28 February 2020

Table of Contents for Special Focus: Waste Management & Recycling

Special Focus: Waste Management & Recycling

Wasting Megabucks


According to last year's official data, India generates approximately 62 million tons of solid waste annually, of which only 43 million tons is collected, and only 12 million tons is treated, and the rest is dumped! This is projected to rise to 436 million tons by 2050. In so far as sewage treatment goes, with barely three years left for the government target of ensuring toilets for all citizens, in urban India alone barely 30 percent of sewage generated reaches treatment plants. According to an IndiaSpend analysis an estimated 62,000 MLD of sewage is generated in urban areas, while the treatment capacity across India is only 23,277 MLD, or 37 per cent of sewage generated, as per official figures end 2015.


India’s waste management industry has the potential to be worth $13 billion by 2025 finds SATISH P CHAVAN.


Among India’s most looming crisis in the 21st Century is going to be waste management -- its treatment and recycling, and an environmentally safe disposal of all waste generated. The biggest segment is going to be urban waste management. Considering India’s unprecedented rate of urbanisation fuelled by massive migration from rural to urban areas, the problem of managing ‘Municipal Solid Waste’ (MSW) is going to be the biggest challenge. The spectrum of types of waste generated in India is very wide. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), approximately 62 million tons MT(MT) of waste is generated annually in the country; out of which 5.6 MT is plastic waste, 0.17 MT is biomedical waste, hazardous waste generation is 7.90 MT per annum, and 15 lakh tonne is e-waste. The per capita waste generation in Indian cities ranges from 200 grams to 600 grams per day. Approximately 43 million TPA is collected annually, of which 11.9 million is treated and 31 million is dumped in landfill sites, which means that only about 75-80 per cent of the municipal waste gets collected and only 22-28 per cent of this waste is processed and treated. The Ministry has projected that waste generation will increase from 62 MT to about 165 MT in 2030.


As per available data, only about 75- 80 per cent of municipal waste gets collected, of which only 22-28 per cent is processed and treated and remaining is disposed of indiscriminately at dump yards. It is projected that by the year 2031 the MSW generation shall increase to 165 MT, and to 436 MT by 2050. If cities continue to dump the waste at present rate without treatment, it will need 1240 hectares of land per year and with projected generation of 165 MT of waste by 2031, the requirement of setting up of land fill for 20 years of 10 meters height will require 66,000 hectares of land!




India is facing massive waste management challenge due to rapid urbanisation. Over 377 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate 62 MT of municipal solid waste per annum. Only 43 MT of the waste is collected, 11.9 MT is treated, and 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites. The most fundamental challenges include, ‘segregation of waste at source’ and its ‘environmentally safe disposal.’ The other major challenge is recycling this waste by reclaiming useful materials and opening up a new value stream, i.e making profits out of waste disposal and recycling.


Solid waste management (SWM) is a major problem for many urban local bodies (ULBs) in India, where urbanisation, industrialisation and economic growth have resulted in increased municipal solid waste (MSW) generation per person. Effective SWM is a major challenge in cities with high population density. SWM is one among the basic essential services provided by municipal authorities in India to keep urban centres clean. However, almost all municipal authorities deposit solid waste at a dump yard within or outside the city haphazardly. Experts believe that India is following a flawed system of waste disposal and management.



An audit conducted by SAI India came to the following conclusions
  • MoEF/Pollution Control Boards/States do not have complete data about all various kinds of waste being generated in India.
  • Risks to health/environment had not been adequately assessed by MoEF/states
  • Waste management efforts in India were not directed by a clear-cut policy, which incorporated a waste hierarchy.
  • Rules were not framed for all kinds of waste, like construction & demolition waste, electronic waste, agricultural waste, etc.
  • Instances of the polluter being held responsible for unsafe disposal were very few.
  • Absence of a single body taking ownership of waste issues in India.
  • Study of compliance to municipal solid waste rules revealed that collection, segregation of waste after collection, waste processing facilities, and scientific landfills, were almost non-existent.
  • Study of compliance to bio-medical waste rules also revealed that hospitals/private operators were running waste disposal facilities without authorization and segregation/disposal was not taking place.
  • Study of compliance to plastic waste rules revealed that ineffective enforcement of the rules by the DCs/DMs and PCBs.
  • Weak compliance was compounded by lax and ineffective monitoring.
  • Absence of adequate funds/manpower for waste management activities.



