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Sustainable Solid Waste Management And Preventing Pollution Through Good Practices – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

Sustainable Solid Waste Management and Preventing Pollution through Good Practices

Session Report
Narayani Bhatnagar

Marking the fifth day of such a riveting one-month online certification training course on  Urban Policy and City Planning, an Online International Monsoon School Program organised by the Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) at IMPRI (Impact and Policy Research Institute), New Delhi was inaugurated by Mahek Agarwal, a researcher at IMPRI, who welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the distinguished panellists. The Chair for this session was Dr Rumi Aijaz, Senior Fellow and Head, of Urban Policy Research Initiative, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi.

Our second speaker for the day, Dr Shyamala Mani, Senior Advisor, WASH and Waste Management, CEH, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI); Former Professor, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), New Delhi. She delivered a presentation on Waste Management and Air Pollution and it was titled, Sustainable Solid Waste Management and Preventing Pollution through good practices.

What in particular are Solid Waste and MSW?

According to the MOEFCC, Gol’s Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, “solid waste” refers to and includes 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 surface drains, horticulture waste, agriculture and dairy waste, treated bio-medical waste excluding industrial waste, bio-medical waste and e-waste, battery waste, radioactive waste generated in the area under the local authorities.

Except when generated in tiny amounts by homeowners, construction and demolition trash is not included in municipal solid waste.

Waste Generation

According to MOEFCC, in 2016 waste statistics for India are as follows:

  • 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually (1.69L TPD), of this,
    •  5.6 million tonnes is plastic waste,
    • 0.17 million tonnes is biomedical waste,
    • 7.90 million tonnes is hazardous waste,
    • 0.15 million tonnes is e-waste.

Only around 75-80% of municipal garbage is collected, and only about 22-28% of it is treated. However, after the introduction of SBM 1 and 2, both trash collection and transportation in segregated streams have grown, with about 45-50% of garbage being treated in most urban areas. By 2030, waste generation will have increased from 62 million tonnes to around 165 million tonnes.

In Indian cities, per capita, garbage generation ranges from 0.2 kg/person/day in tiny towns and municipalities to 0.6 kg/person/day in big metropolitan cities and well-to-do areas.

How are we impacted by unscientific waste management?

Mixed decaying trash attracts various types of germs and bacteria, providing a serious health risk to individuals living near disposal sites. Pollution of the air, water, and soil, as mixed trash decomposes, methane and other harmful gases are emitted, polluting the air. Contaminated leachate pollutes subsurface water and soil.

GHG emissions and global warming, methane is formed as trash decomposes, and it is a major contributor to global warming. Precious land and water resources are depleted as dumping sites, having a negative influence on the surrounding living creatures.

What do dumping and burning lead to?

  • Open dump sites lead to:
    • Release of GreenHouse Gases: Methane & Carbon-dioxide.
    • Soil & water pollution from the leachate.
    • Attracts rodents, insects, birds and flies, spreading diseases.
    • Animals like cows, dogs and birds ingest plastic and dying
  • Open burning leads to:
    • Release of deadly dioxins, furans, and heavy metals.
    • Release of harmful gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxides, and Sulphur dioxide.
    • Residual ash causes eye and throat irritation and respiratory diseases.

The World Health Organisation has identified 22 diseases, including communicable diseases such as Malaria, chest pain, diarrhoea, and cholera, an increased risk of heart disease, aggravated respiratory ailments such as asthma, rashes, nausea, or headaches, nervous system, kidney, or liver damage, and reproductive system damage caused by improper waste management.

SWM in Cities vs. SWM in Rural Areas

  • In urban India, per capita, trash generation ranges between 0.21 and 0.5 kg/person/day.
  • Per capita, trash output in rural areas is estimated to be 0.11 kg/person/day.

Most communities have some sort of door-to-door or point-to-point collecting system in place, but processing facilities are inadequate. Most communities lack collecting and processing infrastructure. Waste from dump sites is collected on a regular basis and disposed of in a body of water or open area outside the village.

