Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Daily Editorial – Solid Waste Management


Solid Waste Management

India produces about 62 million tonnes of solid waste annually, of which 75-80% is collected, and only 22-28% is treated. Rest lands up in open dump yards and landfills or is burnt


  • Waste management refers to the activities and actions required to manage waste from its start till its disposal . This includes collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste together with monitoring and regulation.
  • The waste hierarchy refers to the “3 Rs” reduce, reuse and recycle, which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability in terms of waste minimisation.
  • The waste hierarchy remains the cornerstone of most waste minimisation strategies.
  • Solid-waste management is the collection, treatment and disposal of solid material that is discarded because it has served its purpose or is no longer useful.
  • The Polluter pays principle is a principle where the polluting party pays for the impact caused to the environment. Here it generally refers to the requirement for a waste generator to pay for appropriate disposal of the unrecoverable material.

Kinds of solid waste-

Construction and demolition waste 530 million tonnes

Plastic waste 5.6 million tonnes

Biomedical waste 0.17 million tonnes , the wastes involved in diagnosis, treatment and immunization such as human and animal anatomical waste, treatment apparatus such as needles and syringes and cytotoxic drugs.

Hazardous waste 7.90 million tonnes, wastes that cause immediate danger to exposed individuals or environments

E-waste 18 lakh tonnes, India’s ‘production’ of e-waste is likely to increase by nearly three times, from the existing 18 lakh tonnes. India is fifth largest producer of e-waste in the world.

It includes discarded computer monitors, motherboards, cathode ray tubes (CRTs), printed circuit board (PCB), mobile phones and chargers, compact discs, headphones etc.

Causes of lack of waste management-

  • Behavioural change needed in people when it comes to waste generation, segregation and littering.
  • No timely collection of waste in small towns and cities, lack of dustbins at needed places.
  • Lack of stringent penalties or their application.
  • Landfills continue to be the solution, for untreated municipal solid waste.
  • Inadequate segregation of waste into wet and dry, hazardous and non hazardous. Contaminating all of the waste.

Effects –

  • Creates unsanitary conditions, and these conditions in turn can lead to pollution of the environment and to outbreaks of vector-borne disease
  • Burning of waste causes toxic gases to be entered into the atmosphere, it is a health hazard.
  • Construction and demolition waste increases dust in the air, causing air pollution.
  • Landfills release noxious methane fumes into the air and leachates into the groundwater
  • About 4-5 lakh child labourers in the age group of 10-15 years are observed to be engaged in various e-waste activities

Recent legislation’s by government-

Solid Waste Management Rules-

  • New rules are now applicable beyond municipal areas and have included urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, special economic zones, places of pilgrimage, religious and historical importance, and State and Central Government organisations in their ambit.
  • Rules have mandated the source segregation of waste in order to channelise the waste to wealth by recovery, reuse and recycle.
  • Waste generator will have the responsibility of segregating the waste into wet , dry and Hazardous . They will have to pay user fine to the waste collector and spot fine for littering around; the amount will be decided by the local body.
  • Large waste generators have been directly made responsible for segregation and sorting the waste and manage in partnership with local bodies.
  • As per the rules, brand owners who sale or market their products in packaging material which are non‐biodegradable, should put in place a system to collect back the packaging waste generated due to their production.
  • In case of hilly areas, land for construction of sanitary landfills in the hilly areas will be identified in the plain areas, within 25 kilometers.
  • Waste processing facilities will have to be set up by all local bodies having 1 million or more population within two years.
  • Rules have mentioned about the integration of rag pickers, waste pickers and kabadiwalas from the informal sector to the formal sector by the state government.
  • Developers of Special Economic Zone, industrial estate, industrial park to earmark at least 5 per cent of the total area of the plot for recovery and recycling facility.

Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules-

  • Health care facilities (HCFs) must segregate at the individual level in colored bags—yellow, red, blue/white and black according to the category of the biomedical waste.
  • HCFs can store this waste for up to 48 hours after which they either treat it in-situ or a worker from a common biomedical waste treatment facility comes to collect it.
  • HCF is now responsible for pre-treatment of laboratory and microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection/sterilisation on-site
  • Different colours call for different types of treatments—incineration, deep burial, autoclaving, shredding, chemical treatment, disposal in a landfill, etc.
  • A bar code system for bags/containers containing biomedical waste, to track and identify bags better

E-waste Management Rules –

  • Earlier E-Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011
  • “reverse chain” that is mandated to be created by the producers under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to ensure electronic products are recovered for safe recycling
  • new set has taken cognizance of and has tried to include the informal sector which handles over 90 per cent of e-waste generated in India
  • informal sector will be formalised and the workers will be trained to handle e-waste rather than burning them after extracting the precious metals from them
  • for the first time included the Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and other mercury containing lamps and equipment in their ambit.

Plastic waste Management Rules-

  • Aimed at reducing 6,000 tonnes of uncollected plastic waste generated daily by targeting manufacturers and industries by using a new principle called the Extended Producers’ Responsibility (EPR) Act.
  • Industries that use plastic will have to bear the onus and pay towards the collection of plastics through the distribution system that they use for retailing their products.
  • Plan of collection has to be submitted to the respective state pollution control boards while applying for consent to establish, operate or renew the certification of business.
  • use of plastic carry bags by increasing the minimum thickness from 40 microns to 50 microns which is likely to increase the cost by about 20 %.

Construction and demolition Waste Management Rules-

  • Bars people from dumping such waste on roadsides
  • Segregating construction and demolition waste and depositing it to the collection centre’s for processing will now be the responsibility of every waste generator
  • local bodies will have to utilize 10-20% material from construction and demolition waste in municipal and government contracts
  • Large waste generators will have to pay relevant charges.
  • Permission for construction will be granted after a complete waste management plan is presented to local authorities.

Cities asked to commission processing and disposal facility within a stipulated time depending on their population.


  • They fail to incentivise and impose a strict penalty in case of poor implementation
  • Plastic- not clear about the fine amount to be imposed on plastic manufacturers or how the monitoring system would be carried out
  • Informal sector of waste collection was not dealt properly. This sector employs small kids, woman working in hazardous conditions. Rules will be framed; they will be integrated, but no such action till now.
  • In Delhi, the informal sector employs about 150,000 people who transport almost 1,088 tonnes per day of recyclable waste
  • Need is for behavioural change on part of people when it comes to domestic waste generation and on part of authorities when it comes to implementing the rules framed.
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