We never paid much attention to our garbage in New York City. Sure, at home we meticulously recycled. We even toyed with cloth diapers but settled on the convenience of disposable ones. We reused plastic bags on our dog walks. But once our garbage left home, we never thought about it again.
After coming to India we are acutely aware of what happens to our garbage. Both our parents live in areas where there is no garbage collection system. They compost their wet refuse and arrange for recyclables to be picked up by scrap collectors. The rest is burned in a designated area. Yes, it is terrible, but the alternative is to dump it in some random location. At Sandeep’s parents’, the garbage is dumped at a designated spot about 100 yards from their gate, where it is burned every evening. Many people in India don’t have private transportation, so the government chooses dumping spots that are convenient to reach but relatively uninhabited. In this case, relatively uninhabited involves a handful of houses, a tea stall and a beauty parlor around the corner. This is the scene of our garbage burning this morning.
We have taught the kids not to litter, no matter what other people do. We pass the dump every time we go to town and it’s hard to explain to Ava why diapers (likely Kayans!) are lying on the side of the road.
With our garbage literally staring us in the face everyday, we’ve altered our already frugal consumption habits. We’ve cut back on juice boxes and soft drinks and Kayan is an intense experiment at potty training. It’s not going very well. He’s projecting a bit – this afternoon he made his dog use what he claimed was a potty.
Most of us forget about our garbage once it leaves our home. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, for us, we’re forced to face our garbage every morning. The positive impact is that the entire family is more responsible about how and what we consume.