*Waste of a Nation*

The authors are Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey and the subtitle is Garbage and Growth in India, here is one excerpt from this worthy book:

In India, the tool for cleaning teeth and gums had long been a twig usually taken from a neem tree…, which can be plucked each morning, chewed into a teeth-cleaning brush, and then thrown away.  Neem also has medicinal properties.  Tooth powders gained popularity in towns and cities in preindependence times, but in smaller towns as late as the 1960s shops that sold toothpaste had to be searched for.  Consumption of toothpaste was meager.  India’s toothpaste industry in the mid-1970s was estimated to produce about 1,200 metric tons a year for a population of more than 600 million.  An Australian population of 16 million consumed 5,000 metric tons of toothpaste.  By the late 1980s, the Indian market was said to be growing rapidly, but the industry estimated that only 15 percent of the population used toothpaste and that per capita consumption was only 30 grams a year.

…By 2014, a single new factory set up in Gujarat by Colgate-Palmolive was capable of making 15,000 metric tons of toothpaste a year, more than ten times the quantity produced in all of India two generations earlier.



The more interesting number is how much money did Colgate-Palmolive plan to spend on advertising in India to create the necessary demand to justify its investment.

Aye! Very good point. Most people tend to ignore this very important aspect.

Amusing to see prior suckered into denouncing dental hygiene in the very first post. Next he'll be on about fluoride in the water and the threat to his previous bodily fluids.

A review of this book was published in Nature also : see

...and in the US you can order a package of 10 organic neem chew sticks for only $10.47

5,000 tonnes of toothpaste is enough for 16 million Australians to brush their teeth 3.4 times a day if the follow the Australian Dental Association's recommended toothpaste dose of roughly quarter of a gram.

Correct me if I'm wrong, isn't the largest producer of toothpaste tube/packaging an Indian company?

Yup - Essel Propack (http://www.esselpropack.com/)

Something random to add... I have heard from a friend of mine working for a very large [western] toothpaste manufacturer that many of their Indian customers find mint a very strange taste to have in tooth paste !

They'll get used to it.

But you could tell a similar story about ANY society, from Liechtenstein to Botswana: once, almost all their waste was organic and biodegradable; then came technology and then, most of it wasn't. If you're trying to explain garbage in India, you'll have to do better than that!

Also, edgar and Crikey, I'm sure neem sticks are not more expensive than toothbrushes in India (and they wouldn't order either on Amazon) and that much if not most of that toothpaste manufactured in India is for export.

A billion twigs plucked from neem trees in India each day would generate several thousand tons of waste every day. Assuming the neem trees could produce that amount of new growth every day without dying.

One impression of India in the west is that of poverty and filth. While it may be tempting to dismiss this as biased and even orientalist, there is more truth in this than people think. After all, every stereotype has some basis in fact. In India's case, one needn't even go beyond the cities. Indian cities ARE India's underbelly.

Take Mumbai, for example, India's most developed and advanced city. A city responsible for 30% of India's income tax revenue. More than half of Mumbai's population lives in slums. Garbage heaps are common in almost every second street. Take the Mumbai local trains (known as the lifeline of the city) in the mornings, and you will be host to the most squalid living conditions you've ever seen in the slums near the railway tracks - that is if your mind is not distracted by people taking a dump in the open less than 50 feet from you.

About 40% of India's population defecates in the open - more than the populations of the US, UK, and France combined. Just let than sink in for a minute. More people in India do their business in the open than the total number of people in those 3 countries combined.

Such issues of waste, garbage collection, and open defecation are directly responsible for the spread of diseases and malnutrition. And it shows: 44% of children under 5 in India are underweight. 72% of infants have anemia. When it comes to keeping people hungry, democratic India gives North Korea a run for its money. According to the Global Hunger Index, India's hunger situation is worse than North Korea or Sudan. A child in India is more likely to be malnourished than one in Somalia.

