Management of Waste in India

In this article, I will explain about the measures adopted in India to manage different types of waste. But before that we need to know, what is wastes? How they are classified? Types of Waste? Sources of Wastes? Legal provision in India for management of waste? Need for management? Concept of 3-R should be used to control the waste management. Methods used for the safe disposal of waste is required.

What is Waste?

Waste is a very general word used to describe any material that is discarded because it has served its purpose and is no longer useful.
According to the Environment Protection Act, 1990, waste is defined as:
  1. Any substances which constitutes a scrap material, or an effluent, or other unwanted surplus substances arising from the application of any process.

  2. Any substance or article which requires to be disposed of as being broken, worn out, contaminated or otherwise spoiled.

'Waste' is a matter, that
  • Occupies some space

  • produces smell

  • has weight

Classification of Wastes

Demand for goods is increasing day by day at a very fast rate due to rapid industralisation and population explosion. This, in turn, has resulted in an increase in the quantity and variety of waste generated.

Waste can be classified into the following categories:
  1. Biodegradable Wastes

  2. Non-biodegradable Wastes

  3. Toxic Wastes

  4. Non-toxic Waste

  5. Biomedical Wastes

  6. E-Wastes

Sources of Wastes

  1. Domestic Waste

  2. Industrial waste

    • Food Processing Units

    • Paper Industry

    • Textile Industry

    • Petroleum Industry

    • Chemical Industries

    • Metal Industries

    • Cement Industry

    • Nuclear Reactors

  3. Agricultural Waste

    • Fertilizers

    • Pesticides and Insecticides

    • Other Chemical Agents

  4. Commercial Waste

    • Waste from Medical institutions(Biomedical waste)

    • Shops and Restaurants

    • Building Wastes

  5. Construction Waste

  6. Mining Waste

  7. Hazardous Waste

  8. Radioactive Waste

  9. Human Waste

  10. Municipal Waste

  11. Degradable and Non-degradable Wastes

Need for Management of Waste

The problem with waste is that it remains in our environment. We move waste from one place to another but never get rid of it completely. Nature has recycled waste materials for millions of years. However, human population has increase so rapidly during the last century that the environment is now threatened by our activities and the waste they produce. This damage is done to the environment by the pollution of air, degradation of soils as rivers, lakes, etc.

Many scientists believe that if we do not learn to use our resources carefully and to reduce waste, we will not be able to survive. There is a close connection between waste, pollution and the damage to the environment. Waste causes pollution, which in turn causes the damage. Hence, there is an urgent need for management of waste.

The following dangers, posed by global pollution due to accumulation of wastes, threaten the survival of the ecosystem and call for the need to manage waste.

Legal provision for Handling and Management of Waste

Need for Legal provision

Environment degradation has assumed alarming proportions, threating the very existence of life on the earth. This dangerous situation is largely the result of human activities. The process of population explosion, heavy industralisation and growing urbanization has resulted in acute environmental problems in respect of air, water and noise pollution; soil erosion; water depletion; land degradation and degradation of forests; enhanced greenhouse effect and global warming, etc. Laws, in this regard, are the vital tools for protection, conservation and judicious use of resources.

In India, all the components of the environment have been considered as life support systems right from ancient times and their protection has been of paramount importance. In ancient days, population was limited and the living of the people was quite simple. However, gradually the population increased and consequently the demands of the people increased manifold. This has led to a strain on natural resources and devastating effects on the environment. Moreover, with the growth of commercialization and due to man's greed, over-exploitation of environment has become a common feature. This can be checked only through legal provisions.

At present, the life of an individual depends on the activities and performance of many other individuals. Careless maintenance of a nuclear reactor or a chemical plant, can take toll of hundreds or thousands of lives, not only in and around the accident site, but also at a considerable distance. Similarly, a mass causality or environment destruction can happen due to carelessness while transporting hazardous wastes. Therefore, there must be some legal provisions so that such instances of negligence can be reduced, if not totally avoided.

Legal provision in India

Legal provisions to control environmental pollution were existing in India even before independence. But these provisions were inadequate and did not play a significant role in protecting the environment. At the close of the 1970s, growth in environmental consciousness all over the world, led to the development of new Central laws to restore and maintain the quality of the environment.

