Waste management in India: some notes

by Ashish Kumar Singh & Akash Singh

Waste pickers

Every morning the municipality vehicle comes with a speaker phone playing songs on the themes of waste management and segregation. Interesting is the fact that despite their two rounds each morning, often people tend to throw garbage and food waste on the street while ensuring that their houses remain clean. Is it a question of habits? Is it the government’s responsibility only? Where is the policy gap? And, is it practical to imagine that any positive long-term change in this direction is possible?

To answer these questions briefly first, it is to be noted that from visiting garbage bins a couple of years ago, now residents of two and three-tier cities have access to waste-collecting vehicles at their doorsteps. Elected governments and policymakers are doing their bit, to an extent, to provide solutions. Long-term change is obviously possible, but it is not an easy task.

Solid waste management is a big problem for many urban and suburban areas of India. Solid waste generation has increased in the past decades due to the mixed effects of urbanization and industrialization. Effective solid waste management is a major challenge in cities with high population densities. Despite reported social, economic, and environmental developments, solid waste management systems in India have not seen much change, or need more effort so to speak. With a major emphasis on the informal sector in waste collection, about 90% of solid waste is dumped in empty lands rather than being properly recycled or land-filled.

Urban India alone generates nearly 0.15 million tonnes per day of Municipal Solid Waste. It is estimated that about 62 million tonnes of waste are generated annually in the country, out of which 5.6 million is plastic waste, and 0.17 million is biomedical waste. In addition, hazardous waste generation is 7.90 million tonnes per annum and 15 lakh tonnes is e-waste. The volume of waste is projected to reach 165 million tonnes by 2031 and 436 million tonnes by 2050.

Basic principles of Solid Waste Management
1) 4Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
• Refuse: Do not buy anything which we do not really need.
• Reduce – Reduce the amount of garbage generated. Alter our lifestyle so that minimum garbage is generated.
• Reuse – Reuse everything to its maximum after properly cleaning it. Make secondary use of different articles.
• Recycle – Keep things that can be recycled to be given to rag pickers or waste pickers (Kabadiwallahs).
Convert the recyclable garbage into manures or other useful products.
2) Segregation at source: Store organic or biodegradable and inorganic or non-biodegradable solid waste in different bins. Recycle all the components with minimum labor and cost.

3) Different treatments for different types of solid wastes: One must apply the techniques which are suitable to the given type of garbage. For example, the technique suitable for general market waste may not be suitable for slaughterhouse waste.

4) Treatment at the nearest possible point: Solid waste should be treated in an as decentralized manner as possible. The garbage generated should be treated preferably at the site of generation i.e. every house

The waste management market comprises four segments – Municipal Waste, Industrial Waste, Bio-Medical Waste and Electronic Waste Market. All these four types of waste are governed by different laws and policies as is the nature of the waste. In India, waste management practices depend upon actual waste generation, primary storage, primary collection, secondary collection and transportation, recycling activity, treatment, and disposal. In India, municipal corporations play a very important role in waste management in each city along with the public health department.

Waste Collection in India:

Primarily by the city municipality
• No gradation of waste product eg bio-degradable, glasses, poly bags, paper shreds, etc. , Dumps these wastes to the city outskirts
Local raddiwala / kabadiwala (Rag pickers)-Collecting small iron pieces by magnets, Collecting glass bottles Collecting paper for recycling

Key issues and challenges- include lack of collection and segregation at source, scarcity of land, dumping of e-waste, lack of awareness, etc. Simple dumping of mixed waste is the practice followed practically everywhere and especially in developing countries as they cannot mobilize financial resources for applying expensive technology propounded by the developed countries.

The informal sector lives in close proximity to dumpsites and works under unhygienic and unhealthy conditions. Often, the workers have no access to drinking water or public toilets. They do not have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gumboots, and aprons. Due to the poor living and working conditions, malnutrition, anemia and tuberculosis are common among them. Waste pickers are potentially exposed to a wide range of occupational hazards. Community waste bins and dumpsites act as breeding grounds for various bacterial and viral diseases.

It is widely recognized that the informal sector engaged in waste collection and sorting carries out the most labor-intensive and least rewarding job of recovering recyclable materials from unsegregated waste. They have to deal with exploitative social behavior. Waste-pickers are not covered under any labor legislation, as a result, they do not benefit from social security and medical insurance schemes.

