Don’t throw, recycle it!

Unlike other developing nations, the concept of recycling is in its infancy stage in Pakistan. In Karachi alone less than five percent of waste is recycled

What happens when you see heaps
of garbage littering the streets everywhere in Karachi? Does your heart bleed looking at the eyesores? Do you feel like doing something that can clean all the garbage you see on streets, alleys, and in fact, all across your city? Unfortunately, in a city like Karachi, heaps of garbage found on corners of the streets not only reflects the inefficiency of the city government but also represents an insensitive attitude of our people towards a problem. All over the world, the process of recycling has been adopted as a means of minimising environmental degradation. The case in Pakistan is entirely different, where heaps of garbage produced daily is an alarming factor and poses a serious threat looming over us.

Based on the study conducted by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pakistan generates over 20 million tons of solid waste annually, almost 47,000 tons of solid wastes per day. Karachi being the industrial hub of the country generates about 10,700 tons of solid waste. Due to lack of proper waste-collection sites and inadequate trash bins, most of the waste finds its way into dumping grounds, open pits, river, ponds and agricultural fields, leading to the excessive burning of waste on street corners everywhere, while posing serious risk to
public health.

With the massive waste production around the world, recycling has become an urgent need of the world today. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling is “the separation and collection of materials that otherwise would be considered waste, the processing and remanufacturing of these items into new products, and the use of the recycled products to complete the cycle.” It is important for us to consider garbage as a resource rather than a waste. One of the benefits of recycling is elimination of landfill sites, a major contributor to global warming. In spite of burning the trash or throwing it into dumping grounds, which adds pollution to the environment and poses risk to passersby, it is better to reuse the waste for useful purposes. Usually, wastes are categorised into organic and inorganic. Food and kitchen garbage come under organic waste, whereas inorganic is composed of elements such as plastic, cans, paper and glass. Organic waste if recycled properly at home can safely be converted into nutrient-rich, reusable compost, creating a positive impact to the environment. In Sweden, garbage is reused to create heat and electricity to power a quarter of a million homes across the country. In France, garbage is used to recycle heat in order to reduce energy consumption as well as reduction in CO2 emissions in factories.

Paper, one of the predominant wastes in the United States, is collected and recycled. It is reused to produce energy that can power up the average American home for six months. Mostly, paper products used by the packaging industry in the US are accounted to recycle 77 percent of packaging materials. The newspaper production in Australia has 40 percent of the recycled
paper content.

Recycling does not have an impact on the environment, and it has also grown as a huge industry, creating new business opportunities whereby people process, transport and sell recovered materials while companies can manufacture and distribute the recycled materials. In accordance to the data from the European Statistics Agency Eurostat, Belgium is one of Europe’s top countries when it comes to recycling scrap cars. The car is recycled to shredder waste and through the state-of-the-art post-shredder technology raw materials are recovered from the shredder waste.

In Switzerland and Canada, government has legislated laws to use recycling bags and bins for waste disposal. Different from traditional waste bins, recycling bins are containers that hold recyclables for a while before shifting into recycling centres. It provides separate containers for recyclable materials including aluminum cans, plastic bottles, papers and glass, which are later used for recycling purposes. Some of the countries like Italy and Germany also charge fines if garbage is not disposed of properly into these recycling bins.

Unlike other developing nations, the concept of recycling is in its infancy stage in Pakistan. In Karachi alone less than five percent of waste is recycled, which is nothing compared to the wastage being generated by the city. There has been no full-fledged project initiated by the government so far except the inauguration of a recycling centre in Islamabad last year, where wastes would be collected from nearby areas and vegetable market for recycling. However, there are certain organisations that have initiated recycling on their own. Gul Bahao Trust works on industrial and municipal wastes, whereby it gathers used papers, plastics, glass and dry garbage and transforms it into usable materials. It also builds homes out of garbage making lives cheaper and easier for the underprivileged population. Waste Busters is a waste management and recycling firm that introduced door-to-door collection of household garbage bags for the first time in the country.

Apart from these organisations, there are few individuals like Shireen Halai who have proved time and again that one person can bring a change in society. She is a resident of Karachi who has adopted recycling as her mode of life. Using her front yard of the house as a dumpster, she collects almost all recyclable items including papers, cartons, bottles and tins. All of these items are categorised accordingly, and later stored in a labelled box, which is later sold to the scrap collectors or sent to any recyclable company for further processing. The money she receives from all of her recycling activities is used for charity.

This is just one example where a Karachiite like Halai started on a small scale, and slowly more people joined her bandwagon. Hence as an individual, we can also contribute our part to recycle the garbage at our homes or our workplaces, but the question arises as how to do it. To begin with, use a stack of newspapers or unused papers, and reuse them as book covers or to line kitchen cabinets. Moreover, we can sell used papers to scrap dealers who later sell the same to companies involved in recycling. Cartons used in packaging electronic items such as refrigerator, television etc. can be reused for storing old books or files in homes. Household waste and edible items can be used as compost for home gardens as that aids in growth of plants. Polythene bags are the most used waste that we see everywhere in the city. A polythene bag is a non-biodegradable item that is hazardous for the environment. Therefore, instead of polythene bags use green or jute bags for shopping.

An individual can make a big difference by adopting simple measures, which would not only positively affect his/her life on a personal level, but would also be beneficial towards making a better and safe environment to live in. Recycling is not a one-day process; it is a life-long lifestyle. There is a need to change the nation’s behaviour towards recycling, and that can only be achieved through regular sharing of information via newspapers, television, Internet and social media.

However, next time don’t try to throw junk considering it a useless commodity; rather, recycle it!


The writer is a freelance columnist and a blogger. She is a former field reporter, and is currently working as a content writer at a public relations agency. She blogs at, and can be reached on twitter at @mistful83