Unit 3: What is a City Made Of?
Cities generate a lot more waste than rural areas and disposing of that waste is a problem with which all municipal governments grapple. Most frequently, governments put into place a system where garbage is collected and then transported to a dump site outside the city. This has its problems, of course. Polluting the environment is one drawback. In addition, if the dump site is close to the city, it can be a health hazard. Yet, transporting garbage far away costs more.
In some ways, waste is a greater problem for wealthy cities: they generate three to ten times more waste than poor ones. In low-income countries, each person produces between 100 and 220 kilograms of garbage every year. In high-income countries, each person produces between 300 and 1,000 kilograms per year! Of course, they also have more money to arrange for regular garbage collection. Even in these cities, however, richer neighborhoods are better served than poorer ones.
With increasing awareness about the environment, recycling has become a major part of dealing with a city's waste. Cans, bottles, plastic, paper are now recyclable materials and most large cities have recycling plants.
While it is true that cities in developing countries have inadequate garbage collection, it may be that it is not always as necessary. An astounding amount of garbage is collected and recycled by individuals who make a living off this activity. Bangalore, one of India's largest cities, produces about 3,000 tonnes of waste a day. Of that, about 2,700 tonnes is being recycled or reused by citizens. So the city only needs to get rid of 300 tonnes a day.
Water and waste disposal are two examples of urban needs that are met by a combination of private and government initiatives. They give us an idea of what it takes to keep a city running. The same picture can be painted for other services such as electricity, sewage and public transport.
It is a feat of human ingenuity that the infrastructure and services are there at all; it is an injustice that they don't serve everyone equally.
SEE ALSO WATER
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