Waste Management


Solid waste refers to all non-liquid wastes that include Solid as well as semi-solid wastes, but excluding Human and Animal excreta.

Solid waste can create very serious health problems and an unpleasant living environment if not disposed of in a proper and a safe manner, such waste may then also provide breeding sites for insect-vectors, pests, snakes and vermin that increase the risk of disease transmission. It may also pollute water sources and the environment.


Different categories of solid waste include:

  • Organic waste: Food waste, Market associated wastes etc.
  • Dead animals: Carcasses of animals (Cows, Buffaloes, Dogs etc.)
  • Combustibles: Paper, wood, dried leaves etc. (high organic and low moisture content) Non-combustibles: Metal, tin cans, bottles, etc.
  • Ashes: Residue from fires used for cooking.
  • Bulky waste: Tree branches, tyres, etc.
  • Hazardous waste: Battery acid, medical waste etc.
  • Construction waste: Roofing, broken concrete, etc.


Factors behind the generation of Solid Waste

Solid wastes are generated from Rural as well as Urban areas in India.

The main factors affecting these are:

  • Geographical Industrially and technologically developed regions like Delhi, Bengaluru generate more solid wastes when compared with less industrialized places like Shimla or Kashmir.
  • Socio-cultural practices such as dumping waste in rivers, performing rituals which generate a lot of solid wastes.
  • The packaging of food items use of packaged food items, that too more often, leads to generation of solid waste.
  • It is seen that the volume of waste generated is likely to be small and degradable where the population is of rural origin while the urban populations are more likely to generate larger volumes of non-degradable waste, especially where packaged food is consumed more.


The Present Scenario

The Extent

  • Most of the dumpsites of megacities have reached way beyond their capacity and permissible height limit of 20 meters. It is estimated that more than 10,000 hectares of urban land are locked in these dumpsites in India.
  • The per capita waste generation in Indian cities ranges from 200 grams to 600 grams per day.
  • Only about 75-80% of the municipal waste gets collected and only 22-28 % of this waste is processed and treated.

India generates the most waste globally, and by 2050, our waste generation will double:

  1. Drains and water bodies, emptying out into Indian rivers, also carry with them an unimaginable amount of waste.
  2. The Ganga is among the top 10 polluted rivers in the world, together accounting for 90% of the total ocean plastic pollution.
  3. India faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge of treating and getting rid of the legacy waste, with simultaneous and continuous accumulation of fresh everyday waste.
  4. Central, state, city and municipal governments, over decades, have not been able to prevent this situation, nor deal with its scale.
  5. For a country the size of India, there are about 92 large WTE plants. Of these, only a small fraction is operational, and the plants that are operational, run at suboptimal capacity.
  6. State governments have, so far, invested an estimated Rs 10,000 crore in such plants.
  7. The task now is to be clear on what needs to be done, on what has not been done, or done incorrectly, and to ensure correct execution of a national mission.


The impact

  • The proliferation of airless open dumps of garbage leads to emissions of methane, which absorbs the sun’s heat, warms the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
  • Leachate, which is a black liquid oozing out from the waste as it slowly decomposes over a period of 25 to 30 years, contaminates soil and groundwater.
  • Foul odour from the waste rotting in airless heaps, and smoke from the fires that routinely erupt in them, are other consequences of dumping waste in the open.
  • The earlier landfills are without bottom liners and sideliners, which allows the Leachate to seep into the ground causing groundwater and land pollution.
  • The dumpsites being open and easily accessible, have become a site for further dumping by the public aggravating the situation.


Some of the major issues concerning solid waste management are:

  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. Unwillingness of ULBsto introduce proper collection, segregation, transportation and treatment/disposal systems
  5. Indifference of citizens towards waste management due to lack of awareness
  6. Lack of community participation towards waste management and hygienic conditions
  7. Lack ofsewage management plan.


Associated Risks

  • Spread of Diseases: Decomposing solid waste attracts animals, mosquitoes, vermin and flies. They play a major role in the transmission of faecal-oral diseases and the transmission of diseases such as leptospirosis, typhoid, dengue, yellow fevers, microfilariae, gastro-enteritis, dysentery and other illnesses.


Water, Soil and Air Pollution

  • Poor management of the collection and disposal of solid waste may lead to Water Pollution (pollution of surface water/groundwater).
  • This may also result in deterioration of Soil (Soil Pollution).
  • Where large quantities of Solid dry waste are stored in hot climates this may create a fire hazard. Related hazards include Air pollution and fire threat to surrounding buildings and people.



  • Solid waste management can be divided into four key components: Generation Storage and Collection Transportation Disposal
  1. Generation
    • Generation of solid waste is the stage at which materials become of no use to the owner and they wish to get rid of them.
  2. Storage and Collection
    • Storage takes place after the materials have been discarded. Key here is to not discard items directly into family pits and poorly defined heaps close to dwelling areas, but an effective storage system must be at place, like the Government of India has directed municipal corporations to undertake Door to Door collection of Solid wastes under JawaharLal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
    • Whereas under Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, two different dustbins have been provided (Blue and Green Dustbins) which are used to segregate two different kinds of wastes, the green is meant for wet wastes while the blue one is for Solid dry waste.
  3. Transportation
    • This is the stage when solid waste is transported to the final disposal site. There are various modes and methods which may be adopted depending upon availability and the volume of waste to be transported.
    • In India, Solid wastes are generally transported first by small municipal vehicles to a dumping site, then big municipal vehicles carry them for final disposal, be it to landfills or to recycling plants.
  4. Disposal

The final stage of solid waste management is safe disposal where associated risks are minimised. There are six main methods for the disposal of solid waste:

    • Land application: Open dumps or landfilling, Open dumps and landfills are uncovered/covered areas that are used to dump solid waste of all kinds. The waste is not treated nor it is segregated and thus it is also a place where a lot of insects and other disease causing organisms breed.They are generally located in urban areas. For landfills, a pit is dug where garbage is dumped and the pit is covered with soil everyday thus preventing the breeding of flies and rats.Open dumps are more harmful than landfills as landfills after they are full can be used as a park/parking lot after covering it, but open dumps cannot be treated as such.
    • Composting: Composting is a biological process in which micro-organisms such as fungi or bacteria decompose in the presence of oxygen the degradable organic wastes.The finished product is very rich in carbon and nitrogen thus acting as a great medium for plant cultivation.
    • Burning or incineration: The process of burning solid wastes in a large furnace at a very high temperature whereby producing ash is called Incineration. It is only used as a last resort because it also produces a lot of toxic gases resulting in Air Pollution.
    • Pyrolysis: The process of burning solid wastes, but in the absence of oxygen in a large furnace at a very high temperature whereby producing charcoal, tar, methyl alcohol, acetic acid, acetone which can be used as fuels is called Pyrolysis.
    • Vermiculture:It is also known as Earthworm farming. In this method, Earthworms are added to the compost. These worms break the solid waste and along with the earthworms excreta, the compost becomes rich in nutrients.
    • Recycling: Solid wastes are also recycled, where the solid wastes are first taken to compost plants which are either set up by Government or by Private companies (under Corporate Social Responsibility), then they are either converted to fertilizers or they are recycled to produce various other items such as Plastics bottles, electronic instruments, building materials etc.




