Aerobic composting

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Aerobic composting

In the presence of air, aerobic bacteria act on the complex organic matter and break it down into simple nutrients.

Five conditions

1. Aeration: Ensure maximum aeration inside the tanks at all times. Holes in the tank and bamboo pipes inserted into the holes help in this.
2. Surface Area: The larger the surface area, the faster the decomposition. Removing big chunks of vegetable waste like banana leaves to be fed to the cattle, coconut shells, egg shells, lemon and citrus fruit peels, will leave only smaller pieces that can get easily decomposed.
3. Moisture: Maintain moisture at all times. Using cow’s urine also enriches the compost.
4. Bacteria: Maximum bacteria help in optimal decomposition. Thoroughly mix the organic waste with bacteria-rich biogas / cattle dung slurry, before loading into the compost tanks.
5. Temperature: In cold areas, keep the sheds well covered and insulated. Having biogas-powered lighting inside the sheds increases the interior temperature.

Cover one end of the bamboo pipes with loosened coconut fiber and insert those ends into the holes. After separating cattle edible vegetable waste, egg shells, coconut shells and lemon peels from the organic waste, mix the rest of the waste with bacteria-rich biogas / cattle dung slurry. Uniformly mix every bit of the waste with the slurry. Load this mixture into the tanks for composting. Add the waste everyday till the tank becomes full. After 60 days from the day the tank gets full, remove the compost, dry it (partly) by spreading it in a shady area and sieve it. Remove the final pieces of metal, plastic and glass in the compost. Remove pieces of non-decomposed organic waste and put them back into the compost tank. Keep the sieved compost moist, and pack before selling in small quantities.

Have a separate tank for composting sanitary napkins. Deposit the napkins covered by paper into a pit dug in the earth and spray cow dung slurry on it. After six months after the cotton is composted, sieve it and remove the plastic covers.

Have a separate tank for composting non-vegetarian waste, which is collected in paper covers.

Have a small black piece of slate on the tank or a black-painted area where you can write with a piece of chalk. Note the date you started loading waste into the tank, the date the tank became full. The harvest date will be 60 days after the end date.

List of Recyclable Waste

Preparation and the Sale of Recyclable Inorganic Waste

1. Segregation: The following types of inorganic waste should be segregated for recycling

1. Colour Paper
2. Colour White
3. White Paper
4. Computer Paper
5. Note Paper
6. Dummy white
7. Tamil Magazine
8. English Magazine
9. Tamil News Paper
10. English News Paper
11. Butter Paper
12. Brown Paper
13. Milk white


1. Aluminum Sheet 1st Quality
2. Aluminum Sheet 2nd Quality
3. Aluminum Cent Bottle
4. Aluminum Cool Drinks Bottle
5. Aluminum Paste Cover
6. Aluminum Tablet Cover
7. Aluminum Powder
8. Aluminum Cap
9. Aluminum - Hard


1. L.D. Colour
2. L.D. Print
3. L.D. Nice
4. L.D. Hard
5. Oil Cover
6. Water Cover
7. Lezzy Cover
8. P.P
9. P.P (Print or Colour P.P)
10. Yellow, Rose, Blue Cover
11. H.D. 1st Quality
12. H.D. 2ND Quality
13. HM
14. H.M. (Print)
15. High Print
16. Ordinary Print
17. Dummy Print
18. Road Waste
19. Raffiya
20. Black Cover
21. L.D Plastic (Glucose)
22. National Plastic
23. P.VC Plastic Tube
24. P.V.C Plastic Cable

25. Toy Plastic 1st Quality
26. Dummy Plastic - 2nd Quality
27. Tea Cup 1st Quality
28. Tea Cup 2nd Quality
29. Mono Patti – White
30. Mono Patti – Colour
31. Glucose Tube
32. Pet Bottle – White
33. Pet Bottle – Colour
34. Pet Bottle – Dummy
35. Film Role – Dummy
36. Bottle Cap
37. L.D. Cap
38. Candle
39. Suttile Patti
40. Crystal
41. PP, Plastic
42. Syringe
43. Needle Cap
44. X-ray Black & White
45. Milk white
46. L.D. Plastic – Dummy White
47. L.D. Plastic Tablet Cover
48. Plastic Chapels
49. Big Plastic Tablet Cover
50. Toner (No.12)
51. Toner 1st Quality
52. Toner 2nd Quality
53. Cartridge 1st Quality
54. Cartridge 2nd Quality
55. C.D. Breakable
56. C.D. Non Breakable
57. Hair
58. Radio Caste Dummy
59. White Plastic

Bottle Item

1. Glucose Bottle–1000 Ml
2. Glucose Bottle –500 Ml
3. Glucose Bottle –350 Ml
4. Glucose Bottle - 250 ml
5. Glucose Bottle - 100 ml
6. Glucose Bottle – 125 ml
7. Tonic Bottle
8. Tonic Bottle 5ml Long
9. Tonic Bottle 5ml Short
10. Tonic Bottle 10ml long
11. Tonic Bottle 10ml Short
12. Horlicks Bottle (Big) (Without cap)
13. Horlicks Bottle (Small)(With cap)
14. Horlicks Bottle (Big) (With cap)
15. Horlicks Bottle (Small) (Without cap)
16. Mini Apple (Batham
17. Crush-Cool Drinks
18. High Crush-Cool Drinks
19. Injection Thakkai
20. Injection Bottle (50ml)
21. Injection Bottle (50ml) Short
22. Injection Bottle Short (White)
23. Injection Bottle (50ml) Short (Colour)
24. Injection Bottle ¾ Short (Colour)

25. Injection Bottle ¾ Short (White)
26. Injection Bottle (20ml) Short (White)
27. Injection Bottle (125 ml)
28. Injection Bottle (5ml)
29. Injection Bottle (20ml) Short (Colour)
30. Injection Bottle (10ml) Length (White)
31. Injection Bottle (10ml) Length (Colour)
32. Injection Bottle (5ml) Short Colour
33. Injection Bottle (5ml) Length
34. Injection (Light weight) (Thackai)
35. Dettol Bottles 500 ml
36. Bottles 250 ml
37. Bottles 100 ml
38. Bottles 50 ml
39. Acid –Bottle –Big
40. Acid –Bottle-Medium
41. Acid – Bottle-Small
42. Pickles1/2 Kg Jam Bottle
43. Pickles ¼ Kg Jam Bottle Short White
44. Tomato Sauce Bottle (½ Lts) Medium
45. Tomato Sauce Bottle (1Lts) Long
46. Tomato Sauce Bottle (1/2Lts) Long
47. Tomato Sauce Bottle (1Lts) Long
48. White Glass
49. Colour Glass
50. Ram Bottle
51. Mini Beer (Old)
52. Long Beer (New)
53. Beer Bottle 275 ml
54. Quarter Bottles
55. Quarter Bottles (Small)
56. Sadha
57. Sent Bottle
58. Assalt
59. Chappai 500 ml
60. Chappai 250 ml
61. Kal-Chappai
62. Glass Plates
63. Tube Light
64. Bound Lights
65. Veta - 30 ml-–Short –25mm Neck
66. 30ml Bound Bottle White
67. 30ml Bound Bottle Colour
68. Bound Bottle White ¾
69. Bound Bottle White 50ml
70. Bound Bottle Color 50ml
71. 100ml –22mm neck
72. 50ml-28mm neck
73. 100ml Bound –25mm Neck
74. 10ml Bound –2mmNeck
75. 15 ml –22 Drops-22mm Neck
76. 200ml –Lee 52 –25mm Neck
77. Pound bottle (500ml) White
78. Pound bottle (500 ml) Colour
79. Pound bottle (400ml) White
80. Pound bottle (400ml) Colour


1. Cool drink Bottle
2. Soda Bottle
3. Horlicks Bottle
4. Medicine bottle
5. Mini beer bottle
6. Beer bottle (new)
Glucose Bottle
Rubber Item

1. Rubber
2. Hawaii Chappell
3. Rubber Band
4. Rubber Gloves
5. Rubber Tube
6. Rubber Tyre
7. Rubber Sheet
8. Rubber Chappel
9. Rubber Tube
10. Tyre Tubes
11. Shoe Bottoms
12. Leather Sponch
13. Rubber floor mat
14. Electrical Wire
15. Electrical Other Item
16. Leather 1st Quality
17. Leather 2nd Quality
L.D. Tharmacoal Sponch


1. Iron
2. Iron Plate
3. Steel
4. Cell Battery
5. Copper
6. Gun Metal
7. Bone
8. Brass
9. Cloth

2. Package the segregated waste and store in a place that is safe.
3. Sell it to the local recyclers as and when enough amounts accumulates.

General instructions for enviro-friendly birthday party:

General instructions for enviro-friendly birthday party:

1. Egg free Cakes. No Non – Veg food for the participants.
2. We can have Chocolates with out wrapper (Plastic cover)
3. Dress for Birthday baby can be Eco-friendly ( Cotton or Kaadhi products). Please avoid using original Silk clothes, which was made by killing lakhs and lakhs of innocent worms. How ever, we can use Span Silk, which is eco-friendly.
4. If there are any decorations or Name board, please use flowers. Avoid plastics and other products.
5. We can use one time use and through Steel tumblers/ Steel Cups/ Spoons/ etc., (washing will be done by the end of the function or next day and will be used for next function again)
6. Avoid paper or plastic covers spread on tables.
7. Please purchase bakery products, which will be fresh and also order all products with out preservative (Chemicals).
8. If any music for our function, please manage 20 or less than that decibel (Sound).
9. Please avoid room sprayers and if needed use our traditional practices.
10. If there is Dinner or lunch, please follow few methods to avoid large volume of food get wasted.
11. Please use eco-friendly plates like Plantain leaves. (Arc-nut plate or regular steel or fiber plates).
12. If there is any birthday invitation, please go for cloth invitation with plain white hand kerchief or invitation through email for every one.
13. Purchase can milk from local milk suppliers (example: In Tamil Nadu, we have Aavin Milk supply through Government – they will supply can Milk), instead of Packet milk for coffee or Tea.
14. Please use digital camera for photoes.
15. Please avoid all, one time use and through plastic and other materials through out our function.

