The new Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016, launched last year by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) has replaced the not-so-effective Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. While the old guidelines did not mention any segregation of solid wastes, the new set of guidelines has focused on conversion of waste to energy.
At the official inauguration of the new rules, the Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Prakash Javedkar pointed out that 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country at present, out of which 5.6 million tonnes is plastic waste and 0.17 million tonnes is biomedical waste. He also stated that hazardous waste generation is around 7.90 million tonnes per annum and that 15 lakh tonnes of e-waste is generated annually in India. Out of 75-80% of the municipal waste which gets collected, only 22-28% is processed and treated. He also stated, “Waste generation will increase from 62 million tonnes to about 165 million tonnes by 2030.”
Tapas Kumar Ghatak who is a Geophysicist (IIT), a former Director MSW(JICA), and In-charge Environment Cell, KMDA, Department of Urban Development, Government of West Bengal, Sr Consultant GIS UNICEF, Consultant GIS World Bank, and who was also Associated with CRISIL for JNNURM Project Dept of UD GOI, DFID for Kolkata Municipal Corporation, told BE, “The SWM rules, 2016, is a milestone decision. Unlike the SWM 2000, which did not have waste management sustaining rules, the 2016 rules will give a direct responsibility to its citizens. This rule includes an economic as well as a business model. Legally, this is the start of a better waste management programme in India.”
The new rules are now applicable beyond municipal areas and have included urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, and areas under the control of the Indian Railways, airports, special economic zones, and places of pilgrimage, places of religious and historical importance, and state and central government organisations.
What are solid wastes?
The Department of Environmental Conservation defines solid waste as any garbage, refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded materials including solid, liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous material, resulting from industrial, commercial, mining and agricultural operations and from community activities. Dr. Sanghamitra Mukherjee, Director, Shreemitram Environ Management, told BE, “Solid waste is produced in every sphere of life. The first bite in the apple generated solid waste. Now with increasing population and change in lifestyle, the amount of waste generation has increased. Based mostly on rules of the respective country the segregation is guided. The domestic waste is mainly segregated into wet, dry, and hazardous wastes.”
The improper waste disposal systems, particularly by municipal waste management teams, lead to the heap-up of wastes. Biodegradable wastes decompose under improper, unhygienic and uncontrolled conditions. This leads to foul smell and encourages diseases and infections. Solid waste from industries, which are source of toxic metals, hazardous wastes and chemicals leads to air, soil and water pollution. The per capita waste generation in Indian cities range from 200 grams to 600 grams per day (2011). 43 million tonne per annum (TPA) is collected, 11.9 million is treated and 31 million is dumped in landfill sites.
As per the Report of the Task Force of erstwhile Planning Commission, the untapped waste has a potential of generating 439 MW of power from 32,890 (Tonne per Day) 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.
Waste segregation is the new mantra
The new rules have mandated source segregation of waste, which would better enable recovery, reuse, and recycling. Waste generators have to segregate waste into biodegradables, dry (plastic, paper, metal, wood etc.) and domestic hazardous waste like diapers, napkins, mosquito repellents, cleaning agents, syringes before handing it over to the collector.
“Out of 66% garbage generated in the country is collected, only 28% is treated by Municipal Corporation. Funds for SWM are assigned as part of annual municipal general budget. Small cities tend to get more budget allotment than metropolitans due to wider resources and responsibilities involved in it. In terms of treating waste, Tamil Nadu is ahead of other states,” added Tapas Ghatak.
Institutional generators, market associations, event organisers, hotels and restaurants have been directly made responsible for segregation and sorting the waste. The new set of guidelines makes it mandatory for hotels and restaurants to manage waste in partnership with local bodies. They will have to segregate biodegradable waste and set up a system of collection to ensure that food waste is utilised for composting.
The rules have made it mandatory for all resident welfare and market associations and gated communities with an area of above 5,000 square metres to segregate waste at source into material like plastic, tin, glass, paper and others and hand over recyclable material either to authorised waste-pickers and recyclers or to the concerned urban local body.
