In the past few years, there has been increasing focus on solving the country’s waste management problem. In 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) revised the solid waste management (SWM) rules after 16 years. The development of waste-to-energy (WtE) plants has also gained traction with work on several projects under way. Another key trend has been the use of digital solutions and innovative technologies such as smart bins and sorting machines. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, presented new challenges for waste management with the substantial increase in the generation of medical waste as infection cases rise. To address these challenges, new guidelines were issued in March 2020 to ensure that COVID-19 waste is scientifically disposed of. A look at some of the key developments over the past year…
- The COVID-19 outbreak, with a surge in biomedical waste generation, has put a tremendous burden on the country’s waste management infrastructure. In order to ensure safe disposal of biomedical waste generated during the treatment, diagnosis and quarantine of COVID-19 patients, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has issued special guidelines. These guidelines are to be followed by all medical establishments, isolation wards, quarantine centres, sample collection centres, urban local bodies and common biomedical waste treatment facilities, in addition, to existing practices under the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016. Practices such as use of double-layered bags and colour-coded bins, and mandatory labelling are part of the recent guidelines issued by the CPCB.
- To address the waste management problem, the government expanded the focus of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in February 2020 to include solid waste management. Apart from sanitation, the SBM will now also focus on solid waste collection, source segregation and processing. Besides, the government aims to tackle the menace of plastic waste by phasing out single-use plastic in the country by 2022.
- In 2019, the MoEFCC released the Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy. The policy is guided by the principles of waste minimisation and creation of higher value with less material through resource efficient approaches. Several measures such as addressing regulatory gaps in implementation of waste laws, and levy of landfill taxes and high tipping fees especially for bulk generators have been proposed in the draft policy. It also mentions a ban on the dumping of recyclable waste in landfills by 2025.
- In the past two years, several cities have introduced their own solid waste management bylaws. In November 2019, the Greater Chennai Corporation approved the Chennai Solid Waste Management Bylaws. As per the laws, the civic body will abandon the practice of dumping mixed waste and set up a sanitary landfill. Besides, penalties will be imposed on those burning garbage and dumping waste in the open. In August 2019, the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation also drafted bylaws for waste management in the city.
- During the year, the Lucknow Municipal Corporation commissioned a 15 MW WtE plant at Shivri village. The plant was set up at a cost of Rs 4.29 billion under the Lucknow SWM project. It is designed to convert 45,000 tonnes of waste into 450 MW of electricity each month.
- Besides, a number of WtE projects are currently at different stages of implementation. In January 2020, the Punjab government approved a 7 MW WtE plant at Simgauli village of Mohali district. The plant is expected to generate power from 600 tonnes per day of waste collected from Mohali and Patiala. Meanwhile, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is currently setting up an 11 MW WtE plant at Pirana. The plant is expected to be operational by the end of 2020 and will turn 1,000 tonnes of waste to energy every day.
Further, Indian Railways also commissioned its first WtE plant at Bhubaneswar in January 2020. The plant which uses the advanced Polycrack technology was developed in a span of three months at an estimated cost of Rs 17.9 million.
In another development, the Delhi metro started receiving 2 MW of power from a 12 MW WtE plant in the Ghazipur area, the first such initiative by a metro project in the country. The power is being used for meeting the operational requirements of the Pink Line.
Besides, in the past couple of years there has also been a rise in the adoption of advanced technologies for several aspects of the waste management chain from collection to disposal. In December 2019, the Greater Chennai Corporation launched the country’s first waste exchange platform that will help connect buyers and sellers of different kind of waste. Meanwhile, the Surat Municipal Corporation has equipped its waste collection vehicles with radio frequency identification tags to track their movement on a real-time basis.
While several noteworthy initiatives have been taken during the past year for the management of solid waste, there is still a long way to go. Further, with the ongoing pandemic and the consequent surge in medical waste generation, the sector will need greater attention, urgent measures and stringent enforcement. Ensuring waste segregation, deploying decentralised and mobile solutions and sensitising citizens have now become more important than ever.