Solid Waste Management Rules in India

As per the Indian Census of 2011, 31.16 per cent of the Indian population, i.e. about 377 million people, live in cities and towns. Trends suggest that 50 per cent of India’s population will live in the urban areas by 2050. Large urban agglomerations face challenges of effective waste management, with the quantities being beyond the assimilative capacity of the indigenous infrastructure and management capacities of environmental sinks. A staggering 81 per cent of the total Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in India is generated in the Class-I cities of the country. (Swachh Bharat Mission: Solid Waste Management Manual, 2016) This is predicted to go up from the current per capita generation of 0.2-0.6kg (CPHEEO manual) in typical Indian cities, in the coming years. The rural areas which see significantly less generation and better management of waste, also see market invasion by plastic which is a major solid waste pollutant and hazard. Inefficient solid waste management is a huge problem in the Indian context, and is potentially a major public hazard.

The changing composition of waste, in addition to poor awareness and implementation of laws, is a limiting factor to proper waste management. Discarded batteries from automobiles and various electronic/electrical gadgets, waste/used oils largely generated from service stations and other uses (transformer oil, hydraulic machines etc.) are substances that need to be dealt with caution and care.

Decadal data from 59 Indian cities indicates that daily waste generation of 39,031 TPD (Tons per Day) in 2001 has increased to 81,073 TPD in 2011, i.e., by 207 per cent. Almost all cities with population above 1 million generate more than 1000 TPD of waste. (Compendium of Environment Statistics India, 2015) These include Agra, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kanpur, Kochi, Ludhiana, Pune, Surat and Visakhapatnam. Cities with population ranging from 8-15 million (Census of India, 2011) such as, Chennai (6,118 TPD), Delhi (11040 TPD), Mumbai (11,124 TPD) and Kolkata (11,520 TPD) generate more than 5000 TPD of municipal solid waste. The generation has further increased to 1,27,486 TPD, in 2013 (Annual Report, CPCB), of which roughly 75 per cent is collected and 22-28 per cent of the collected waste is treated.

There is a vast variation in the characteristics and composition of waste being generated in Indian cities. Data from 59 major cities in the country indicates that the compostable waste varies anywhere from 29.60 per cent (Daman) to 65.02 per cent (Amritsar) of the total.

India annually consumes 12 million tonnes of plastic products every year, as of 2012, out of which a huge 50-60 per cent ends up in disposal bins. India’s per capita consumption of plastic is about 6-7 kg per annum. To tackle the issue of diverse waste streams, the government has put forth a set of policies and programmes for implementation.

Ineffective and non-scientific management of waste is the root cause for India's struggles with huge piles of waste in landfills. A state-wise list on generation of municipal waste indicates that 82 per cent (1,17,644 TPD) of the waste is collected and only 23 per cent (32,871 TPD) is treated. Maximum amount of solid waste generated is in the state of Maharashtra (26,280 MT), where only 56.60 per cent (14,900 MT) is collected and only 17.88 per cent (4,700 MT) is treated. Similarly, Tamil Nadu treats only 11 per cent (1,607 MT) of the total waste generated. (Compendium of Environment Statistics India, 2015)

It is also estimated that the Urban Local Bodies spend about INR 500 to INR 1,500 on a tonne of solid waste for collection, transportation, treatment and disposal.

About 60-70 per cent of this amount is spent on street sweeping of waste, 20 to 30 per cent on transportation and less than 5 per cent on final disposal of waste, which shows that hardly any attention is given to scientific and safe disposal. (Solid Waste Management Compendium, 2016, CPHEEO)

The National Waste Management Guidelines, 2016, are a comprehensive perspective towards waste reduction, recovery, reuse, recycling and scientific disposal. They bring together guidelines for management and rules for the waste generators (both producers and consumers), municipal bodies and related departments and ministries with respect to municipal solid waste – domestic waste, construction and demolition, plastic wastes, e-wastes, bio-medical wastes and hazardous wastes - under one umbrella.

The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, have been revised after 16 years with the due process of an expert Working Group of the ministry that drafted the rules and put it out for public review and suggestions, stakeholder consultations in New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, and consultative meetings with relevant Central Ministries, State Governments, State Pollution Control Boards and major hospitals.

The rules are applicable to municipal areas and extend to urban agglomerations, census towns, 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 pilgrimage etc.

The rules now mandate waste generators, such as households, industries, hospitals and others, to segregate waste into three categories – Wet, Dry and Hazardous Waste. There are specific waste segregation rules for all domestic, institutional, commercial and industrial establishments, including events that generate waste. The rules require that segregated waste be channelised to generate wealth though recovery, reuse and recycling. Under the rules, integration of the present informal sector of rag pickers and waste collectors through local Civil Society Organisations, and linking them to formal waste chains and local bodies, has been recommended. The updated document has laid strict rules with respect to responsibility of producers of equipment or consumer products for waste generated in their complete value chain, including take-back of e-waste and labelling on disposal, collection systems for non-recyclable or non-biodegradable packaging material, awareness creation and systems for disposal of bio-waste, for example from sanitary napkins.

Under the new rules, local bodies have the power to decide on user fees for the collection, processing and disposal of wastes from bulk generators. The generator will have to pay ‘User Fee’ to the waste collector and a ‘Spot Fine’ for littering and non-segregation, the quantum of which will be decided by the local bodies. There is ‘zero tolerance’ for littering, burying and burning waste stipulated in the rules.

The new rules also give attention to composting and bio methanation of organic waste, requiring land area to be allocated in residential, industrial and commercial developments for the purpose. The Department of Fertilisers, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers is required to provide market development assistance on city compost, and ensure promotion of co-marketing of compost with chemical fertilisers, along with other support for the promotion of conversion of organic waste into valuable compost.

The SWM Rules, 2016, raise our 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 grassroots. 

Kavya Arora

1. Swachh Bharat Mission: Solid Waste Management Manual, 2016
2. CPHEEO manual
3. Compendium of Environment Statistics India, 2015
4. Census of India, 2011
5. Annual Report, CPCB
6. Compendium of Environment Statistics India, 2015
7. Solid Waste Management Compendium, 2016, CPHEEO

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