Legislation in India

  • Solid Waste Management Rules 2016:
    • These rules replace the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, are now applicable beyond municipal areas and have included urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships etc.
    • They focus on segregation of waste at source, responsibility on the manufacturer to dispose of sanitary and packaging wastes, user fees for collection, disposal and processing from the bulk generator.
    • It has also been advised that the bio-degradable waste should be processed, treated and disposed of through composting or bio-methanation within the premises as far as possible and the residual waste shall be given to the waste collectors or agency as directed by the local authority.
    • The rules promote the use of compost, conversion of waste into energy, revision of parameters for landfills location and capacity.
    • The government has also constituted a Central Monitoring Committee under the chairmanship of Secretary, MoEF&CC to monitor the overall implementation of the rules.
    • The Rules for the Safe Treatment of Legacy Waste prescribe bio-remediation and bio-mining in all open dumpsites and existing operational dumpsites in India.
  • Apart from this, Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution of India makes it a fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.


What are the current modes of challenges in waste disposal challenges associated with them?

  • Waste-to-energy (WtE) plants which rely on the incineration of mixed waste
    • WtE plants in India burn mixed waste. The presence of chlorinated hydrocarbons like PVC results in the release of dioxins and furans when the waste is burnt at less than 850 degree Celsius
    • Harmful emissions: Dioxins and furans are known to be carcinogenic and can lead to impairment of immune, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems.
    • Poor compliance: These WtE are not in compliance with guidelines given by the National Green Tribunal.
    • Environmentally unsustainable : Even when incineration takes place under optimal conditions, large amounts of flue gases, mercury vapour and lead compounds are released, and there is always about 30 per cent residue from incineration in the form of slag (bottom ash) and fly ash (particulate matter), which are also known to be serious pollutants of air and water.
    • Also, WtE plants in India are also inefficient in generating energy.Municipal waste in India has a very high biodegradable (wet) waste content ranging anywhere between 60 to 70 % of the total, compared with 30 % in the Western countries. This gives our waste high moisture content and low calorific value.
  •  Compactors
    • Compactors are expensive machines that squeeze and compress the volume of waste, this enables more waste to be carried per trip and, thus, reduces transportation costs.
    • The antithesis of segregation: The use of compactors on mixed waste makes it almost impossible to extract the recyclable dry waste such as plastics, metal, paper and cardboard from the mixture.
    • Polluting: The compression of wet waste in the mixture releases leachate (a black foul-smelling liquid) that is difficult to dispose of. Leachate percolates into the soil and contaminates groundwater. When it drains off into the sewer system, it overloads the sewage treatment plants.
    • Increases global warming: After the compacted waste is transported and dumped, the lack of aeration at the site results in the decomposing wet waste generating methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes global warming.
  • Waste transport contracts with private parties
    • A payment for waste transportation is made on a tonnage basis.
    • This provides an incentive to maximize the weight of waste.
    • These private players mix whatever the waste is given to them separately.
    • Also, the unmixed transportation and processing of wet and dry waste encourage citizens to keep their waste unmixed too.


 Cleaning up the mess: the need for a waste management policy

In India, less than 60% of waste is collected from households and only 15% of urban waste is processed.

Hyperconsumption is a curse of our modern times. Humans generate monumental amounts of waste, a sizeable portion of which is disposed in landfills and through waste-to-energy incinerators.

However, billions of tonnes of garbage, including microplastics, never make it to landfills or incinerators and end up in the oceans.

This garbage chokes marine life and disturbs zooplankton, which are vital to the elimination of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

To understand the existing scenario of waste management, impact of poor waste management solutions, policies that have been framed to address it and the major systemic changes that need to happen to ensure this important public issue does not turn into a national calamity.


Problems of unscientific MSW disposal:

Only about 75- 80% of the municipal waste gets collected and out of this only 22-28 % is processed and treated and remaining is disposed of indiscriminately at dump yards.

It is projected that by the year 2031 the MSW generation shall increase to 165 million tonnes and to 436 million tons by 2050.

If cities continue to dump the waste at present rate without treatment, it will need 1240 hectares of land per year and with projected generation of 165 million tons of waste by 2031, the requirement of setting up of land fil for 20 years of 10 meters height will require 66,000 hectares of land.

Scientific disposal of solid waste through segregation, collection and treatment and disposal in an environmentally sound manner minimises the adverse impact on the environment.

The local authorities are responsible for the development of infrastructure for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of MSW.

If municipal solid waste management is done through proper planning and management, it would lead to a business case of income generation and provide financial support to ULBs by generating revenue.


There are several problems in India in how waste is treated:

First, segregation of waste into organic, recyclable and hazardous categories is not enforced at source.

As a result, mixed waste lands up in the landfills, where waste-pickers, in hazardous conditions, try to salvage the recyclables, which are of poor quality and quantity by then.

Second, ideally, waste management should not be offered free of cost to residents.

Only if residents pay will they realise the importance of segregation and recycling.

Third, there is the issue of logistical contractors who are motivated to dump more garbage in landfills as their compensation is proportional to the tonnage of waste.

They are also prone to illegally dump waste at unauthorised sites to reduce transportation costs.

Fourth, and importantly, organic farming and composting are not economically attractive to the Indian farmer, as chemical pesticides are heavily subsidised, and the compost is not efficiently marketed.

There are solutions to the garbage pandemic through the crucial processes of material recycling and composting.

Efficient composting is possible through an optimal combination of microbes and temperature to produce a nutrient-dense soil conditioner.


