PM Modi launches campaign to make India garbage free

Urban India generates nearly 0.15 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per day of which, only 68 per cent is collected for disposal

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 30 September 2021
The Ghazipur landfill near Delhi. Photo: Agnimirh Basu / CSE
The Ghazipur landfill near Delhi. Photo: Agnimirh Basu / CSE The Ghazipur landfill near Delhi. Photo: Agnimirh Basu / CSE

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the second phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U 2.0) Mission October 1, 2021, to make all cities in India ‘garbage free’. Along with this, Modi will also flag of the second phase of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT 2.0).

The SBM-U 2.0, with an outlay of Rs. 1.41 lakh crore, aims to make Indian cities ‘garbage free’ and all urban local bodies (ULBs) open defecation free.

“The Mission will focus on source segregation of solid waste, utilising the principles of 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), scientific processing of all types of municipal solid waste (MSW) and remediation of legacy dumpsites for effective solid waste management,” a press statement from the Press Information Bureau, said.

There has been an explosion in the generation of MSW in Indian cities due to a burgeoning population and even faster urbanisation. This has severely damaged the environment and public health and strained the capacity of ULBs to collect, transport, treat and scientifically dispose of solid wastes.

A concise state of affairs of the municipal solid waste in India:

  • Urban India alone generates nearly 0.15 million tonnes per day (TPD) of MSW, with per capita generation ranging between 0.30–0.45 kg per day.
  • The volume of waste is projected to reach 165 million tonnes by 2031 and 436 million tonnes by 2050, if existing policies, programmes and management strategies are not adequately addressed.
  • Environmentally sound and economically viable management of solid waste is the sole responsibility of legally prescribed ULBs.
  • Due to lack of policy and technological interventions, non-cooperation among stakeholders and inefficient collection mechanisms, solid waste management services are inefficiently managed by India’s municipalities. As a result, a large segment of residents is not provided with waste collection services.
  • Of the 62 million tonnes of waste generated annually in India only 68 per cent is collected, of which only 28 per cent is treated by municipal corporations.
  • Thus, at present, only 19 per cent of the total waste generated in the country is treated and more than 80 per cent is disposed of in an unscientific manner at dumpsites.
  • The Waste to Energy Report (2014) estimated that the unattended waste has the potential of generating 439 MW of power (from 32,890 TPD of combustible wastes including refused-derived fuel or 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.
  • Collection and recycling are not effectively executed in many parts of the country. Solid waste from industrial, municipal, agricultural, construction and demolition (C&D) and other processes typically contains base materials in the form of scrap, like ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics and glass, that can be potentially recycled for various gainful applications. However, the recycling rates are meagre in comparison to international standards.
  • Lower recycling in India is attributed to a wide range of reasons such as lack of social awareness, socio-political hindrances, inefficient collection and segregation mechanisms, and lack of appropriate infrastructure and technology.
  • It is important to note that the engagement of formal waste management enterprises remains low, primarily due to insufficient funds, lack of legal guidance, low sectoral development and lack of tacit know-how about sustainable waste management businesses. Hence, in many developing countries including India, waste collection and material recycling activities are majorly performed by the informal waste sector. Various studies have revealed that in developing countries the informal sector’s contribution in recovery of materials from municipal waste is much higher than formal waste management services.
  • According to the Solid Waste Management Rules (2016), ‘informal waste collectors’ includes individuals, associations or waste traders who are involved in sorting, sale and purchase of recyclable materials. Solid Waste Rules (2016) define a ‘waste picker’ as a person informally engaged in the collection and recovery of reusable and recyclable solid waste from the source of waste generation to sale of waste to recyclers directly or through intermediaries.
  • The informal sector is often not officially approved, recognised and acknowledged, besides the fact that they potentially contribute to waste recycling practices of cities by collecting, sorting, processing, storing and trading waste materials in the recycling value chain.
  • India’s households, itinerant waste dealers (raddiwalas) and waste collectors collectively recover nearly 1.2–2.4 million tonnes of newspapers, 2.4–4.3 million tonnes of cardboard and mixed paper, more than 1.3 million tonnes of glass, more than 2.6 million tonnes of metal waste and 4–6.2 million tonnes of other recyclable materials each year.
  • Overall, 30–60 per cent of all paper and cardboard, 50–80 per cent of all plastic and nearly 100 per cent of all glass bottles manufactured in India are recycled.
  • Annual generation of plastic waste is nearly 3.36 million tonnes, which means 2–2.35 million tonnes of it are being recycled. However, studies on material flow of waste estimate that nearly 6.5–8.5 million tonnes of plastic are being recycled in India. The discrepancies in numbers might be due to the fact that a major fraction of plastic waste is recycled informally by waste pickers and kabadiwala associations and is not reflected in the formal waste management chain. This shows how much recycling of plastic waste fractions is possible because of interventions of the informal sector in the waste chain.
  • While reliable estimates of the number of people involved in this work are difficult to come by, it has been reported that the informal waste economy employs about 0.5–2 per cent of the urban population worldwide (2.49–2.8 billion people), yielding an estimated number of roughly 12.5–56 million people.
  • Waste pickers alone account for 0.1 per cent of India’s urban workforce. According to another study, nearly 1.7 million urban poor are engaged in collecting 15–20 per cent of the MSW generated in India. This does not include the many informally working companies and reprocessing units in the formal and informal sectors participating in waste management, which are likely to underestimate the statistics.
  • There were an estimated 5,511 plastic recycling units in industrial areas in 60 Indian cities in 2010–11, of which only 2,108 (38 per cent) were registered. Similarly, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee has specifically established 5,695 informal waste recycling units with a workforce of over 40,000 employees in different parts of Delhi.

(Source: Centre for Science and Environment)

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