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Understanding types of waste and how to manage it consciously?

Learn all about different waste types and it’s management in a people and planet-friendly way!

By Mishka Goel

India has a big waste problem. While stringent laws and policy regulations are required to manage it on a country-wide scale, individual action matters too. An average household in India generates 600 grams of waste per day.

We all need to consciously take efforts to reduce the amount of waste we generate. Why you ask? Because the waste we generate stays on the planet much longer than we do. So, let’s not leave a legacy of waste behind us and try to reduce how much of it we produce.

To reduce our waste it is crucial to understand what waste is? An understanding of different waste types and its management is essential. This will help reduce our waste load on the planet and also avoid harming lives of individuals who manage our waste.

Every day we throw away so many different kinds of items, like paper, aluminum, plastic etc. Let us learn what to do with each type of waste we encounter on a daily basis. We will focus on the main type of waste produced, in households and around us. Taking baby steps, like disposing waste in a proper manner can save earth and humanity in great ways.

*We are only covering household waste in this article

Different types of waste

5 types of household waste- dry, wet, liquid, e-waste and medicinal.

Dry waste

Dry waste refers to all items that are not wet/soiled waste. It can include both recycle and non-recyclable items. Some examples of dry waste are bottles, cans, clothing, plastic, wood, glass, metals and paper.

Wet waste

Wet waste as the name suggests includes food item kitchen waste, soiled waste from your garden as well as tissue or paper towels. Basically, wet waste includes anything that would contaminate the recyclables.

Liquid waste

All waste arising from activities of washing and cleaning. This includes water used for home cleaning, mopping, dish -washing, clothes washing etc. All these cleaning activities use water with a mixture of cleaning agents. So, it is essential to utilise water wisely and use cleaning agents that do not harm the environment when released in sinks.

E-waste

In this digital world, our dependence on technology has even rise to electronic waste or e-waste. This includes wires, plugs, transmitters, radios, cellphones, laptops, and other devices. E-waste also includes the various components and chips that go in the making of these devices. As e-waste often includes various hazardous elements like copper, aluminium, and plastic- it needs to be sorted and segregated in order to be processed.

Medical waste

The final waste category that an average household produces- Medical waste. This includes medicinal waste, medical equipment like syringes, gloves and masks as well as sanitary waste. With the Covid-19 pandemic, medical waste of household has increased and causing a waste epidemic of its own.

Pro tip: Cut the straps of your surgical mask before disposing of them as they may become entangled in a bird’s feet.

Now that we know the different types of waste, let us understand how to reduce it and ways to manage it in a conscious, sustainable way.

How can we reduce waste at home?

There are many ways in which we can reduce the amount of waste we produce by putting it to a better use. Even with little time and few resources we can work towards the betterment slowly. The waste we create does not always have to end up in a landfill.

1. Buy only what you need

Conscious consumerism is an important practice. If we buy only what we require, we can avoid consuming excessively and even save up money. Rather than running after trends, re-evaluate if what you are buying today will be as necessary in a few months’ time.

2. Reuse and Repurpose

In Indian households, there is a widely used term which is jugaad, this means to find a way to repurpose something that you already own. By practicing reusing, each one of us can avoid buying something new when we can find a way to reuse an item. Repair everything if possible, store goods in reusable containers etc.

3. Avoid single use materials

Single-use materials and objects means that they are contributing to your waste pile. So, try buying things which come in paper packaging, without plastics and choose eco-friendly. Shop in bulk or from local farmer markets to reduce packaging waste. Alternatively, consider buying loose items.

4. Upcycle

Upcycling is the use of materials as it is to create something new out of it. Upcycling supports a circular economy and is easy to do at home. Think of various ways you can upcyle products at home, or find retailers who can help upcycle items like plastic in furniture or cool products.

5. Compost it

Composting is a great way to manage your wet waste. Though it my be cumbersome initially, once you get a hang of it- composting is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and manage food waste. If we start composting on an individual basis, we can reduce most of the kitchen waste from going in the bin. Find how to begin the composting process here.

6. Make an eco-brick

Any small plastic item that cannot be recycled or upcycled, can be put into a plastic bottle which is not of use. Fill the whole bottle until it does not bend when you stand on it, that becomes your eco brick. You can donate the eco bricks to various organisations and then they are used to make chairs, table legs etc.

7. Carry your own things

The most easy and effective way to avoid creating waste- carry your own items. Carrying our own bottle, bags, cutlery, dabba etc. when eating out or shopping is a good practice to reduce unnecessary waste. This may take a while to get used to but it is definitely a sustainable shift. 

8. Borrow & Rent

If you require a particular thing only for once or twice, borrow it from others. Help others by lending something you don’t want to use. Swap clothing with friends and family, it’s like renting but without any expense.

Outfits we wear to family functions, weddings etc. are sometimes wore only once or twice. There are various rental services you can opt for instead of buying new clothing. 

9. Shop second hand

Buying second hand items, thrifting clothes and shoes, saves usable items from ending up in landfills. Instagram is a good place to look up thrift stores for your fashion, home decor or reading needs. There are many second-hand stores around you too, look them up and support them.     

10. Segregate & Recycle

Finally, all that waste that you have collected- make sure to dispose it correctly. Most of the waste we create can be recycled. One can practice this by giving paper and plastic waste to kabadiwalla’s or to recycling centres.

So know your waste, segregate it and send it to the right places for it to be processed properly.

The waste problem around the world is such a big issue because individuals fail to understand how massive their contribution is. Understanding waste types and learning its management is step one in the direction to reduce our waste impact and the size of landfills in our cities.


Mishka is a student who discovered sustainability quite recently. She is expanding her knowledge on living a conscious life by choosing to take small earth-friendly steps each day. Her Instagram page- Sustainable Brands is her venture to help others by searching sustainable brands and posting about them.

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