Eco-friendly gifts:

1. Please avoid plastic covers for packing gifts. Plastic covers with aluminum coating inside and looks shining, which is non-recyclables.
2. Planting trees on that particular time (Birth time if morning 6.00am to evening 6.00pm – we will plant trees on behalf of child in any part of Vellore)
3. Distributing Fruit Tree saplings and coconut tree saplings to Bellow Poverty Line (BPL families) people free of cost.
4. Distributing fruit/ Flowering creapers/ Vermi-compost / Seeds packets/ Bag pouch etc., to the people attending birthday party.
5. Conducting Birthday party – Zero Waste Management – Party – sending all recyclables to nearby shops, compostable items in to pits, etc., - No burning of garbage – Avoid thermocoal or Styrofoam products which is non-recycables.
6. Your family can take a decision that through this birthday gift (if it is in the Money form) one environmental project / School project / Blind home / any charitable trust/ Supporting one poor student education etc., in Hydrabed or in any part of India can be supported in you child name. You can declare this birthday party as an enviro-friendly party in you invitation.
7. People can give smooth and weight less gift articles to your child. Avoid sharp or metal items or Sound making gifts or digital/video games etc., which are not child friendly.
8. Please make sure at least one Tree sapling can be planted on that evening in the same place and make fencing for it, before starting birthday party.
9. Your family can rescue at least one cattle, on be half of your child (Calf, Dry cow, Bull etc.,) which goes for slaughter house and send it for nearest Gosala in Hydrabed or we will do it for you in Vellore.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Solid and Liquid Waste Management
Training Program

‘Vellore Model’

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
(asked by residents and government officials)

Q 1: I am already paying taxes to the government. Why should I pay extra money for waste management?

A: Sitting back and asking questions will not take us anywhere closer to the solution. If we sit up and take the initiative, we will also gain the power to demand more and better services from the government in other areas.

i. How much money do you spend for the doctor every month? Don’t you pay more than Rs.20 for a single consultation? Plus the cost of medicine. Most of these diseases are caused by unhygienic surroundings. You will be saving a lot of money if you contribute Rs. 20 every month for a systematic ZWM.

ii. If the drainage gets blocked, don’t you pay the workers to clear them out for you? Our workers will clean your drains regularly, which will be covered by your monthly subscription fee.

iii. Your money is not going to the government. It is going towards generating employment for the poor people. 4 people get employed by every 275 households.

Q 2: What benefits will I get in return for the subscription fee I pay every month?
A: For just Rs. 20, you will enjoy 40 benefits / advantages over the current system. These are:
1. Waste will be collected at the doorstep.
2. Waste is collected between 7 and 10:30 am, mostly before office hours.
3. A free dustbin (bamboo) will be given to each household to separately store dry waste.
4. The formation of residents’ association for ZWM also provides a platform for people’s participation and ownership of other developmental activities of the area. This also serves as the bridge between the local community and the local administrative body.
5. A calendar – information card will be given to each household.
6. Workers will return any checks, important documents, license cards, ATM and credit cards, jewels and money found in the waste from the houses.
7. Every household gets phone numbers to register complaint if they have problems related to waste collection.
8. The tricycles have a distinct bell, so that the households don’t confuse it will the sounds of other bells (ice cream vendors, etc.)
9. Waste is collected on all the seven days of the week throughout the year (including rainy days). Workers work half-days even on holidays. One worker is appointed to substitute workers on leave.
10. There will not be any unsightly road-side dustbins attracting flies and giving out smell.
11. Stray dogs and pigs will stop visiting the area, thus preventing diseases like brain fever and rabies.
12. No motorised vehicles are used for waste collection and no motorised equipment is used for the ZWC operations. So, there is no noise or air pollution.
13. Small tricycles serve narrow streets and lanes.
14. Tricycles are covered to avoid littering.
15. We appoint a supervisor for every tricycle to monitor the waste collection.
16. All workers have uniform and ID card so that they can be easily identified.
17. It is ensured that the workers have no police case, and have a good character from the local police station.
18. Drains are cleaned, and the wild shrubs growing along the streets are cleared in the afternoons.
19. Workers plant trees in the area and take care of them.
20. Workers develop and maintain street gardens. Waste will not be burnt ensuring that there is no air pollution from burning.
21. Clean drains and the absence of dustbins discourage mosquito and house fly breeding.
22. Clean drains and clear surroundings reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases.
23. Supervisors have cellphones and can be contacted at any time.
24. Dead animals are removed from the area when informed.
25. Special service is provided on special occassions (functions, ceremonies and family get togethers).
26. No phenyl or bleaching powder is used in the area or in the ZWC.
27. Employment generation for the local youth reduces anti-social activities (like theft and pickpocketing) in the area.
28. Residents will be informed when the workers will be on leave for half-a-day.
29. Receipts are given for all monetary contributions made.
30. Servants will be trained (on request) on waste segregation and depositing it in respective compartments in the tricycle every morning.
31. The tricycle contains a first aid and a tool box, which can be used by the residents or passers by when needed.
32. The tricycle contains a complaint box, where residents can deposit complaints / suggestions on any civic / environmental issue in their area. These will be handed over to the appropriate authorities.
33. The local dumping ground is done away with, reducing soil, water and air pollution.
34. One tricycle will not serve more than 275 families, ensuring a good ratio and good care and individual attention to needs and problems.
35. Garden wastes are collected in the afternoons on request.
36. Some of the compost generated at the ZWC is used to develop roadside gardens.
37. Workers also function as messengers for important events of social relevance like polio vaccination drive, election information, demonstrations, etc.
38. Empty plots in the area will be cleared, cleaned and maintained, reducing dangers from snakes and rodents.
39. Separate waste collection facilities for marriage halls and hotels ensure that their waste does not get dumped in the residential areas causing inconvenience.
40. Local schools and colleges will be involved wherever possible, to generate awareness. They will be encouraged to develop ZWM as a learning activity.

Q 3: If we have the compost shed in the residential area, won’t it give out bad smell?

A: The following steps undertaken will ensure that the composting process does not give out a bad smell
Reason for bad smell
1.Waste is not collected on some days. It gets accumulated in the road side dustbins for more than one day rotting.
2.Waste stays in the household for more than a day.
3.Delayed composting creates anaerobic (absence of air) conditions.
4.Anerobic conditions created in the compost beds and tanks, due to weight of waste loaded everyday.
5.When bacterial innoculum is not uniform (when sprayed on layers of waste), some parts of the waste do not decompose fast.
6.Sometimes, bacterial innoculum is not available for use immediately.
When workers stand on top of the compost beds, they compress the waste creating anaerobic conditions. The leachate that oozes out in the pressure also stagnates and causes bad smell.
7.When large vegetable pieces like whole ash guard are dumped in the compost tank, they take a long time to decompose. The rotting of these large pieces causes bad smell.
8.Increased moisture content causes bad smell.

How it is avoided
Waste is collected on all the 365 days a year.
1.Waste gets collected in less than 24 hours after generation.
2.Within a few hours of collection, fresh bacteria from cow dung are introduced.
3.The tanks / beds have holes / gaps with bamboo pipes inserted in them for continuous aeration.
4.The waste is thoroughly mixed with cowdung slurry and only then fed into the compost beds and tanks. This ensures that the waste is uniformly exposed to bacterial action.
5.Cattle dung is available 24 hours since the ZWC has a cattle shed right inside.
6.Workers never stand on top of the compost bed while loading or unloading the waste. They use a ladder, and do the operations from outside the bed / tank.
7.Workers cut large chunks into small pieces and then load them in to the compost tank.
8.In case the moisture content of organic matter increases, dry matter such as dry leaves, saw dust, or residue from already sieved compost, etc. are added.

Q 4: Will this project last? How do we know this will not shut down in a month or two?
A: ZWM is now mandated by the Supreme Court. This will be a people’s project, and hence will continue over time. It is already going on successfully in a lot of places.

Q 5: If private workers are taking up SWM, what will the government sanitary workers do?
A: There is a perpetual shortage of workers, and there is a lot of work even in this area. They will be employed in regular sweeping of the streets, regular cleaning of the areas and the drains, cleaning of areas before the launch of ZWM, desilting clogged canals, etc.

Q 6: If the Municipality stops taking care of SWM, what is their job?
A: SWM is not the only job of the Municipality. It has many other responsibilities like birth and death registration, census, water supply, Public Health Centre, preventing disease by maintaining the sewers and storm water drains, mosquito control, controlling the quality of food sold along roadsides, controlling the population of stray dogs and pigs, etc. Also, the work load of the Municipality has increased many times with the population growth from before to now. Relieving them of the SWM pressure, we can expect (and when necessary demand) better services from them in these other areas.

Q 7: What is the role of the ward councilor, if the local community association is formed to manage the project and for overall area development?
A: The ward councilors are not excluded from the committee. They are important members of the planning committee. It is clear that without people’s participation, the ward councilors cannot fulfil their duties effectively. In many places, the direct involvement of the local community has brought in resources and other forms of help when needed.