According to UN mortality data, more people in India have died since 1947 than in China. Yes - and this is including the Mao years, considering the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution all combined. Even with the so-called "man-made famines" and the excesses of the Red Guards, India still managed to cause the deaths of far more people. Here are Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze talking about this phenomenon in Hunger and Public Action:

"Comparing India’s death rate of 12 per thousand with China’s of 7 per thousand, and applying the difference to the Indian population of 781 million in 1986, we get an estimate of excess mortality in India of 3.9 million per year. This implies that every eight years or so more people die in India because of its higher regular death rate than died in China in the gigantic famine of 1958-61. India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame."

But hey, at least India doesn't censor the internet, right?

There's no end of the ways in which nice things are nicer than not-so-nice things. As their productivity improves they'll build more outhouses, more sewers, more garbage trucks, more landfills, and more sewage treatment plants. BTW, Indian life expectancy has reached that of the United States ca. 1935. Lots of room for improvement, but the public health situation is not a complete disaster.

But hey, at least India doesn’t censor the internet, right?

But they do, although not to the Chinese level

This is what happens when civil engineers, even from top schools, get paid less than call center employees if they choose to work in their core competencies. There's a complete dearth of intelligence and imagination in our civic works. Even flagship projects, like the Delhi metro, have obvious flaws, and whether that is because these things were considered (unlikely) or couldn't be pushed through a stifling and corrupt bureaucracy (likely) is immaterial to the end user.

One impression of India in the west is that of poverty and filth
That is obviously *not* the impression the editors of The Economist are attempting to instill in their readers.

"There are two reasons why India will soon start to outpace China. One is demography. China's workforce will shortly start ageing; in a few years' time, it will start shrinking. ... The second reason for optimism is India's much-derided democracy." Advantage India!

The Economist -> https://www.economist.com/node/17147648

It is farfetched and surreal The Economist articles like the above that make observers wonder when Economic Departments will begin to embrace Marxist-feminist critical theory.

What's wrong with the article? There was very strong private sector growth at the time, which a lot of people extrapolated from a bit optimistically. Unfortunately, the growth was debt-fueled, and most companies couldn't leverage it to become large enough to outgrow their debt burdens. Those chickens are now coming home to roost.

Public filth in India has a lot to do with an acute lack of state capacity (read - shortage of garbage collectors).

Let's get rid of all garbage collectors in NYC, and see how clean the city remains.

Indians are no more or no less filthy than any other people. It is the public services that are lacking in India thanks to an emaciated government and an extremely small tax base.

"Let’s get rid of all garbage collectors in NYC, and see how clean the city remains."

That's an interesting argument. AIDS in Africa? That's because the medicines are few and don't reach the sick. Take medicines away from Japan and see how healthy Japanese remain. Poverty in Bangladesh? That's because they don't have money. Take all the money away from Switzerland and see how rich it remains. Flooding in Mumbai during rains? That's because it doesn't have a proper drainage system. Take away the drainage system of London and see how flood-free it remains. Team X defeated Team Y? That's because team X played better. Make team X play as bad as team Y and see how many games they win.

Not to mention that that a lack of state capacity is NOT the reason for Open Defecation in India by a long shot. Not to say that India doesn't suffer from a lack of state capacity; in fact that's what it's best known for. But that's not the reason behind so much Open Defecation. Countries which lack state capacity even more than India, with governments more emaciated than India, and smaller tax bases than India - have lesser rates of Open Defecation.

A good place to start would be Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development and the Costs of Caste by Diane Coffey and Dean Spears.

Most of these statistics are outdated. Open defecation has been cut more than fifty percent since the Modi government came in and in Mumbai is an extreme rarity. You no longer see the people "doing their business" on the tracks

Societies can change quite fast once they get rich enough and India is getting rapidly richer with per capita income growing 6 percent a year for close to two decades now

"Most of these statistics are outdated"

I can understand why you might feel that way. After all, isn't India supposed to be a high tech hub? A young, vibrant, dynamic democracy, the fastest growing economy in the world, full public debates for policy issues, leaders directly accountable to the people, world-class companies like Tata and Infosys, 3rd highest no.of billionaires in the world, a country that sent a probe to Mars, the largest democracy in the world, uninterrupted elections for 70 years, an independent judiciary, a free press...surely it can't be that bad, right?

Wrong. And it is very easy to get it wrong. For example, Jeffrey Sachs once called the call center employee "the face of India". That the IT/BPO industry employees less than 1% of India's population did not deter him, apparently, the remaining 99% are not part of the India that he wanted to see.