Regulatory Regime for Waste Management


Per capita waste generation increasing by 1.3 per cent annually, increase in waste generation is around 5 per cent annually. India produces 42.0 million tons of MSW annually. Per capita generation of waste varies from 200 gm to 600 gm per capita/day. Average of waste generation rate is 0.4 kg per capita per day in 0.1 million plus towns. Collection efficiency is between 50 per cent to 90 per cent of solid waste generated. Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) spend Rs.500/- to Rs.1500/- per ton on solid waste management of which, 60-70 per cent of the amount is spent on collection alone, and 20 per cent– 30 per cent on transportation. Consequently no budget is spent on actual treatment and disposal of waste. Crude dumping of this waste is practiced in most Indian cities.


The current status of SWM in India is poor because the best and most appropriate methods from waste collection to disposal are not being used. There is a lack of training in SWM and the availability of qualified waste management professionals is limited. There is also a lack of accountability in current SWM systems throughout India. Municipal authorities are responsible for managing MSW in India but have budgets that are insufficient to cover the costs associated with developing proper waste collection, storage, treatment and disposal. The lack of strategic MSW plans, waste collection/segregation and a government finance regulatory framework are major barriers to achieving effective SWM in India.




Approaches To Waste Processing & Disposal

I Wealth From Waste (Processing Of Organic Waste)

(A) Waste To Compost

(i) Aerobic / Anaerobic Composting

(ii) Vermi-composting

(B) Waste To Energy

(i) Refuse Derived Fuel (Rdf) / Pelletization

(ii) Bio-methanation

II Recycling Of Waste

III Sanitary Landfilling

IV Treating Bio-medical Waste Separately

Technology Options Recommended For Waste Processing

Towns Generating Garbage

• Upto 50 Metric Tons/Day(mt/Day) = Vermi-composting

• Between 50 Mt & 500 Mt / Day = Vermi-composting + Mechanical Composting

• More Than 500 Mt / Day = Mechanical Composting + Refuse Derived Fuel(rdf) from rejects keeping in view the type of the city (industrial or non- industrial) or bio-methanation


An important link in the waste collection value chain are the rag-pickers’ community, who manually scavenge rubbish dumps to collect waste and sell it at a profit. Often this job is hazardous too, to the extent that rag pickers have a life expectancy of 45 years and 30 per cent of their income goes towards medicine. Thankfully the MoEF announced regularisation of manual scavengers in 2016, but it is yet to grapple with the gargantuan problem of how to implement it. Given an industrial status, rag-pickers would get a blue collar job and it would uplift them by making them more professional. About 39 million people – around three percent of India's population – are involved in manual scavenging, e-waste or other waste management.

Limited environmental awareness combined with low motivation has inhibited innovation and the adoption of new technologies that could transform waste management in India. Public attitudes to waste are also a major barrier to improving SWM in India.




Indian waste management rules are founded on the principles of "sustainable development", "precaution" (measures should be taken to avoid environmental degradation and hazards) and "polluter pays" (polluter must bear costs for damages and harm caused to environment by his own acts). These principles form an integral part of Indian environmental law jurisprudence, as observed by the Supreme Court of India in various decisions. They mandate companies and industrial units to act in an environmentally accountable and responsible manner and for restoring the balance, if the same has been disrupted by their business processes. Bearing the essence in mind and the increased levels of waste generation as a by-product of development, various sub-ordinate legislations for regulating the manner of disposal and dealing with generated waste are made by MoEF under the umbrella law of Environment Protection Act, 1986 ("EPA").