What is waste?
Waste is any material that is thrown away as unwanted. It has other names like garbage, trash and rubbish. What is considered waste by one society may not be considered so by another. For example, in throwaway societies like the US, a good-quality plastic cup may be thrown away as waste. The same cup may be reused several times in India.

How does nature manage its waste?
In nature, there is no such thing as waste. What is given out by one system is taken in by another. When a tree sheds its leaves, they fall on the ground, get consumed and broken down by soil organisms into simple nutrients. The tree absorbs these nutrients once again to grow new leaves.

How did we end up in a waste crisis?
Before the industrial revolution, we were largely a biomass civilisation and used natural materials. Production processes were driven by animal, human, water and wind powers, limiting production to just meet the needs of the people. Waste was organic, biodegradable and limited in quantities. After the industrial revolution, we became a mining civilisation. Production processes began to be driven by fossil fuels, resulting in production in excess of human needs. Waste became non-biodegradable and toxic, and began to be generated in huge quantities.

Modern waste is a mixture of all the following different types of wastes:

1. Municipal Solid Waste: Commercial and residential wastes generated in a municipal area in solid or semi-solid form.
Organic: Degradable wastes like vegetable, vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, coir, cotton, leather, shells, flowers, fish, dead animals and garden waste. When not contaminated with chemicals, organic waste can be composted, turned into resource and safely returned to the earth.
Inorganic: i. Safely recyclable materials like paper, metal and glass; ii. recyclable (but not safe) materials like thermoplastics; iii. non-recyclable materials like thermosetting plastics, thermocol, composite materials (eg. Aluminium coated paper); iv. toxic waste like batteries and electronic waste.

2. Hospital Waste: Infectious waste like soiled bandages, used cotton, pathological and anatomical waste; inorganic waste like tubes, plastics, glass and syringes, generated in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, blood banks and veterinary hospitals. Hospital waste could pose great health risks when mixed untreated with the general waste stream.

3. Construction Waste: Rubble, wires, pipes, steel and wood from the demolition of existing buildings. Though most of this waste is inert, it is huge in volume and weight and often blocks roads and nullahs.

4. Industrial Waste: Solid waste from industries is in the form of sludge containing toxic heavy metals, oils and bleaches besides other chemicals, usually toxic. These are often mixed with municipal solid waste.

5. Electronic Waste: Used computers and other electrical and electronic gadgets like television sets, refrigerators and cell phones. This highly toxic waste (due to the presence of heavy metals) is on a steep rise.

Others: Rocks, coal waste and other ore-processing residues are mining waste, which, though inert, covers extensive land (usually natural) areas and degrade the environment. Nuclear waste is radioactive and can cause serious environmental and health damages. Human waste, though solid in form, currently gets mixed with fresh water and gets treated as liquid waste.

Who generates how much?
A person in an industrialised country like the US generates more than twice the amount of waste (2 kgs per person per day) than a person in a less-industrialised country like India. A city dweller in India generates twice the amount of waste than a villager. An Indian with an income higher than Rs. 8,000 generates more waste per day (800 gms) than a person with an income less than Rs. 2,000 (200 gms).

Toxic Waste

Waste is toxic when it contains or releases hazardous chemicals (e.g. heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium) or releases hazardous chemicals (Persistent Organic Pollutants like dioxins and furans), which are disruptive to the normal functioning of the human organs. Some of the health defects are reproductive and birth defects, nervous disorder, cancer and brain damage, immune and hormonal systems dysfunction. The following are the most common toxic municipal wastes:
• Smelting waste, batteries and electronic waste contain heavy metals.
• PVCs (chlorinated and brominated plastics) release dioxins on burning.
• Tyres and thermocol release harmful gases on burning.

The Worldwatch Institute has listed toxic waste as one of the most serious global issues threatening the humankind. It is not only generated within India, but is also being imported in huge quantities from the Western countries, where toxic waste disposal is very expensive and is required to follow stricter standards.

This material, which was invented 50 years ago, is manufactured using petrochemicals as raw materials. It is normally inert and does not degrade for thousands of years.

Plastic bags are a menace in India, as they clog the drains and can be swallowed by the cattle and choke them to death. Though thermoplastics can be melted and remoulded again, they lose their original quality and eventually become non-recyclable. Thermosetting plastics (bakelite and melamine used to make switchboards) cannot be recycled.

28% of plastics produced in India is PVC, the most dangerous of all plastics. When disposed by burying, additives leach into the soil and pollute the groundwater, and when burnt, it releases toxic dioxins, a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). POPs can stay on in the environment for a long period of time and have been marked for global elimination in the POPs Treaty signed under the UNEP.

Exnora Green Cross - Vellore
1/15, Kesavapillai street, Ist cross, Sainathapuram, Vellore 632001.
Vellore District, Tamil Nadu, India
Phone : 0416-2263500 / 0416-2264500 (Off) Cell: +91 - 94433 - 18523
email :

Storage at source
Every unwanted material is termed as waste. It consists of biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials in two different baskets. For example: Red dustbin is for non-biodegradable materials and Green dustbin for biodegradables. These materials should be kept not more then 12 hrs and it should be handed over to waste collectors for further process.

List of biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes
 Vegetables and fruit waste, banana leaves, coconut shell, egg shells, dry flowers
 Garden leaves and small twigs
 Non-vegetarian waste (animal bones, prawn skin, crab shell, chicken waste)
 Left over food, kitchen waste
 Dead lizards and cockroaches
 Ash, charcoal
 Coir broom
 Tea, coffee, flour dust
 House sweepings, soiled paper, finger nails and hair etc.,

 Paper: notebooks, books, magazines, newspapers, cardboard
 Plastic: broken articles, water covers, milk covers, oil covers, carry bags, mineral water bottles, chocolate wrappers, paste tubes
 Metal: aluminium foils, iron pieces, copper, steel, tablet covers
 Glass: bottles, broken pieces
 Wood, Cloth
 Leather: torn slippers and bags,
 Rubber: slippers
 Electric wires, powerless batteries, fused bulbs and tubelights, electronic waste etc.,

General Instructions

• Bring your two waste baskets, immediately after you hear the bell ring in the morning.
• If you cannot be at home when the tricycle arrives, keep the waste bin in a safe place, where no animals can reach and inform the workers.
• If for some reason, the tricycle does not come in the morning, please store your waste inside till it comes the next day.
• If there are large volumes of garden waste or big items like mattress or broken furniture etc. for disposal, inform us during the morning collection. We will come again in the afternoon with an empty tricycle to collect your waste.
• If there are dead animals in your vicinity, inform us.
• Dust collected by sweeping your home can be disposed off in the garden.
• Do not litter or burn the waste.
• Do not throw garbage into empty plots or drains.
• Do not call the workers for your personal work during their work time. You may employ them outside working hours and pay them appropriately for their extra work.
• Inform us in advance when you plan a family function / get together. We will arrange for a special collection from your doorstep.
• Please pack sanitary napkins using paper (not plastic) and tie it with a red cotton string provided and deposit it in the red bin.
• Please pack Non-Vegetarian waste using thick paper (not plastic) and tie it with green colour string provided and deposit it in the green bin.
 Egg shells can be thrown in unwanted/used plastic covers and then in to the green bins to avoid their mixing up with the organic materials.
 If your house does not have a garden, a mud pot could be used for throwing fine dust collected after sweeping.
 Senior people defecate in carry bags, this can be avoided by putting castor oil (lubricant) to their tumblers and disposing the waste in to the toilet/Pit. The same can be done for dogs.
 E-waste can be kept in the house. It would be collected once a week.
 Sending your servant/gardener/security guard for meetings would train them to adopt this method.
 Washing hands in dustbins or throwing liquid in dustbins should be avoided.
 Do not place a carry bag in the dustbin. It reduces efficiency. Bins can be washed daily.
 Washing the cans, pickle jars and sauce bottles once, before discarding keeps the dustbin liquid free.
 Hair from combs is the costliest unit of garbage. It can be stored in bags which can then be collected every two months or sold by the
 Garbage should be dispatched every 12 hours time, Delay must be avoided.
 If you have any complaints about the behaviour of the workers, please inform us.
Please give us your constructive feedback on the programme

Exnora Green Cross - Vellore
1/15, Kesavapillai street, Ist cross, Sainathapuram, Vellore 632001.
Vellore District, Tamil Nadu, India
Phone : 0416-2263500 / 0416-2264500 (Off) Cell: +91 - 94433 - 18523
email :

Solid and Liquid Waste Management Training Program ‘Vellore Model’

Solid and Liquid Waste Management
Training Program

‘Vellore Model’

Understanding Waste Management
i. How did early humans handle waste?
ii. How did the early industrial society manage waste?
iii. Did improved technologies like “scientific landfilling”, “incineration” and “pyrolysis” solve the problem?
iv. Is privatisation the solution?
v. What is toxic waste trading?

Exnora Green Cross - Vellore
1/15, Kesavapillai street, Ist cross, Sainathapuram, Vellore 632001.
Vellore District, Tamil Nadu, India
Phone : 0416-2263500 / 0416-2264500 (Off) Cell: +91 - 94433 - 18523
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the incinerator companies that had invested in the US, Europe and Japan are closing down their facilities in these countries. They are now looking for new markets in the global South (South and South East Asia), where there is relatively less awareness about the impact of incinerators. The Philippines is the first country to ban incineration.

Even technologies like ‘pyrolysis’ and ‘gasification’ are just new names for and different versions of incineration. They produce toxic ash, which cannot be disposed of safely and have reported toxic gas leaks.

