Solid waste management is a huge challenge for both developed and developing countries, not only as there is so much of it but also because it is critical to deal with waste in a sustainable manner that does not exacerbate problems. Storage, collection, transportation, processing, and disposal are all part of the Municipal Solid Waste Management System. In India, despite 100 per cent door to door collection of waste and the fact that its proper scientific management is an obligation for every Urban Local Body (ULB), its implementation is limited. In several cases, local governments have opted to only dispose of their solid waste by crude open dumping instead of processing and disposing of it sustainably. This leads to several challenges: diseases and an increased risk of fire can occur as well as air, water and soil pollution can be caused.
Currently, India has about 3,000 dumpsites1, which have a negative influence on the land, water, and air environment, as well as environmental and human health. To address the issue of municipal solid waste management, the country has put in place a comprehensive plan that includes Solid Waste Management (SWM) 2016 Rules, modifications to the Plastic Waste Management (PWM)-2016 Rules, and constant re-framing of Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) standards.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) 2019-2020 Annual Report, only 48.5% of the total collected waste gets treated2, while the rest is disposed of at landfills, demonstrating that the present infrastructure development is not in the position to address the growing waste management needs with population growth. The services are far from satisfactory due to a lack of capacity building, insufficient financial resources, inappropriate technology selection, lack of governmental support and public participation as well as non-involvement of the private sector, among other factors.
After the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, almost every ULB is stressing the sanitation and waste management issues as well as working towards sustainability and a circular economy model that includes the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The circular economy model eliminates waste and GHG emissions by circulating materials along the value chain, preventing natural resources from being extracted. Processing facilities are critical to closing the circular value chain loop. Taking into account the volume of waste expected in the future, it is therefore crucial to design innovative facilities so that waste management problems can be addressed.
Processing facilities include composting units and bio-methanation plants for biodegradable or wet waste and Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) for non-biodegradable or dry portions of waste. Composting describes a controlled process involving microbial decomposition of organic matter whereas bio-methanation is a process that entails enzymatic decomposition of the organic matter by microbial action to produce methane-rich biogas, which further converts into electricity, cooking gas or CNG.
MRF is a facility where dry or non-biodegradable solid waste collected from the doorstep is further segregated, sorted and various components of recyclable waste are recovered from it for further recycling or resale. MRF is a significant part of dry waste management, along with the necessary infrastructure, the MRF operator should preferably be a recycler or involved in the recycling business as this will open the door to more business and job opportunities within the city, as well as contribute to the MRF’s long-term sustainability by reducing transportation costs and associated carbon emissions. These days, processing facilities are being built in an integrated fashion, allowing the dry and wet fractions of the waste to be handled inside a single boundary. It also saves time and prevents waste from being mounded by diverting rejected waste from MRF to bio-methanation/composting and vice versa.
However, when we hear the words “waste” or “waste management facility”, we immediately think of a pile or a heap of mucky, stinky waste, because it has been observed that the facilities where waste is collected or processed appear to be highly susceptible and filthy. The splatters of waste on the walls and floors reveal a deplorable state which attracts mosquitoes, flies, rats, and other insects or creatures that in turn spread diseases. Working in this atmosphere has proven to be a significant hardship and threat for the workers. Untidy or squalid workplaces have a negative impact not only on the health of the staff but also on the efficiency and productivity of the facility.
In an online seminar on the ‘Role of Citizens & Bulk Generators in Waste Management in Tourist Cities’, Mr. Rakesh Kumar Verma, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India stated: “We have a new tourism policy with an overarching goal to promote sustainable and responsible tourism which include solid waste management as a key component. Waste management is not only an infrastructural issue but also a behavioural one, in which both tourists and residents can play a significant part. We are currently working in 400 destinations under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, which includes a solid waste component in them and has been effectively implemented in around 100 monuments.”
As a step towards working on the vision that the waste management facility should potentially be a tourist or city resident attraction, an integrated solid waste management facility has been established and launched by the Mapusa Municipal Council, Goa in the month of December 2021. The initiative is part of the “Developing Collection Infrastructure and Recycling Platform for Plastic waste and E-waste in Non-urban India” project which is funded through the develoPPP programme that Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Karo Sambhav implement on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The MRF inside the integrated facility has been magnificently painted with a mural design on both the interior and exterior. The mural painting on the walls depicts the essence of the local Goan culture and the need for effective waste management, as well as a powerful vision of “Together we can”. This MRF facility has given a very clean and pleasant workplace to the staff and the artwork helps to increase awareness. It offers visitors a sense of how their waste, which is collected at their doorstep, needs to travel such a long way to be disposed of in an environmentally sustainable manner. As a result, individuals get a better understanding of waste management and their responsibilities, as well as increased public participation. Moreover, the beautification of the waste management facility ensures that residents do not always perceive it as an ugly blot on the landscape but see its high value. It is a daily reminder to already take care to generate as little waste as possible as recycling requires a lot of energy and efforts, and it is often only possible to downcycle the resources.
A beginning has been made for the beautification of waste management facilities and this needs to be showcased for replicability in other waste management facilities across the country, with a vision of a clean work environment being essential for ensuring human and environmental health that raises productivity, promotes motivation, and boosts workers’ morale.
Dilshad Ahmad, Junior Technical Expert Climate Change, GIZ India
Kundan Burnwal, Senior Advisor Climate Change, GIZ India
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the opinion of GIZ India.