Solid Waste Management

Why in news?

Supreme Court imposed fines on some States and the Union Territory for not placing on record their respective policies under the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

Basic Concepts:

  1. Waste: It is defined as any material that is not useful and does not represent any economic value to its owner, the owner being the waste generator.
  2. Classification of waste: Depending on the physical state of waste, wastes are categorized into solid, liquid and gaseous. Solid Wastes are categorized into municipal wastes, hazardous wastes, medical wastes and radioactive wastes
  3. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW): It is defined as any waste generated by household, commercial and/or institutional activities and is not hazardous.


  1. India generates over 150,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day
  2. According to MoEF&CC, 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country by the 377 million people living in urban India, the world’s third-largest garbage generator at present, out of which 5.6 million tonnes is plastic waste, 0.17 million tonnes is biomedical waste, hazardous waste generation is 7.90 million tonnes per annum and 15 lakh tonnes is e-waste.
  3. According to the World Bank, India’s daily waste generation will reach 377,000 tonnes by 2025
  4. Only 83% of waste is collected and less than 30% is treated

Impact of Waste Dumping

Environmental impact

  • Release of methane from decomposition of biodegradable waste under anaerobic conditions which can cause fires and explosions. It is also a major contributor to global warming.
  • Problem of odour especially during summers
  • Migration of leachates to receiving water

Health Impact:

  • Uncontrolled burning of waste releases fine particles which are a major cause of respiratory disease and cause smog.
  • Dumping sites provide breeding sites for mosquitoes thus increasing the risk of diseases such as malaria, dengue

Solid Waste Management:

Solid Waste Management: It is a term that is used to refer to the process of collecting and treating solid wastes. It also includes solutions for recycling items that do not belong to garbage or trash.

Solid Waste Management System in India

Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

Key features:

  • The Rules are applicable beyond Municipal areas and extend to urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbase, Port and harbour, defence establishments, special economic zones, State and Central government organizations, places of pilgrims, religious & historical importance.
  • The source segregation of waste has been mandated to channelize the waste to wealth by recovery, reuse and recycle.
  • Responsibilities of Generators have been introduced to segregate waste into three streams:
    • Wet (Biodegradable),
    • Dry (Plastic, Paper, metal, wood, etc.) and
    • Domestic hazardous wastes (diapers, napkins, empty containers of cleaning agents, mosquito repellents, etc.)
  • Segregated wastes should be handed over to authorized rag-pickers or waste collectors or local bodies.
  • Integration of waste pickers/ rag pickers and waste dealers in the formal system. This is to be done by State Governments, and Self Help Group, or any other group to be formed.
  • Generator will have to pay User Fee’ to waste collector and for ‘Spot Fine’ for Littering and Non-segregation.

Major Techniques of Solid Waste Management in India

Issues and Challenges in India’s waste Management system:

  1. With rapid urbanisation, there is substantial increase in solid waste generation which has strained the Solid Waste Management System
  2. Most Urban local bodies in India struggle to provide efficient waste management services due to financial problems, lack of infrastructure and technology
  3. Issues with segregation: Though solid waste management rules mandate source segregation of wastes, it has largely not been followed. Due to improper segregation of waste, much of recyclability of waste is lost.
  4. Disposal of waste:Most of the municipal authorities deposit solid waste at open dump sites without any leachates treatment. These sites emanate foul smell and is breeding grounds for pests and insects causing disease. Liquid seeping out of waste pollutes groundwater and poses a serious threat to health and environment. Further, these landfill sites are also responsible for air pollution.
  5. Processing/ recovery from waste: Most of the funds for solid waste management is allotted to collection and transportation, with very less left for processing or resource recovery and disposal. Also many waste-to-energy plants are non-operational.
  6. Waste management sector- Workforce: The waste management sector in India is constituted primarily of the informal workers who come from the urban poor. The rag pickers, who are instrumental in waste recycling, are highly vulnerable to health damages owing to poor work conditions.
  7. Apathy on the part of management and also poor community participation is a major constraint in solid waste management in India

International Best Practice:

  • South Korea is one of the few countries to separate and recycle food waste. It has also launched landfill recovery projects such as the Nanjido recovery project which have successfully transformed hazardous waste sites into sustainable ecological attractions.
  • It also focussed on harnessing energy from WTE (Waste to Energy) plants. The world’s first landfill-powered hydrogen plant was built in South Korea in 2011, and currently over 60% of new and renewable energy is produced from waste.

Steps to be taken:

  1. The key to efficient waste management is to ensure proper segregation of waste at source and to ensure that the waste goes through different streams of recycling and resource recovery.
  2. Waste to energy is a key component of SWM. Installation of waste-to-compost and bio-methanation plants would reduce the load of landfill sites

  1. There is a need to encourage research and development so as to reinvent waste management system in India. The focus should be on recycling and recovering from waste and not landfill. Further, it is important to encourage recycling of e-waste so that the problem of e-waste
  2. Public- Private Partnership models for waste management should be encouraged.
Print Friendly and PDF