Constitutional provisions:

The provisions for environmental protection in the Constitution of India were made within four years of Stockholm Conference, in 1976, through two amendments as follows.
  • Article 48-A of the constitution provides: "The state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife of the country." [Directive Principle of State Policy]

  • Article 51-A(g) provides:"It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures." [Fundamental Duties of a citizen]. Thus, our Constitution includes environmental protection and conservation as one of our fundamental duties.

Some of the important Acts passed by the Government of India on Environmental protection are given below.
  1. Legal provision for environment management.

  2. Legal provision for environment management:Part-2

Concept of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle

In the modern industrial world, the waste has become an environmental and public health hazard. Waste can be effectively managed by using the following three strategies:
  1. Reducing the Waste.

  2. Reusing the Waste.

  3. Recycling the Waste.

Reducing the waste

The waste can be reduced by making use of the following methods:
  1. Change of Process: By changing a modern method to make the best use of raw materials reduces the waste generation in industries. In zinc electroplating chlorides are used in the process instead of using the sulphate salt in order to eliminate the production of cyanides.

  2. Waste Concentration: By using scientific techniques such as precipitation and evaporation we can reduce the amount of liquid waste. We can also use incineration to get rid of inflammable wastes.

  3. Segregation of Waste: First of all, non-hazardous wastes are separated from hazardous waste rather than dumping them together. Then we can treat the small amount of hazardous waste. We can dispose of a large amount of non-hazardous waste in the traditional ways.

Reusing the waste

In our houses and in industries many materials are discarded as wastes. These materials have some discarded as wastes. These materials have some value, for instance glass, metal pieces, rubber, wood fiber and paper products.

In developing countries like India, some of the waste materials like old glass bottles, steel tyres, tin cans are reused. For example, shoes or chappals are made from old tyres, water bags are made from leather, lamps are made from tin cans, etc. Many waste collectors roam about in residential areas and industrial units to collect the solid waste. They segregate them and supply them to specialized artisans who make utility articles from such material and make a living from their skill. For example, a very beautiful garden has been created by Nek Chand in Chandigarh using waste products like tin cans, bottles, broken pieces of crockery etc. Waste collectors, thus, help in making new production processes. Thus, they reduce the burden of waste disposal.

Some solid wastes from the industry can be utilized directly. Fly ash from power plants is used as a cement substitute. Bricks are made from fly ash. Fly ash is also used in making of the roads and filling up low-lying areas.

Recycling Of waste

Besides reuse of the materials by using physical processes, we also use recycling process by treating the waste before it is used in a manufacturing process. In India, we have tones of bagasse from sugarcane during a particular season. Bagasse can be used in the manufacture of paper pulp. This would save trees which are normally used for making paper pulp. Bagasse is also used for making packaging material of dairy products and eggs. Paper industry recycles wood, cloth and used paper.

Plastics are recycled by plastic manufacturers. About 80 per cent of the plastic waste is recycled in India, which is about 0.75 million tons a year. Plastic is non-biodegradable. The bonds of carbon in plastic are impossible to break down through a physical are impossible to break down through a physic al or chemical process. They have to be incinerated, recycled or buried in landfills. The plastic bags which are extensively used in India are made from recycled plastic. The recycled plastic bags are harmful because the melting of plastic and plastic products breaks some polymer chains into smaller units which are harmful.

Government Initiatives

The Central and State Governments own control and develop a country's forests, dams, major irrigation systems, power stations, industries, means of transportation, railways, roads, ports, etc. The Government is not just the protector of the country's environment but also has a major responsibility for sustaining environmental conscience.

In India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests is the main nodal agency for generating environment consciousness and making and implementing schemes for environmental protection.

The Government's environmental policy focuses on the following areas:
  1. To check degradation of land and water through Wasteland Management and Restoration of river water quality programmes.

  2. To provide for conservation of natural resources by direct action such as declaration of reserved forests, biosphere reserves, wetlands, mangroves and protection of endangered species.

  3. To monitor development through Environmental Impact Assessment Studies of major project proposals .

  4. To make laws and acts for environment protection and to initiate penal measures against those who violate these laws.

The Environment Protection Act (1986)empowers the Central government to coordinate actions of State Governments, plan and execute a a nationwide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution, lay down standards for the quality of environment in its various aspects and for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from different sources. To protect wildlife, the government of India has set up national parks, sanctuaries, tiger reserves and biosphere reserves.
As such, the government has a major role in environmental protection. It is the government's duty to find out ways and means of improving efficiency of existing technologies and introduce new eco-friendly technologies. Eco-friendly technology is based on renewable resources as raw material as well as energy; and transformation through highly efficient biotechnology to produce environment friendly products. For example, to reduce vehicular pollution in Delhi, the government initiated the development and use of CNG kits in automobiles instead of petroleum. This has reduced air pollution in Delhi to considerable extent.

