This Thursday afternoon Kendal and I are planning on leading a local waste pick up with the students at the Gamru Village School! I have been so excited about this as this is one of the activities we initially hoped to do with the students! We’ve planned to arrive mid-morning Thursday with gloves and bags, review final details with the principal Meenakshi, and then begin the pick-up. Today I asked Raja, who is from the Gamru Village area, where we can purchase gloves and bags, and where we can place the waste bags once the pick-up is completed. He then brought to my attention a number of logistics: We’ll need a first aid kit and a car parked nearby in case of emergencies. We’ll also need to send any students directly to the hospital if they get a cut. He asked me where exactly the pick-up would be taking place, and if I had considered feces in the waste and dangerous objects such as glass and needles.
These are all things I did not think of. When Meenakshi confirmed the waste pick-up date with us last week, we asked if we could purchase the bags and gloves, and that was that. Why didn’t I think of asking more questions? Did I assume that because the Gamru School has done waste pick-ups before that I didn’t have to? Is it okay to assume that the pick-up will be directly in the vicinity of the Gamru Village School? Why have I not thought about potentially dangerous objects? What will we do if a student encounters feces or gets a cut?
A perception of waste I have heard and have perceived in Dharamsala is: “As long as I don’t see it”. However, along with the potential perception of “as long as I don’t see it”, is a lack of waste facilities. Where are we actually going to dispose of this waste? I believe that my lack of inquiry into this event is partly due to my familiarity with the waste management system at home in Canada. Blue, clear and green bins are placed all around the City. Most homes are equipped with adequate plumbing, waste bins and information on how to sort our waste into these bins. The municipal waste processing facilities are just on the outskirts of town and is open to the public. I have not truly thought about waste awareness and a cleaner environment as a privilege, but at home, free of charge, I am equipped with all of the resources and information to be able to properly dispose of my waste, and know where it goes. This is not the case for the Gamru community and this waste pick-up. The objective of a waste pick-up for these students, from my perspective, is to be aware of their environmental surroundings and how minimizing waste is a positive contribution to their environment. Within the curriculum the students are taught to keep their environments clean. However, if there are no legitimate waste facilities nearby nor accessible information about waste, and the waste is simply being displaced, is this really creating a positive environmental awareness for the students?