Municipal Solid Waste

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) or Urban Solid Waste is a waste that includes predominantly household waste (domestic waste) with sometimes the addition of commercial wastes, construction and demolition debris, sanitation residue, and waste from streets , institutes such as hospitals, collected by a municipality within a given area. They are in either solid or semisolid form and generally exclude industrial hazardous wastes.

Types of Municipal Solid Waste

There are five broad categories of the MSW as follows:

  • Biodegradable waste: This includes food and kitchen waste, green waste (vegetables, flowers, leaves, fruits), paper (can also be recycled).
  • Recyclable material: This includes paper, glass, bottles, cans, metals, certain plastics, etc.
  • Inert waste: This includes construction and demolition waste, dirt, rocks, debris.
  • Composite wastes: This includes waste clothing, Tetra Packs, waste plastics such as toys.
  • Domestic hazardous waste (also called “household hazardous waste”) & toxic waste: This includes medication, e-waste, paints, chemicals, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, spray cans, fertilizer and pesticide containers, batteries, shoe polish.
Sources of Municipal Solid Waste

Sources of Municipal Solid Waste are shown in the below graphics:


The problem of Urban Solid Waste Management in India

  • It is estimated that 38million tonnes of solid waste gets generated in urban India per year. And the collection efficiency ranges from 70-90% in major metro cities while it lies below 50% in several small cities.
  • Hardly any attention is paid to scientific and safe disposal of waste.
  • Landfill sites have not been identified in many municipalities and in several municipalities landfill sites have been exhausted.
  • Very few urban local bodies have prepared long term plans effective solid waste management.

Environment Impacts of Municipal Solid Waste

Environment Impacts of MSW are shown in below graphics:

Environmental Impacts of Solid Waste Disposal on Land

What steps government has taken to improve the situation?

  • The Government of India had framed a Solid waste policy of India in 2000 based on Supreme Court directions. Key points of this policy are as follows:
    • The policy is based on the principle that the best way to keep streets clean is not to dirty them in the first place.
    • It advocates daily doorstep collection of “wet” (food) wastes for composting. The policy says that for wet waste, this is the best option for India not only because composting is a cost-effective process but also because India’s soils need organic manures to prevent loss of fertility through unbalanced use of chemical fertilizers.
  • This policy lays down the rules of Municipality Solid Waste The key points among these rules are as follows:
    • Improvement of existing landfill sites.
    • Identification of new landfill sites for long-term future use and making them ready for operation.
    • Setting up of waste-processing and disposal facilities and provision of a buffer zone around such sites.
    • Biodegradable wastes should be processed by composting, vermicomposting etc. and landfilling shall be restricted to non-biodegradable inert waste and compost rejects.
    • Ensure community participation in waste segregation (by not mixing “wet” food wastes with “dry” recyclables like paper, plastics, glass, metal etc.) and to promote recycling or reuse of segregated materials.
    • Garbage and dry leaves are not allowed to be burnt.
    • Biomedical wastes and industrial wastes are not allowed to be mixed with municipal wastes.
    • Routine use of pesticides on garbage has been banned by the Supreme Court in 1997.

What needs to be done?

  • Strict implementation of Solid waste policy and Municipality Solid Waste rules.
  • Civil society participation for monitoring the solid waste management by municipality.
  • Involve private players who are in the business of waste recycling.

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