New Delhi: India’s garbage crisis needs urgent attention. The country has been generating over 1.60 lakh (1,60,038.9) tonnes of solid waste per day, as per the annual report (2020-21) on Implementation of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Over 95 per cent of the waste generated is collected, 19.2 per cent of which goes to India’s 3,184 dumpsites and 341 landfills, the report states. It is not a sustainable model as cities run out of space and dumpsites continue to accumulate waste well past their lifespan and capacity. It poses an environmental hazard, as well as a health hazard. But there are some cities in India that have taken on the challenge of waste management on a war footing and are being hailed as the cleanest cities in India by research organisations and think tanks.
The Centre For Science and Environment (CSE) released its report ‘Waste Wise Cities – Best Practices In Municipal Solid Waste Management’ in December 2021. The study focuses on ‘each city’s strengths so that learning is based on the best practice followed, its experience and its innovation.’ CSE and NITI Aayog collaborated on the study with an aim to drive change through knowledge and evidence-based learning as it captures best practices in various facets of municipal solid waste management.
Here Are The Best Performing Cities In Various Aspects Of Waste Management In India
Source segregation is a process of separating different types of waste done by citizens before placing them for collection. It is a fundamental and non-negotiable condition for a sustainable waste management ecosystem, states the report. It further explains how mixing waste at source creates a myriad of problems, increases the risk of contamination of recyclables and significantly reduces their economic potential. Waste segregation can also help in revenue generation once treated, in the form of recyclable items, compost, generation of biogas, among other such ways. It has been proven several times that cities that segregate their solid waste have been able to realise the actual value of waste, as per the report.
Indore, Madhya Pradesh
Indore, hailed as the cleanest city of India for 5 years in a row, used robust communication strategies to bring about behavioural change at a mass level, to motivate citizens to embrace segregation. This was followed by a robust monitoring system and enforcement through a series of by-laws.
According to the CSE study, once segregation was achieved, the city undertook a study to ascertain the population and the amount of waste generated in each ward, based on which a route plan was developed. The study also says that Indore has become a champion and number one city in the waste management sector in India through 6-bin source segregation, participation of all stakeholders and good governance, which is helping treat 95 per cent of the waste generated in the city.
Alappuzha embarked on a project called Clean Home, Clean City that focussed on source segregation as the first and foremost step towards effective waste management. This decreased the operational cost of dealing with waste as well as created a source of revenue. Awareness campaigns by the city government to promote source segregation led to remarkable changes in the attitude and practices of the citizens, states the CSE study.
Panaji has worked over the last 15 years to achieve 99 per cent segregation, the CSE study claims, with the help of primary segregation by the households. In 2021, the city implemented 16-way segregation at source – paper, cardboard, soft plastics, pet and hard plastics, infectious biomedical waste, coconut shells, fibre and tender coconut, tubes, bulbs/CFL, medicines, batteries, glass, sharps, metal, ceramic, e-waste, cloth and non-recyclables. The 16-bin model provides significantly higher revenue from the sale of recovered goods, increasing the income of the workers involved in the value chain, explains the report.
Biodegradable Waste Management
As per the study, on average, organic waste consists of more than half of the solid waste generated in India, which means that if the organic waste is managed properly, half of the waste problems will be taken care of. It further highlights the need to manage organic waste as close to the source, where it originates as possible.
Bobbili, Andhra Pradesh
Bobbili, a town located in the Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, produces a substantial quantity of wet waste, and so the municipal administration adopted composting in a big way. From turning organic waste to manure at a household level to implementing composting on a larger scale in the form of the windrow (a long line of raked hay, corn sheaves, or peats laid out to dry in the wind) and vermicomposting, (a natural process whereby earthworms convert waste material with rigid structures into compost). The city has also invested in a biogas plant. All these measures have proved adequate to process all of the town’s organic waste, the report concludes.
As per the study, the game changer for Mysuru was the zero-waste management plants in each zone that received segregated biodegradable fractions of solid waste from five wards on average. Collected biodegradable waste is converted to compost by means of scientific methods. The compost is then packaged and sold to nearby farmers and the horticulture department.
Vengurla is a town in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, just 30 kms north of Goa. It adopted a two bin-two bag approach for source segregation – for dry and wet waste, and today processes 100 per cent of the organic waste. The waste is processed using vermicomposting and biomethanation for kitchen waste, while it uses organic waste converter for fish or meat and fibrous wastes. Moreover, the city uses briquetting (compressed block of coal dust or other combustible biomass material used for fuel and kindling to start a fire) for biomass and green foliage waste management.
Plastic Waste Management
Management of plastic waste has turned out to be a massive challenge. Plastic is highly durable and versatile and hence it is used so widely. However, plastic pollution today is one of the worst environmental threats facing the world, and low awareness among consumers and authorities is magnifying the issue. Plastic takes 800- 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. Unfortunately, even then, it doesn’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment. Moreover, only 9% of all plastic produced is recycled and most of it ends up in the oceans.
According to the CSE report, the following cities emerged as the best examples of their plastic waste management.