Those statistics are entirely updated and also available on Wikipedia. They are difficult to believe since they are not reported on in the mainstream media as much as China's "human rights violations", yet they are true. A typical western observer will hear more about Xi Jinping's bid to "rule for life" by cancelling term limits than India's Open Defecation problems, but that doesn't make the problem go away. Even in India, the media has started focusing in this issue only in the last few years.

"Open defecation has been cut more than fifty percent since the Modi government came in..."
Even if true, the rate is still 40% according to official statistics. Imagine how high it would've been in 2014, when Modi came to power. Of course, there are always the standard problems, e.g. local newspapers often carry photos of people doing their business in the open in areas declared ODF-free by the government.

Waste not, want not. Americans and their waste go their separate ways; hence, few Americans give much thought to their waste, from whence it came, where it goes. From time to time I read an article about what Americans flush down their toilets, confident that they are that what goes down the toilet simply vanishes. Au contraire. America's sewers are being clogged with flushable wet wipes. "Once flushed, the wipes glom together with any fat from food waste and can form what are called “fatbergs”—iceberg-style blockages that can clog a whole system. To extract a fatberg and make the needed repairs can be incredibly pricey; in London back in 2015, one 10-ton fatberg cost the city $600,000. And last September, the city discovered another that’s approximately 140 tons, which could very well cost 10 times as much to remove." Readers will be pleased to know that the "smart toilet" is finally coming to America. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/03/the-bidets-revival/555770/

This one little trick will save you some do-re-mi: my kitchen sink used to back up due to this problem writ small at a bend in the line leading away from the house (about once a year back when I didn't know not to put bread and potato peelings down the disposal, infrequently now). The first time I called a plumber, who kindly advised me in future to use a product called the Drain King. It works like a charm. Just open up the undersink access to the sewer line, as far as possible stick the Drain King in connected to your garden hose, run it at full blast for about 30 seconds, et voilà - your fatberg is now a problem for the commons.

I was surprised my niece did not know the first thing about plumbing. She had a clog and called a plumber. I told her next time to call me, and I'd bring over a plunger and a snake. She did call me, and after a short inspection, I discovered the problem was a wad of her long hair just below the drain of her bathtub. Fixed it in just a few minutes.

I consider using a plunger and a snake to be basic things every adult should know, like changing a flat tire. I'm beginning to think changing your own oil is going by the wayside, but I'm going to hold the line at tires.

Oil change: indeed. I change the oil on my lawnmower, because I've had a 20-year relationship with it, and it's much too much trouble to move; but the car - it's so simple to drive it to the service station! ... and I love that we have a neighborhood service station.

Waste not, want not. Americans and their waste go their separate ways; hence, few Americans give much thought to their waste, from whence it came, where it goes. From time to time I read an article about what Americans flush down their toilets, confident that they are that what goes down the toilet simply vanishes.

Your problem is that your disposition toward the rest of the world is fundamentally supercilious, and that vitiates the value of everything you think and say.

"Your problem is that your disposition toward the rest of the world is fundamentally supercilious"

I am actually impressed by how perfectly hypocritical your posts often are. Whenever you insult someone (which is often) it's always an exact description of yourself. It's even more fun than your old-man-with-a-thesaurus style.

I am actually impressed

I'm actually impressed with how little effort I have to expend to occupy large quanta of rent-free space in your head.

Back atcha, Chief

Art is right as is often the case. I don't always agree with him, but his is knowledgeable and his bullshit detector works. Few ascribe their own worst qualities to total strangers with more vigor or less shame than msgkings, whereas Art Deco's observation here is reasonably based only on the supercilliousness that Rayward actually puts his name to. (I reserve the possibility that msgkings is an entirely decent person in real life. I wouldn't bet that way, but really I'd only be guessing.)

So triggered. Talk about rent-free head space.

The fruits of socialism... It wasn't long ago the US had people like this. Now garbage is processed by multi-billion dollar corporations and recyclers. And the taxpayers are forced to hand over their garbage for free, getting nothing in return while footing the bill for collection and making others rich.

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