The main steps taken by India in this regard are-

Swachh Bharat Mission- is among the most significant cleanliness mission of the Modi government mainly focusing on open-defecation free India.

National Water Mission (NWM) – the main objective of the NWM is “conservation of water, minimizing wastage and ensuring its more equitable distribution both across and within States through integrated water resources development and management.”

PMSTIAC – The Waste to Wealth Mission is one of the nine scientific missions of the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PMSTIAC). It aims to identify, develop, and deploy technologies to treat waste to generate energy, recycle materials, and extract resources of value.

Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016:It mandates the generators of plastic waste to take steps to minimize the generation of plastic waste, prevent littering of plastic waste, and ensure segregated storage of waste at source among other measures

Conducting Swachh Survekshan
Various rounds of SwachhSurvekshan (SS) were conducted by the MoHUA to encourage citizen participation, ensure sustainability of initiatives taken towards garbage-free and open-defecation-free cities, institutionalize existing systems through online processes, and create awareness amongst all sections of society.

Star Rating of Garbage-Free Cities
To ensure continued scientific management of solid waste and motivate cities to achieve increased cleanliness, the MoHUA launched the Star-Rating Protocol of Garbage-Free Cities in 2018. The rating protocol is an outcome-based tool, not a process-based one.

Swachhata Hi Sewa Campaign
It aims to ensure cleanliness through the various stakeholders in the “Jan Andolan” (National Movement).

SewaDiwas: A nationwide shramdaan (volunteering for cleanliness service) by stakeholders

SamagraSwachhata: Shramdaan by citizens at large, municipal bodies, SBM ambassadors and corporates

SarvatraSwachhata: Massive cleanliness drives at iconic spots

Compost Banao, Compost Apnao Campaign
The aim is to encourage people to convert their kitchen waste into compost for use as fertiliser and to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill sites. This campaign is an attempt to encourage citizens to contribute towards making their city clean.

Pune’s women-driven SWaCH model – The KagadKachPatraKashtakariPanchayat (KKPKP) — a trade union of informal waste-pickers and waste-buyers in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad was formed in 1993 and got occupational identity in 2007.

SWaCH is a joint project of KKPKP and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) — the first such entity created through municipal action.Today, KKPKP has over 9,000 members, 80 per cent of whom are women from socially backward and marginalised castes.SWaCH has over 3,000 worker-members (all women), who provide door-to-door waste collection services (in exchange for fees paid by each household), sort the waste and drop off non-recyclables at city-run feeder points.


Government should provide capital investments to build or upgrade waste sorting and treatment facilities, close dumps, construct or refurbish landfills, and provide bins, dumpsters, trucks, and transfer stations.

Social marketing campaigns should target local neighborhoods highlighting the importance of cleanliness.

There is an urgent need to frame and implement a uniform waste-picker welfare law that recognizes and integrates them into the waste management chain. It must include basic provisions related to mandatory identity cards, access to waste for collection, segregation, and sorting, PPE to minimize occupational hazards, right to basic necessities like water, sanitation, and facilities for clean living, and health insurance.

There is a need to identify, organize, train, and empower the waste-pickers. This can be done by designing an inclusive waste management model to integrate the waste-pickers. For example, involving them in the primary door-to-door collection of waste, or engaging them in material recovery facilities.

Through the design of taxes and fee structures and long-term planning, projects help governments improve waste cost containment and recovery.

Citizen engagement must be part of each of the steps taken by the government in this regard.

Projects should be made in such a way that they support greenhouse gas mitigation through food loss and waste reduction, organic waste diversion, and the adoption of treatment and disposal technologies that capture biogas and landfill gas.

Improve public health and livelihoods by reducing open burning, mitigating pest and disease vector spreading, and preventing crime and violence.

References- (This review article has used published materials from different online and offline sources)
European Scientific Journal June 2015 /SPECIAL/ edition ISSN: 1857 – 7881 (Print) e – ISSN 1857- 7431
Pimpri – Chichwad municipal coporation website
Content from – IAS study material

/www.npcindia.gov.in/NPC/Files/Dear, Mark



Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News