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Insights into Issues: Waste Management



Insights into Issues: Waste Management


The Government of India had notified the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules in 2000, thereby making it mandatory for all urban local bodies in the country to engage in collection, segregation, secondary storage in covered bins, transportation in covered vehicles, processing through composting or waste-to-energy technologies and disposal of rejects in engineered/sanitary landfills.  

  • Door to door collection coverage is scanty at best, and segregation at household level is a rarity. 
  • Collection even from community bins is not regular. Collection efficiency is low. 
  • Processing is limited to very small portion of the waste. 
  • Dumping is done in land-fills without any regard for environment and without following scientific methods of disposal. Such inadequate disposal practice lead to problems that will impair human and animal health and result in economic, environmental and biological losses.  
  • Improper waste management causes public health and environmental hazards like climate change, air and water pollution, soil contamination, spreads odours and disease, and breeds vermin including flies, mosquitoes, rats, dogs and monkeys. 

 waste management india

Even after 12 years, most cities have confined themselves to collection and transportation of solid waste. Processing and safe disposal are being attempted only in a few cases. 


The CPCB report also reveals that only 68% of the MSW generated in the country is collected of which, 28% is treated by the municipal authorities. Thus, merely 19% of the total waste generated is currently treated. . 



Some of the major issues concerning solid waste management are: 

  1. 1. Absence of segregationof waste at source
  2. Lack of fundsfor waste management at ULBs 
  3. Lack of technical expertise and appropriate institutional arrangement 
  4. 4. Unwillingness of ULBsto introduce proper collection, segregation, transportation and treatment/

disposal systems 

  1. Indifference of citizens towards waste management due to lack of awareness 
  2. Lack of community participation towards waste management and hygienic conditions 
  3. Lack ofsewage management plan. 


The Kasturirangan report by PC highlights the need for an integrated approach: 

  • reduction and segregation of waste at source and also efficient utilization of various components of the waste. 
  • principle of Reduce, Reuse, Recover , Recycle and Remanufacture (5Rs) should be adopted 
  • motivate Resident Welfare Associations (RWA), CBO / NGO’s to take up work of community awareness and door to door collection
  • Integration of kabadiwalas and rag pickers into MSWM system 
  • It emphasizes setting up centralised (for incineration, gasification, pyrolysis) or decentralised (for biomethanation, vermicomposting) waste processing facilities keeping in view the quantity and quality of waste generated and financial viability of the processing technology.  
  • set up Common Regional Sanitary Landfill Facility, to reduce the land requirement. Cities above a population of one million should set-up their own landfill and permit all cities and towns within 50km periphery of the city to use the facility for disposal of their waste.
  • Recently, Deonar and Bhalswa landfill fire. 



  • For instance,Copenhagen recycles most of the waste it generates and lets only 3 per cent go to the landfill. 
  • Japan:In Japan, Incineration has been the primary disposal route for waste due to lack of space for landfills – 74% of all waste produced in Japan is incinerated with just 2% sent to landfill.  
  • Extending the idea of recycling, Kitgum town in Uganda traps used water from houses and utilises it to grow food in greywater gardens.  


Construction waste: 

  • Disappearance of urban water bodies and wetlands in urban areas can be attributed to illegal dumping of C&D waste.  
  • In most cases, real estate developers deliberately do this to reclaim eco-sensitive areas for real estate. 
    • InMumbai, builders dump C&D waste in the coastal mangroves and creeks.  
    • In Delhi, the Yamuna floodplain is the favourite dumping ground.  
  • Over the last five years, India’s first and only recycling plant for construction and demolition (C&D) waste has saved the already-polluted Yamuna and the overflowing landfills of Delhi from 15.4 lakh tonnes of debris. The waste is crushed, washed and used to make ready-mix concrete, kerb stones, cement bricks, pavement blocks, hollow bricks and manufactured sand
  • Several countries have found ways to manage the C&D waste: they recycle the waste and reuse it in construction. Singapore recycles 98 per cent of it  



  • The composition of e-waste is diverse and falls under ‘hazardous’ and ‘non-hazardous’ categories.  
  • There are10 States that contribute to 70% of the total e-waste generated in the country, while 65 cities generate more than 60 per cent of the total e-waste in India. 


Why is it becoming a huge problem?? 

  • According to aUN report, India’s e-waste from old computers alone will jump 500 per cent by 2020, compared to 2007. This warrants attention. 
  • Short life span of electronic products  
  • Further, the availability of choices, affordability of products, changing pace of life, rapid urbanization, and increased purchasing capacity of the middle class have all contributed to the growth of the electrical and consumer durable industry 
  • The growing pressure on the developing countries to import waste through bilateral or free trade agreements is a cause of serious concern as it encourages the business of recycling wastes.  
  • We lack the infrastructure to process the waste.It largely takes place in informal sector.  



  • Environmental: toxic metals- lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, chromium, PCBs, CFC etc can cause soil, water pollution, air pollution in the form of fumes due to burning (dioxins and furans) 
  • Health Concerns: for general populace as well as for those who handle it. 
  • E-waste often ends up in landfills in India! 


Potential asset: 

Consists of recoverable aluminium, copper, platinum, gold, silver, palladium.  


e-waste rules:  

  • Notified by MoEF in 2011 for proper management and handling
  • The concept ofExtended Producers Responsibility (EPR) has been enshrined in these rules.  
  • E-waste recycling can be undertaken only in facilities authorized and registered with State Pollution Control Boards/Pollution Control Committee (PCCs).  
  • Wastes generated are required to besold to a registered or authorized recycler or re-processor having environmentally sound facilities.  


