing gums everywhere, in every little shop on the street and we mostly use them for refreshment after lunch. Chewing gum is definitely something so small that we do not really find it harmful for the environment. Unfortunately, 80-90% of them are not disposed of properly and they present the second most common littering, after the cigarette butts. For example, littering was so bad in Singapore that they completely banned the chewing gums.

What is chewing gum?

Gum – chewing has a long history, going back to Greeks, who chewed a similar product from resin of the mastic tree.

In 1869, a Mexican exile named General Antonio de Santa Anna introduced “chicle” a resin from the Sapodilla tree. He was trying to vulcanize the resin into rubber for boots and tires, but he failed. He used the sap and made it into chewing gum which had a subtle caramel flavour. Within a few years, he was mass-producing several different flavours.

In decades, chewing gums became quite an obsession and very popular and many manufactures replaced natural resin with Synthetic polymer.  It can happen that the same company that makes you car’s tires also manufactures the base for many major gum brands.  It is very close to chewing fossil fuel.

While these new gums are supremely soft and chewable, they are not biodegradable. You probably also remember how your parents warn you not to “eat it” because it is not digestive. There are probably not enough gums in the world to create a major environmental issue, but the volume of waste is not entirely insignificant. I found a statistic that worldwide humans chew about 560,000 tons of gum each year which will all end in the landfills (Slate.com, 2011)!

gum
Image from bbc.com

A few entrepreneurial green individuals have developed technology to recycle chewed gum, which they can turn into rubber containers or children’s toys. But that means chewers would have to throw their used gum into specially designated waste containers, rather than into ordinary trash bins. It seems to be to “dreamy” to think that people will throw their gum in specially design container, since most of the gums usually finish on the ground. That has to be eliminated first. Cleaning the gums which stick all over the places, require many resources and increase environmental impact of chewing gums since cleaners have to use strong chemicals to remove it.

Fortunately, “Chicle” isn’t lost in the history and it is coming back as an eco-friendly alternative to modern gum. If you want to know more about chewing gums in general and how can chewing be more earth friendly choice, please visit  http://www.chicza.com  Also in India you can buy more natural gums like for example http://www.treehuggergum.com/catalog_list.php

As an individual, the only responsible method of gum disposal is wrapping it up in gum’s wrapper or in between a paper and put it into your trash. While it ending up in landfill isn’t ideal, it certainly should not be flushed down the toilet or thrown into waterways.  If you have to chew, try to use natural chewing gums.

But the best would be to eliminate them completely. If you think about gums, there is not much  use of it. It’s just a habit.

 

Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team

Posted in April 2016, Uncategorized

It’s time to take responsibility of your own waste!

Unfortunately we all produce waste.  It of course depends on how aware we are of the problem and how much we act upon it, but the waste has to go somewhere, right?

In India, there is relatively small fee that we have to pay for the waste management.  A person, usually called a rag picker comes to our house to collect the garbage and here the story finishes for us. It is so simple, the waste just goes AWAY. But the real story of waste starts actually when it leaves our homes.

rag picker
Image from http://www.celsias.com

When it is collected, it has to be segregated, transported; some of it is recycled, and some finishes at the land fields. However, for all these steps, we need energy like gas, water, electricity for transporting and recycling; machines, human labour and much more. How can all these expenses be covered within an approximate 100 rupees fee per household?

However, environment and waste managers are the one who pay for our waste. Because there is no proper system of segregation and management, most of the waste ends up in the land fields. For example, kitchen waste could simply be composted, but it requires a huge land or a composting machine. There is a need of investment, which in the end, benefits everyone. The composting soil is the best soil for gardening or it can be transformed to a bio gas.

Recycling is another story. Recycling industry has to cover the cost of energy and in the same time, it has to be enough profitable to stay in business. In the non-organized sector, we quickly get to a system of “mafia” where the Big one takes up the majority of the share and the Small ones continue to live on the bottom line of our society.

landfiled
Image from http://www.thehindu.com

As I have been more involved in the waste management for the last couple of months, I have figured out one thing – The richer we are, more waste we produce and less we want to pay for our waste. To get more specific, I am talking about restaurants which Vatavaran has visited. The most of the waste present in these restaurants is kitchen waste and as I have mentioned above, there are very simple solutions to maintain/reuse it in the right way. Still, it seems to be too big of a project, too much investment but truly I feel it is more about a lack of interest. In the same time, these same restaurants want to be promoted as zero waste and eco friendly. Giving AWAY the waste is the common responsibility that they have and once again, it is just a green washing. A usual practice is to be promoted as a “green”, while you are actually not doing anything in that direction. Hopefully, costumers nowadays are enough aware that a clean parking place and friendly environment do not mean being zero waste or eco-friendly.

What about you? Is there also a lack of interest just because the waste goes away and it is not your problem anymore? Do you actually know where your waste ends?

We can blame the government or society but actually, we are all responsible for the waste which we produce. Don’t you think it is time to do something about it?

Truly, as it was said so many times – Wasting your waste is such a waste!

The steps below perfectly work for individuals as well for small companies and businesses and it will help you to responsibly take care of your own waste:

1.Segregate your waste (Segregate your kitchen waste from recyclables). For the beginning it is enough if you segregate dry and wet waste and in that way ensure that materials like paper will not be destroyed and they can later on be recycled.

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Image from http://www.wastewarriors.com

2.Take care of your kitchen waste and start composting. Composting can be such an excellent hobby and the compost can be used for your home gardening. For example Dailydump.org  is providing composting solutions for all of us who do not have enough space at home. It is even possible to do it indoor! The other solution is to contact a local farmer who can use it to feed the animals or to enrich the quality of soil.

dailydump
Image from lavannya.blogpost.com

3.Recyclable materials like paper, plastic, metal or even your old stuffs that you do not need any more – make sure that they go to the right hands and they will be actually recycled! One of a good examples is a start-up E-kabadi.com who will come to your home, collect your recyclables and actually pay you for it! Of course, you have to make sure that these items are clean and segregated. The service is done by the app system.

e kabadi
Image from http://www.androitpit.com

4.The last step is probably the most difficult one – changing your habits and not using the items which cannot be recycled. For example, sanitary waste as children diapers and women sanitary napkins – you have to replace them with more sustainable solutions like cloth diapers and pads or a menstrual cup (check the online shop www.hygieneandyou.com). Plastic bags for example are usually not recycled as well – start using a reusable one! Check your garbage bin and you will quickly recognize what can be replaced.

With only 4 steps you can actually make sure that none of your waste will finish at the land filed and be wasted. Believe me, it is worth it!

And there is one more step for you! Changing ourselves is not enough! It is a perfect start but it is important to spread the word and take action! To change everything we need everyone. Let’s do it!

 

Katja Polc

Member of Vatavaran team