The MoEF has revised Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules last year, after 16 years. The new rules will replace the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, which have been in place for the past 16 years. These rules are the sixth category of waste management rules brought out by the ministry, as it has earlier notified plastic, e-waste, biomedical, hazardous and construction and demolition waste management rules. The Rules are now applicable beyond Municipal areas and extend to urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of State and Central government organisations, etc. Most importantly the new rules stipulate source segregation of waste to channelize the waste to wealth by recovery, reuse and recycle. Another important shift in policy is that “Responsibilities of Generators” have been introduced to segregate waste in to three streams, Wet (Biodegradable), Dry (Plastic, Paper, metal, wood, etc.) and domestic hazardous wastes (diapers, napkins, empty containers of cleaning agents, mosquito repellents, etc.) and handover segregated wastes to authorised rag-pickers or waste collectors or local bodies. The new law stipulates scientific disposal of solid waste through segregation, collection and treatment and disposal in an environmentally sound manner to minimise adverse impact on the environment. The local authorities are responsible for the development of infrastructure for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of MSW.


Predicted population growth and overall impact on waste generation.                          Source: Amepu



population (×106)

per capita generation (kg per day)

total waste generation
(x 103 Tonnes per year)



























Money Motivates
I think the long term solution is providing incentives to end users to use such products by having schemes to buy back this compost. There is no structured institutionalized way to buy back the compost, if the government introduces a great way of buying back this compost waste and when the users find they are actually not using anything to maintain these products, you know their opex is zero and they get money from it. They are getting money by installing it. Then automatically the government’s burden will get reduced. I think India has to innovate, we also have to innovate some practices, we cannot always be followers, we need to show the world a way.  We need to be a leader and create case studies that other countries can copy our model.
Jaideep Saptarshi, Executive Director, Vermigold Ecotech Pvt Ltd 




India’s waste management and recycling market is the proverbial Rags-to-riches story. Rampant and unprecedented urbanisation, and an expanding manufacturing base is generating huge urban and industrial waste, which along with e-waste pose formidable waste treatment and recycling challenges in India. The overall environmental technologies market in India, including goods and services, is valued at $16.3 billion (2016). India ranks third overall in the 2016 Top Markets Study (TMS), with a Composite Environmental Technologies Score of 31.7. India ranks second for water, with a score of 16.3; sixth for air pollution control; and seventh for waste and recycling markets, with scores of 12.8 and 2.7, respectively. It would be interesting to see how the government and industry is meeting these challenges. The 'Swachh Bharat' abhiyan is an untapped waste management industry which has the potential to be worth $13 billion by 2025, according to available data. The government needs to franchise the 'fragmented' waste management industry and give it industrial status, to develop the sector in an organised manner.


As per another survey by business research organisation NOVONOUS, the waste management market is expected to be worth $13.62 billion by 2025, with an annual growth rate of 7.17 percent. The e-waste management market, which is regularised compared to other solid waste, is expected to grow at 10.03 percent and the bio-medical waste management market is expected to grow at 8.41 percent during the same period. As per the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the e-waste market is expected to grow at 30.6 percent during 2014-19.


As per a report of a Task Force set up by the erstwhile Planning Commission, India’s untapped waste has a potential of generating 439 MW of power from 32,890 TPD of combustible wastes including Refused Derived Fuel (RDF), 1.3 million cubic metre of biogas per day, or 72 MW of electricity from biogas and 5.4 million metric tonnes of compost annually to support agriculture.


A report by IIT Kanpur found the potential of recovering at least 15 per cent or 15,000 MT of waste generated everyday in the country. This could provide employment opportunities to about 500,000 rag-pickers. The report added that despite immense potential in big cities in this area, participation from non-profits or community is limited. Given the volume of garbage generated in India, the waste management and recycling industry in India could grow into a $100 billion industry by 2020, provided it is built around the Swachh Bharat initiative.




According to a report by Research and Markets, "Global Solid Waste Management Market - Analysis and Forecast (2016-2022),’ the global solid waste management market is projected at $296.04 billion in 2022. Increased globalisation and a surge in population and GDP, among others have led to an increase in the overall waste volume globally. According to World Bank in 2012, urban population produced about 1.3 billion tonnes of MSW which is expected to grow to 2.2 billion tonnes in 2025. The costs for managing solid waste is expected to increase drastically in lower middle (four times) income countries such as India and Brazil among others and even higher in low income countries (five times) such as Kenya and Ghana among others. Therefore, the need for solid waste management has increased largely at a global scale.

Leave a Comment

Email Address
(will not be published)