Criticism of E-waste rules: 

  • No take-back targets for manufacturers and hence no clear responsibility. 
  • No guidelines on how to set up an e-waste collection system 
  • Scrap dealers pay better price for used electronic goods 
  • The law currently does not provide for any plan to rehabilitate those involved in informal recycling. 
  • Then there is no system for certifying or declaring the end-of-life of a product, nor any legal format for issuing destruction certificate for an electronic item.  
  • It ignores the unorganized and small and medium sectors where 90 per cent of the e-waste is generated.  
  • The draft Rules also do not recognize the magnitude of trans-boundary movement of e-waste  
  • In the new draft rules, landfill remains a form of disposal The rules define ‘Disposal’ as any operation that includes physio-chemical or biological treatment, incineration and deposition in secured landfill. 
  • The state pollution control boards (SPCBs), which are at the forefront of implementing the e-waste rules, are weak entities with limited financial and human resources.  
  • There is no thrust on building consumer awareness.  
  • Lastly, so far the ministry has no data on how much e-waste the country generates 
  • There is low consumer awareness 


New advisory for safe disposal of e-wastes in Delhi:  

  • Bulk consumers will have to ensure safe disposal.  
  • Will have to file annual return  
  • Delhi govt has installed e-waste bins for its collection.  


Bio-medical waste:  

Bio-Medical Waste (Management &Handling) Rules, 1998 notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.  

  • Require to segregate according to color code 
  • Required to treat and dispose


MSW Management:  

There are many categories of MSW such as food waste, rubbish, commercial waste, institutional waste, street sweeping waste, industrial waste, construction and demolition waste, and sanitation waste.  


What is being done/ can be done to address it?  

After collection of municipal waste from households, there are three ways of disposal—composting units, bio-methanation to produce bio-gas, and recovering heat energy in the form dry fuels from combustible fractions. 


Composting–Can be put into cycle of sustainable nutrient reuse by turning waste into valuable organic input. Composed organic/ biodegradable waste can help improve soil vitality, root growth and soil moisture retention. For composting units, segregation of waste to collect only organic waste is the most laborious task. 

  • Aerobic composting:The bacterial conversion of the organics present in MSW in the presence of air under hot and moist conditions is called composting, and the final product obtained after bacterial activity is called compost (humus), which has very high agricultural value. It is used as fertilizer, and it is non-odorous and free of pathogens.  

As a result of the composting process, the waste volume can be reduced to 50–85%. The composting methods may use either manual or mechanical means.  


  • Vermi-composting: Vermi-composting involves stabilization of organic waste through the joint action of earthworms and aerobic microorganisms. Initially, microbial decomposition of biodegradable organic matter occurs through extra cellular enzymatic activity (primary decomposition). Earthworms feed on partially decomposed matter, consuming five times their body weight of organic matter per day. The ingested food is further decomposed in the gut of the worms, resulting in particle size reduction. The worm cast is a fine, odorless and granular product. This product can serve as a biofertilizer in agriculture. 


  • Anaerobic digestion-If the organic waste is buried in pits under partially anaerobic conditions, it will be acted upon by anaerobic microorganisms with the release of methane and carbon dioxide; the organic residue left is good manure. This process is slower than aerobic composting and occurs in fact naturally in landfills. However, thermophilic digestion for biomethanation is much faster and has been commercialized. Anaerobic digestion leads to energy recovery through biogas generation. The biogas, which has 55–60% methane, can be used directly as a fuel or for power generation. There is potential for utilizing industrial, agricultural and municipal wastes. 


Waste To energy (incineration, pelletisation, biomethanation)- in 2013-14 Budget, the FM proposed to support municipalities for waste-to-energy projects in PPP mode through instruments such as VGF, repayable grant, low-cost capital.  


It is not that attractive in India due to high moisture and organic content, and low calorific value of the wastes. The Lucknow biomethanation plant in 1990 failed because it was designed to handle only wet segregated waste but had to cope with mixed waste.  

Appropriate incentives and regulatory framework needs to be provided.  


Incineration is the process of control and complete combustion, for burning solid wastes. It leads to energy recovery and destruction of toxic wastes, for example, waste from hospitals. The temperature in the incinerators varies between 980 and 2000 C. One of the most attractive features of the incineration process is that it can be used to reduce the original volume of combustible solid waste by 80–90%. 

  • Incineration of solid wasteunder oxygen deficient conditions is called gasification. The objective of gasification has generally been to produce fuel gas, which would be stored and used when required. In India, there are few gasifiers in operation, but they are mostly for burning of biomass such as agro-residues, sawmill dust, and forest wastes. 

Gasification is an incomplete combustion of organic matter that replaces a large part of the carbon dioxide we get from combustion with carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Gasification also eliminates the threat from dioxins. 


  • Methanogenesisor bio-methanation is the formation of methane by microbes known as methanogens. 


  • The main purpose of the refuse derived fuel (RDF) method is to produce an improved solid fuel or pellets from MSW. 


  • Recycling of items such as plastic, paper, glass, rubber, ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Rag pickers play a key role however the process of manual recycling cannot be scaled-up and at the same time handling waste directly poses health and environmental risks. Further, all the work is done in informal sector.  



Plastic bags have been banned in a number of big cities.  

Sensitization – of citizens as well as government authorities, community participation, involvement of NGOs. Littering should be prohibited.  

Segregation and community participation are the key factors.   


Conclusion- The need of the hour is scientific, sustainable and environment friendly management of wastes.