Way Forward

  • There is a need for a comprehensive waste management policy that stresses the need for decentralised garbage disposal practices as this will incentivise private players to participate.
  • It is important that Biomining and Bioremediation are made compulsory for areas wherever they can be applied.
  • To overhaul the waste management sector and induce the necessary behavioural change, citizen participation and engagement is the key.
  • Waste segregation practice can be inculcated in the masses through an awareness-building programme accompanied by a fine if mixed waste is handed out.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs should either stop financing compactors or at least offer municipalities similar levels of support for more sustainable methods of waste management. For example, access to bio-composters in residential localities.
  • A much smarter alternative for municipalities under the Smart Cities Mission would be to promote decentralised composting of wet waste, tie-up with local “kabadiwalas” or NGOs for recyclable dry waste, and work on safe disposal of the rest.
  • The savings from eliminating costly secondary transport can easily fund the construction and operation of decentralised centres for the processing of wet and dry waste.


Solid Waste Management


1) What are various urban wastes? What are the different steps involved in solid waste management in municipal areas? Elaborate upon the major problems faced due to urban waste dumping sites. (250 words)


2) Discuss in detail the issues and challenges involved in India’s waste Management system also explain in what way India’s Smart Cities Mission is creating new opportunities for better management of wastes.(250 words)



3) Municipal Solid Waste Management poses the utmost challenge in Urban planning. Comment. (250 words)


4) Discuss the nature and causes of solid waste management problem in India cities. Recently, the union government formulated Solid Waste Management Rules. Comment on these rules. (200 Words)


5) India needs to shift towards a Solid waste management plan alongside the existing Swachh Bharat mission and look beyond toilets. Discuss.(250 words)




  • Unlike other forms of wastes like paper, food peels, leaves etc, which are biodegradable (capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms) in nature, plastic waste because of its non-biodegradable nature persists into the environment, for hundreds (or even thousands) of years.
  • Plastic pollution is caused by the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment. It can be categorized in primary plastics, such as cigarette butts and bottle caps, or secondary plastics, resulting from the degradation of the primary ones.
  • A recent study conducted by Un-Plastic Collective has revealed that India generates 46 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which 40% remains uncollected and 43% is used for packaging, most of which are of single-use plastic.
  • Plastic is a polymer that was considered as one of the biggest breakthroughs made by man. It gained with it many advantages –
    • Easy availability
    • Low cost
  • Minimal weight
    • Could be moulded into any shape
    • Didn’t break easily and didn’t degrade easily
  • But, the advantage of not breaking and degrading easily has become one of the biggest cause of concern today. There is no way to dispose it off. It may take thousands of years in degrading even if it is burnt. It is thus, very dangerous for the ecology.
  • In 1950, global plastic production = 1.5 million Tonnes
  • In 2016, global plastic production = 335 million Tonnes
  • Plastic flows into the sea in the form of:
    • Fragments as common microplastics
    • Plastic thread from synthetic fibres
  • Food items in the form of foam
    • Microbeads from soaps, cosmetics
    • Building and construction activities
    • Fishing and coastal tourism, etc.
  • Plastics are present in huge quantities in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Plastics in the form of polythene and polypropylene are present. Their consumption then kills the marine animals and human beings also acquire various diseases on their consumption of sea food.


Common sources of Plastic pollution:

Merchant ships expel cargo, sewage, used medical equipment, and other types of waste that contain plastic into the ocean.

The largest ocean-based source of plastic pollution is discarded fishing gear (including traps and nets).

Continental plastic litter such as Food Wrappers & Containers, Bottles and container caps, Plastic bags, Straws and stirrers etc. enters the ocean largely through storm-water runoff.


Types of Plastic Waste

  • Microplastics are small plastic pieces of less than five millimeters in size.
    • Microplastic includes microbeads (solid plastic particles of less than one millimeter in their largest dimension) that are used in cosmetics and personal care products, industrial scrubbers which are used for aggressive blast cleaning, microfibers used in textiles and virgin resin pellets used in plastic manufacturing processes.
    • Apart from cosmetics and personal care products most of the microplastics result from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic that were not recycled and break up due to exposure to the sun or physical wear.
  • Single-use plastic is a disposable material that can be used only once before it is either thrown away or recycled, like plastic bags, water bottles, soda bottles, straws, plastic plates, cups, most food packaging and coffee stirrers are sources of single use plastic.
    • India has announced its commitment to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 at Confederation of Indian Industry’s Sustainability Summit in New Delhi.


Extent of Plastic Waste

  • Plastic Waste as a Global Phenomenon:
    • Over 3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since 1950, and about 60% of that has ended up in landfills or in the natural environment.
    • Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled and about 12% has been incinerated, while the remaining 79% has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment.
    • Plastic waste, whether in a river, an ocean, or on land can persist in the environment for centuries, hence by 2050, the amount of plastic in seas and oceans across the world will weigh more than the fish.



  • Plastic Waste in India:
    • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generates close to 26,000 tonnes of plastic a day and over 10,000 tonnes a day of plastic waste remains uncollected.
    • According to a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) study the plastic processing industry is estimated to grow to 22 million tonnes (MT) a year by 2020 from 13.4 MT in 2015 and nearly half of this is single-use plastic.
    • India’s per capita plastic consumption of less than 11 kg, is nearly a tenth of the United States of America (109 kg).


