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Solid Waste Management in India


India is a land of 1.37 Billion people and regardless of the word class technology that has been employed by power countries, India’s procedures for the collection, transport, and dumping of Municipal Solid Waste are unempirical and disordered. Unrestrained disposal of wastes on peripheries of towns and municipalities has formed swarming landfills, which seems impossible to retrieve due to the chaotic manner of disposal, however, it also has serious ecological consequences which includes drinking water contamination and input to global warming.

Incineration of waste contributes to air pollution which in turn increases the of increased Total Suspended Particles and Particulate matter emissions into the air, which is the same as the vehicular discharges indeed. This essay will discuss the laws and regulations, recycling methods and alternative methods that have been adopted in India and will also highlight their flaws.

Facts & figures

In a country, which has more than one billion people in its population, has been generating over 200,000 tons of MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) each day.

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(Hoornweg, & Bhada-Tata, 2012). On top of that, Mumbai is also notorious for being the world’s 5th dirtiest city. It is important to highlight the fact here that, almost 80% of solid waste is gathered for processing and only less than thirty percent is treated. (Sharholy, et al, 2008). In accordance with the World Bank, India’s day-to-day waste generation can exceed up to 400,000 tons by the year 2026 starts. It is easy to blame urbanization and industrial development, however, the costs of India’s mega-cities creating tons of waste are concrete and disturbing.

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(Gupta, 1998)

Following is a comparison of the Indian megacities with the collection efficiency of solid waste management. (Narayana, 2009)

Conventionally in India, civic solid waste is frequently dumped of in ‘open landfills,’ generally by the roadside in exposed spaces. There are quite a few deficits in the present system, which differ critically across states and municipalities. At the domestic level, there is restricted principal collection from discrete households and partial storing and isolation. Roads are not cleaned or clear of garbage habitually. In India, the production of harmful waste is straightly proportional to the rate of urbanization and industrialization of various cities, and it has revealed a substantial discrepancy in several Indian cities. The infrastructure of Indian waste management is given below (Annepu, 2012).:

India’s municipal solid waste problem calls for several social and ecological challenges for municipal authorities, whose jobs is to ensure the proper Municipal Solid Waste management for all its residents. The reason to resolve these problems head-on is that municipal waste has a negative impact on our health. There is then the unseen predicament of the thousands of unofficial rag pickers who earn their daily bread and butter by gathering, cataloging, and trading waste. According to a rough estimation, these garbage collectors can save nearly 15% of the civic budget per annum. Indian administrations have also failed their duty as executrixes of natural wealth. Take, for example, the chaotic scenes at the Ghazipur landfill site in Delhi, where urban waste incineration is a chief contributor to the air contamination calamity. (Kumar, 2015)

Role of Current Government

It is important to mention a notable first step taken from the prime minister Narendra Modi government to address the sanitation problems as the top of the political policy agenda under the name of “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” campaign. (Rathi, 2006). From tracking records by Clean India Dashboard program achievements, it was noted that out of 82,607 wards, 51,734 now have 100% door-to-door urban waste collection, up from 33,278 in November 2015. Nearly 90 MW of energy is produced from waste-to-energy known as WTE projects. (Gupta, 2015). Still, the inconsistent focus of the program on lavatory construction and removing open excretion deflected attention from huge failures in MSW systems.

There are several traders of informal waste hoarders in India. They are known as local waste merchants or ‘Kabadi wallahs’. (Zhu, et al, 2007). They accumulate and categorize dry waste into aluminum, plastic, paper, glass, etc. Each type of waste has a specific rate allocated by the waste market. In some situations, these local waste traders have tie-ups with ragpicker who sell them the waste from adjacent areas. Besides the rag pickers, these merchants also take in dry waste from people, flats and institutes. In some municipal centers, people working in the unofficial sector accept solid waste for each doorstep to get a collection fee and can earn extra income from selling of recycled products. The informal recycling business plays a main role in waste managing. It also guarantees that less waste is being dumped to landfills.

Types of Waste Management Technique in India

It is evident that waste separation practices are important because if the waste is not separated properly, it all gets mixed up in landfills. However, due to the absence of such protocols in India, recycling has continued to be an unofficial sector working on out-of-date technology, yet prosperous due to waste material accessibility and market demand of inexpensive cast-off products. Paper and plastic reprocessing have been particularly increasing due to incessantly growing usage levels of both the products. Besides, recycling Composting-aerobic and anaerobic, possibilities are presented to the country for scientific dumping of waste in the future. However, the state also requires something in terms of procedure and plans to empower the municipal firms to run the waste facilities competently. Let’s take a look at some of the options that have been adopted by the Indian authorities to tackle the situation of solid waste in metropolitan cities.

