The barriers to the disposal of the continuously generated and discarded solid waste

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Question – What are the barriers to the disposal of the continuously generated and discarded solid waste? How can we safely remove toxic waste accumulating in our habitable environment? 16 February 2022

AnswerIndia currently generates about 960 million ton of solid waste annually as by-products during industrial, mining, municipal, agricultural and other processes. Of this, about 350 million ton are organic wastes, 290 million ton are inorganic wastes, and 4.5 million ton are toxic in nature. But the dilemma is that about 90% of the waste generated is thrown away instead of being disposed of properly.

Impediments in disposing solid wastes:

  • According to NITI Aayog, 170,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste is generated daily in urban areas. Whereas urban local bodies spend around Rs 500 to 1,500 per tonne on solid waste management, of this, 60% – 70% is spent on collection, 20% – 30% on transportation, but almost nothing is spent on treatment and disposal. Past economic surveys have also identified poor financial capacity of urban local bodies as the main reason for poor municipal services and solid waste management.
  • Lack of trained and qualified waste management professionals is also a major factor.
  • Limited budgetary support to cover costs associated with developing appropriate waste collection, storage, treatment and disposal.
  • Limited environmental awareness with little motivation has hindered innovation, and adoption of new technologies that can transform waste management in India.
  • Lack of coordination between government and civic agencies, local waste collection groups.
  • Public attitude towards waste is also a major impediment to the improvement of SWM in India.
  • Lack of favorable policy guidelines from state governments regarding land allotment, waste supply and “waste to energy” power purchase facilities.
  • Greed and profiteering mindset of the industries, due to which there is low level of compliance with e-waste management rules and biomedical waste management rules.

Treatment and disposal of solid waste:

  • Sanitary landfill is more hygienic, and built in a methodical manner to solve the problem of leaching. These are lined with materials that are impermeable such as plastics and clay, and are also built over impermeable soil.
  • Proper collection and segregation of plastic, e-waste, bio-medical waste & other solid waste at the site of generation.
  • Recycling, waste-to-energy conversion, the use of plastics in road construction and the use of green waste as fertilizer can be one way to solve the problems of waste accumulation.
  • Replacing dumps with properly managed engineered landfills to reduce the environmental impact of waste and prevent toxic leaks.
  • Using certain chemicals that reacts with the hazardous waste, and convert it into less toxic forms. These can give immediate results.
  • Strict enforcement of E-Waste & Biomedical Waste Management and Handling Rules.

About 100 cities are set to be developed as smart cities. Municipal bodies will have to rework the long term approach in solid waste management and redesign their strategies according to the changing lifestyles. They should restart waste management in cities so that we can process the waste and not landfill it (with adequate provision in processing and recycling). To do this, households and institutions must segregate their waste at source so that it can be managed as a resource.

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