Can privatisation make SWM more efficient?
Private companies working in SWM primarily handle only waste collection and disposal. The more the waste they collect, the more the profits they get. So, increasing waste generation is in their best interest. Privatisation also uses huge machinery reducing employment opportunities.

How is waste being globalised?
The under-industrialised countries (global South) mine raw materials and produce to export to the industrialised countries (global North). Since the disposal of hazardous waste like toxic electronic waste and incinerator ash requires to follow strict regulations and hence very expensive in countries like the US, they get shipped back to the global South, usually in the name of ‘recycling’ and ‘fertilizing’. For example, a computer may be produced in Taiwan, used in the US and disposed of in India. The US exports thousands of tons of computer waste to Asia every year. Workers recover copper wire from the cables and burn the remaining parts. Burning computer keyboards releases toxic brominated dioxins. It is estimated that 80% of all electronic waste generated in the US is disposed of in the global South. US is the only country that has not signed the Basel Convention, which restricts toxic waste trading. Even within a city, waste dump yards and incinerators are usually located in areas inhabited by the poor.

The Khian Sea
In 1985, Philadelphia had 15,000 tons of incinerator ash for disposal. Due to a lack of space, Philadelphia approached the neighbouring states. With no takers, the toxic ash was loaded in the ship ‘Khian Sea’ and taken to several countries to be sold as “fertilizer”. After 14 months, Haiti accepted the ash. After unloading 4,000 tonnes onto the Haitian beach, the government realised that it was toxic and asked the Americans to load back the ash and leave Haiti. Khian Sea silently left one midnight leaving the ash on the beach, and dumped the rest of the 11,000 tonnes in the Indian Ocean. The ash still lying on the beaches has killed workers who have tried to shift it, people and cattle living near the site, and fish. The “Return to the Sender” campaign is still fighting for justice for Haitians!

Due to intensifying resistance in the global North, incinerator companies are now turning to Asia for their markets. In the name of helping our Municipalities and in the name of using “safe technologies” like pyrolysis, they are entering into contracts with the Municipalities to turn waste into energy.


• How did early humans handle waste?

In the early times, humans were nomadic and used only natural materials. The waste the nomadic communities left behind was easily recycled by nature. There was no waste accumulation. In settled societies, organic waste started accumulating causing disease. That was the beginning of the need for waste to be ‘managed’. People designed methods to clear the waste from inhabited areas and dispose of it in far-off places.

How did the industrial society manage waste?
After the industrial revolution, western countries started using the “out-of-sight-is-out-of-mind” approach to manage the new kinds and increased quantities of waste generated. Wastes were collected and dumped on far-off empty lands, wetlands, ponds, rivers and valleys. Over time, open dumping / landfilling started causing many problems. Waterbodies and waterways got polluted. The rain water dissolved many organic and toxic heavy metals in waste dumped on land (eg. Lead in batteries) and formed leachate, which polluted the underground water. When waste started accumulating in huge quantities, people began burning it (to reduce its volume) thus polluting the air with smoke and toxic gases.

• Did improved technologies like “scientific landfilling”, “incineration” and “pyrolysis” solve the problem?

Scientific Landfilling: To prevent leachate from seeping into the ground, open landfills were improved into sanitary landfills (SLs), which were lined with several layers of impermeable material. The leachate was collected and treated separately. But it has been found that even SL liners eventually leak. In the US, 75% of all SLs are polluting the ground water.
Landfill Gas Extraction: New technologies claim to tap the landfill gas (methane) and use it as fuel. But the methane invariably gets mixed with toxic gases like benzene. Landfill gases can also catch fire. In Sweden, there are 220 fires a year in its 400 SLs. These fires release toxic dioxins into the air.

Dioxins are formed when chlorinated compounds like PVC are burnt. They are some of the deadliest chemicals known to man since they are known to cause serious diseases like cancer, reproductive and nervous disruptions in extremely small doses. A drop of dioxin in 300 Olympic size swimming pools can be harmful.

Incineration: In the early 1900s, the West invented ‘incineration’ (burning in controlled conditions) of waste as a means of converting ‘waste into useful energy’. What started in Europe became popular in Japan since they had very little land area and incineration reduced the volume of waste to 10%. It then spread to the US. After a few decades, many problems started surfacing. The burning process gave out toxic dioxins and heavy metal (eg. Mercury) gases. It also left behind toxic ash, which needed to be disposed of safely.

Even the most advanced equipment to control pollution from incinerators either is expensive or has failed. With more and more resistance from the victim communities,

Is there anyone working to stop toxic waste trading and promoting safe alternatives?
World over, people are getting together to fight incineration, hazardous material production and toxic waste trading, and promote ZWM as a safer and more ecologically friendly, economically viable and socially just alternative. GAIA (, Alliance for Waste Management (AWM), Greenpeace (, Exnora International (, Thanal (, and Toxics Link (, Goa Foundation ( are some of the organisations addressing this issue in India.

Problems of plastics

Saturday, August 28, 2010

When people ask me where to start going green, one of the first things I always suggest is to reduce the use of plastics, particularly disposable plastics. I say this because it is one way to go green that is easy to do, healthier for you, better for the planet, and puts money in your wallet. It’s a win-win for everyone. But first, what’s the problem with plastics?

The toxicity of plastics is not fully understood or adequately tested. Most plastics contain chemical additives to make the plastic more pliable, or UV resistant, etc. Some of these ingredients or additives are not thoroughly tested, and other we know are harmful, like bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates (a chemical used as a plastics softener). These chemicals are both shown to be potent hormone disruptors and are increasingly linked to adverse health effects like cancer, infertility, early puberty, obesity, behavior changes, and reproductive system damages.

BPA is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic or items marked with the number 7 on the bottom. BPA also is used to line the inside of metal food and soda cans and can leach from the can liner into the food. Phthalates are found in number 3 plastic, made with polyvinyl chloride or PVC and marked with the number 3. In addition to the health concerns with PVC-plastic, the production of and burning of PVC plastic releases dioxin, a known carcinogen, into the atmosphere. Basically, it’s bad for us, and bad for the environment.

We also know that plastics chemicals leach into the food and water they contain. So that means, BPA, phthalates and a host of other chemicals found in plastics end up in our food and water, and eventually, our bodies. While the amount may be small, it is still of concern. In fact, plastics are considered safe not because they have been proven to be safe, only because they have not been proven to be unsafe. As EWG senior scientist Dr. Anila Jacob says, "There is very little published research on the potential adverse health effects of chemicals that leach from plastic food containers, so it's difficult to say they're safe with any degree of certainty, especially with long-term use."

The second problem with plastics is that they are an environmental nightmare. First, they are a non-renewable, fossil fuel based substance. Plastics are made from petroleum so they never ever biodegrade. In fact, every piece of plastic ever produced is still in existence in some form today. Over time (a long period of time) plastics actually photodegrade into smaller and smaller toxic pieces but never disappear. Many of these tiny pieces end up in our oceans and waterways and are eaten by marine life.

There is so much plastic in the ocean, that we have inadvertently created something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is roughly the size of Texas, containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash, primarily plastic. In this accidental dump floating midway between Hawaii and San Francisco, plastic to sea life ratios are 6:. Birds and mammals are dying of starvation and dehydration with bellies full of plastics. Fish are ingesting toxins at such a rate that soon they will no longer be safe to eat.

“But I recycle my plastic” people argue. The fact is, most people don’t. Only 3% of the 380 billion (that’s right, billion) plastic bags used in the U.S. each year get recycled. Even if you are one of the few who does recycle your plastic waste correctly, recycling plastic is an inefficient system. It’s actually referred to as “downcycling”. Unlike aluminum or glass, plastic degrades so not only can it never be made into the same form of plastic (like a plastic water bottle into another plastic water bottle), but we also need to introduce new virgin plastic during the recycling process. So while recycling plastic is certainly better than throwing it away, it’s not the silver bullet to solve our plastics problem. If avoiding plastic completely is not practical for you, what’s the answer? I think it’s to use plastics more wisely and more sparingly. You can reduce your use of disposable plastic, and choose safer plastics, particularly for those items that are likely to come into contact with your mouth, which is the most common way the chemicals in plastic enter our bodies.

The first step to choosing safer plastics is to understand what the numbers represent. So turn your plastic container over, check out the number inside the triangle, and read on to see what those numbers mean.

Safer plastics include:

#1 PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate) – this plastic is used for most clear beverage bottles, such as water bottles, and two-liter soda bottles. It is one of the most commonly recycled plastics on the planet. The key here is to think about the No. 1 meaning “one-time use”. So don't reuse single-use plastics. They can break down and release chemicals into your food or beverage when used repeatedly.

#2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) - used to make most milk jugs, shampoo bottles, and laundry detergent bottles. Because No. 2 plastic has been found not to leach, Nalgene water bottles are now made from this plastic rather than No. 7 as they were previously.

#4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) - used in most plastic shopping bags, food storage bags, some cling wraps and some squeeze bottles.

#5 PP (polypropylene) - used in opaque, hard containers, including some baby bottles, cups and bowls, and reusable storage container (i.e. Tupperware). Drinking straws, yogurt containers, and cottage cheese containers are sometimes made with this.

Avoid These Plastics:

#3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – commonly called “vinyl” is used in commercial plastic wraps and salad dressing bottles, shower curtains, and believe it or not, kids toys, backpacks, lunch bags, and binders. PVC contains phthalate (softeners need to make the plastic bend) and they have been found to interfere with hormonal development. The production of and burning of PVC plastic releases dioxin, a known carcinogen, into the atmosphere. It’s bad for our health and bad for the environment.

