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Jun 14, 2016 12:43 IST

    Solid Waste Management is one of the critical parts of the sustainable development which is a core issue of Environmental Concern world over. Civil Services (IAS) Exam always asks questions from these core areas. The number of questions is increasing from these areas in the IAS Prelims Exam as the Environmental Concern is also increasing at the societal level. As we can see in the IAS Prelims Previous Year Question Papers, the questions from this section are increasing.

    Solid materials which are unworkable  and undesirable, non compostable induced from residential, industrial and commercial activities in a given area, whose biodegradation is incomplete is solid waste. Of the total waste generated only 22-28% of waste is only processed and treated. Solid waste has posed serious threat to survival of mankind. By 2030 total generation of waste is about to increase to 165 million tonnes from 62 million tonnes.

    Definition: OECD defines solid waste management as “ the supervised handling of waste material from generation at the source through the recovery processes to disposal.”

    Present scenario:

    Total Waste generated annually: 62 million tonnes

    Out of 62 million

    • Plastic waste is: 5.6 million tonnes
    • Biomedical wastes is:        0.17 million tonnes
    • Hazardous waste generated is :    7.90 million tonnes
    • E-waste :   15 lakh tonnes

    Present scenario of waste management:

    • Total waste collected    : 43 million tonnes
    • Total waste treated    : 11.9 million tonnes
    • Total dumped in landfills    : 31 million tonnes

    Classification of Solid Waste

    1.    Based on its origin: domestic, industrial, commercial, construction or institutional.
    2.    Based on its contents: organic material, glass, metal, plastic paper
    3.    Based on its hazard potential: toxic, non-toxin, flammable, radioactive, infectious

    Organic waste and Inorganic waste

    Organic waste is also called as biodegradable waste. Organic waste can be disintegrated by microorganisms and other living beings into methane, water, carbon dioxide and other living organisms using composting, aerobic respiration, anaerobic respiration, fermentation and other similar processes.

    The inorganic waste is composed of material other than plant and animal matter such as synthetics, dust, glass and sand.

    E-waste and solid waste

    Electronic waste is defined as electronic products that have turned into nonessential, redundant, non operational  obsolete and attained end of their useful life.

    Solid wastes can be non biodegrable, non compostable solid, semi-solid, liquid or containerized gaseous material such as agricultural residue, demolition waste, industrial waste , mining debris, municipal garbage, and sewage slit. Dredging of liquid wastes  leaves behind  solid sedimentation, so some parts of liquid waste materials are contemplated as solid waste.

    Though  less than 1/10th of solid waste is e-waste , its amount is increasing 2-3 times faster than remaining stream of waste. Only 2.3 million out of 20 million computers was put for service in 1998, i.e only around 10% was recycled.

    Solid Waste and pollution

    Solid waste causes pollution to environment in following ways:

    • Untreated solid waste emits greenhouse gases
    • When burnt/ unburnt solid waste emit toxic fumes and particulate matters
    • When left unsegregated and disposed safely they accumulate in open landfills.
    • They contaminate ground water by leaching of chemical and organic compositions.
    • They pollute water bodies by rain water/flood water run off when disposed carelessly.

    Governing rules and regulations

    1.    National action plan on Climate change

    • It emphasised role of informal sector in recycling system of solid waste management.

    2.    National Environment Policy, 2006

    • It recognises and strengthens the role of informal sector in collecting and recycling of various kinds of waste.

    3.    Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011
           It helds municipality responsible for  plastic waste management in following aspects

    • To involve waste pickers and other agencies in waste management
    • To make sure open burning of plastic waste is not allowed.

    4.    Electronic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011:

    • It emphasised that  collection centres should be established by individuals/ groups/associations  to collect e-waste.

    5.    Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998

    • It provides for categories of BM waste and include broad spectrum of institutions under this rules. It also requires every occupier to establish a treatment facility with authorisation of SPCB and should be renewed every three years.

    6.    Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001

    • It regulates the disposal of used lead acid batteries and others. It requires the bulk consumers to file half yearly returns with SPCB and allow import of batteries only on registration with RBI and MOEF.

    7.    The Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008

    • It provides for regulation of all encompassing matters dealing with hazardous waste. In this context Basel convention 1992 was signed and ratified in India for transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous waste.

    8.    The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, amended 1988

    • It prohibits the disposal of polluting matter, untreated sewage into land, water bodies, wells and in sewers. It mandatory to get prior authorisation of SPCB for obtaining new outlet for discharge of sewage.

    9.    Municipal solid waste Management and Handling rules -2000

    • It mandates the urban local bodies for solid waste management. But it is not given required attention.

    Solid Waste Management rules 2016

    After 16 years Government of India has updated solid waste management rules in 2016. The salient features of SWM rules 2016 are:

    • Rules are applicable not only to municipal areas but also to urban agglomeration, census towns, Indian railways, SEZ, pilgrims places and so on
    • Generators are responsible for waste segregation
    • Partnership between waste generators and local bodies in swachh Bharat has been introduced
    • Composting or biomethanation should be applied for processing bio-degradable waste.
    • 5% of total total area of SEZ should be allotted for recovery and recycling facility
    • Waste generated in construction sites and demolition sites should be disposed off according to construction and demolition waste management rules, 2016.
    • In hilly areas landfills should not be constructed. Transfer station should be constructed at suitable location.

     Problems of solid waste management:

    At Source

    • unscientific and unsystematic storage of waste at source
    • No systematic segregation of Bio degradable and non Bio degradable waste
    • open drains and large drains passing across the city are clogged because of continuous dumping
    • The land filling is the common method of waste disposal  in Indian cities is unhealthy practice with severe  environmental implications .

    At processing and recycling areas

    • Non establishment of formal processing and recovery units.
    • only informal sector or untrained people are involved in recovery and recycling activities.
    • children and old people are pooled  for sorting and segregating waste
    • Rag pickers and scavengers are not provided protective clothing.

    Solutions to Solid Waste Management

    •    Masses should educated for behavioural change in storage and disposal of waste
    •    Penalty should be strictly awarded similar to developed countries
    •    Municipal bodies should probe in media to educate masses in separation of waste.
    •    Notified safe areas should be allotted for disposal of hazardous waste
    •    For dry and wet waste community bins should be allotted.
    •    Waste from construction and demolition site should be collected on site rather than pilferage in public places.
    •    Instead of landfilling, vermicomposting should be used
    •    Adequate numbers municipal employees should be recruited and trained
    •    NGOs and community participation should be encouraged


        Though solid waste management is a serious theart it can be efficiently solved with behavioural change in people ,stern action of  concerned implementers of rules and commitment of government.

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