Solid Waste Management

Urban waste management and especially solid waste management (SWM), often referred to as garbage management, is a contentious issue in any city. This is because garbage is generated by every individual citizen, much of which is rotting and stinking. Hence it has to be taken out of the premises every day. The duty of collecting all this stinking, rotting garbage from every household in every neighborhood and managing it, is mandated to be the duty of the municipality or whichever type of urban local body (ULB) that exists in that place and no special fees or service charges are expected to be levied for this work by the ULB.

Garbage management remains contentious because the domestic garbage from homes, offices and educational institutions has become more complex, comprising biodegradable, non-biodegradable, toxic, insanitary and construction and demolition waste. Such complex garbage cannot be just collected all together and treated in one place and least of all dumped on the outskirts because all the toxic and insanitary elements in it will come back into the city through air, water and food. To collect it, transport it and safely manage it, requires investment. For this reason, it is often outsourced to private entrepreneurs who may or may not be able to deliver the required results and the problem thus remains unresolved.

Challenges to SWM

Currently, most cities in India face some typical challenges.

  • Excessive littering by citizens and lack of pride among the city dwellers for cleanliness
  • Inability of ULBs to provide appropriate bins in public places for segregated waste deposition and collection, personnel for regular cleaning and enforcement of fines.
  • Inability of ULBs to establish systems and technologies required for segregated collection, transportation and processing of different categories of solid waste from households, commercial establishments and institutions. Lack of coordination among departments exacerbates the problem.
  • Outdated systems of primary and secondary collection and inefficient transportation.
  • Inability to meet revenue expenses including salaries, consumables, safety equipment and personal protective equipment and hence no resources available for segregated collection and transportation of waste.
  • Lack of motivation and lack of will and skill among staff to implement n Poor or no collection of user charges because of poor services and hence inability of ULBs to meet day to day expenses leading to a vicious cycle of poor performance and poor revenue.

Solid Waste Management Rules and Manual

Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) notified the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 in April 2016, which has made citizens more accountable for their actions. The Rules require them to be more responsible towards their environment by reducing generation of waste, segregating what they generate into various categories and handing them over as such to door-to-door waste collectors so that the different categories can be separately transported, reused, reprocessed and recycled. The Rules also define bulk generators and make them accountable for the waste they generate and require bulk generators to submit their plans of action before receiving no objection or clearance from the ULB. Furthermore, the Rules strive to achieve diversion of garbage from dumpsite/ landfill outside the cities. To operationalise the SWM Rules 2016, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has published a manual which was finalized in October 2016 and which has incorporated the necessary specifications and actions for ULBs to implement the SWM Rules 2016 in their cities.

Need for Capacity Building

To draw maximum advantage of these changes, it is also necessary for state governments, local self-governments and citizens’ initiatives to develop capacity and the will to implement the Rules so that by 2019, all cities are able to bring about visible changes.

In 2016, under the Swachh Bharat Mission (urban) a set of twelve exposure cum training workshops on SWM were conducted by NIUA at Delhi for officials of the ULBs, which aimed at fulfilling this need of capacity building and training of municipal officials. The 2016 workshops results were analysed and the challenges and needs of the ULBs in SWM, were recorded. Many ULB officials cited the following as their biggest challenges for implementing the SWM Rules 2016:

  • Segregation of waste at source to be made mandatory for achieving source segregation of waste at the household/ generator’s level, ULBs should provide incentives such as Bags and Bins (blue, green, black etc.) and also impose penalties in case segregation of waste is not properly done despite notification and warnings.
  • Waste has to be collected in different streams such as wet, dry, insanitary, e-waste and hazardous waste. Waste, which can be recycled, should be given to ragpickers or NGOs wherein it can be converted to useful products and sold to generate livelihood.
  • After segregating and processing whatever is processable, non-recyclable waste must be disposed in a Secured Landfill (SLF). ULBs have to ensure provision of adequate treatment plants and landfill sites. Waste, which are not used for composting, recycling or marketing have to be securely transported to these secured landfill sites or SLFs.


To achieve the above listed objectives, following are the recommendations by NIUA:

Manpower has ULBs: For better management of the solid waste, ULBs should ensure that they have enough skilled labour for carrying out various processes related to solid waste treatment and disposal.

Create destination organisation chart to motivate workers: ULBs should identify staff members currently working in the municipal corporation, monitor individual tasks, monitor and evaluate them. They must also inculcate among the officers and staff, a sense of pride in their work. ULBs must give its staff recognition and prizes.