#6 PS (polystyrene) – used in Styrofoam cups, meat trays and “clam-shell”-type containers. No. 6 plastics can release potentially toxic materials (including styrene), especially when heated. Yep, that’s right, when heated. So that insulated Styrofoam coffee cup and the “to go” container that you put hot food in, well those don’t seem like such a good idea do they?

#7 Other - A wide-range of plastic containers are lumped into this category – basically any plastic not rated 1-6. The plastic to be concerned about in this category are the hard polycarbonate plastic bottles which contain bisphenol-A (BPA). No. 7 plastic is used in some reusable water bottles, baby bottles, and some metal can linings. Soft or cloudy colored plastic is not polycarbonate. Avoid polycarbonate, especially for children's food and drinks. Trace amounts of BPA can migrate from these containers, particularly if used for hot food or liquids.

In addition to understanding the numbers, you can also use plastics more safely:

• Don't microwave in plastic containers. Heat can break down plastics and release chemical additives into your food and drink. Use ceramic or glass instead. Cover food in the microwave with a paper towel instead of plastic wrap.

• Use plastic containers for cool liquids only, not hot.

• Don't reuse single-use plastics (the number one – PET plastics). They can break down and release plastics chemicals when used repeatedly.

• Do not use old, scratched plastic containers. Exposures to plastics chemicals may be greater when the surface is worn down.

• Wash plastics on the top rack of the dishwasher, farther from the heating element, or by hand.

• When using an electric mixer, use a glass or metal bowl instead of plastic to avoid chipping bits of plastic into your food.

• Use wooden cutting boards instead of plastic ones.

• Pick a cotton shower curtain instead of vinyl.

• Choose glass or BPA-free baby bottles with a clear silicone nipple.

• Avoid plastic to mouth contact, especially for babies and kids. Give your baby natural teethers like frozen washcloths.

• Look for toys made of natural materials, like wool, cotton, and uncoated wood.

• To avoid PVC in school supplies, check out the Center for Health Environment and Justice’s (CHEJ) Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies, which lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of toxic PVC and suggests safer PVC-free products in over 20 product categories.

Finally, when rethinking and reducing your plastic, remember to recycle any that you don’t need or don’t feel safe using any more. Keep in mind that No. 1 and No. 2 are almost universally recyclable. No. 5 plastics are usually not recyclable in curbside programs. Other numbers depend upon the recycler. To simplify plastics recycling, here is the basic rule of thumb – if the plastic bottle has a neck that's smaller than the body and has "alor2" symbol on the bottom, nearly every recycling program will accept it. But please remove the caps from the bottles and throw them in the trash or participate in a program to recycle them. If left in with the recycling, those little caps can ruin a whole batch of recyclables.

Important Things to Know About Landfill Gas

Important Things to Know About Landfill Gas

Landfills can produce objectionable odors and landfill gas can move through soil and collect in nearby buildings. Of the gases produced in landfills, ammonia, sulfides, methane, and carbon dioxide are of most concern. Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are responsible for most of the odors at landfills. Methane is flammable and concentrations have sometimes exceeded explosive levels indoors. Methane and carbon dioxide can also collect in nearby buildings and displace oxygen.

This factsheet provides information on what measures can be taken to prevent gases from leaving landfills and entering off-site structures and how building owners can reduce landfill gas collection indoors, particularly in confined areas like basements and crawl spaces.
Landfill Gas

Landfill gas contains many different gases. Methane and carbon dioxide make up 90 to 98% of landfill gas. The remaining 2 to 10% includes nitrogen, oxygen, ammonia, sulfides, hydrogen and various other gases. Landfill gases are produced when bacteria break down organic waste. The amount of these gases depends on the type of waste present in the landfill, the age of the landfill, oxygen content, the amount of moisture, and temperature. For example, gas production will increase if the temperature or moisture content increases. Though production of these gases generally reaches a peak in five to seven years, a landfill can continue to produce gases for more than 50 years.
Movement of Landfill Gases into Buildings

Landfill gases can move from a landfill through soil into outdoor air as well as the indoor air of nearby buildings. Landfill gases in outdoor air can enter a building through windows, doors, and ventilation systems. In soil, landfill gases can migrate and enter a building through cracks in the basement floors and walls, utility entry points (e.g., where underground water or electrical lines enter a building), sump pump holes or floor drains. This is called soil vapor intrusion. Once they enter a building, landfill gases may collect in areas of poor ventilation, such as basements, crawlspaces, and utility tunnels.
Odors from Landfill Gas

Odors in landfill gas are caused primarily by hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, which are produced during breakdown of waste material. For example, if construction and demolition debris contain large quantities of wallboard (also called drywall or gypsum board), large amounts of hydrogen sulfide can be formed. Hydrogen sulfide has the foul smell of rotten eggs, while ammonia has a strong pungent odor. Humans can detect hydrogen sulfide and ammonia odors at very low levels in air, generally below levels that would cause health effects.
Health Effects of Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide

Short-term exposures (typically up to about two weeks) to elevated levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in air can cause coughing, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headache, nausea, and breathing difficulties. These effects usually go away once the exposure is stopped. Studies have been conducted in communities near landfills and waste lagoons to evaluate health effects associated with exposure to landfill gases. These studies lasted for several months and reported health complaints which coincided with periods of elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide and landfill odors. The reported health complaints included eye, throat and lung irritation, nausea, headache, nasal blockage, sleeping difficulties, weight loss, chest pain, and aggravation of asthma. Although other chemicals may have been present in the air, many of these effects are consistent with exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
Methane Safety Hazards

Methane is the major component of natural gas. It is highly flammable and can form explosive mixtures with air if it concentrates in an enclosed space with poor ventilation. The range of air concentrations at which methane levels are considered to be an explosion hazard is 5 to 15% of the total air volume. Landfill gas explosions are not common occurrences.
Health Effects Associated with Methane and Carbon Dioxide

Methane and carbon dioxide are colorless, odorless gases that can displace oxygen in enclosed spaces. Health effects associated with both methane and carbon dioxide result from the lack of oxygen rather than direct exposure to these gases. Health effects caused by a reduced oxygen level include a faster heartbeat and having to take deeper breaths, similar to the effects felt after vigorous exercise. A greatly reduced oxygen level (that is, when the oxygen level is well below its usual level of 21% of the total air volume) can cause reduced coordination, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness. These effects have rarely been reported from landfills.
Controlling Landfill Gas Migration at Landfills

When landfills have reached the maximum amount of waste they can hold, several feet of cover material are placed over the landfill mass. Gas collection wells are then installed throughout the capped landfill. These wells are made of perforated pipes which give the gas an easy path to move vertically to the surface rather than laterally (outward) toward off-site locations (e.g., buildings). As the gases enter these wells they are either vented into the outdoor air, passed through a flame and broken down by burning, passed through a filter, or used in an energy recovery program. Landfill gas vents need to be kept drained and clear of obstructions such as snow and debris. Older landfills and smaller dumps may not have gas control measures.

PROBLEMS associated with LANDFILL

Landfill is the cheapest way of disposing MSW, but all efforts to get rid of waste pollute the environment to some extent. In landfills the disadvatages are that gases and chemicals are released into the air we breathe. Experiments show that the gases and chemicals released from landfill sites are harmful to animals. Doctors suspect, therefore, that it is harmful to humans also. A major disadvantage is the release of Methane gas. This gas can be explosive and in the USA there have been over 30 explosions linked with Methane released from landfill sites. People have died as a result!

Early Landfills
Early landfills were put in convenient locations on the least expensive land. The waste was 'out of sight out of mind'. People did not realise that as the waste rots and decomposes, it can release toxic chemicals. Craigmuschat Quarry in Gourock

As rain washes through the waste tip, it dissolves some of the solids and mixes the liquids. The water can become acidic and eat into the waste in containers. All this produces a contaminated fluid called leachate. Leachate escapes from most old landfills. It can pollute or contaminate drinking water in the ground, modern landfills are designed to protect the environment from pollution. More recently, landfills have had barriers designed to keep in the leachate. Engineers line the quarry With clay or synthetic materials Which the leachate cannot easily pass through. Pipes then collect the leachate for storage in tanks and special treatment.

However, there is another problem with landfills, whether lined or not. Bacteria in the soil, break down organic matter in the landfill, such as vegetable peelings. As they do so, they release methane gas. Methane is not a poison, but it has two drawbacks. Firstly, it is a greenhouse gas. It contributes to the greenhouse effect that will eventually cause global warming. Secondly it is explosive. If it seeps from the landfill and finds its way into a building, it can build up unnoticed. One day someone lights a match and ………..BANG!!!

Greenhouse Effect
The Greenhouse Effect is caused by so called 'greenhouse gases' in the atmosphere. These gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapour have existed naturally for millions of years. The amount of these gases has gradually increased, causing the earth to get warmer. The temperature of the Earth changes naturally by a few degrees, but it should take thousands of years. Over the next forty years the temperature could rise by another 1.50C to 4.50C, a speed of increase never experienced before on Earth. This increase in temperature could cause the huge polar ice caps to melt. This would cause sea levels to rise by about 1.5 metres over the next sixty years. Low Iying areas of land will be flooded and millions of people will lose their homes. So, Britain is at risk, especially coastal towns such as Greenock and Gourock.

Another method is incineration, a method becoming scarce, therefore making it more expensive. One advantage of incineration is that energy can be produced from the burning waste and there are now some 'energy from waste' schemes in operation. With this method, some large lanfills generate enough electricity for 10,000 homes! One disadvantage of incineration is that even more gases are produced, contributing further to global warming.