In India, the concept of cleaner technology has also been applied in the area of liquid waste management; the technologies for the gaseous and solid materials are available with National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB), New Delhi and Cleaner Technology Centre, New Delhi.

In order to minimize the adverse impact of a number of development projects on the environment, the government ensures that an Environment Impact Assessment is carried out before such a prioject is started. Environmental clearance is granted to them, only after stipulating appropriate environment management plans. These plans are also strictly monitored for compliance. The government sets up various committees under the charge of experts to evaluate the impact of various projects on environment. Some of the issues which have been hotly debated in recent decades include the importance of constructing big dams, effect of pollution on monuments like Taj Mahal, protection of wildlife, especially endangered species like tigers, lions, etc. The government also seeks public opinion on certain matters related to the environment.

Social Initiatives

Environmental protection is not the responsibility of the government alone. All sections of the society have to participate in this endeavour. It is ultimately the society that suffers due to environmental degradation. Therefore, the society has to play an important role in maintaining environmental standards in the following ways:-
  1. If air and water resources in an area are unfit and do not meet the acceptable standard, the people of the area can organize themselves and force the responsible agencies to take necessary action.

  2. If suitable action is not forthcoming they can, under the laws of the land, file a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) and get their problems solved.

  3. Groups of individuals together. So it is the duty of each individual to see that his/her actions do not pollute the environment.

  4. Groups of individuals together can make a huge difference in maintaining environmental standards.

  5. Air pollution, specially vehicular pollution can be minimized by adopting car pool method. This will also save huge amounts of money spent on importing petroleum from other countries.

  6. Society can play a significant role in environmental protection by creating awareness and educating people about the need to conserve and manage natural resources.

Individual Initiatives

The role of every individual in environmental protection is of great importance because if every individual contributes substantially, the effect will be visible not only at the community, city, state, or national level but also at the global level. It is the responsibility of each individual to protect the Earth and provide conducive environment for itself and innumerable other species which evolved on this earth.

Each individual should change his or her life style in such a way as to reduce environmental pollution. It can be done by following ways:
  1. Use carry bags made of paper or cloth instead of polythene.

  2. Help more in pollution prevention than pollution control.

  3. Use eco-friendly products.

  4. Cut down the use of chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs) as they destroy the ozone layer. Do not use polystyrene cups that have chlorofluorocarbons(CFC) molecules in them which destroy ozone layer.

  5. Use the chemicals derived from peaches and plums to clean computer chips and circuits boards instead of CFCs.

  6. Use CFC free refrigerators.

  7. Save electricity by not wasting it when not required because electricity saved is electricity generated without polluting the environment. For example, put on warm cloth rather than switching on a heater.

  8. Adopt and popularize renewable energy sources.

  9. Promote reuse and recycling wherever possible and reduce the production of waste.

  10. Use mass transport system. For short visits use bicycle or go on foot. Decrease the use of automobiles.

  11. Use rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries will reduce metal pollution.

  12. Use low phosphate, phosphate-free or biodegradable dish washing liquid, laundry detergent and shampoo. This will reduce eutrophication of water bodies.

  13. Use organic measure instead of commercial inorganic fertilizers.

  14. Plant more trees, as trees can absorb many toxic gases and can purify the air by releasing oxygen.

  15. Check population growth so that demand of material is kept under control.

Methods used for the safe disposal of waste

  1. Segregation:-In industrialized countries like Japan, the waste is segregated before it is disposed of. Even in colonies various types of bins are used to segregate glass, metals, paper, cloth etc. and each type is handled separately by reusing them, recycling them or disposing in any other accepted waste disposal method. It should be the duty of each household to segregate domestic waste into different dust bins(like biodegradable and non-biodegradable) and then convert biodegradable ones into other useful products like compost or gobar gas. Urban residential colonies should undertake collective effort for safe disposal of domestic waste.

