‘Effective Waste Management Begins at Home’: Interview with Dr Sunil Kumar

  • 2019/02/15     Dresden, Germany

    A brief interview with our visiting scholar, Dr Sunil Kumar, on solid waste management and how we can make a difference at the household level.

    Dr Sunil Kumar is a Principal Scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) in India. His main areas of expertise are in environmental engineering. Currently, he is working on topics on solid and hazardous waste management, landfills, compost, and waste-to-energy. His past research collaborations have spanned institutions in numerous countries from the University of Calgary in Canada to the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern (FHNW) in Switzerland. As visiting scholar at UNU-FLORES, Dr Kumar works with the Waste Management unit on the next generation technology for waste management. He is a recipient of the Humboldt Senior Researcher Fellowship awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

    Interview by Atiqah Fairuz Salleh, Communications and Advocacy

    You have been working in the field of Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) for almost two decades. What does MSWM entail and what are the most pressing challenges around it?

    My research focussed on studying the waste management system in cities and towns and developing detailed projects along with R&D on processing and disposal aspects of municipal solid waste. Now, the focus is on implementation on the field. After critically observing the solid waste scenarios around the globe in general and particularly in India, I would highlight that the most pressing challenges are related to capacity development. There is a lack of institutional capacity and where it is available, there is a lack of trained personnel in municipal corporations/councils dealing with solid waste management in various cities and towns. This is especially the case for India.

    What makes a good waste management strategy?

    Selection of appropriate technology and good public participation are required to make a good waste management strategy. Firstly, the technology selected has to fit the local circumstances, in my case ensuring that it is compatible to local conditions in India, and secondly, everyone has to play a part for good waste management.

    On the role of international organisations, how does a stint at UNU-FLORES add value to your research work?

    I work on solid waste processing and disposal technology which is interconnected with water, air, and soil. UNU-FLORES as a reputable international organisation with experts from fields dealing with various environmental resources along with a congenial research environment is a value addition to my research. It is a great opportunity to be able to bridge the work being done both at United Nations University and my parent organisation, CSIR-NEERI.

    Name two things we can do at the household level to support effective waste management.

    Waste minimisation and segregation at the household level would support towards achieving effective waste management. This is in line with the motto ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover’ in the waste hierarchy. It starts right at consumption – the more we consume, the more waste we produce. The less waste we produce, the less resources we need to manage it. Besides minimising waste, separating it according to type also helps in the waste management cycle. Effective waste management begins at home.