Waste is man’s own creation and its improper treatment is one of the greatest blunders committed by him. India being the second largest populous country in the world with rapid urbanisation taking place, the problem of solid waste and its disposal and management are one of the greatest challenges faced by the country for which no one has paid serious attention. According to a Planning Commission Report, 377 million people residing in urban area generate 62 million tons of MSW per annum currently and it is projected that by 2031 these urban centers will generate 165 million tons of waste annually and by 2050 it could reach 436 million tons. To accommodate this amount of waste generated by 2031, we need 1,175 hectares of land per year as landfill space. The area required from 2031 to 2050 would be 43,000 hectares for landfills piled in 20 meter height. In other words, we need an area more than half the size of Chandigarh city for landfill purposes. And the land is required closer to the urban landscape and not in some remote places. We usually start thinking about the problem only when it reaches crisis level. We are good at kicking the can down the road as the solution to the problem is one easier one.
Solid waste is the result of lack of public awareness, callous handling by the local bodies and perhaps ignorance about the impending danger. However, we have moved beyond the stage where by just passing the buck we will not be able to improve the situation but only help to aggravate it. At present, the gravity of the problem is such that local bodies alone cannot do anything unless public in general gives co-operation. Just as everyone has contributed to the creation of solid waste, solution to the problem too could be found through everyone’s cooperation. Remember, if the problem is allowed to continue further, it may result in huge waste of public money. According to Rockefeller Foundation “Beyond the impacts on our planet, families lose hard-earned resources, too.”
Architects are one breed of professionals who can help in this exercise to a great extent through their zero waste designs. Subtle changes in how buildings are envisioned and operated—which make it easier for occupants to change their own behaviors—can add up quickly and make a significant impact. According to American Institute of Architects “Ecosystems can recycle materials indefinitely in circular loops, but the human-designed system trashes 99% of the materials extracted from the earth within six months.” Incidentally, New York city aims to become ‘Zero Waste City’ by 2030!
Perhaps only architects can hlp to nip the problem of waste in the bud itself and rest all are solutions post generation of the waste. ‘Design can change human behavior and incorporate economic and social incentives for wasting less and recycling more.’ Architects, in fact, have a dual role to play – they should design their buildings to reduce the ongoing waste that’s generated, as well as the waste from the construction and demolition process itself.
It may be true that our Building Code need to be amended to incorporate provisions for waste management. GBC need to give due weightage for the designs that incorporate provisions for waste segregation and its management and disposal. “Green buildings need to be redefined to include equal importance given to solid waste management just as in the case of energy conservation,” says Brijmohan Mundhra, a specialist in solid waste management.
Designers need to plan for material flows through buildings by reducing wasted materials, separating waste streams and compacting them for easier transport and storage. In this context, a good design is one that makes it easy to separate discarded materials for reuse and recycling and that’s why an architects role is very important while tackling the problem of urban waste.
Since we are talking about smart cities and smart technologies, it is high time such cities move towards single-stream recycling which can increase the capture rate as well as help waste management within buildings.
Architects need to incorporate some of the latest technologies to address the issue of solid waste but by doing so they can avoid future catastrophe for the society. As we are aiming to convert our cities to smart cities, moving towards zero waste cities through zero waste designs will make the cities really futuristic. Also, many problems relating to healthcare and space shortage can be addressed to through this move.