Thermal treatment: This procedure involves the burning of waste in the occurrence of oxygen so that the waste is transformed into CO2, water vapor and slag. This method is also known as Waste to Energy (WTE) technique, which is a process of producing energy from the incineration of the waste material. It’s had several benefits which include reducing waste volume, savings on transport expenses and drop in greenhouse gas releases. Though, when the debris is burned, contaminants, such as mercury, lead, dioxins can be emitted into the air and can cause health problems. (Kumar, 2009) There are various incinerations sites in Mumbai which are generating electricity from burring the waste, however, there are visible health concerns for adopting this method of Solid waster management.

Biological treatment procedures: This methiodal includes the use of micro-organisms to decay the decomposable elements of waste. This process can be of two types Aerobic and Anaerobic. The former procedure requires oxygen and consists of windrow composting, fizzy inert pile composting & in-vessel composting, etc. The latter procedure occurs in the absence of oxygen. There are several notable companies such as CbS technologies in Delhi, which employs both procedures to get rid of the waste. (Talyan, et al, 2008)

Landfills and open dumping: It is the precise dumping of waste on land in such a way that interaction between waste and the atmosphere is expressively lessened and the waste is stored in a distinct area. Landfills are exposed areas where waste is discarded revealing it to natural elements, vagrant animals and birds. With the nonattendance of any sort of monitoring and no leachate accumulation system, this leads to the pollution of both property and water resources. India’s biggest dumping ground is located in Dhapa Kolkata. It is divided into 4 areas and this place accommodates about 3000 tons of waste on a daily basis. It has been operational since 1980 and it has been since causing air and noise pollutions in the nearby areas. (Agrawal, Sahu, & Pandey, 2004).

We cannot ignore the importance of the sanitary landfills which can be used as ultimate means of dumping for unutilized urban waste from waste treatment plants and other sorts of mineral waste that cannot be recycled or re-used. The major restraint of this technique is the expensive transference of Municipal Solid Waste to secluded landfill sites. According to a study, it was revealed that the prospect of processing at least 20 % or 20,000 metric tons of waste produced every day in the country. As per the study’s conclusions, this could also provide employment prospects to about tens of thousands of garbage collectors. (Magar & Nalband, 2016). However, considering the recent developments, it is safe to assume that, in spite of huge potential in large cities in this field, the contribution from NPOs or community is almost negligible.

The vermicomposting method is about the maintenance of organic waste with the use of earthworms and aerobic micro-organisms. Originally, bacterial decay of biodegradable biological matter happens through an extra-cellular enzymatic activity which is known as primary disintegration. Earthworms are released to feed on partly decayed matter, ingesting 5 times their body weight of carbon-based material on a daily basis. The consumed food is further disintegrated in the gut of the worms, which results in particle size drop. The worm secretions are a fine, odorless and grainy product. This product can be used as a biofertilizer in agriculture. Vermicomposting has been employed in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Faridabad. (Ahluwalia & Patel,2018). Researches on introducing domestic vermicomposting implements have also been led. Though, the area needed is larger, when associated with dry composting.

Laws & Regulations

There are several laws and regulations introduced in India to tackle the solid waste management problem in India. Some of them date back to eighties. The seventy-fourth modification, ordained in 1992, of the Indian Constitution plainly defines managing of solid waste as one of the key functions of civic authorities. (Mani & Singh, 2016). At the national level, regulations leading the public authorities contain the managing of solid waste as a mandatory function of the civic representatives. Regardless of lawful and authorized dictate, no thoughtful efforts have been made by civic authorities towards methodical processing and dumping of Municipal Solid Waste. It was merely after further laws allotted by the Supreme Court of India in a community interest hearing in 2000, that the administration and management of Municipal Solid Waste were settled by the Ministry of Environment. (Kumar & Samadder, 2017). These directions describe what establishes Municipal Solid Waste, and directive that all civic authorities in the state must handle Municipal Solid Waste in an appropriate and effective manner needs to be supervised at a state level. This comprises the collection, storing, separation, transference, and dumping of Municipal Solid Waste. Though this legislature is in place, it is quite obvious from more lately conducted studies that very little exertion towards obedience and execution was really made by most urban authorities across the state.