Impact of Plastic Waste

  • Economic Losses: Plastic waste along shoreline has a negative impact on tourism revenue (creates an aesthetic issue).
    • For example, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are under the plastic threat and facing the aesthetic issue because of the international dumping of plastic waste at the island.
  • Implications for Animals: Plastic wastes have profoundly affected animals in aquatic, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems.
    • Plastic ingestion upsets or fills up the digestive systems of the animals thus contributing to their death due to intestinal blockage or starvation.
    • Marine animals can also be trapped in plastic waste where they are exposed to predators or starve to death.
    • The plastics may also contain toxic chemicals which can harm the animal’s vital organs or biological functions.
  • Implications for Human Health: The chemicals leached from the plastics contain compounds, like polybrominated diphenyl ether (anti-androgen), bisphenol A (mimics the natural female hormone estrogen) and phthalates (also known as anti-androgens), impact human health leading to various hormonal and genetic disorders.
    • These chemicals can interfere with the functioning of the endocrine system and thyroid hormones and can be very destructive to women of reproductive age and young children.
  • Land Pollution: Plastics leach hazardous chemicals on land, resulting in the destruction and decline in quality of the earth’s land surfaces in term of use, landscape and ability to support life forms.
  • Air Pollution: Plastic burning releases poisonous chemicals into the atmosphere impacting general well-being and causing respiratory disorders in living beings.
  • Groundwater Pollution: Whenever plastics are dumped in landfills, the hazardous chemicals present in them seep underground when it rains. The leaching chemicals and toxic elements infiltrate into the aquifers and water table, indirectly affecting groundwater quality.
  • Water Pollution: Many lakes and oceans have reported alarming cases of plastic debris floating on water surfaces, affecting a great number of aquatic creatures. It leads to dreadful consequences to marine creatures that swallow the toxic chemicals. In 2014, United Nation report estimated the annual impact of plastic pollution on oceans at US$ 13 billion.
  • Interference with the Food Chain: Studies determine that the chemicals affect the biological and reproduction process resulting in reduced numbers of offspring thus disrupting the food chain.
    • When the smaller animals (planktons, mollusks, worms, fishes, insects, and amphibians) are intoxicated by ingesting plastic, they are passed on to the larger animals disrupting the interrelated connections within the food chain.
  • Poor Drainage: Drainage system clogged with plastic bags, films, and other plastic items, causes flooding.
  • Impact on Habitats: Seafloor plastic waste sheets could act like a blanket, inhibiting gas exchange and leading to anoxia or hypoxia (low oxygen levels) in the aquatic system, which in turn can adversely affect the marine life.
  • Invasive Species: Plastic waste can also be a mode of transport for species, potentially increasing the range of certain marine organisms or introducing species into an environment where they were previously absent. This, in turn, can cause subsequent changes in the ecosystem of the region.



  • Mismanaged Plastic Waste (plastic dumped openly): In the form of microplastics/microbeads when plastic enters the environment via inland waterways, wastewater outflows, and transport by wind or tides cannot all be filtered out once it enters the ocean.
    • As plastics travel with ocean currents, an island of trash called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been created.
  • Spurious Biodegradable Plastic: In the absence of robust testing and certification to verify claims made by producers, spurious biodegradable and compostable plastics are entering the marketplace.


  • Online or E-Commerce Companies: Apart from the plastic we consume through traditional retail, the popularity of online retail and food delivery apps, though restricted to big cities, is contributing to the rise in plastic waste.
  • Microplastics: After entering into the aquatic environment, microplastics can travel vast distances floating in seawater, or sediment to the seabed. A recent study has revealed that microplastics in the atmosphere are trapped by the clouds and the falling snow.
    • Microplastic particles are commonly white or opaque in color, which are commonly mistaken by many surface-feeding fishes as food (plankton) and can even move up the food chain to human consumers (from eating contaminated fish/seafood/shellfish).
  • Marine Litter: Plastic pollution in freshwater and marine environments have been identified as a global problem and it is estimated that plastic pollution accounts for 60-80% of marine plastic waste.
  • Terrestrial Plastic: 80% of plastic pollution originates from land-based sources with the remainder from ocean-based sources (fishing nets, fishing ropes).
  • Improper Implementation and Monitoring: In spite of the notification of the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016 and amendments made in 2018, local bodies (even the biggest municipal corporations) have failed to implement and monitor segregation of waste.


Solution: Plastic Waste Management

  • Reduce: First step in reducing plastic waste is to minimize single use plastics by supporting a tax on plastic bags, restraint on manufacturing of plastics, and using alternatives of plastic or biodegradable plastic.
    • For example Project REPLAN (stands for REducing PLastic in Nature) launched by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) aims to reduce consumption of plastic bags by providing a more sustainable alternative.
  • Reuse: Reusing plastics can reduce the demand for new plastics, hence it can act as the natural restrain on plastic manufacturing.
  • Recycle: Plastic recycling is the process of recovering waste or scrap plastic and reprocessing it into useful products. It offers several benefits like:
    • Economic benefits due to value addition
    • Generates employment
    • Reduces depletion of fossil fuel reserves.
    • Reduces landfill problems
    • Recycling of plastics requires less energy

  • Recovery: It is the process of converting non-recyclable plastics into a range of useful forms of energy and chemicals for industry. Since plastics contain mainly carbon and hydrogen, with similar energy content to conventional fuels such as diesel, they can be used as a potential source of fuel.


Government and Global Interventions

  • On World Environment Day, 2018 the world leaders vowed to “Beat Plastic Pollution” & eliminate its use completely.
  • The Group of 20 (G20) environment ministers, agreed to adopt a new implementation framework for actions to tackle the issue of marine plastic waste on a global scale.

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 state that every local body has to be responsible for setting up infrastructure for segregation, collection, processing, and disposal of plastic waste.
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 introduced the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
  • A new national framework on plastic waste management is in the works, which will introduce third-party audits as part of the monitoring mechanism.


Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016:

The amended Rules lay down that the phasing out of Multilayered Plastic (MLP) is now applicable to MLP, which are “non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use.”

  • Prescribe a central registration system for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner.
  • Any mechanism for the registration should be automated and should take into account ease of doing business for producers, recyclers and manufacturers.
  • The centralised registration system will be evolved by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner.
  • A National registry has been prescribed for producers with presence in more than two states
  • A state-level registration has been prescribed for smaller producers/brand owners operating within one or two states


Rules to be followed to reduce Plastic usage:

India’s Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 called for a ban on plastic bags below 50 micron thickness and a phasing out, within two years, of the manufacture and sale of non-recyclable, multi-layered plastic (plastic that snacks come in).

More than 20 Indian States have announced a ban on plastic bags. Cities such as Bengaluru announced a complete ban (gazette notification), in 2016, on the manufacture, supply, sale and use of thermocol and plastic items irrespective of thickness.

These include carry bags, banners, buntings, flex, flags, plates, clips, spoons, cling films and plastic sheets used while dining. The exceptions are plastic for export, packaging material for use in forestry, milk packets and hospitals. There are stiff fines that cover manufacturing and disposal.

We also need strategies to deal with the plastic that has already been disposed of. The CPCB report says that As mentioned in the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, waste has to be segregated separately at source. This includes separation of dry (plastic, paper, metal, glass) and wet (kitchen and garden) waste at source.

The primary responsibility for collection of used plastic and multi-layered plastic sachets (branded chips, biscuit and snack packets) lies with their producers, importers and brand owners.

However, none of this has happened at any perceivable scale. Companies say that plastic waste is too complex or pretend to be completely unaware of these rules.