The increased population density in villages near metropolitan centres, along with an increase in the sale of packaged products, has resulted in a significant increase in garbage output in villages.

Dr Mani then went on to compare India to industrialised nations in terms of waste composition at landfills and solid waste collection, as well as income levels in urban, rural, and remote areas. She moved on to discuss global and regional solid waste disposal, as well as the distribution of methane emissions in India in 2018. 

How critical is it to reduce landfill methane emissions?

It is critical to reduce methane emissions since homes generate 11% of global methane emissions and are now the third largest anthropogenic source of methane.

India has communicated to UNFCCC that,

 “three of these have quantitative targets upto 2030 namely, cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil sources to reach 40%; reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 33 to 35 per cent compared to 2005 levels and creation of additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.”

Furthermore, as part of the Clean India Mission (SBM), India has made it essential for all citizens to divide home garbage into three categories: wet (kitchen) waste, dry (recyclable) waste, and domestic hazardous waste before delivering it to waste collectors.

It is also required for urban local governments to transfer them in separate collection trucks to be handled separately in order to maximise recovery and minimise resource waste.

Why do landfills produce methane? Are there any additional harmful gases emitted by them?

Landfills generate methane, particularly in India, where wet kitchen (biodegradable) trash from homes accounts for 60-62%, dry recyclables account for 16-22%, and domestic hazardous waste and others, such as soil, account for 16-24%.

There is a demand for recyclables among garbage pickers and aggregators, the proportion of biodegradables grows to 70-75%, the percentage of recyclables decreases to roughly 9%, and the percentage of DHW and soil climbs to 16-21% at the landfill site.

Using construction and demolition trash, RDF rejects to minimise odour from dumpsites leading to anaerobic conditions on the landfill and methane production. Landfills have been found to include nitrous oxide, hydrogen sulphide, and ammonia, as well as CO2 and black carbon in the event of a fire.

Do satellite-based approaches aid in the monitoring of waste emissions?

For estimating and quantifying landfill emissions, India currently employs the Stoichiometric technique, Default Method (IPCC), First Order Decay Method (FOD), Modified Triangular Method (MTM), in situ closed chamber technique, and Landfill Gas Emission Method (Land GEM).

Techniques based on satellites might be effective for tracking and monitoring pollutants. However, due to the high likelihood of artefacts interfering with accurate data generation and other seasonal and non-seasonal constraints, the method of ground truthing, as well as controlling for various confounders, will need to be established, particularly for different parts of India and during different seasons and months, before it is adopted as a standard method of estimating and calculating emissions from landfills.

How significant are landfill methane emissions in India?

According to one projection from 2022, India’s total methane emissions are in the 669MMtCo2e range.

About 10.3% comes from the waste sector, which includes emissions from landfills, sewers, and wastewater treatment plants, among other things. It is believed that 4% of this comes from landfills and dumpsites.

It is relevant because landfill methane emissions are connected with GDP and GSDP, and increased urbanisation and affluence are projected to increase landfill methane emissions in India.

How can we reduce landfill emissions? What are the problems in India?

The authorities must strictly execute the SWM Rules and any other EPA 1986 Rules published and modified in 2016 and thereafter in all regions of India. Aside from corruption, there is usually a shortage of money from families and other trash generators, as well as a lack of budget and financing in local governments. A lack of land and local population opposition to the establishment of these facilities.

The institutional capability for planning, monitoring, and enforcement is limited. The difficulties are mostly the result of weak administration, poor implementation, a lack of sufficient infrastructure, a lack of desire, a lack of conviction among citizens and implementing institutions, and political intervention.

Incorrect policies

Many ULBS continue to enter into concession arrangements with Collection and Transportation businesses to simply collect and dump garbage at rates ranging from Rs.1800 to Rs.2000 per tonne, resulting in mixed waste being collected by these C&T companies. Because of the foregoing policy, the collection and transportation of 10,000 tonnes of solid waste to landfills cost Rs.638,75,00,000 per year.