Bangalore landfill causing pollution, health hazards

THE BANGALORE city corporation (Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) is dumping solid waste at Mavallipura, a village in the northern part of Bangalore, thus affecting the nearby forest areas and agricultural lands.

“Every day, since 18 months, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, has been dumping about 500 tonnes of solid waste in the northern zone of Bangalore,” said Dr Gayathri, Chief Health Officer, (BBMP).

The waste is dumped next to an area where crops and flowers are cultivated.

“When the city waste is generated, it’s the duty of Municipality division to segregate the organic waste, then send it to the dumping yard,” said KSV Nair, Vice President, Ramky Energy and Environment Limited.

He said that the waste in Mavallipura is disposed in a landfill. A landfill is supposed to be a place with impermeable ground strata so that ground water contamination does not occur when the contents of the landfill mix with water and seep underground.

Environment Support Group (ESG), a non-government organisation working on the water quality in Mavallipura, shows that leachate ponds (formed by impure water that 'leaches' from the landfill) contaminate the ground and surface water aquifers. These aquifers are major sources of drinking water in the village.

Moreover, the garbage, openly exposed to the air, is also polluting the environment and causing several health hazards to the villagers.

“Villagers shortly began to suffer from health problems such as diarrhea, bronchitis, cough and respiratory infections,” said Nandini, a researcher, at ESG. “The un-segregated waste decays and releases toxic sludge into their water bodies, which are used for drinking and agriculture,” she added.

But Praveen Kumar, Project Manager, Ramky Energy and Environment Limited feels that this dump does not lead to major water pollution.

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike Health Officer said that this has been a perpetual problem, as the city does not have designated dumping grounds.

problem of Landfill in India

Does garbage pollution have a negative effect on city's environment?

Garbage in a city can cause a variety of problems. These include
contamination of ground water, surface water, and even the cities
water system, if leaching of chemicals occurs from the disposal site.
A lowering of pH by these chemicals can add to acidity problems in the
water and even the air. Landfills can also cause sealing of the
ground surface, which will lead to flooding.

Disposal areas attract wildlife, such as rats, dogs and birds.
Besides causing a danger of wildlife/ human interactions (birds flying
into planes, or dogs in roaming in packs) these usually bring diseases
with them, such as plague, meningitis, pneumonitis, and

Another problem is the accumulation of infectious or toxic waste
items. May people in cities do no destroy dangerous items, they often
just throw objects that should be incinerated. This can create a heap
of items as dangerous as medical waste or toxic and corrosive
chemicals. Often there are infectious diseases associated with
medical waste that can cause or heighten an epidemic.

In short, garbage pollution in a city causes a myriad of problems.
These include but are not limited to contamination of air & water,
increased disease risk, attraction of undesirable wildlife, soil
sealing and flood problems.

Garbage accumulation in cities has been a problem all over the world
for centuries. Garbage is created both at a government level and at
the level of individual households. Landfills have always been
regarded as sources of disease and offensive odors. Early in their
development cities generally have few disposal regulations and
individual homes disposed of garbage in their own unique ways.
Therefore, means of disposal were based on the culture, background,
occupation and size of each of the different households (Crane, 2000).
Throwing away garbage is always a balance between hygiene and thrift
(Lucas, 2002). Used material may come in handy at a future date, but
in the mean time, storage of it causes certain problems, not the least
of which is sanitation concerns.

Cities must regulate garbage disposal in order to educate the
population and have their cooperation. Most people are willing to
cooperate with disposal regulations as long as they don’t have to live
with the results of garbage accumulation (Anand, 1999). In order for
a city to remain clean of the accumulation of garbage there is a
balance to be had between the participation and cooperation of each
household and the city government. Each urban area is going to have
unique concerns and decisions to be made as to the best way of
disposing of garbage (Dewess and Girlich, 1999).

Clearly Cities are complex ecosystems. They have to balance all of
the uses by all of the citizens and institutions. One of the major
problems is facing a city is the disposal of waste, in this
discussion,, specifically garbage. There is no solution to the
problem unless the infrastructure of a city is designed to address
this problem (Savage and Kong, 1993).

One study looked at the differences between soils of urban and
non-urban area. The soil pattern of urban areas is strongly
influenced by human activities. Specific characteristics of urban
areas soils were lowered ground water table and soil surface sealing .
Soil sealing, is the process of soils becoming less permeable to
water. This causes depletion of ground water as well as creating
flooding problems on the surface (Schleuss, Wu, and Blume, 1998).

Since February 1, 1998, Calcutta is the first city in India to
segregate medical clinical and biomedical wastes at hospitals. This
prevents hazardous, sometimes toxic and infectious wastes from going
into dumps with ordinary garbage. But, this means that other cities
in India are still disposing of such infectious and toxic wastes in
the land fills. It also means that the Calcutta landfill has such
wastes in them which were deposited prior to 1998 (Calcutta Calmanac).

In short, garbage pollution in a city causes a myriad of problems.
These include but are not limited to contamination of air & water,
increased disease risk, attraction of undesirable wildlife, soil
sealing and flood problems.


Rain water percolates through garbage. The runoff from the rain will
then become contaminated by the sewage, sediment, chemicals and
diseases that are contained by that garbage. It is therefore
necessary for garbage dumps to either be waterproof or clear of water
born contaminants. Or, a better solution is to have garbage disposal
not present in the water shed of the public drinking supply. This is
more a concern in many developing countries than in countries that are
more economically advanced. Socio-economic factors make it very
difficult to solve these types of urban drainage problems (Silveira,

Inappropriate disposal of sewage and garbage has led to the
substantially deterioration of ground water. Unfortunately, the
growing population and inadequacy of many municipal water supplies has
led to the exploitation of ground water for public drinking water.
Bacteria is often found in the ground water of urban areas due to the
sewage and garbage dumps (Hussain, et. al, 2001).

Various Leachates from municipal solid wastes in certain urban areas
are also found to be a substantial problem (Hamed, et al.). In many
cases, the leachats are getting into the surface water, ground water
and the public drinking supply.

There have been a variety of studies done that show health
deterioration in areas where there is not proper access to garbage
disposal (Monteiro, 2000). There are a variety of diseases that are
shown to be at least exacerbated, if not caused by the presence of
open garbage, or inadequate garbage landfills. FRENKEL, et al,
(1995), found a serious problem with Toxoplasm-gondii. Pneumonitis,
induced by avian antigens was found by Carrillo-Rodriguez, et al,
(2000), to be primarily associated with garbage dumps. Amoebic
diseases have been found concentrated in the soil and in the air in
greater proximity to urban garbage dumps (RIVERA, et al., 1994). And,
the disturbing phenomenon of “Biofilms” have been shown to form from
urban water sources. It is a film that forms inside such places as
dental instruments. It is from the concentration of free-living
amoebae that is in the water supply, some of which are potential human
pathogens (Barbeau and Buhler, 2001).

It has been shown by many researchers that garbage dumps often attract
both wild and feral animals. Urban dumps create an environment that
will cause the accumulation of unhealthy concentrations of wildlife.
Often, it creates situation where garbage eating species will out
compete the native species, that eat native vegetation. Thus, the new
garbage eating species replace the native species. (Clergeau P et
al., 1998, Blair, 1996).

Clearly, as stated before, these high concentrations of certain
animals bring and spread diseases to the people in the areas.
Meningitis, pnumosistis, the black plaque, are all diseases that are
carried by the types of animals that are attracted to garbage dumps.
Also, are problems with bacteria and nutrient contamination from high
population concentration. That doesn’t even address the nuisance
factor. High concentrations of birds and rodent populations leave
high concentrations of feces and other residue. They also cause
problems by their presences in numbers. Feral dogs, which are
attracted to dumps often form into packs, which can be very dangerous.

Dumps are also not healthy for the wildlife themselves that visit
them. Many types of garbage is eaten or explored by urban wildlife
will cause entrapment or painful deaths.


Many cities around the world are attempting to regulate garbage
disposal in a variety of ways. Some f the ways of reducing garbage is
by recycling and reusing as much as is feasible. Many urban areas are
attempting to encourage that. Another way is to make it easy to
properly dispose of garbage. Or to make it very expensive, or
difficult to improperly dispose of it. Many areas are prohibiting non
recyclables in certain products. Others are making it illegal to
dispose of certain dangerous items without the proper authorization.
Calcutta, India is an example of a city that is strongly creating and
enforcing legislation to control garbage disposal. (Calcutta Calmanc).

Rather than control garbage disposal through negative legislation,
there are many people attempting to come up with positive solutions to
this problem. Cohen, promotes a plan, in New York City, which is
sponsored cooperatively by the city and the state, to build
high-temperature incinerators that generate electricity. This way,
the garbage no longer is a disposal problem, it is instead an energy
source (Putting Garbage to Good Use).

Garbage pollution is a serious problem in urban areas. Disposal has
been a concern of urban governments since the first city. It can
cause a myriad of problems for the citizens and wildlife in the urban
area. These range from creating an unpleasant atmosphere to creating
a center for disease infection, to altering the environmental quality
of the water, soil and native populations.

Environmental Problems: Landfills

Main Environmental Problems Landfills Cause

The environmental problems caused by landfills are numerous. Landfills produce emissions, substances, which are often toxic, that enter the air or water. They may contribute to the depletion of the Ozone layer. They can harm wildlife. There are two areas of emissions considered the largest concerns: atmosphere emissions and water emissions.
Atmospheric Emissions

Emissions from landfills enter the atmosphere. When they do, they can travel anywhere. Main problems here include noise emissions, dust emissions and bio-aerosol emissions. These are often a cause of the operation of the landfill, but still contribute to the larger environmental problem.