From pollution to solutions:

Admittedly, the complexity of dealing with plastic waste is because of its ubiquity and distributed market. Several companies produce the same type of packaging so it is impossible for a given company to collect and recycle only its own packaging.

Instead, these companies can collectively implement EPR(extended producer responsibility) is a strategy designed to promote the integration of environmental costs associated with goods throughout their life cycles into the market price of the products, by geographically dividing a region into zones and handle the waste generated in their designated zones.

This strategy was used in Switzerland to recycle thermocol used for insulation of buildings. This also reduces collection, transportation and recycling costs. Companies and governments should interact and research on how to implement such plans.


Private sector Participation in Recycling plastic:

In India, some companies have helped empower the informal recycling sector, giving waste pickers dignity and steady incomes. Another firm has worked with the informal sector and engineered the production of high quality recycled plastic. These companies, large corporates and governments could cooperate to implement innovative means to realise the value of plastic disposed of while simultaneously investing in phasing it out.

For example, a Canadian company monetises plastic waste in novel ways. It has one of the largest chains of waste plastic collection centres, where waste can be exchanged for anything (from cash to medical insurance to cooking fuel). Through this, multinational corporations have invested in recycling infrastructure and in providing a steady and increased rate for waste plastic to incentivise collection in poor countries.

Such collection centres, like the ones operated by informal aggregators in India, can be very low-cost investments (a storage facility with a weighing scale and a smart phone).


Plastic: A wealth from the waste:

India generates an estimated 16 lakh tonnes of plastic waste annually. If sold at the global average rate of 50 cents a kg, it can generate a revenue of ₹5,600 crore a year. Why then is most of this waste around us? In order to realise the potential for recycling, waste must first be segregated at source. This segregated waste should be then transported and treated separately. If plastic waste is mixed with organic and sanitary matter, its recyclability drastically reduces and its value lost.


India’s efforts to beat plastic pollution:

So far, 22 States and Union Territories have joined the fight to beat the plastic pollution, announcing a ban on single-use plastics such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products.

India has also won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve declared on World Environment Day last year, under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.

All such efforts have yielded positive results: Voluntary initiatives are having an impact in many States, as citizens reduce, reuse and sort their waste. A Bengaluru waste collective estimates that the volume of plastic waste that they collect dropped from about two tonnes a day to less than 100 kg.


Efforts at International level to curb Plastic waste?

  • Local policies and actions such as bans on micro beads and single-use plastic bags are spreading across the globe, but there are only a handful of international documents focused on plastic pollution.
  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, later modified as MARPOL, is an international agreement that addresses plastic pollution. MARPOL, which bans ships from dumping plastic at sea, was a great first step.
  • But even after MARPOL came into force, dumping of plastic waste into sea has not reduced. Steps to prevent plastic waste lack defined reduction targets, methods to monitor progress.
  • In 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States and UNEP created the Honolulu Strategy—a planning tool to reduce plastic pollution and its impacts.
  • In 2012, a voluntary commitment of a significant reduction of marine debris was introduced at Rio+20 with a deadline of 2025.
  • In February 2017, UNEP announced the Clean Seas campaign, asking for individuals, industries, and member states to voluntarily commit to an action of their choice to reduce plastic pollution.
  • United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, more than 193 nations passed a resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in our seas. However, it’s not a legally binding treaty.


Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

  • EPR is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant financial and physical responsibility (with respect to segregation and collection of waste at the source) for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
  • Assigning such responsibility could in principle provide incentives to prevent wastes at the source, promote product design for the environment and support the achievement of public recycling and materials management goals.


Way Forward

  • Raising awareness amongst the public of the harm caused by plastic pollution through education and outreach programs to modify behavior.
    • A movement against plastic waste would have to prioritise the reduction of single-use plastic such as multi-layer packaging, bread bags, food wrap, and protective packaging.
  • Promote Alternatives, before the ban or levy comes into force, the availability of alternatives need to be assessed, hence the government may:
    • Provide economic incentives to encourage the uptake of eco-friendly and fit-for-purpose alternatives that do not cause more harm.
    • Support can include tax rebates, research and development funds, technology incubation, public-private partnerships and support to projects that recycle single-use items and turn waste into a resource that can be used again.
    • Reduce or abolish taxes on the import of materials used to make alternatives.
  • Provide incentives to the alternative industry by introducing tax rebates or other conditions to support its transition from plastic industry.
  • Expanding the use of biodegradable plastics or even edible plastics made from various materials such as bagasse (the residue after extracting juice from sugarcane), corn starch, and grain flour.
  • Use of microbeads in personal care products and cosmetics must be prohibited.
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission should emerge as a platform for plastic waste management.
  • Target the most problematic single-use plastics by conducting a baseline assessment to identify the most problematic single-use plastics, as well as the current causes, extent and impacts of their mismanagement.
  • Consider the best actions to tackle the problem of plastic waste management (e.g. through regulatory, economic, awareness, voluntary actions) given the country’s socio-economic standing.
  • Assess the potential social, economic and environmental impacts (positive and negative) of the preferred short-listed plastic waste management measures/actions, by considering how will the poor be affected, or what impact will the preferred course of action have on different sectors and industries.
  • Identify and engage key stakeholder groups like retailers, consumers, industry representatives, local government, manufacturers, civil society, environmental groups, and tourism associations in order to ensure broad buy-in.
  • Explaining the decision and any punitive measures that will follow, as a result of non compliance of plastic management rule.
  • Use revenues collected from taxes or levies on single-use plastics to maximize the public good, thereby supporting environmental projects or boosting local recycling with the funds and creating jobs in the plastic recycling sector with seed funding.
  • Enforce the plastic waste management measure effectively, by making sure that there is clear allocation of roles and responsibilities.
  • Monitor and adjust the plastic waste management measure if necessary and update the public on progress.
Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2021

What are the 2021 rules?

Phasing out Single-use Plastics

Single-use plastics have been defined under the rules as “a plastic commodity intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled”.

  • The rules have proposed to ban the manufacture, use, sale, import and handling of some single-use plastic items on a ‘pan India basis.
  • The provisions will also apply to ‘multi-layered packaging’ – involved extensively in e-commerce and deliver services- but will exempt packaging used for imported goods.
  • They shall apply to every waste generator, local body, Gram Panchayat, manufacturer, Importers and producer as well as ‘brand-owner and “plastic waste processor (recycler, co-processor, etc.)
  • Thermoset plastic and Thermoplastic will also fall within the ambit of these rules.
  • These provisions will, however, not apply to commodities (including carrying bags) made of compostable plastic material, according to the rules.