    Sorting out of the re-usable material from heaps of waste may often involve much manual labuor. In a country like India, the poor garbage collectors make a living from discarded solids. In this way they do good job by removing much of the waste from the garbage dumps. Pieces of metal, glass, rubber, plastics etc., are removed to be recycled again to get finished products.

    The products derived from recycling process are not of the same quality as original ones. Paper made from recycled material f of a course quality and has to be used as a packing material in cartoons, in corrugated boards.

  2. Open Dumping:-In this method waste materials are dumped in open low lands far away from the city. This method is not environment friendly. However, this is the cheapest method and does not need much planning. The open pits spoil the site of the area and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, flies, and insects etc. that are the carriers of harmful diseases. They give out foul odour. If you burn the material in the open dumps it pollutes the air. Another danger of open dumping is that rainwater could carry the harmful substances to the nearby streams, ponds or lakes and if the water seeps down it could pollute the groundwater.

    • Collection of Municipal Solid Waste

    • To prohibit littering and facilitate compliance the following steps should be taken by the municipal authorities:

      1. Organising house-to-house collection of municipal solid waste.

      2. Devising collection of waste from slums and squatter areas or localities including hotels, restaurants, office complexes and commercial areas.

      3. Bio-medical wastes and industrial wastes should not be mixed with municipal solid wastes.

      4. Horticultural and constructions or demolition wastes or debris should be separately collected and disposed of by following proper norms.

      5. Waste(garbage, dry leaves) should not be burnt.

      6. Stray animals should not be allowed to move around waste storage facilities.

    • Storage of Municipal Solid Waste

    • Following criteria should be taken into account while establishing and maintaining storage facilities:

      1. Storage facilities shall be created and established by taking into account quantities of waste generation in a given area and the population densities. A storage facility shall be so placed that it is accessible to users.

      2. Storage facilities shall be so designed that wastes stored are not exposed to open atmosphere and shall be aesthetically acceptable and user-friendly.

      3. Storage facilities or 'bins' shall have 'easy to operate' design for handling, transfer and transportation of waste. Bins for storage of bio-degradable wastes shall be painted green and thodse for storage of recyclable wastes shall be printed black.

      4. Manual handling of waste shall be avoided.

    • Transportation of Municipal Solid Wastes

    • Vehicles used for transportation of wastes shall be covered. Waste should not be visible to public, nor exposed to open environment, preventing their scattering.

    • Segregation of Municipal Solid Wastes

    • The municipal authorities shall undertake phased programme to ensure community participation in waste segregation.

  3. Sanitary Landfill:-In this method, the waste is packed and dumped at the site and is covered with earth daily to prevent insects or rodents from entering into the landfill. The waste then is subjected to bacterial decomposition. Physical, chemical and biological reactions take place generating different gases like carbon dioxide(CO2), methane(CH4) and ammonia(NH3).

  4. Composting:-Composting of waste is an aerobic method of decomposing solid wastes. Moisture content is an important factor in aerobic composting. A moisture content of about 55 per cent is beneficial for biological breakdown of the waste. It may be necessary sometimes to add water to maintain moisture content.

  5. In cities vacant areas for disposal sites are not very many, so incineration process is used for waste disposal by industries and municipalities. Incineration is the process of controlled high temperature oxidation of primarily organic compounds that release thermal energy and produce carbon dioxide and water. In short, incineration involves burning of wastes at very high temperatures. The waste to be burnt is fed into an incineration/destroys the organic component.

  6. Scrubber:-It is a device that employs spray of water to catch pollutants during emissions. A dry scrubber is used to remove acid gases. The process of removing pollutants includes spraying of wet lime powder into the hot exhaust chamber. The scrubber uses this lime to neutralize acid gases in the same way as a gardener uses lime to neutralize acidic soil.

  7. Electrostatic Precipitators(ESPS):-It is a device that helps in pollution control by removing many chemicals from gas streams. These chemicals include lime salts, activated charcoal, ordinary smoke and soot as well as dioxins. It also removes particles of metals like lead, cadmium and nickel that are present in many consumer products. These particles are called 'fly ash' because they are light and tend to fly around in hot flue gases.


Waste management is one of the major problems that the Indian Government is facing today. Lots of money is spent every year to control the wastes. Public awareness is very important to control the waste. So, more and more public campaigns should be held to educate the Indian people and they should be told about the dis-advantages of wastes.


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