Bicholim is a town and a municipal council in North Goa district in the state of Goa. The city has given two buckets to every household where the dry and wet waste segregation at the source can take place, it also has a garbage treatment plant where on an average 4 to 5 tons of waste is treated. The wet waste is converted into decomposed manure which is sold at Rs 4 per kg. On the other hand, the plastic waste is collected and sold to scrap owners who further recycle it. Bicholim has not only managed to process its own waste but is also accepting waste from neighbouring urban local bodies, hence dealing with the non-biodegradable waste of the entire taluka.
Sikkim was the first Indian state to ban disposable plastic bags as early as June 1998. In 2016, the capital city also banned the use of packaged drinking water, disposable plastic plates and cutlery in government offices. The ban was effective because the city government followed it up with awareness and enforcement activities on the ground. All the stakeholders were capacitated to understand the impacts of plastic waste on their city and were able to effectively contribute to curbing the use of plastic, and adopting eco friendly alternatives like paper cutlery, and reusable or glass water bottles.
Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu
Kumbakonam, like other best performing cities, recognised and mandated source segregation as the most important step to creating a city free of plastic waste and also set up a resource recovery facility. While the recyclable fractions like plastic bottles, plastic bags and wrappers, among others, were being sent to the recycling industries, non-recyclable plastic like bioplastics, composite plastic, plastic-coated wrapping paper and polycarbonate, among others, was converted to refuse-derived fuel and channelized to cement factories for co-processing.
Sanitary Waste Management
“Sanitary waste management has been the least explored and debated of all the streams of solid waste that is generated at the household level,” states the CSE report. Soiled napkins, diapers, condoms, tampons and blood-soaked cotton are considered as sanitary waste, which is usually clubbed along with dry waste but according to experts should be treated separately due to it being possibly contaminated. For people using sanitary products, SWM Rules, 2016 advise securely wrapping the used product and putting it under the non-biodegradable category.
The Karad municipal council encouraged schools to set up sanitary pad dispensary machines and sanitary waste disposal systems. It also ran IEC campaigns to explain to people the importance of segregating sanitary waste. Today, 100 per cent of households in Karad give sanitary waste separately for collection. The administration then made an agreement with the biomedical waste treatment facility at Kharad colony, to process the sanitary waste without any additional cost to the KMC. The city also ensures that sanitary waste is transported and processed separately in the local Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF).
Pune introduced the Red Dot campaign, a one-of-its-kind initiative, where citizens, sanitation workers and administration unanimously accepted their responsibility in disposing of sanitary waste properly. As per the initiative, residents of Pune were asked to wrap up their sanitary pads and diapers on the paper that was marked with a red dot. This would help sanitation workers identify sanitary waste and treat it accordingly.
Zero-Landfill City Model
A zero-landfill city ensures that maximum quantities of waste is subjected to scientific treatment and recycling measures and negligible waste is generated as residual solid waste or rejects, thereby minimising the need to construct new landfills.
The study explains that with the intervention of the local administration and women’s self-help groups and inspired by the concept of the Garbage Clinic Model (treating the garbage), the city is now able to achieve 100 per cent segregation, collection and processing of waste. The waste is brought to the Solid and Liquid Resource Management (SLRM) Centre. The legacy waste dumpsite has been cleared by the urban local bodies, as of 2022 and the site is now being used as waste recycling centre.
There were 800 garbage – vulnerable points and 110 community bins haphazardly receiving mixed waste in Chandrapur until 2014. In 2016, Chandrapur achieved 85 per cent source segregation and nearly 95 per cent waste processing by sensitising all the stakeholders through extensive Information, Education and Communication (IEC), capacity-building programmes, and awareness campaigns. Parallelly, the existing dumpsite containing 68,593 cubic metre of legacy waste is also remediated by biomining, a scientific process used to treat legacy waste. The land recovered has been converted into an integrated waste treatment facility with a sanitary landfill constructed only for receiving the rejects generated from various waste treatment units ensuring that only a negligible waste fraction is disposed of in the landfill.
Taliparamba reinvented its waste management practices and adopted a decentralised system after 2012, with the help of women’s self-help groups. Today, 85 per cent of Taliparamba’s households adhere to the door-to-door collection process and almost 99 per cent of waste is processed in a scientific manner. The city has also reclaimed the dumpsite land which is now the town’s material recovery facility. In addition, the city has provided bio-bins to about 9,500 households for practicing home composting thereby ensuring that wet waste is treated in A decentralized manner, significantly reducing the transportation cost and burden on landfills.
The use of electrical and electronic equipment has witnessed explosive growth and so has e-waste, the United Nations has termed this phenomenon a “tsunami” of e-waste.
Before 2018, hundreds of local kabadiwalas or waste collectors and recyclers in Jamshedpur collected e-waste and burnt it to obtain valuable metals from it. During the process, they would expose themselves and the environment to toxic fumes and chemicals, the study explains. The city embarked on engaging a company as the Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) to manage its e-waste, wherein the manufacturer of the product will have to help treat the waste.
Out of the 230 tonnes of e-waste collected in the city to date, 95.5 tonnes have been collected in 2021 alone. The collected waste is channeliSed to the authoriSed e-waste recycler and the cost of collection, transportation, and channelisation is entirely borne by the hired agency thereby leaving no financial burden on the city government.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.