The draft is proposed to be implemented in three stages starting this year and culminating in mid-2022.

Stage I

The first set of rules propose that each sheet of non-woven plastic carry bag shall not be less than 60 (GSM per square metre) or 240 microns in thickness. A carry bag made of virgin or recycled plastic shall not be less than 120 microns, with effect from the same date.

Stage II

The second stage will come into effect when six categories of single-use plastic — earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration — will be banned for sale, use, manufacture, stocking, import and distribution.

Stage III

In the third stage, the list of banned items will grow to include single-use plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping/packing films around sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packets, plastic/PVC banners less than 100 micron and stirrers.

Local bodies and state pollution control boards will ensure the implementation and enforcement of these rules.

What else is covered?

One, the amendment has extended the applicability of the rules to brand-owner, plastic waste processor, including the recycler, co-processor, etc.  It will also include new definitions of:

  • Non-woven plastic bag
  • Plastic waste processing
  • Single-use plastic (SUP) item
  • Thermoset plastic
  • Thermoplastic

Why such a move?

  • As much as 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic waste was generated in India in 2018-19, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report 2018-19.
  • The total municipal solid waste generation is 55-65 million tonnes; plastic waste is approximately 5-6 percent of the total solid waste generated in the country.
  • Goa has the highest per capita plastic waste generation at 60 grams per capita per day, which is nearly double what Delhi generates (37 grams per capita per day).
  • Clearly, we do not know the amount of plastic we generate as a country, as the increase in wealth and affluence contributes to a higher generation of plastic waste.
  • Despite the Plastic Waste Management legislation of 2011, followed by numerous changes in the recent past, most parts of the country lack systematic efforts required to mitigate the risks associated with plastic waste.

Way ahead

Managing plastic waste requires effective knowledge, not only among those who produce plastic but also among those who handle it.

  • Brand owners, consumers, recyclers and regulatory authorities need to take long strides in ensuring that we first inventorize the total amount of plastic waste that we generate by means of proper calculations.
  • The second step would be to identify the avenues where the use of plastic can be minimised.
  • Third, the brand owner and manufacturer should try and understand the fates a plastic packaging material would meet after its purpose of packaging has been served.
  • Last, as consumers, we should ensure that all plastic waste leaving our homes is segregated and is not contaminated with food waste.



1)What is Single Use Plastic?Discuss the challenges posed by them and explain in what way one can deal with the plastic menace steadily and replace it? Also suggest way forward.(250 words)

2) India has reached a long way in reducing plastic waste but a lot more needs to be done yet. Elucidate.(250 words)

3) Where does India stand on plastic waste management today? Discuss the solutions and alternatives to the plastic menace of India.(250 words)


4)India intends to move away entirely from single-use plastics by 2022,yet the fact is India hasn’t had much success with plastic waste regulation despite ambitious policy moves. Discuss in detail the underlying causes of such a situation and suggest solutions.( 250 words)

5)There is a need for a multipronged approach to reduce and ultimately phase out the consumption of plastics. Critically comment, in the light of the failure of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, to address the issue.(250 words)



  • E-Waste is short for Electronic-Waste and the term is used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances. It includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.
  • It is categorised into 21 types under two broad categories:
    • Information technology and communication equipment.
    • Consumer electrical and electronics.
  • Laws to manage e-waste have been in place in India since 2011, mandating that only authorised dismantlers and recyclers collect e-waste. E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 was enacted in 2017.
  • India’s first e-waste clinic for segregating, processing and disposal of waste from household and commercial units has been be set-up in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.

Key Points

  • E-waste Generation in India:
    • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generated more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20, an increase from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017-18. Against this, the e-waste dismantling capacity has not been increased from 82 lakh tonnes since 2017-18.
    • In 2018, the Ministry of Environment had told the tribunal that 95% of e-waste in India is recycled by the informal sector and scrap dealers unscientifically dispose of it by burning or dissolving it in acids.
  • NGT’s Directions:
    • Further steps should be taken for scientific enforcement of E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 (EWMR) in the light of the reports of the CPCB. It noted gaps in collection targets, as the amount of e-waste collected in 2018-19 was 78,000 tonnes against a target of 1.54 lakh tonnes. There are clear governance deficits on the subject.
    • The CPCB may consider steps for compliance of Rule 16 requiring reduction in the use of Hazardous substances in the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment and their components or consumables or parts or spares.
    • It took note that a large number of accidents take place in residential areas on account of unscientific handling of e-waste. This needs special attention for constant vigilance in such hotspots. This also requires review and updation of siting norms for e-waste by the CPCB which may be done within three months.
    • All the state pollution control boards need to identify the hotspots by constant vigil and to coordinate with the District Administration at local levels to prevent damage to the environment and public health and meaningful enforcement of rule of law.


E-Waste Management Rules, 2016

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 in supersession of the E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011.
  • Over 21 products (Schedule-I) were included under the purview of the rule. It included Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and other mercury containing lamps, as well as other such equipment.
  • For the first time, the rules brought the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets. Producers have been made responsible for the collection of E-waste and for its exchange.
  • Various producers can have a separate Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) and ensure collection of E-waste, as well as its disposal in an environmentally sound manner.
  • Deposit Refund Scheme has been introduced as an additional economic instrument wherein the producer charges an additional amount as a deposit at the time of sale of the electrical and electronic equipment and returns it to the consumer along with interest when the end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment is returned.
  • The role of State Governments has been also introduced to ensure safety, health and skill development of the workers involved in dismantling and recycling operations.
  • A provision of penalty for violation of rules has also been introduced.
  • Urban Local Bodies (Municipal Committee/Council/Corporation) have been assigned the duty to collect and channelize the orphan products to authorized dismantlers or recyclers.
  • Allocation of proper space to existing and upcoming industrial units for e-waste dismantling and recycling.

Data Analysis of 2019:

  • There was 6 million tonnes (MT) e-waste in 2019, which is a nearly 21% increase in just five years.
  • Asia generated the greatest volume (around 24.9 MT) followed by the Americas (13.1 MT) and Europe (12 MT). Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 MT and 0.7 MT respectively.
  • Most E-waste consisted of small and large equipment like screens and monitors, lamps, telecommunication equipment etc and temperature exchange equipment.
  • Less than 18% of the e-waste generated in 2019 was collected and recycled. E-waste consisting of gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials worth at least USD 57 billion was mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.
  • The number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78 and includes India. It is far from the target set by the International Telecommunication Union to raise the percentage of countries with e-waste legislation to 50%.


