Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016 defines solid waste as solid or semi-solid domestic waste, sanitary waste, commercial waste, institutional waste, catering and market waste and other non residential wastes, street sweepings, silt removed or collected from the surface drains, horticulture waste, agriculture and dairy waste, treated bio-medical waste excluding industrial waste, bio-medical waste and e-waste, battery waste, radio-active waste generated in the area under the local authorities and other entities mentioned in rule 2 ( i.e. urban local body, outgrowths in urban agglomerations, census towns as declared by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, notified areas, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbases, Ports and harbours, defence establishments, special economic zones, State and Central government organisations, places of pilgrims, religious and historical importance as may be notified by respective State government from time to time and to every domestic, institutional, commercial and any other non residential solid waste generator situated in the areas).
Current global MSW generation levels are approximately 1.8 billion tonnes per year, and are expected to increase to approximately 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025. This represents a significant increase in per capita waste generation rates, from 1.2 to 1.42 kg per person per day in the next fifteen years. However, global averages are broad estimates only as rates vary considerably by region, country, city, and even within cities.
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. It is only about 75-80 per cent of the municipal waste gets collected and only 22-28 per cent of this waste is processed and treated.
With rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and an explosion in population in India, solid waste management will be a key challenge for state governments and local municipal bodies in the 21st century. The “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean India Mission) was created to tackle these very issues related to waste management, cleanliness and sanitation on a national level.
Solid waste management is one among the basic essential services provided by municipal authorities in the country to keep urban centres clean. However, it is among the most poorly rendered services in the basket—the systems applied are unscientific, outdated and inefficient; population coverage is low; and the poor are marginalized. Waste is littered all over leading to insanitary living conditions. Municipal laws governing the urban local bodies do not have adequate provisions to deal effectively with the evergrowing problem of solid waste management.
Drawbacks in present solid waste management services
- No Storage of Waste at Source: There is absence of practice of storing the waste at source in a scientifically segregated way. Citizens have not been educated to keep domestic, trade, and institutional bins for storage of waste at source and stop littering on the streets.
- No System of Primary Collection from the Doorstep: There is absence of public system of primary collection from the source of waste generation. The waste discharged here and there is later collected by municipal sanitation workers through street sweeping, drain cleaning, etc. Street sweeping has, thus become the principal method of primary collection.
- Irregular Street Sweeping: Even street sweeping is not carried out on a day-to-day basis in most cities and towns in India. The tools used for street sweeping are generally inefficient and out-dated. Traditional handcarts/tricycles are used for collection, which do not synchronize with the secondary storage systems. Waste is deposited on the ground necessitating multiple handling.
- ransportation of Waste: Transportation of waste from the waste storage depots to the disposal site is done through a variety of vehicles such as bullock carts, three-wheelers, tractors, and trucks. A few cities use modern hydraulic vehicles as well. Most of the transport vehicles are old and open. They are usually loaded manually. The fleet is generally inadequate. Inefficient workshop facilities do not do much to support this old and rumbling squad of squalid vehicles. The traditional transportation system does not synchronize with the system of primary collection and secondary waste storage facilities and multiple manual handling of waste results.
- Processing of Waste: Generally no processing of municipal solid waste is done in the country. Only a few cities have been practising decentralized or centralized composting on a limited scale using aerobic or anaerobic systems of composting. In some towns un-segregated waste is put into the pits and allowed to decay for more than six months and the semi-decomposed material is sold out as compost. In some large cities aerobic compost plants of 100 MT to 700 MT capacities are set up but they are functioning much below installed capacity. A few towns are practising vermi-composting on a limited scale.
- Disposal of Waste: Disposal of waste is the most neglected area of SWM services and the current practices are grossly unscientific. Almost all municipal authorities deposit solid waste at a dump-yard situated within or outside the city haphazardly and do not bother to spread and cover the waste with inert material. These sites emanate foul smell and become breeding grounds for flies, rodent, and pests. Liquid seeping through the rotting organic waste called leachate pollutes underground water and poses a serious threat to health and environment. Landfill sites also release landfill gas with 50 to 60 per cent methane by volume. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide aggravating problems related to global warming.
Technologies available for disposal of solid waste
The main technological options available for processing/ treatment and disposal of MSW are composting, vermin-composting, anaerobic digestion/bio-methanation, incineration, gasification and pyrolysis, plasma pyrolysis, production of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), also known as pelletization and sanitary landfilling/landfill gas recovery. Not all technologies are equally good.
Reasons for inadequacy and inefficiency in services
a) Apathy of Municipal Authorities: Elected representatives as well as the municipal authorities generally relegate the responsibility of managing municipal solid waste (MSW) to junior officials such as sanitary inspectors. Systems and practices continue to be outdated and inefficient. No serious efforts are made to adapt latest methods and technologies of waste management, treatment and disposal. Though a large portion of the municipal budget is allotted for solid waste management, most of it is spent on the wages of sanitation workers whose productivity is very low. There are no clear plans to enhance their efficiency or improve working conditions through the provision of modern equipment and protective gear. Unionization of the workers, politicization of labour unions and the consequent indiscipline among the workforce are all results of bad working conditions and inept handling of labour issues. Almost all the 3955 towns with population below 100,000 run SWM services rather unprofessionally. They depend on sanitary inspectors to manage solid waste with the help of sanitation workers. In many small towns, even qualified sanitary inspectors are not posted and services are left in the hands of unqualified supervisors.
b) Absence of Community Participation:
Community participation has a direct bearing on efficient SWM. Yet, the municipal authorities have failed to mobilize the community and educate citizens on the rudiments of handling waste and proper practices of storing it in their own bins at the household-, shop- and establishment-level. In the absence of a basic facility of collection of waste from source, citizens are prone to dumping waste on the streets, open spaces, drains, and water bodies in the vicinity creating insanitary conditions. Citizens assume that waste thrown on the streets would be picked up by the municipality through street sweeping. For the general public, which is quite indifferent towards garbage disposal etiquette, the onus of keeping the city clean is entirely on the ULBs. This mind set is primarily responsible for the unscientific systems of waste management in the country.
Salient features of SWM Rules, 2016
Some of the salient features of SWM Rules, 2016 include:-
- The Rules are now 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 in to three streams, Wet (Biodegradable), Dry (Plastic, Paper, metal, wood, etc.) and domestic hazardous wastes (diapers, napkins, empty containers of cleaning agents, mosquito repellents, etc.) and handover segregated wastes to authorized rag-pickers or waste collectors or local bodies.
- Integration of waste pickers/ ragpickers and waste dealers/ Kabadiwalas in the formal system should be done by State Governments, and Self Help Group, or any other group to be formed.
- No person should throw, burn, or bury the solid waste generated by him, on streets, open public spaces outside his premises, or in the drain, or water bodies.
- Generator will have to pay ‘User Fee’ to waste collector and for ‘Spot Fine’ for Littering and Non-segregation.
- The bio-degradable waste should be processed, treated and disposed of through composting or bio-methanation within the premises as far as possible. The residual waste shall be given to the waste collectors or agency as directed by the local authority.
- Construction and demolition waste should be stored, separately disposed off, as per the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016.
It will take almost 4-5 years to see the drastic change in how the waste management regimes will work in India. The SWM Rules, 2016 diminish hopes in pushing for adoption of a decentralised mechanism for solid waste management. However, it would be challenging to see how segregation at source shall work on the ground. A massive awareness campaign in association with communities, NGOs, students and other stakeholders needs to be planned to push for better implementation of these rules. The Rules need to focus on making solid waste management a people's movement by taking the issues, concerns and management of solid waste to citizens and grass-roots.