Posted in January 2016, Uncategorized

It′s not a shame to pick a trash!

It was a sunny, but a cold winter day and I needed to clear my mind. What can be a better way, than to go to the park and walk, meditate and relax? It seems parks are some place in this huge city that helps me to forget about the noise of the streets and stress of everyday life. I went to the park where I haven’t been for a while and I was shocked! The park changed. It was full of trash and dirty. I felt like I could not sit on the grass, because there were small trash pieces everywhere around. The benches were occupied but I felt like there is no point to sit and have that kind of view. I tried to walk around and ignore it. But I could not.

 

 

I felt bad because we are not able to maintain these small green pieces of land in the city. I felt bad because it seemed like we don’t care enough. I felt bad, because the only thing I could see was plastic bags, everywhere. In the mix of sadness and angriness I tried to figure out who is responsible to maintain the park in this colony. Who should clean it? Is this a residential colony and does it have a proper waste management? I was asking people but I didn’t get a proper answer.

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Image from http://www.reinventsouthafrica.wordpress.com

And I didn’t need it. Everyone is responsible to take care of the parks. The person who is jogging in the park, the person who just cross it, a local waste manager and the government – everyone is equally responsible to keep it nice, so anyone can use it. Because it is a public space and we all share it and we all have to take care of it.

But I have started to think more. Are there enough public places for all of us? With every year more people are living in the cities. Some are born in the city; others come looking for the work or a better life. The streets were historically in many different cultures places where people engaged with each other, exchange ideas, learn, make businesses, eat,…The growing car transportation and big transport roads has crowded people out of their streets. Nowadays, we have coffee shops, restaurants and parks where we can meet and interact. Even more, these public spaces are not only that, they are important in active political involvement of citizens as well. It is seems like we are not valuing it enough. A lot of land is sold, with very little effort to protect public interest in any way.

As human beings we cannot only live indoors in our homes and offices. At some point we need to breathe, interact and walk. If cities do not provide these basic elements, the system might become like a pressure cooker, waiting to explode.

There is a deficit of public land and huge numbers of people who are using it every day. We clean every corner of our homes, but we act irresponsible outside.  We blame improper waste management. We blame the deficit of trash bins on the roads and in the parks. Maybe we don’t believe in public places anymore.

What we really should do – we should look at ourselves. What can I do to change the reality? Am I also the person who throws the empty chips bag on street? Am I the one who is too lazy to find the nearest trash bin?

Even if my acts are right and I care where my empty chips bag ends I can always do more. Actually it is my responsibility to do more. I have to educate people and show them what is right. One of my friends has a beautiful habit to pick bag, a bottle or anything which is lying where it should not be and throw it into the trash bin. He is not a rag picker, a waste collector; he is only a person who cares. If you see somebody throwing something, silently pick it up with a smile and few nice words. Anger has never solved the problem. If I say: “hey, I know, the bin is far away. But no problem, I will pick it up for you!” This person might react differently next time, because somebody was actually kind to him. Behaviour and manners change with sweet and encouraging words.

We have to act differently to bring the difference. Only with good examples the word will spread and more people will start to follow it. It is not a shame to pick a trash!

I learned it from a friend and now it is my turn. And so could be yours!

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Image from easyscienceforkids.com

 

Katja Polc, member of Vatavaran team

Posted in January 2016, menstrual cup, Uncategorized

Green your period!

We all have every day habits. Some of them have more or less environmental impact than others. But monthly, these impacts can be very high – in this context, especially for the women. Sadly, public discussion about menstruation seems to be still a taboo and that works pretty well for the companies which are getting a profit out of it. It is not a daily topic and most of the women will keep their traditional and used practice to be hidden from the society. But today, we will talk about female hygienic products: pads, tampons and the whole deal about them. Fact is- it is a big issue. It is economically expensive, can have serious health effects and produces a lot of waste.