In addition to these, one of the largest concerns is the production of landfill gas. Over time, the garbage in a landfill breaks down. It creates a chemical mess, filled with toxins entering the atmosphere as gases. Landfill gas occurs virtually as soon as a landfill comes about and may continue to be in production for hundreds of years.
Water Emission

The atmosphere often takes a hit when it comes to landfill gases, but water is also a very real risk. The initial problem is with watercourses. This includes everything from the ditches located near the landfill to the rivers and streams miles away. The rain will wash over the landfill, allowing debris, but more commonly toxins, to wash into these watercourses.

In addition, water emissions may happen at a much lower level. If groundwater is polluted at a landfill site, the water can penetrate into the strata below the surface of the Earth, polluting some of the most important sources of fresh water.

Additional Landfill Environmental Problems

Emissions are not the only types of problems associated with landfills. A closer look can show why so many much needed changes are so difficult to come by.

* Landfill Fires: Landfill gasses, and the shear amount of landfill waste, can easily ignite a fire. Fires can be difficult to put out and contribute to the pollution of the air and water. They can also potentially destroy habitats nearby if not controlled soon enough.

* Decomposition:
Some landfills get filled and then covered over to allow decomposition to take place. Yet, it is not always accurate how long it will take some items to decompose. Products that are natural, such as wasted fruits and vegetables, will decompose within weeks while items like baby diapers, soda cans and glass bottles may take as long as 500 years to decompose.

* Landfill Leakage:
The design of many of the newest landfills keeps many of these leakage problems at bay, but there are still risks. Landfill gases and waste materials may leak from the landfill. This can lead to environmental problems including toxic exposure to water.

Do you have a problem with your GARBAGE?

Do you have a problem with your GARBAGE?

1. 'Garbage stinks' because it consists of rotting organic matter.

2.`Garbage is ugly' because we do not throw it properly in bins.

3.`Garbage remains uncleared' because there is too much of it which even municipal corporations can't get rid of.

4.`Garbage gets strewn' because it contains useful material which people, animals and birds want, and while looking for it, they scatter it.

5.'Garbage pollutes because when burnt in the open, toxic fumes and smoke are given off that cause respiratory disorders.

6.`Garbage becomes a health hazard' Mien it is left to rot on streets and roads. ']'his breeds insects, rodents and bacteria that cause and spread disease.

What is Garbage?

Garbage is waste that is generally thrown out of our homes, offices, parks, shops, restaurants and small commercial establishments. In our country it mostly consists of rotting vegetable and food matter, besides, paper, plastic, glass, rubber, leather, coal, porcelain, metal, rags, toxic material (batteries, pesticides, paints, broken tube lights and chemicals), building material and soil.

Why is there so much of it all around?

Most of us have the habit of retaining packaging such as cardboard, glass, metal or plastic containers for reuse in our homes and offices. We also consciously put away things like newspaper, tins, glass bottles and milk covers which can be sold to `raddiwalas'.

Despite this laudable habit which reduces much of the garbage thrown, there is still a lot of waste that reaches the roadside bin (each household generates almost 1/2 to 1 kg. of garbage per day). With increasing population the amount of waste generated has also increased so much so that it cannot be easily disposed of by conventional methods such as land-filling.

Segregate Before you Throw !

How do we segregate?

Keep four separate containers for DRY, WET TOXIC and SOILED wastes and make a habit of dropping things into the appropriate containers.

DRY waste : Scraps of paper, plastic, metal, glass pieces, rags, rubber, leather, crockery and even some containers which are normally not taken by the raddhiwalas, can all go into a white bag or bin, used cardboard carton, sack or basket. This can be given to the ragpicker once or twice a week.

WET waste : Kitchen waste such as vegetable peels and remains of fruits, vegetables, bone and meat can be fed to domestic animals or along with left overs and rotten food, garden litter, hedge clippings and the like, can be collected in green covered bins and composted in homes, schools, gardens and parks or in neighborhood composting sites.

TOXIC waste: Unused medicines which have not expired can be given to free clinics and hospitals. However, unused toxic material such as expired medicines, pesticides, chemicals, used batteries, tube lights etc., have to be stored in black bags or bins and disposed off in a proper manner with the help of the municipality or other government bodies.

SOILED waste : Soiled and infected cotton, drips, injection syringes and needles, diapers, sanitary napkins, dressings, used tissues and condoms should be collected in red bins or bags tied at the mouth and left in the corporation bin meant for safe disposal in sanitary landfills or in those meant for collection by the common Biomedical Waste Treatment facility operator.

Recycling can help save energy and resources!

Recycling of material is an important aspect that will definitely go a long way in solving the garbage problem. Recycling refers to the process by which material once used is used again to substitute for virgin material. For example, we all know that paper is made from wood pulp. To make I tone of paper, 17 trees need to be brought down. However, if waste paper is remade into pulp and this pulp used to substitute for part of the entire requirement of wood pulp in the making of paper, it will save trees.

Most household garbage is recyclable. Paper, plastic, metal, glass and rags can be reused in various manufacturing processes. Wet organic kitchen waste can be used to generate compost rich in plant nutrients.

In our country, most cities and towns have retailers and wholesalers who buy recyclable material either directly from homes, shops, offices and establishments like the raddiwalas or those who buy from ragpickers who pick material from garbage dumps and roadside bins. These materials are then sorted and sent to various small and large industries which use them in varying proportions to substitute for virgin material in the manufacture of articles.

Recycling has several benefits

It reduces the amount of waste that reaches the roadside bin

It reduces the amount of energy needed to make new products

It reduces pollution

It reduces the requirement for virgin material

It generates employment.

Reuse, Recycle and Reduce Garbage !

How can we reduce Garbage?

In our homes, offices, shops...

Let us learn to reuse any material as much as possible before we throw it. For instance, we could all save paper.

We could write on both sides of a page or make a new note book from unused sheets of old note books. Birthday cards and decorations can be made from used cards, gift wrapping paper and sweet wrappers.

We could carry our own cloth or jute bags when we go shopping. Plastic cups and containers can be reused for keeping pins, pens and little odd things which we require ever so often.

We could enquire from shopkeepers, office equipment dealers and other retail or wholesale dealers for schemes to exchange used containers, cartridges etc. while purchasing new items.

We could reduce consumption and wastage of chemicals such as acids (to clean toilets), cleaning agents, polishing agents, and motor oils. We could avoid using unnecessary and dangerous pesticides.

In our streets.....

Segregation means separation and involves the separate collection of different materials under previously determined categories. Segregation is a very important activity that one must do before throwing out garbage. Most household garbage contains many things that can be used. We often render them totally useless by dumping them along with other waste. We could make a beginning by segregating our garbage into that which is useful and that which is totally useless.

Apart from what we retain for re-use in our homes, offices, etc., selling to the raddiwala, or returning to manufacturers, there are items in the garbage, which are generally classified as `roadwaste'. These are scraps of paper, plastic, metal, glass and rags which are eagerly retrieved by the ragpickers. By doing this they are helping society save raw material and energy and are also helping themselves. However, they are unknowingly exposing themselves and others to dirt and disease by scattering waste while looking for useful material in the garbage.

To avoid this we can segregate even roadwaste from our garbage and hand it over to the ragpicker thus enabling him/her to earn his/her livelihood in a safer and healthier manner while contributing to saving our environment by recycling.

Organic wastes from kitchens, gardens and dining tables are compostable. Composting organic matter in pits or heaps or with earthworms reduces the stink and helps us obtain a rich manure for our plants.

How do we organize disposal of garbage?

Form Civic Forums of Residents of your neighborhood!

Explain to each member how their wastes should be segregated. Seek the cooperation of the Municipal Corporation, nearby tree bank/nursery or the Horticulture department to give a small piece of land for setting up a neighborhood composting site. Organize the ragpickers with the help of local voluntary agencies to pick up segregated waste from house to house, from shops, restaurants, offices, schools and other establishments in your locality.

Arrange payment to the ragpickers from the residents, school authorities and offices for rendering this service. Householders, office workers and individuals should be motivated to segregate waste in the recommended manner and the waste retrievers (ragpickers) should be trained to collect them separately and dispose them in suitable places as explained previously. The neighborhood composting site should be maintained hygienically and the composted material should be distributed/sold to interested persons and nurseries.

Take a little trouble today to save your children's tomorrow!
� Reduce your demands and wastage.
� Recycle and reuse things as much as possible.
� Think before you throw.
� Segregate what you throw.

Research & Development

Center for Environment Education, India

About AAWaM

The Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India (MoEF) with the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has started a project in many small and big towns of India termed Eco-cities which are well known pilgrimage or tourist destinations having large floating populations, for proper and appropriate management of domestic and other urban waste. This project called Achieving Action in Waste Management' (AAWaM) hopes to not only achieve public participation in waste management but also develop a methodology which can be spread throughout the country to achieve cleaner cities and improved health conditions. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Center for Environment Education (CEE) will be jointly working on this project in the next one and half to two years. Adisory Services in Environmental Management (ASEM), One World and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are also important partners of the Eco-cities programme.

Plastic Facts

Friday, August 20, 2010

1.The NIU 3R Program accepts plastics coded 1 or 2. Please check your container to see if it is in the appropriate category. If you do not know, please recycle it. Waste Management, Inc. will sort the plastics before processing them.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - 23% of all plastic bottles. This type is also used to package boil-in-bag foods, meat, cosmetics, and carbonated soft drinks.

3.High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is used to make 62% of all plastic bottles, most commonly containing milk, detergents, shampoos, pharmaceuticals, juices, bottled water and antifreeze.

4.In 1987, the U.S. used almost 1 billion barrels of oil, just to make plastics.