Transportation of separated collected trash in distinct streams to processing plants that will turn them into products while reducing contamination (wet waste by DHW, dry recyclables by Wet waste, and all waste by sanitary waste) and ensuring maximum recovery is required for ULBS. CO2 Emissions averted by not transporting 1 tonne MSW = 721.4 kg/year.

Global Plastic Pollution and India

According to figures published in February 2023, worldwide plastic output is predicted to reach 390.7 million tonnes per year, with India producing 25 million tonnes per year, accounting for 6.4% of global production.

  • Globally, the packaging industry consumes 42% of the total plastics produced, while the construction sector consumes 17%.
  • Whereas in India, the packaging sector consumes 35% and the building sector consumes 23%.
  • Bioplastic manufacturing accounts for 1% of the 300 million tonnes of conventional plastics produced each year.

Plastic Pollution Concerns:

79% of all plastics manufactured in the world end up in the environment as garbage.

  • Only 9% of the world’s total plastic garbage is recycled.
  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report (2018-19), India generates 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic garbage every year.
  • Richer states, such as Goa and Delhi, generate up to 60 and 37 grams per inhabitant every day, respectively.

Citizens’ Behaviour and Plastic Waste Rules:

Citizens rely on plastics for single-use items such as carry bags and packaging such as water bottles for convenience, with little regard for the environment or public health.

  • The common argument is that if plastics are dangerous to the environment and health, the government should ban them and close the factories that make them.
  • Since 1999, the Indian government has enacted regulations under the EPA 1986 to restrict the use of recycled materials in food and beverage packaging.
  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2011, 2016, raise the thickness of plastic carry bags from 20 microns to 50, 75 and now 120 microns without prohibiting the use of any type of plastic.

Harmful effects of plastics:

  • Styrofoam or Polystyrene, PVC or Poly Vinyl Chloride, PUR or Polyurethane, and various thermoset plastics such as melamine, as well as polymers in e-waste, are particularly toxic.
  • Chemicals and additives used in plastics manufacturing and remanufacturing are easily freed during dismantling, thermal, and chemical operations.
  • Incineration releases chemicals into the body, where they enter the food chain and cause bioaccumulation, carcinogenesis, and mutagenesis.

Climate Change and Plastics:

  • Plastics enhance the carbon footprint by generating and accumulating microplastics in terrestrial and marine habitats.
  • Governments all around the globe must recognise that the plastic problem is more than just a matter of legislation and voluntary action because it is impacting human health and the environment at such a rapid pace that it threatens the human species survival.
  • It is a matter of behaviour change to return to reusables and environmentally friendly materials.


According to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2020 Report 2019:

  • The world generated 53.6 Mt of e-waste, 7.3 kg per capita.
    • 82.6% was most likely not formally collected and not managed in an environmentally sound manner.
    • Most of the e-waste was generated in Asia:24.9 Mt.
    • Per capita generation is highest for Europe at 16.2 kg Europe also has the highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling rate: 42.5%
  • Top 3 E-waste generators:
    • China 10.13 Million tonnes (7.2kg per capita).
    • USA 6.92 Million tonnes (21kg per capita).
    • India 3.23 million tonnes (2.4kg per capita).

Dr Mani ended her lecture by discussing the Interpretation of Air Quality Monitoring and its Implications.

Comparing two waste storage and sorting locations, one in a Dhalao, which is smaller in size and has virtually no adequate natural or electromechanical ventilation, and the other in an MRF, which is larger in size and has both natural and electromechanical ventilation equipment.

Management of a residential area in South Delhi where ambient PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels are well under the permitted AQI limits. The air quality in the smaller, poorly ventilated waste storage and sorting facility is 25-50% worse than in the larger, more ventilated MRF.

Our findings show that ventilation is a significant design consideration. However, the efficiency and amount of ventilation necessary for various forms of dhalaos must be investigated.

Acknowledgement: Narayani Bhatnagar is a research intern at IMPRI.

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