At present, the Indian Government has in place definite protocols set forth by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. In the consecutive two years from 2013 to 2014, the Indian government devoted 6.1 million dollars to renewable energy, generally in grants. (Guerrero, Maas & Hogland, 2013). The scope of this administration sponsoring included mostly subsidy and endowments for five experimental projects consisted of several power generation projects, such as biogas, Waste to Energy, etc.

Literature Review

There are serval works of literature based on the prospect of waste-to-energy projects in India. Bhada and Themelis, for instance, studied the MSW process in Mumbai and the prospect for employment of Waste to Energy plants. Mumbai is the fiscal hub of India and has the maximum potential for electricity generation from the regulated burning of municipal wastes. The authors concluded that the only hope is for the resident government is to fund for Waste to Energy project in the city which can serve as a beacon of hope that ultimately can improve living conditions in Mumbai. In order to do that, the city needs to reduce its dependence on the importation of non-renewable fuels as soon as possible. (Bhada, & Themelis, 2008)

Feasible Solutions to waste management problem

The key to effective waste managing is to make sure the appropriate isolation of waste at source and to confirm that the waste goes through several channels of recycling and resource retrieval. Then condensed final scum is then dumped systematically in sanitary landfills. Setting up of waste to compost and bio-methanation facilities would decrease the load of landfill locations. The bio-degradable element of India’s solid waste is presently projected slightly greater than 50 %. (Kansal, 2012). Bio-methanation is a suitable method for treating biodegradable waste which also remains under-exploited. It is supposed that if we separate bio-degradable waste from the rest of the dump, it could cut the problems by half. Some portion of the waste contains hazardous materials and are non-biodegradable which are a great threat to both industrial and ecological areas. The toxic smoke from reprocessing procedures and leakage from e-waste in a landfill into domestic water supplies are some of the complications that are associated with this sort of solid waste management technique.

At present, at the level of waste production and storage, there is no source exclusion of compostable waste from the other non-biodegradable and recyclable waste products. Proper separation would lead to decent options and openings for scientific clearance of waste. Recyclables could be immediately carried to recycling zones that in turn would pay a specific amount to the companies, thereby adding to their revenue. This would assist in validating the present informal set-up of recycling industries. It could lead to numerous benefits, for examples, enabling technology advancement, improved products with decent quality, saving of valued raw material capitals of state, alleviating the requirement for landfill space, a lesser energy-intensive method to manufacture some products and engaging labor in recycling units. Establishing the informal sector and endorsing smaller industries to deal with waste management is an efficient way of outspreading affordable services. Promotion and growth of recycling can be considered in terms of advancing living and working conditions of rag-pickers and other disregarded factions


To sum up, it is without any doubt to state that a major portion of the municipal solid waste in India is forsaken on land in a disorderly manner. Such insufficient dumping practices lead to complications that will harm human and animal health and the outcome will be losses in economics, environment and biological areas of the state. Relating the organic, biochemical and thermal treatment opportunities in the Indian set-up, possibly the biological processing choices get the prime precedence. Composting and vermicomposting are effective and fairly prevalent now in India instead of thermal treatment of municipal solid waste. However, it is a slow procedure and needs a large area. An exposed junkyard or an unrestrained waste removal area should be reformed. It is prudent to shift from exposed dumping to clean landfilling in a phased approach. Landfilling should be limited to non-biodegradable, passive waste and other waste that are not appropriate either for salvaging or for organic processing. It is the sole responsibility of the government to warrant Solid Waste Management as the essential services provided by public authorities in the state to keep municipal centers clean. The government needs to introduce check and balance on these municipal authorities since almost all dump solid waste at a junkyard inside or exterior of the city messily. Professionals suggest that India is following a defective system of waste dumping and managing and it needs to adopt eco-friendly approaches to tackle the solid waste problem. It cannot be argued that the deficiency of resources such as economics, infrastructure, appropriate planning and data, and management, is the focal barriers in municipal waste management. The surge in service demands joint with the nonexistence of resources for metropolises is pushing a huge pressure on the current municipal waste management systems. we need public awareness across a variety of platforms and audiences if India wants to get rid of its waste management problem.


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Solid Waste Management in India. (2021, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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