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Image from http://www.valcomelton.com/

Looking back to the history, disposable pads became known in 1890s. Especially doctors started to encourage women to use a protection during their menstruation. Before that, many women were already using different cloths pads. Earlier, they simply used the materials which were available – Egyptian women for example, used the papyrus.  After the discovery of disposable pads, many women did not use them, because it was too expensive.  But with the years and improvements disposable pads became the most commonly used female hygienic product.

The first disposable pads were made of cotton wool. This material was not as absorbent and effective as compared to materials used nowadays and that is why disposable pads changed a lot over the decades. Companies started to utilise materials with sphagnum and polyacrylate superabsorbent gels derived from petroleum. The materials used to manufacture most pads today, are derived from the petroleum industry and forestry. Typically, pads are made with a combination of plastic, cotton, synthetic fibres and wood pulp. So many chemicals for a better effect.

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Image from http://www.simplelifemom.com

 

Many women heard the alarm. These materials, used in disposable pads not only stay in the environment, but also remain in our bodies for decades. With the mix of these chemicals we got the recipe for side effects like allergic reactions, hormone disruption, reproductive disorders and others.

In 1980′s the cloth pads returned back. For many years, using cloth pads was considered old fashioned and unhygienic. But some women saw the real economical cost, effects and environmental issues of the disposable pads. Quite the same happened with the tampons, which became even better sort of protection for women, but didn’t not change the environmental impact and health issues. The processing to manufacture these tampons is resource intensive as the farming of cotton requires large amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizers. We have to understand that each of these tampons and pads has an environmental impact of the waste not only the product itself, but the packaging, , as well as the less visible cost of transportation and production.

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Image from http://www.newindianexpress.com

In India, there are around 355 million menstruating women but only 12 per cent use sanitary napkins. More than 70% of women said that they are unable to afford them. But that is still a huge issue. In an article published in 2013, Down to Earth calculated that 36 million Indian women use sanitary napkins every month.  Assuming average usage of 12 napkins per month, this adds up to 432 million solid pads, weighing 9000 mega tones, enough to cover a landfill of 24 hectares.

Any disposable products in the market have only one goal. Companies want to sell and earn. Definitely disposable sanitary pads and tampons have a huge market all around the world. I haven’t seen television advertisements on reusable cloth pads. I agree that disposable pads and tampons are extremely easy to use and available everywhere. But nobody talks or advertises about some other options!  There is at least one – Menstrual Cup!

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Image from parent.guide

The menstrual cup was invented in 1937 but never truly came into the market. This is an option without waste and without any health effects. A lot of women think it is pretty much the best option available today. You insert it like a tampon, empty out as needed and clean with hot water. It is reusable, contains no dioxin, no rayon and is easy to maintain. It is made of natural latex or silicon. It is not only the most eco – friendly but also the most affordable and healthy of all options in the market.

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Image from http://www.1millionwomen.com

But what is a menstrual cup? Why most of us have never heard about it?  It is a reusable protection during the menstruation and works similar as tampons. There are quite many companies out there, who are providing menstrual cups. In India we already have 3 companies, which you can find under the names – Silky cup based in Delhi, She cup in Mumbai and V cup in Kerala.  Their price for the cup will be between 600 -1000 rupees, but you can use this cup for more than 10 years. It is a very good investment since you can cover its cost in couple of months, compared to the usual disposable pads. Outside of India, there are many other brands of menstrual cups, but their cost might be a bit higher.

Here are the links to the websites of the Indian companies mentioned company’s above where you can learn more about the product itself.  http://www.silkycup.com/       http://www.shecup.com/                   http://www.vcup.co.in/

 

For those who prefer external –use products, there are greener options too. Reusable cloth pads are one of these options. Unfortunately they require some energy, water and soup but they do save on overall resource use, avoid plastic production and create minimal waste.

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Image from http://www.ecofluffymama.com

I know that changing habits like these is particularly difficult. Marketing studies show that often women will buy the same brand of pads as their mothers.  But to those of us who know that there are more important elements to our consumer choices than brand loyalty, it is worth it to give the alternatives a try!

