Waste Management – Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
Back in 1999 recycling began at Amritapuri Ashram as a way to put into action Amma’s teachings on our duty to lovingly serve nature. Rather than just throwing trash into the landfill, proper sorting makes it useful again and saves precious natural resources. The Ashram recycling program has grown and expanded dramatically over the years. Now more and more items are separated to maximize their recycled use. Detailed sorting makes it easy for the items to be reused rather than going to a landfill.
The Recycling Center is a source of inspiration and education to thousands of Ashram visitors. The visitors see Amma’s teachings being realized and are inspired to do more recycling themselves.
Sorting is the heart of recycling. The items are sorted in the following categories: Hard plastic, soft plastic, glass (unbroken and broken sorted separately), clear water bottles, aluminum cans, scrap metal, different quality of paper and cardboard, used electronic items, medicine “blister” packs, bottle tops, used batteries, milk packets, food waste, “Tetra” packs, burnable wood and coconut shells, quality clothing and other reusable items.
How It is Done
There are about six recycling stations placed around the Ashram. Stations are set up to be the first stage of sorting. At the stations residents separate their trash into paper, recyclable items (hard plastic, glass, metal, etc), soft plastic, food waste and garden waste (leaves, sticks, coconut shells, etc). Signs at the stations indicate which bins are for which items. With this system Ashram residents learn to sort their trash and be more aware of what they throw away.
Once or twice a day trash is collected and all waste is brought to the Recycling Center for detailed sorting. At the Center two sorting tables make it easy and fast to do all the detailed separation. Volunteers gather around the tables and separate all the trash into bags. The sorting tables makes it easy for volunteers to trade stories and jokes during the sorting, thus building community spirit among people from all over the world. Amma’s bhajans and chants play in the background accompanied by the sharing and laughter of the sorting team.
Once the bags are filled, they are tied and properly labeled. On a regular basis the sorted and bagged waste is transported to the large Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) hospital which has a system for transferring the sorted items to organizations which recycle and reuse it. AIMS has its own large recycling center. Some of the bags also go to Amrita Ettimadai University which sends it to other recyclers.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Also, all usable items, which people donate to the ashram instead of throwing away, are cleaned, repaired, and eventually reused by someone else. In this way, less plastic or other waste materials need to be sent to landfill or burned, protecting the atmosphere from toxic fumes. Moreover, the amount of new raw materials produced is also reduced. If, e.g., plastic containers are reused, less new plastic needs to be produced. The same holds true for cloth, metals, glass, etc.
Even though plastic, paper, glass, and metal can be recycled, this process uses quite a large amount of water and electricity. So if objects made from these materials are in good enough condition, it is even better to reuse them directly. This is Amma’s way of recycling.