  • Toxicity: E-waste consists of toxic elements such as Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Chromium, Polybrominated biphenyls and Polybrominated diphenyl.
  • Effects on Humans: Some of the major health effects include serious illnesses such as lung cancer, respiratory problems, bronchitis, brain damages, etc due to inhalation of toxic fumes, exposure to heavy metals and alike.
  • Effects on Environment: E-waste is an environmental hazard causing groundwater pollution, acidification of soil and contamination of groundwater and air pollution due to the burning of plastic and other remnants.

E-waste in India

  • Structured management of e-waste in India is mandated under the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016.
  • Some of the salient features of the rules include e-waste classification, extended producer responsibility (EPR), collection targets and restrictions on import of e-waste containing hazardous materials.
  • There are 312 authorised recyclers of e-waste in India, with the capacity for treating approximately 800 kilo tons annually. However, formal recycling capacity remains underutilised because over 90% of the e-waste is still handled by the informal sector.
  • Almost over a million people in India are involved in manual recycling operations. Workers are not registered so it is hard to track the issues of employment such as workers’ rights, remunerations, safety measures,
  • Labourers are from the vulnerable sections of the society and lack any form of bargaining power and are not aware of their rights. This has a serious impact on the environment since none of the procedures is followed by workers or local dealers.

E-waste Management

Way Forward

  • It is needed to come up with a strategy to engage with informal sector workers because doing so will not only go a long way in better e-waste management practices but also aid in environmental protection, improve the health and working conditions of labourers and provide better work opportunities to over a million people.
  • This will make management environmentally sustainable and easy to monitor.
  • The need of the hour is to generate employment, which can be done through identifying and promoting cooperatives and expanding the scope of the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 to these cooperatives or the informal sector workers.
  • Effective implementation of regulations is the way ahead to managing the e-waste that is yet to be regulated in at least 115 countries.










  • Definition: Biomedical waste is defined as human and animal anatomical waste, treatment apparatus like needles, syringes and other materials used in health care facilities in the process of treatment and research.
    • Covid-19 related Biomedical waste includes: personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, face masks, head cover, plastic coverall, hazmat suit, syringes among other gears and medical equipment used by both healthcare providers and patients.
  • Hazardous Waste: Biomedical waste is a biologically and chemically hazardous waste containing biological and microbiological contamination.
    • It has the potential of spreading various types of diseases.
    • The covid related biomedical waste contains various medicines that are toxic in nature.


Key Points

  • Central Level: The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to ensure strict compliance of biomedical waste management rules and scientific disposal of the waste.
  • State Level: The Chief Secretaries of all the States/UTs to oversee compliance and ensure that authorisation is secured by every health care facility in their respective jurisdiction and also there is adherence to the norms.
  • District Level: The District Magistrates in accordance with the District Environmental Plans.
  • Groundwater Contamination: While permitting deep burials, it may be ensured that groundwater contamination does not take place.
  • Segregation: Ensure that hazardous bio-medical waste is not mixed with the general waste.
  • Frequent Violation of Rules: The direction came as a result of regular fines being imposed on various healthcare facilities and biomedical waste treatment facilities
  • Earlier Observation: The segregation of Covid-­19 biomedical waste from general garbage is a must to avoid further contamination adversely affecting public health.


Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016

  • Definition: Biomedical waste is defined as human and animal anatomical waste, treatment apparatus like needles, syringes and other materials used in health care facilities in the process of treatment and research.
    • Objective: The objective of the rules is to properly manage the per day bio-medical waste from Healthcare Facilities (HCFs) across the country.
  • Ambit: The ambit of the rules has been expanded to include vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps or any other healthcare activity.
  • Phase Out: Chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags has been phased out within two years starting from March 2016.
  • Pre-treatment: Pre-treatment of the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection or sterilisation on-site in the manner prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
  • Categorisation: Bio-medical waste has been classified into 4 categories instead of the earlier 10 categories to improve the segregation of waste at source.
  • Stringent Standards for Pollutants: The rules prescribe more stringent standards for incinerators to reduce the emission of pollutants in the environment.
  • Role of State Government: The State Government provides the land for setting up common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facility.es



    • Pandemic: The pandemic has presented a challenge in terms of capacity to scientifically dispose of generated waste and a challenge for civic authorities in charge of its collection and disposal.
    • Poor Compliance: States are not following the CPCB guidelines on Covid-19 related waste. In some states, improper segregation of waste has been reported from Covid-19 facilities and quarantine homes.
    • Non Segregation: The non-­segregation of waste results in the incineration of contaminated plastics producing toxic gases and adding to air pollution.
    • Increase in Waste: The rise in residential biomedical waste and its collection without adhering to safety protocols could also trigger a surge in caseload.
    • Health of Workers Associated: Without proper scientific management of such waste, it can potentially affect patients and can affect the concerned workers and professionals. Discarded masks and gloves risk the lives of thousands of sanitation workers who work often without any protection or training to handle such hazardous material.


