Solid waste management is the systematic process of collecting, treating, disposing, and recycling solid waste generated by human activities. Proper solid waste management is essential for environmental sustainability, public health, and the overall well-being of communities. Read here to learn more.
The increasing volume and complexity of waste associated with the modern economy is posing a serious risk to ecosystems and human health.
Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tonnes of solid waste is collected worldwide and decay of the organic proportion of solid waste is contributing about 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are collected worldwide.
Of all the waste streams, waste from electrical and electronic equipment containing new and complex hazardous substances presents the fastest-growing challenge in both developed and developing countries.
Solid Waste Management
Solid waste is generated from various sources, including households, commercial establishments, industries, construction and demolition activities, and agricultural activities.
- Collection Systems: Efficient waste collection systems involve the organized gathering of waste from various sources.
- Segregation: The separation of waste at the source into different categories (e.g., recyclables, organic waste, and non-recyclables) facilitates effective waste management.
- Mode of Transport: Collected waste is transported to treatment and disposal facilities using trucks, containers, or other appropriate means.
- Efficiency: Proper planning of transportation routes and efficient logistics help minimize environmental impacts.
- Landfills: Non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste is disposed of in landfills. Modern landfills incorporate liners and other measures to minimize environmental contamination.
- Incineration: Some areas use incineration to burn waste, reducing its volume and generating energy. However, this method raises environmental and air quality concerns.
- Composting: Organic waste, such as kitchen scraps and yard waste, can be composted to produce nutrient-rich soil.
Solid waste management in India
Waste generation in urban areas of India will be 0.7 kg per person per day in 2025, approximately four to six times higher than in 1999.
According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India currently generates 62 million tons of waste (both recyclable and non–recyclable) every year, with an average annual growth rate of 4%. Solid waste, plastic waste, and E-waste are the principal waste materials.
- To promote and support the goals of the Swachh Bharat Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016, Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016, and the E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 have been notified.
- The use of emerging technologies such as automatic waste segregation, gasifiers, and pyrolysis units demonstrates a method to manage waste in India.
- Using Onsite waste processing like Composting/Biomethanation/Bio CNG, gasifiers/pyrolysis, etc can transform the current waste management scenario in India.
- The government of India has undertaken multiple large-scale national initiatives such as ‘Swachh Bharat Mission, ‘National Water Mission’ and ‘The Waste to Wealth Mission” as a part of its commitment to effective waste & pollution management in India.
- The setting up of Decentralised Waste processing sites within Cities to cater to problems of fresh MSW and legacy waste management.
- The Waste to Wealth Mission has deployed a decentralized waste Processing technology park.
- One tonne of plastic is used to make one kilometer of road in India. India has built one lakh kilometers of roads in at least 11 states using discarded plastic.
Issues in India
- Lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene results in the loss of 400,000 lives per year in India.
- 600 million people – nearly half of India’s population – face acute water shortage, with close to 200,000 dying each year from polluted water.
- Nearly 70 percent of India’s water is contaminated, impacting three in four Indians and contributing to 20 percent of the country’s disease burden.
- More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years old are attributable to an unhealthy environment.
- A printed circuit board (PCB) (used in cellular phones and personal computers) contains about 280 g/ton of gold.
The Challenges of Solid Waste Management
- Rapid Urbanization:
- The unprecedented growth of urban areas leads to increased waste generation, putting immense pressure on existing waste management systems.
- Unplanned urbanization often results in inadequate infrastructure and services for waste collection and disposal.
- Diverse Waste Streams:
- Solid waste comprises various materials, including plastics, paper, glass, metals, and organic waste. Each type requires specific treatment methods, making waste management a complex task.
- Improper disposal of hazardous waste poses environmental and health risks.
- Limited Recycling and Reuse:
- Despite the potential for recycling and reuse, many regions struggle to establish efficient systems. Lack of awareness, infrastructure, and incentives hinder recycling efforts.
- Valuable resources are lost when materials that could be recycled end up in landfills.
- Waste-to-Energy Challenges:
- While waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies offer energy recovery from waste, concerns about air emissions and the environmental impact of incineration persist.
- Balancing the energy benefits with environmental considerations is crucial for sustainable waste management.
Strategies for Better Implementation of Solid Waste Management
- Integrated Waste Management Systems:
- Developing comprehensive, integrated waste management systems that consider the entire waste lifecycle.
- Combining source reduction, recycling, composting, and responsible disposal to minimize environmental impact.
- Public Awareness and Education:
- Launching public awareness campaigns to educate communities about the importance of waste separation, recycling, and responsible waste disposal.
- Empowering individuals to make informed choices about their waste practices.
- Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):
- Implementing EPR policies to hold manufacturers accountable for the end-of-life management of their products.
- Encouraging eco-friendly product design and packaging to reduce waste generation.
- Smart Technologies:
- Utilizing technology for efficient waste collection, including smart bins that monitor fill levels and optimize collection routes.
- Implementing data-driven solutions to enhance the overall effectiveness of waste management systems.
- Innovation in Recycling:
- Investing in research and development to innovate recycling technologies that can handle diverse materials and improve recycling rates.
- Supporting industries that use recycled materials in their production processes.
- Waste-to-Energy with Environmental Safeguards:
- Developing waste-to-energy facilities with advanced emission control technologies to minimize air pollutants.
- Ensuring stringent environmental regulations and monitoring to safeguard public health and the ecosystem.
- Community Engagement:
- Involving communities in decision-making processes related to waste management.
- Fostering a sense of responsibility and ownership among residents for the waste generated in their neighborhoods.
- Government Policies and Regulations:
- Enacting and enforcing strong waste management policies and regulations at the national and local levels.
- Providing incentives for businesses and individuals to adopt sustainable waste management practices.
- Collaboration and International Cooperation:
- Facilitating collaboration between governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector.
- Sharing best practices and technologies globally to address common waste management challenges.
- Circular Economy Practices:
- Promoting the principles of a circular economy, which emphasizes minimizing waste, maximizing resource use, and closing material loops.
- Encouraging product design that considers the entire lifecycle, from production to disposal.
One tonne of recycled paper saves approximately 17 trees, 2.5 barrels of oil, 4100 kWh of electricity, 4 cubic meters of landfill, and 31,780 liters of water.
Recycling has the potential to create six times more jobs and generate around INR 14 lakh crore of additional cost savings by 2030.
Effective solid waste management is essential for creating a sustainable and healthy environment. By implementing integrated systems, raising public awareness, and embracing innovative technologies, communities can address the challenges posed by increasing waste generation. Governments, businesses, and individuals all play crucial roles in adopting responsible waste management practices to build a cleaner, greener future.
- Battery Waste Management
- Biomedical waste management
- Solar Waste Management
- Construction and Demolition waste management
-Article by Swathi Satish