Keen Observation and Determination to Act: Recipe to Combat a Looming Crisis? by Udit Singhal
Pollutants are an unseen enemy that have threatened life on our planet. This is the time, more than ever, for us to act – standing by idly could have disastrous consequences. Proactive action needs to be seeded. Why not start at home?
It is my belief that the 2 year journey I chronicle next is proof of concept that keen observation and determination to act can be the two pillars of a catalytic approach to keep our planet habitable for future generations.
Delhi is battling a growing glass waste crisis. Glass, despite being recyclable and reusable, is not segregated anymore and actively goes for dumping with all other solid waste into already scarce municipal landfill space – where it won’t decompose for a million years!
I was alerted to this situation when I chanced upon a large cache of empty glass bottles at home – these were normally prized by our support staff. I invoked the pillar of observation and concluded that empty glass bottle waste had been rendered worthless. Rising emissions had forced the waste processing plants to be relocated away from the city. The waste collection aggregators of the informal sector, “kabadis”, needed to set up large storage spaces and bear the consequent high costs of transportation – collection became unviable.
Invoking the pillar of determination to act, I founded Glass2Sand, an environment-friendly zero-waste eco-system that could possibly control the menace of the growing glass bottle waste crisis. A school student trying to push change isn’t always taken seriously. The roadblocks that appeared at every step of the journey, not just because of the red-tape, were an exacting, often discouraging test for me. In the most challenging of times, it was thoughts of positivity and support that drove me to muster the courage to maneuver through the obstructions and chart the way forward.
Crushing the glass empties into silica-rich sand in a flash under high safety standards made sure that what would have otherwise been dumped into the landfill is converted into a commercially valuable by-product. This facilitated a revenue stream to defray costs so that the initiative wouldn’t remain solely dependent on grants and subsidies whilst creating a sustainable impact. With bottles changing form to fine sand, any possibility of counterfeiting was also “crushed”. An awareness of the problem of glass waste has been created so that it is acted upon and nipped in the bud. It can’t be allowed to assume gigantic proportions.
It is these two pillars or “mantras” I swear by, that helped me contribute a solution to a crisis.
When I started, I didn’t believe that I could change anything or leave behind a lasting impact. This initiative was only a modest attempt to make a difference in my immediate community. With honest intent, I was able to present a new perspective.
Self-belief is key.
Having observed the need for change, it is important to carry the conviction to follow the idea through. You will always be at odds with age – one is always too young or too old! Is there a right age to start? I believe not – the right time is whenever you are ready.
My persistence and perseverance helped me in my journey. By leveraging technology to build a volunteer network, I freed the initiative from the exploitative clutches of the waste the “kabadis”. Within a few months of operation, the “kabadi” dropped his offer price for empty glass bottles by 50%!
It counts towards achievement when the very people who overlooked your attempt to carve solutions start to engage with you in the discussion. You have to make others hear you. And, you can’t just wait for something to happen – take a proactive stance – because unless you’re Newton, it’s unlikely that an apple is going to fall on your head. Opportunities don’t magically appear. You have to lead them your way.
This begs the question, what is it that deters people from taking the leap in the right direction? Lack of interest? Pessimism? Lack of determination? All it takes is a simple combination of the right attitude, positive ideas, and the ability to build synergies to create a collective approach – something I very strongly believe in – to master the recipe to success.
About the Author
Udit Singhal is an SDG Young Leader Class of 2020. He is the founder of Glass2Sand, an environment-friendly zero-waste ecosystem that addresses the growing menace of glass waste in Delhi. Based on a pitch that Udit made, the New Zealand High Commissioner to India deemed the project worthy of a special grant, not just because it was backed by an innovative “Kiwi” technology. Glass2Sand was launched by the then 17-year-old on World Environment Day 2019. Read Udit's full profile here.