Dr. Mukherjee said, “Various types of segregated wastes, like, organic, plastics, papers, e-waste, medical waste etc. are processed with different technologies, which are adopted by different entrepreneurs, local bodies or government plays the monitoring role. At present, the CII and CREDAI Bengal have shown an interest in promoting and implementing waste management issues at different sector. The CII is trying to promote Waste management as a subject of entrepreneurship. Moreover, the Administrative Training Institute in Salt Lake has included waste management as a part of their refresher course for officials at the administrative level. The Calcutta University has also included it as a part of urban management.”
Power will be given to local bodies across India to decide the user fees. Municipal authorities will levy user fees for collection, disposal, and processing from bulk generators. As per the rules, the generator will have to pay this user fee to the waste collector and a spot fine will also be initiated for littering and non-segregation. Rag pickers, waste pickers and kabadiwallas who earlier constituted the informal sector will now come under the formal sector. The guidelines
promote zero tolerance towards throwing, burning or burying solid waste on streets, open public spaces, in drains, and in water bodies.
Going by the new rules, waste generators are now responsible for segregating waste into wet, dry, and hazardous categories. The Environment Minister also highlighted that the land for construction of sanitary landfills in hilly areas will have to be within 25 kilometres. Waste processing facilities will have to be set up by local bodies having a population of one million or more within two years. Census towns, which have a population below one million, will need to construct common or stand-alone sanitary landfills. In case of census towns having a population between 0.5 million and one million population, civic authorities need to set up common or stand-alone sanitary landfills or regional sanitary landfills within three years.
“Other government bodies like panchayats, some municipalities, and educational institutes have shown interest in implementing the system of decentralised waste management at their place. The government at present is also promoting organic agriculture so the compost produced from the mechanical composter is promoted to be used by the gardener and cultivators. The compost has been promoted by the West Bengal Government through different Krishi-Mela organised all over Bengal. People are already showing interest in purchasing good quality compost that is produced from segregated organic waste,” added Dr. Mukherjee.
All the housing societies have to set up in-house waste handling and processing systems. Also, hotels and restaurants will need to follow systems set up by the local bodies to ensure that food waste is utilised for composting.
Future of waste management
According to experts, it will take almost four to five years to witness the impact of these guidelines in India. The major challenge will be to ensure waste segregation on the ground. Massive awareness campaigns have to be undertaken by communities, NGOs, students and other stakeholders to plan and implement these rules. To ensure wholesome upgradation of the country’s waste management system, its population needs to be well involved in the process.
In India, population density vis-à-vis waste density is high. There are different technologies, but success will come only when the community understands its responsibility and comes forward to participate in the process. A decentralised model was experimentally set up at Calcutta Riverside of the Hiland Group, a growing township at Batanagar in Maheshtala. Initially the project started with collection of waste from labourers. Initially, a 450 kg mechanical composter was installed, which was incremented by another 750 kg machine. The machines are able to facilitate faster composting of biodegradable wastes. Now it generates about 450 kg of compost daily. As the organic wastes are most prone to degradation and are the main reason for the obnoxious smell of the waste, it was treated within 18 to 24 hours of its generation and the processed product is absolutely safe and odourless.
Once the organic waste got separated, it became easy to get the other waste in dry form. Dry wastes are generally odour-free so it was easy to store the products for longer time in the dry-waste sheds and were disposed off to the vendors from time to time. Dry wastes like paper, plastic bottles, can, glass etc. already have an existing market of recycling, so the respective vendors are ready to take away the segregated dry waste.
The organic waste gets composted in presence of microbes, which act as a catalyst to make a faster conversion in odorless condition. This helps to reduce the NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome and get good compost, which they use for the in-house gardening and are also able to sell the product to the gardener who prefers to get good organic compost.
Thus, a small act of “separation at source” has helped the community to get rid of their waste hygienically and at the same time, is able to produce revenue to help in sustaining the project to some extent. The user fee is compulsory and that is how it sustains the process along with the selling of recycled product, which has a huge market.