Special training for unskilled and skilled employees: ULBs should ensure that special training is conducted for unskilled staff so that they can obtain necessary qualification in the field of solid waste management and become skilled. Officers must be exposed to best practices adopted by different cities and learn about new advances in the field.

Develop technologies for sustainable utilisation of solid waste: ULBs should invest on technologies such as vermicomposting, anaerobic digestion/ biomethanation etc. to generate energy and make this process economical for integrated SWM.

Improve collection and transportation of waste: Municipal officers should ensure that vehicles are selected according to capital costs, its carrying capacity, loading speed, local speed, fuel consumption and maintenance costs. In large cities, containers can be transported by a hydraulic vehicle and in small cities containers can be transported by tractors equipped with a container-lifting device.

Increase public-private partnership: ULBs should join hands with PPP to setup sustainable infrastructure (solid waste treatment plants) that are economically viable.

Build awareness through campaigning, training workshop and digital media: ULBs should ensure that awareness campaigns should target elected representatives, schools, non-governmental organizations, media, trade associations, families, and the public at large. This can be done via door-to-door awareness programme such as rallies, street play, and clean up drives. Television, radio, and the Internet are very powerful media and can be used to inform citizens of new waste collection arrangements made by the ULB as well as public health benefits.

Public participation holds the key: ULBs need to change their mindsets and improve their approach and methods of involving citizens in the day-to-day governance of cities, especially with respect to SWM. They should allow innovation and entrepreneurship from the public, providing space and power within a governance structure where rag pickers, waste workers, slum dwellers, and small and medium entrepreneurs can work alongside health officers, engineers, commissioners, and the rest of the citizenry.

RWAs should promote clean drive: RWAs should ensure that each household segregates its waste into dry, wet, hazardous waste etc. by providing incentives such as bins/bags (blue, green, black etc.), by providing facilities in community centers for collection and processing of dry waste and also disincentives such as fines/warning if they fail to do so. Those residents who contribute their time and resources should be recognised and applauded.

Set good examples: Councillors, corporators and political entities should themselves set an example by following the law and rules so that the citizens are motivated to do so instead of seeking exemptions for frivolous reasons.

Root out corruption: Corruption for award of work to PPP or third party vendors or even NGOs and RWAs can kill any project before it begins. Hence, all such awards and practices should be made transparent, honest and accountable.

Raise funds for SWM: ULBs can raise funds from treating the waste (Wealth from Waste) and develop common facilities on a cost sharing basis to access the capital market to raise fund for such projects through a lead agency that should be established by the state government.

Administer user charges: ULBs need to administer user charges as it is an equitable means of funding SWM and provides incentives to reduce waste generation while encouraging reuse and recycling.

Effectively implement spot fines: Municipal authorities should impose spot fines whenever littering of waste happens.

Make available encumbrance free land within the ULBs’ jurisdiction: ULBs should identify and reserve land for SWM facilities such as decentralised composting, dry waste collection centres, recycling plants and SLFs. Land clearance from concerned authorities should be obtained as early as possible.

Assure secure landfill site on the outskirts of the city in accordance to the topography: ULBs should ensure that they have space for dumping non-processable or non-recyclable waste in a SLF. Due to constraints in finding adequate land in hilly areas, waste should be disposed in specially designed landfills that do not contaminate water bodies downstream.

Implement proper land filling technique: ULBs should ensure that segregation at source is done properly at the primary stage and collection of segregated waste is done at the secondary stage. Only non-compostable and non-recyclables waste may go to SLFs. Proper landfilling techniques in SLFs with liners and capsules will help prevent pollution.

Making the environment clean & non-infectious: ULBs need to ensure that their city is kept clean and healthy. Open dumping, littering, polluting drains with garbage can give rise to many infectious diseases. Health officers must inspect all such locations every month to ensure proper usage and maintenance ULBs must ensure fencing of water bodies and strict action against violators littering drains and canals through spot fines and penalties.

Don’t neglect solid waste generation in slums: ULBs must not neglect collection of waste from slum areas. People in slums must be made aware of the need for proper segregation of waste and provided with incentives such as Bags and Bins and regular collection at designated times during the day.

Handle SWM rigorously during festivals: ULBs must ensure that enough manpower and capacity in treatment facilities is available to efficiently manage solid waste during festivals. Tourists and pilgrims may be fined for littering.

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