 

In the future we want to share more guidance and reference from the people who have already used the menstrual cups. It is definitely an alternative which women aren’t aware of. We are inviting you to share your opinion, ideas and experiences with us! Already using menstrual cup? Help us to spread the word! (info@vatavaran.org)

 

Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team

Posted in January 2016, Uncategorized

Delhi′s garbage hill is taller than a 10 – storey building!

The whole world has a common problem. Probably not just one, but the waste is definitely alarming one. Most of us are not really concerned about where our garbage goes. Till the time we are not living next to the huge field of waste, we think that we are not facing any problems and it is just one of the things that we forget about.

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But there are days when our streets are so full of waste that we cannot ignore them. Can you imagine that one day when all sanitation′s workers in our city would go on strike? Since in my opinion, they are underpaid, and that would be a right thing to do. Only a day like that will definitely help us to realize in what kind of trash world we all live.

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The question is: where does all the waste that we generate at our homes go? 9,000 metric tonnes is the amount of waste which Delhi produces every day. Ghazipur, in size of 70 acres is one of the four landfill sites in Delhi. It is about 13 million square feet, which is equivalent to 2,500 BHK flats. The city′s garbage is dumped there every day. It currently has 50 lakh tonnes of accumulated waste. Ghazipur waste height is 25 meter, which means that that a garbage “hill” is taller than a 10-storey building. The other three garbage sites in Delhi – Bhalaswa, Okhla and Narela Bawana has the same height.

By 2024 we will need 3,400 football fields to accommodate all the garbage that Delhi produces. These numbers explains why this problem should concern you!

It is true that in the past, we had a model of dumping the waste which affected the least number of people. Now, this model wouldn’t work anymore. The ground soil at Delhi′s landfills has exceeded 158 times the permissible limit of pollutants. These pollutants cause cancer, reproductive disorders, heart and skin disease. Even Worse, these pollutants do not degrade with time. Instead, they rapidly enter the food chain and surrounding ground water. The air is equally hazardous and methane is just one of the super toxic gasses, coming from the dumped waste. In this established centralized system of waste management3,5 lakhs rag pickers and 40 000 children working as rag pickers are reducing Delhi′s Green house Gas emission. They play a huge role in keeping us healthy, but they face tremendous health hazards themselves.

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With a proper focus on our waste and our waste management, less than 20% of waste would actually need to go to the landfill. With more responsible planning, no garbage would be dumped in the landfill. Half of the waste in India is organic and can be composted and the rest can be recycled. Why does it not work in that way? Simply because of the way we do it.

Localised solutions and segregation is what can save Delhi and actually the whole world.

When we centralize our waste management the responsibility of it is in the hands of few people. Mix waste in big trucks, specially wet and dry parts cannot be segregated later. If we simply separate our wet and dry waste before hand, more parts of garbage can later be easily segregated and used as energy. 200 crores rupees is the value of the recyclable materials found in Delhi′s garbage. On the other hand, waste land fields cost us a lot. There is not only the cost of transport and the land, but more importantly it seriously affects our health and health of the earth.  On the other hand, decentralized waste management means that waste is managed as close to its source as possible.

There could be so much done in our communities and colonies. The community involvement is not an option anymore but a necessity. Colonies, which take care of their own garbage have a profit out of their own garbage, as compost for their plants, recycled paper and plastic and a clean, healthy area where they live, and on top of that, this system will create local jobs opportunities. Vatavaran is one of the organizations which supports decentralized model of waste management and it is ready to help you and your colony to make this healthy transition.

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In a nut shell, there are many things which are done wrongly. But there are models, systems of different approaches which can efficiently contribute to change it. And it is a matter which concerns every one of us and so it is our responsibility. Start with your own waste, start with your own colony and show the world that we can all contribute in solving one of the world′s biggest problems.

 

Katja Polc

Member of Vatavaran team