  • Proper Segregation: Left-over food, disposable plates, glasses, used masks, tissues, toiletries, etc used by Covid-19 patients should be put in yellow-coloured bags, while used gloves should be put in red bags and sent for sterilisation and recycling at the CBWTFs. Where waste is not going to incinerators, deep burial systems should be properly maintained as per protocols taking all due precautions to prevent harm to the environment. A deep burial system involves burying biomedical waste in 2-meter-deep ditches and covering them with a layer of lime and soil.
  • Awareness Campaign: Initiatives like conducting an appropriate programme on Doordarshan, All India Radio and other media platforms to create mass awareness about the correct disposal of biomedical waste.
  • Creating Infrastructure: The government should set up recycling plants across the country (as envisaged under the Smart cities project) under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Model.
  • Coherency in Rules: The Centre should form a national protocol combining the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 with the guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for producers of plastic.
  • Innovation: Incentivise start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) offering solutions for waste segregation and treatment.
  • Monitoring: There should be constant and regular monitoring by the central and state PCBs, Health Departments in the states/UTs and by the high-level task team at Central level with further coordination by CPCB.
Basel Convention
  • Adopted on March 22, 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland, the “Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal”, generally known as the Basel Convention, came into force in 1992.
    • It is an international treaty that aims to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between countries.
  • It particularly focuses on preventing transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.
    • It provides for cooperation between the parties, including exchange of information on issues relevant to the implementation of the Convention.
  • India is a member of the Basel Convention.
    • It ratified the convention in June 1992 and brought it into force on 22nd September 1992.
    • However, India has not ratified the Basel ban amendment.
    • Adopted by the parties in the Basel Convention in 1995, the amendment prohibits all export of hazardous wastes, including electronic wastes and obsolete ships from 29 wealthiest countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to non-OECD countries.
Challenges in Biomedical Waste Management
  • Major Waste Generated at Home: The Covid related biomedical waste is generated not just in the hospitals but also at homes. Only 20% of the patients had to go to hospital.
    • 80% of Covid patients are recuperating/have recuperated at home. They are generating the biomedical waste at the places where it can not be treated properly. There is no proper facility for the management of the biomedical waste generated at home; it is being dumped in the ordinary municipal waste.
  • Issues with Local Hospitals: Although India has the facility of managing this high amount of waste but because a large amount of this waste is being generated at homes and at provincial and local level hospitals, the waste is getting mismanaged.
    • These local hospitals are not as updated in facilities and infrastructure and hence, don’t have proper biomedical waste management facilities.
  • Municipal Workers at Risk: As such a large amount of covid waste is being generated at home, it makes the municipal workers the frontline workers too.
    • Data shows that these workers too have been impacted extensively amid the pandemic, a lot of them have died too.
    • There is a common perception that the virus must have been transmitted by respiratory droplets, aerosols or by touching an infected surface. However, there is less attention given to the poor management of the biomedical waste, a large number of people, specially the municipality workers getting infected due to coming in contact with the waste disposed of in the open.
  • Lack of Awareness: People are also not aware of how to segregate the waste at source and this is a bigger concern.
  • Issue with the Waste Management Rules: The legal provisions for the same are designed to tackle biomedical waste at hospitals only.
    • They do not provide any information about how to manage such waste at home or any place other than hospitals.
  • Unequal Distribution of CBWTF: India has about 200 Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facilities (CBWTF) across the country but they are located only in a few cities/districts like Mumbai or in Delhi.
    • However, in far off corners of the country, there is no such treatment facility at all.
    • Maharashtra had the highest number of such facilities (29) followed by Karnataka (26) and Gujarat (20). Kerala, which had witnessed the highest rate of daily generation, had only one CBWTF.
  • Lack of Accurate Data: The CPCB, during the first wave of the pandemic, was very quick in providing clear guidelines and a mobile app for collecting data on biomedical waste generation.
    • But with the occurrence of the second wave, the impact is so bad that the hospitals are not even able to upload any data now.
    • Also, considering the fact that the second wave has hit India in a worse way, the covid related biomedical waste generated should have been a lot more than 250 tons (probably around 500 tons) as in the first wave the daily biomedical waste generation was 200 tons.


NGT raises concern over COVID-19 bio-medical waste disposal

 What’s the concern now?

There are concerns regarding unscientific disposal of bio-medical waste by unauthorised healthcare facilities.

Only 1.1 lakh out of 2.7 lakh healthcare facilities are authorised under the Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 so far.

 What has the tribunal said?

  1. There are gaps in compliance of the Bio Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 which are applicable to the disposal of the bio-medical waste generated out of handling a viral disease.
  2. The State PCBS/PCCS have to make serious efforts to bridge the gap to mitigate possible risk in terms of unscientific disposal of bio-medical waste and enforce rule of law.
  3. There is need for revision of the guidelines for ‘Handling, Treatment and Disposal of Waste Generated during Treatment, Diagnosis, Quarantine of COVID-19 Patients’ issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recently.

Need of the hour:

  1. All aspects of scientific disposal of liquid and solid waste management should be taken care of not only at institution level but also at individual levels, such as manner of disposal of used Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), used bags, gloves, goggles, without the same getting mixed with other municipal solid waste causing contamination.
  2. The effectiveness of the monitoring mechanism, including securing information should be reviewed by way of electronic manifest system from the handlers of such waste and its online reporting by the State PCBS or PCCS by developing necessary software.
  3. There is the need to create awareness by special awareness programmes, organising training in concerned local bodies, health departments, providing workers handling COVID-19 waste with adequate protective gear, adequate coordination with media and other concerned regulatory authorities.

Salient features of BMW Management Rules, 2016:

  1. The ambit of the rules has been expanded to include vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps or any other healthcare activity.
  2. It calls for Phase-out the use of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags within two years.
  3. It calls for Pre-treatment of the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection or sterilisation on-site.
  4. It seeks to Provide training to all its health care workers and immunise all health workers regularly.
  5. It seeks to Establish a Bar-Code System for bags or containers containing bio-medical waste for disposal.
  6. As per the rules, Bio-medical waste has been classified in to 4 categories instead 10 to improve the segregation of waste at source.
  7. As per the rules, State Government shall provide land for setting up common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facility.


Way Forward

  • Judiciously Managing the Waste: The potential of biomedical waste of spreading a disease through the environment, largely by polluting water, is extremely high.
    • The biomedical waste generated should be collected and treated properly and must not be allowed to reach the water bodies as then it will be a problem too big to handle.
    • The biomedical waste generated should either be incinerated or gasified.
    • Along with managing the biomedical waste generated, nature should also be taken care of. The waste must be managed so judiciously so that it does not contribute to climate change or trigger any other harm.
  • Role of State Agencies: The state agencies responsible for providing the data to higher authorities have to play a crucial part in ensuring that data is not missed and no wrong data is forwarded to the CPCB.
  • Awareness Among People: The waste segregation and management is done by the state agencies by colour coding like the red coloured container means that the biomedical waste is highly hazardous.
    • So the people must also be aware about these color codings as they represent the hazard level of each biomedical waste.
    • If people will have knowledge about such basic things then they will be more cautious about keeping themselves away from such hazardous waste.
    • People must also understand that even if they are not infected, they should not put their masks and gloves in the same municipal bins that they have; waste segregation is a must.
    • People have to follow the SOPs generated by not just the WHO but other various health agencies to control the infection.
  • SOPs for Waste Management at Home: The CPCB shall come out with SOPs for managing biomedical waste at home for rural as well as urban communities.
    • While burning biomedical waste is not an option in urban areas as the pollution levels are already high, burning biomedical waste in pits can be a possible way of managing waste in the village areas.