Disasters are not new phenomena; they have been faced since time immemorial. However, the current set of disasters is fundamentally different from the earlier ones since their cause is not rooted in nature. It can instead be attributable to technological progress which also provides us an opportunity to address them through human actions and behaviours.
One of the most visible disasters facing us today is the growing volume of waste generated in both the production and consumption of goods and services. The increase in waste can be traced back to two specific observations. First, there is a significant increase in world population, primarily due to reduced mortality rates stemming from medical advances. This has resulted in a larger pool of potential waste generators. Second, there has been a rise in per capita incomes of individual consumers driven in part by the fact that two of the largest populated economies, China and India, have started to develop their industrial bases. This growth in per capita income has led to increased demand for goods and services which has consequently led to an increase in the rate of waste generation.
An article from the journal, Vikalpa focuses on this crucial issue of waste management. The ineffective management of waste can pose significant health and ecosystem hazards. It has been observed that waste ‘leachate’ can lead to soil and water contamination; waste burning causes air pollution; and if recycling is not practiced, non-renewable natural resources could get depleted. Additionally, increase in health problems has been noted in the population residing in the vicinity of waste disposal sites.
Limited institutional capacity, scarce financial resources, and political constraints are some of the most pressing issues that have been attributed to ineffective waste management. The changing mix of environmental, social, and poverty aspects especially in developing economies has led to lack of coordination in addressing waste management problems. It is now recognized that a more holistic environmental approach which focuses on reduce, reuse, recycle would be a better strategy to achieve sustainable goals. In addition, this could also generate employment and thereby contribute to economic development and simultaneously address environmental issues equitably.
This article also proposes an integrative framework for waste management across the supply chain.