5. When buried, some plastic material may last for 700 years. (Manufacturers add inhibitors that resist the decomposition process necessary to break down the plastic.)

6. Over 46,000 pieces of plastic debris float on every square mile of ocean.

7.Although polystyrene foam (commonly known as Styrofoam) is completely non-biodegradable, it is recyclable. If you lined up all the polystyrene foam cups made in just one day, they would circle the earth.

8.According to Dr. Miligram, a plastics analyst, "Recycling plastics saves twice as much energy as burning them."

9.Americans use 4 million plastic bottles every hour!-Yet only 1 bottle out of 4 is recycled.

10.Americans make enough low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic every year to shrink-wrap the state of Texas. Most of it ends up in landfills.

  • Plastics are part of the waste stream: although they account for only 8% of the waste by weight, they occupy about 20% of the volume in a landfill due to their low bulk density.
  • In 1988 we used 2 billion pounds of HDPE just to make bottles for household products. That's about the weight of 900,000 Honda Civics.
  • Since the introduction of PET containers in the late 1970's, the industry has reduced the weight of PET in 2-liter bottles from 67 grams on average to about 48 grams; a 28% reduction.
  • It takes 5 recycled two-liter bottles to make enough fiberfill for one ski jacket.
  • It takes 1,050 recycled milk jugs to make a 6-foot plastic park bench.
  • About nine billion plastic bottles are produced annually in the U.S. about two-thirds of which end up in landfills or incinerators. Most of the rest go to Wellman Inc. a recycling facility in South Carolina. Wellman annually recycled about 2.4 billion plastic bottles into a polyester fiber known as Fortrel EcoSpun, which ends up in active wear.

Will Drinking from Plastic Bottles Kill You?

Today we're going to place our plastic water bottle, which has already been used three or four times, in the car on a hot sunny day, and then drink its noxious chemical contents to see if we get sick and die. The idea is that chemicals in the plastic get released into the bottle's contents when the bottle is reused, and especially if it's heated up.

So let's point our skeptical eye at the issue and see whether it has any merit. Do we need to be concerned about this? The only really fair answer is that it's a complicated question. "Plastic" is not a single compound. There are almost as many different types of plastic as there are types of substances contained by them. Some plastics do contain poisonous chemicals. Some plastics do leech chemicals into liquids. In some plastics, this process can be accelerated by heat. The reason for this variety is to provide the product distributor with enough choices that they can select a plastic type that's best for their product. This permits a distributor of drinking water to use a bottle that is absolutely safe to contain water for humans under the whole temperature range that the bottle is likely to be subjected to. But, put gasoline into that same bottle, and you might see that plastic dissolve away. Plastics are designed for their particular application, and misusing a plastic product can produce undesired consequences.

One time, in college, I was moving to a new apartment a block or two away. My brother and I had built a koi pond, and we needed to move the fish and store them long enough to build a new pond at the new place. We went out and bought a cheap plastic kids' wading pool. We put it in the garage and filled it with the hose, treated the water with all the usual fish-friendly chemicals, and walked the koi over in buckets and placed them in their new temporary home. Well, we learned a harsh lesson about chemicals in plastics. After a day or two the koi didn't look so good. Some of them died. Then all of them died. It was pretty horrible, because, and I'll spare you the details, they didn't look very good. We had no idea what the problem was. Was it the shock of being transported? Did we not add enough stuff to kill the chlorine? On a whim I called the manufacturer of the swimming pool and asked if they knew any reason why this would happen. They did. On products like this, they always add a mold inhibitor to the plastic. In this case, they used cyanide. For a children's pool, they add a safe low level of cyanide that's harmless to the children, but is enough to prevent mold from growing that would make the pool gross and unsightly. Evidently, a level of cyanide that's safe for a human is lethal for a fish, since they breathe it directly into their blood through their gills. The guy we spoke to was the company's head scientist, and he seemed to relish this rare opportunity to discuss his work. He went into all sorts of detail about their different products, and how they use the right plastic for each different job. Ever since then, whenever I work on a koi pond, I always call the manufacturer of any plastic products I'm using and talk to their chemists.

Here's the long and the short of it. Whether you're microwaving food in a plastic container, refilling your plastic water bottle, or making a koi pond, use plastic products that are intended for that use. The manufacturers do employ chemists to determine how best to package their products to ensure their safety, this process is strictly policed by the FDA, and this is always going to be more reliable than random information you read on the Internet or receive in a chain email.

And yes, it is our good old friend the Internet that seems to be the basis for this particular fear's place in popular culture. For example, there's one hoax email going around that says Sheryl Crow believes she contracted breast cancer from toxic chemicals by drinking water from a bottle that had been left in a car. Not true. Sheryl Crow doesn't claim this, there are no chemicals in water bottles that have been linked to cancer, and heating a water bottle to car temperatures does not leech anything into the water. There's another chain email that says freezing your water bottle, like so many people do, will leech dioxin into your water. Again, not true. No plastic containers designed for containing food or drinks contain dioxin, and colder temperatures stabilize plastics; it's heat that will accelerate their breakdown.

Most famously, a 2001 study by the University of Idaho found that reuse of plastic water bottles does release risky levels of diethylhexyl adipate (DEHA) into the water, which is potentially carcinogenic. This study was widely reported by the popular media and largely touched off the chain emails and most of the current perceived controversy. But is it true? No. Such a paper was written, but it was not a formal study. It was, in fact, merely the master's thesis of one student. It was not subjected to any peer review, and cannot accurately be characterized as a study performed by the university. It does not represent any position held by the University of Idaho. And unfortunately, it was not well performed research. DEHA is not classified by the FDA as a carcinogen, but more importantly, DEHA is not used in the type of plastic water bottles that the student evaluated. But it is used in many other plastics, and is present in a lab setting. "For this reason", concluded the International Bottled Water Association (which is, granted, not a very objective source), "the student's detection is likely to have been the result of inadvertent lab contamination." The FDA requires a higher level of scrutiny than that applied by the student writing his paper. DEHA is actually approved for food contact applications, but the fact that it's not present in the type of plastic that was studied, discredits the entire paper. But the mass media is often more interested in headlines than facts, so the dangers of reusing water bottles had no trouble becoming a fixture in pop culture.

Some people allege a conspiracy among distributors of bottled water, who know that their products are poisonous but who have analyzed the cost savings against the projected lawsuits from wrongful death and have concluded that it's more profitable to sell dangerous products. I do not find this theory very compelling. First, the products demonstrably do not contain the toxic agents claimed by the theory. Second, like all conspiracy theories, it's just too implausible that something of that magnitude could be kept secret for so long by so many people and so many victims, with nobody ever blowing a whistle or calling a newspaper. If corporate Men in Black were sent out to silence the whistleblowers and families of the victims, this would just multiply the number of reasons for someone to blow the whistle. This conspiracy theory just doesn't hold any water — pun intended.

There are absolutely plastics that are unsafe for containing or heating food. Look what happened to my koi. Or, let's say you sealed some food inside a length of PVC pipe and heated it over a campfire. Is that safe? I don't know, but I wouldn't eat it. Just like everything else in life, use products for their intended purpose, and you will not have any problem. Be assured that intended use of water bottles does include high temperature cycling. You will not get sick from any reasonable use of a water bottle or other food-containing plastic product.

Are plastics harming your health?

Are plastics harming your health? 4 facts to help you decide

Are the chemicals in your plastic food containers, water bottles and even baby bottles harming your health? I guess I’m not sure anymore.

The risks are not something I really want to take a chance with. Recently the Food and Drug Administration said that a chemical widely used in plastics is safe for children and adults, even though recent research has raised questions about its safety. Studies have linked the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, to increased risks for heart disease and diabetes, according to The New York Times, and to the development of precancerous lesions and reproductive issues in animals.

I realize that plastic food containers, reusable water bottles and plastic baby bottles are so popular because they’re convenient. Which is not to be overlooked. But the price of convenience might have a dark side.

I used the facts from an article in a recent issue of EatingWell magazine to help me decide whether to replace my plastic containers with glass or another non-leaching option. Check out these four facts to decide for yourself:

1. Polycarbonate plastics, often used to make reusable water bottles, clear plastic food-storage containers and some baby bottles, contain BPA, an estrogenlike chemical also used in the linings of some food and drink cans. Studies link BPA to the development of precancerous lesions and abnormal development of reproductive systems in animals. While BPA can leach into food and drinks, whether it actually affects human health is currently not known. However, consumer concern peaked in April after the National Toxicology Program (part of the National Institutes of Health) issued a draft report noting that, given the current science, the possibility couldn’t be ruled out.

2. What is known is that we’re all exposed to plenty of the chemical. In a 2005 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 95 percent of people screened tested positive for BPA.

3. Hot liquids and foods exacerbate leaching in BPA-containing plastics, suggests a study published earlier this year in Toxicology Letters. When researchers poured boiling water into polycarbonate drinking bottles, it caused up to 55 times more BPA to seep out than room-temperature water had.

4. Whether washing containers in hot water causes them to break down and release BPA the next time they’re used isn’t clear: Only a handful of studies have been conducted, and results are conflicting. While heating these plastics in the microwave hasn’t been studied, it’s not recommended. Anila Jacob, M.D., a scientist with the Environmental Working Group, says that we can assume there is increased leaching with any kind of heating.

The Bottom Line: Manufacturers currently aren’t required to label BPA, so there’s no way of knowing if it’s present in the plastics or cans you use. For now, the best way to reduce your exposure is to use stainless steel, glass or plastics labeled “BPA-free.” If you’re not sure about a product contact the manufacturer for more information.

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