Recyclable waste piles up

City Environment Pandemic

Residents in Sonepat find their homes stacked with recyclable waste, as the lockdown halts collection.

Sonepat: It’s been almost a month since Nirmala, a resident of Sector 15, Sonepat, has seen a scrap dealer around. The rack of newspapers in her house has started piling up beyond capacity. She had saved other non-reusable items such as plastic covers, corroded aluminum utensils, clunks of metal, etc, to sell to those dealers too, but hasn’t been able to. 

“One never knows if they (ragmen/scrap dealers) have returned to their home towns/villages, who knows when they will be back,” she said. “It’s not like we can go out and find a place to sell this stuff, my husband is still recovering from Covid.” 

Local rag pickers in Sonepat, who are a part of unorganised sectors, used to visit households everyday and collect all sorts of recyclable materials they could. But in their absence, people are either trying to cut off the supply (of newspapers) or simply throwing the waste out. 

Many respondents to a 2020 survey conducted by Association of Cities and Regions for sustainable resource management reported a reduction or interruption of on-demand collection or closure of civic amenity sites that led to an increase of illegal dumping of waste. 

Nirmala added, “We are planning to stop our newspaper subscriptions from next month.” She said that she cannot just allow stacks of newspapers to keep on piling. “There’s no space left in our storeroom now,” she said.  

A number of rag pickers used to come to our homes before and roam around the city all day everyday,” said Sandeep, a resident of Sector-12. “Sometimes two to three ragpickers used to come twice or thrice in a day, it was almost like a competition.” He added that he recently tried to visit one of the shops set up by scrap dealers in the Sector-15 market. “It’s all closed. There is no number, no contact, nothing. I have been trying to check, to visit them for the past two days now — hoping to sell some boxes for recycling — but their store is always closed. It’s probably the lockdown, it doesn’t seem to open during  mornings either,” he said.

Dinesh Khanna, owner of DD advertising in Sonepat, said that he’s facing a 30 percent loss during lockdown. “The demand for newspapers has been on a decline since last year,” he said. Since the demand for newspapers is less, his advertising business is inadvertently damaged.  

“There’s a number of alternatives for recycling waste. If, for the time being, there’s an absence of recycling services, or people do not wish to throw out recyclable waste with biodegradable waste, I suggest they start utilising it in whatever way they can,” said Deepika, Lecturer of Environmental Science, Delhi.  

“Cardboard boxes can be used in home compost bins in place of dry leaves; newspapers/metals can be used to make containers for plantation etc. All we can do is try our best to minimise waste during this time; it’s always good to remember that recycling comes after reusing,” she added.