Manage waste efficiently
India, on an average, generates about 0.5 kg of municipal solid waste (MSW) per person per day. This is certainly a low-bound value compared to the industrialised countries' per capita waste generation of 3kg. However, owing to its large population size, India's total daily waste generation is 1,27,000 tonnes. Metropolitan cities generate daily waste in the range of 8,000-9,000 tonnes, and smaller and medium-sized Class I cities generate 1,500-3,500 tonnes a day. It is an undisputable fact that urbanisation and rapid economic growth are contributing to the problem of solid waste management in Indian cities.
The approach towards waste management should be multi-pronged. All the important aspects — financial augmentation, improved citizen participation, redefining consumerism towards sustainable consumption patterns and integration of the waste management system with the recycling industry — need to be addressed at the same time.
India is a large country and so are its cities. About 70 per cent waste management costs account for transporting large quantities of waste to landfill sites. Enforcing in-house waste management systems for organic waste in all housing and commercial complexes, universities and industrial premises not only reduces the transportation cost but also the quantity of waste that needs to be handled by the municipality.
Municipalities have to improve their waste-handling infrastructure. This is better done by means of public-private-community partnerships. The Dhaka model of ‘Community-based Decentralised Composting’ is one such example. It was successful in achieving financial feasibility, community participation in segregated waste collection and — most importantly — aggressive and meaningful utilisation of waste-derived compost.
Pune, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad are some municipalities that have tried municipal bonds to improve the financial capability of cities towards service provision.
The urban population has seen transformational changes in certain aspects of life, including per capita incomes. The time is ripe now to introduce a waste collection charge.
For operational feasibility, it may be started in all housing societies, commercial complexes and other “premises”. This would enhance the financial abilities of MSW management units and the quality of service.
Segregation of waste is a chicken-and-egg problem. Households refuse to segregate their waste because the municipality truck subsequently mixes them in the same container. Therefore, it is important for the municipality to employ a segregated waste collection system, ideally collecting different waste on different days. An aggressive campaign at household level should also be made.
Instead of formalising ragpickers, which leads to systemic and regulatory issues, facilitating them with protective gear and improved work conditions would work better.
Unless unhealthy consumerism is addressed, no other solution would work in the long run. Hence, it is important to start an aggressive and long-term campaign against modern consumerism. This should also be coupled with promotion of 3Rs.
Waste of different types such as MSW, electronic waste and construction and demolition (C&D) waste have recyclable material streams. With segregated collection of MSW, it is important to have an integrated management plan for the recyclables coming from e-waste and C&D waste.
Such a plan for recycling should be augmented by appropriate policies to promote recycling industries and market for recycled products.
A large chain of wholesalers and retailers should be facilitated into partnerships with waste-derived energy business establishments.
‘Swachh Bharat’ aims at cleanliness and let’s hope that our honourable Prime Minister also comes up with a nationwide call for “improved consumerism”. It is certainly the need of the hour.
(The writer is a professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai)