College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota
College of Science and Engineering
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Social Well-Being and Waste Management

After lunch, we toured the multiple buildings that house the operations of Goonj, an organization that redistributes clothing to people in need. Before our trip to India, I read an inspiring article on the New York Times that profiled this organization and the work they have done redistributing resources throughout India.

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At Goonj, quality clothing is reused and distributed to poorer rural communities (usually in exchange for some sort of directed development activity that further helps the villages, such as building a bridge or a new well - so that the contributions are not given away for free). Other clothing is reserved for distribution for disaster relief. Finally, clothing unfit for wearing is re-purposed into a variety of uses, including quilts, sanitary napkins (a taboo subject and major health issue for women throughout rural India), and a variety of other products, like rugs, handbags and wallets that were available for purchase in their small shop.

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After a brief trip back to our hotel to freshen up, we made our way to a panel discussion to revisit the issue of waste management in Delhi and around India. The discussion attempted to dissect the present waste management system in Delhi, and ideas for how to address the issues of waste collection, recycling, and converting waste to energy.

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Each panelist had different views of the most economically viable option for waste, and different considerations on the environmental and social implications of the collection and recycling of waste. With a problem as big as India's waste management practices (or lack thereof) there are no doubt a plethora of ideas as to the best ways to solve the issue. However, all the panelists agreed that rag-picking as it currently exists should be abolished, with one equating it to the inhumane practice of 'manual scavenging.'

The issue of waste generation and collection is a very complicated subject here in India, and it won't be solved overnight. Through ongoing dialogue and efforts by social ventures and non-profits, we learned about a lot of great work being done across Delhi, but it's clear that change will take a lot of time and patience.


 


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