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Recent Laws for Solid Waste Management in India

Recent Laws for Solid Waste Management in India

 What Is Solid Waste Management?

The system of collection, treatment, and disposal of discarded solid material which has served its purpose or is not useful anymore is called Solid Waste Management. Improper disposal of solid waste results in unhygienic conditions, which further leads to pollution in the environment. Such conditions are responsible for outbreaks of various diseases, and these conditions, in turn, can lead to pollution of the environment and outbreaks of vector-borne diseases. Though the management of solid waste is considered to be essential for better living conditions, it suffers from a lack of proper implementation. The rules regarding the same look good on paper, but the execution of such rules and guidelines has been abysmal. The authorities responsible for it suffer from administrative as well as economic problems, which are essential to be solved. Every step taken in this direction is a step towards better living conditions and sanitary surroundings. The importance of Solid Waste Management is being realized by various NGOs, which have been making the public aware of the part they may play and also encouraging the authorities to step up and perform their duties.

What Are Sources Of Solid Waste?

The lacunas seriously affect the health of humans, wildlife, and fauna. We all are aware of the consequences of the pollution of the water bodies and the air we breathe. Solid waste has way too many sources, and each kind requires a different method of collection, treatment and, finally, disposal. Some common sources are:

  • Residential: which includes food waste, leather, glass, metal, plastic, used oil, even old batteries and other electronics etc.
  • Industrial: includes housekeeping wastes, packaging wastes, construction material and waste, medical waste etc., most of which are hazardous in nature.
  • Commercial Units: it usually has a waste of both residential and industrial kinds depending upon the area of operations.
  • Institutional: This is from offices and education institutes.
  • Construction and Demolition Areas: waste from construction, repair, and demolition is included in this, like concrete, wood, copper wires and other metals, plastic, steel materials, glass etc. 
  • Treatment Plants and Sites: Treatment plants, for example, water treatment plants etc., also produce waste which necessarily should be disposed of.
  • Agriculture: Among the wastes they produce are pesticide containers, spoiled food, waste from the other products used etc.
  • Biomedical: The waste generated from hospitals, biomedical equipment, and chemical manufacturing units which include syringes, bandages, used gloves, chemicals

What Are the Laws For Solid Waste Management?

Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 apply to every municipal authority which is responsible for the ‘collection, segregation, storage, transportation, processing and disposal’ of municipal solid wastes. According to the Act, Municipal Solid Waste includes commercial and residential wastes generated in municipal or notified areas, in either solid or semi-solid form, including treated bio-medical wastes but excluding industrial hazardous wastes.

It has now been replaced by Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016. It has extended the jurisdiction of the act beyond ‘municipal area’ to cover the ever-growing limits of the development. The act is now applicable to

  • Every urban local body
  • Outgrowths in urban agglomerations
  • Census towns as declared by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India
  • Notified areas and notified industrial townships.
  • Areas under the control of Indian Railways
  • Airports, airbases
  • Ports and harbours
  • Defence establishments
  • Special Economic Zones
  • State and Central government organizations
  • Places of pilgrims, religious and historical importance as may be notified by the respective State government from time to time
  • Every domestic, institutional, commercial and any other non-residential solid waste generator situated in the areas
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Except for industrial waste, hazardous waste, hazardous chemicals, biomedical waste, e-waste, lead-acid batteries and radioactive waste1, which are covered by separate rules framed under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.   

This act is more elaborate and sets better guidelines for the authorities to follow. According to the Act, ‘solid waste ‘now includes solid or semi-solid domestic waste, commercial waste, sanitary waste, catering and market waste, institutional waste and other non-residential wastes, street sweepings, silt removed or collected from the surface drains, agriculture and dairy waste, horticulture waste, treated bio-medical waste (excluding industrial waste, bio-medical waste, and e-waste, battery waste, radioactive waste generated in the area under the local authorities and other entities according to the act)

What Are Features Introduced In The Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016?

The term ‘waste generator’ means and includes

  • Every person
  • Group of persons
  • Every residential premise
  • Non-residential establishments, including Indian Railways, defence establishments

The duties of Waste Generators are Elaborated on in the act. Every waste generator shall:

  • Segregate and store the waste generated categorized as –bio-degradable, non-biodegradable and domestic hazardous wastes in suitable bins and handover segregated wastes to authorized waste pickers or waste collectors;
  • Wrap the used sanitary waste, like diapers, sanitary pads etc., securely in any suitable wrapping material and be placed in the dry waste/non-bio-degradable waste bin;
  • Construction and demolition waste and horticulture waste and garden waste shall be stored separately and be disposed of as per the directions of Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016;
  • A waste generator shall not throw, bury or burn the solid waste generated by him anywhere on the streets, open public spaces outside an individual’s premises or in any drain or water body.
  • The organizer of an event or gathering of more than one hundred persons at any place must ensure the segregation of waste at the source and hand over of segregated waste to the waste collector.
  • street vendor necessarily has to keep suitable containers for storage of waste generated during the course of his activity and must deposit such waste at a waste storage depot or container or vehicle as per the notification of the local body.
  • All resident welfare associations, market associations, hotels and restaurants and gated communities and institutions with more than 5,000 sq. area should ensure segregation of waste at the source by the generators as per the rules, facilitate the collection of waste so collected, give recyclable material to either the authorized recycler or waste pickers. The bio-degradable waste must be treated and disposed of through proper methods.
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The duty of manufacturers/brand owners of disposable products, sanitary napkins, and diapers as elaborated below:

  • Manufacturer/ brand owners of disposable products (glass, tin, plastics, packaging, etc.) must assist the local authorities in the establishment of the waste management system.
  • Such packaging material must be non-biodegradable.
  • A system to collect back the ‘packaged waste’ generated due to their products must be put in place.
  • Manufacturers/ brand owners of sanitary napkins and diapers must consider the likelihood of using recyclable materials in their products and packaging or provide a pouch or wrapper for disposal.
  • Manufacturer/ brand owners and marketing companies require taking steps to educate the public about the wrapping and disposal of their products.

Waste to energy process

The new act states that:

  • Non-recyclable waste with 1500 K/Cal/Kg or more of calorific value must not be disposed of in landfills but instead, be utilized for the generation of energy.
  • High calorific wastes must be used for co-processing in thermal power plants or cement.
  • Within 60 days of receiving an application under the act for the establishment of a waste-to-energy facility, the State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee must examine it and grant permission.

Setting-­up solid waste processing and treatment facility

  • The department dealing with the allocation of land will provide suitable land for setting up a solid waste processing and treatment facility. The facility will obtain the necessary approvals from the prescribed authority. It shall be responsible for all the processing and treatment of the solid waste.
  • The operator of such a facility must submit an annual report to the State Pollution Control Board/ Pollution Committee and Local authority.

Solid waste management in hilly areas: In addition to the general rules, some more provisions are given for hilly areas.

  • No construction of landfills on the hill. A transfer station at a suitable enclosed location must be set up to collect residual and inert waste.
  • A suitable Landis required being identified down the hill (within 25 km) for setting up a sanitary landfill in the plains. The residual waste from the transfer station shall be disposed of at this sanitary landfill.
  • The local body must frame some bye-laws to prohibit the public from littering the streets.
  • Strict directions to the tourists must be provided to not dispose of any waste example- water bottles, liquor bottles, soft drink cans, paper, and tetra packs etc., anywhere in the streets; instead, dispose of it in the litter bins placed appropriately by the local authorities.
  • The local body may levy a solid waste management charge on the tourist at the entry point.
  • Any other steps that the local body deems necessary to make solid waste management sustainable must are taken up.

The revised act has laid down detailed duties for the various Ministries and officials, which are not only elaborate but also upgraded so as to meet the demands of a clean environment. The act provides duties of:

  1. The Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers,
  2. The Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India,
  3. The Ministry of Power,
  4. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Sources,
  5. The Secretary–in-charge Urban Development in the States and Union territories,
  6. Central Pollution Control Board,
  7. State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee
  8. Deputy Commissioner, District Collector or District Magistrate,
  9. The Secretary–in-charge of Village Panchayats or Rural Development Departments in the State and Union territory, and
  10. Local authorities and village Panchayats of census towns and urban agglomerations.
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The act also provides for the Standards of processing and treatment of solid waste, namely:

  1. Composting is a supervised process that involves microbial decomposition of organic matter.
  2. Treated leachates mean ‘liquid that seeps through solid wastes or other medium and has extracts of dissolved or suspended material from it.’
  3. Incineration is a supervised process that involves the burning or combustion of solid waste to thermally degrade waste materials using high temperatures.
  4. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will be responsible for the overall supervision and implementation of these rules. A committee named: the Central Monitoring Committee shall be constituted, functioning under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, comprising officers not below the rank of Advisor/ Joint Secretary from the various ministries and subject matter experts.


Solid waste management is a critical process that involves the collection, treatment, and disposal of discarded materials. It is essential for maintaining hygienic conditions and preventing environmental pollution. However, the implementation of solid waste management rules and guidelines faces challenges due to administrative and economic issues. Despite these challenges, efforts from various NGOs and increasing public awareness are pushing authorities to take responsibility and improve waste management practices.


  1. Why is proper solid waste management crucial for the environment?

    Proper solid waste management is essential for maintaining a clean environment, preventing pollution, and safeguarding public health. Improper disposal of solid waste can lead to water and air pollution, outbreaks of diseases, and harm to wildlife and fauna.

  2. What are some common sources of solid waste?

    Solid waste originates from various sources, including residential households, industrial facilities, commercial units, institutional buildings, construction sites, treatment plants, agricultural activities, and biomedical establishments.

  3. What laws govern solid waste management in India?

    Solid waste management in India is regulated by the Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016. These rules apply to urban local bodies, industrial areas, airports, ports, and various government organizations, emphasizing proper waste segregation, disposal, and recycling.

  4. What are the duties of waste generators as per the SWM Rules, 2016?

    Waste generators are obligated to segregate waste into biodegradable, non-biodegradable, and domestic hazardous categories. They must hand over segregated waste to authorized waste collectors, and construction and demolition waste should be treated separately.

  5. How can waste-to-energy processes contribute to sustainable waste management?

    Waste-to-energy processes involve utilizing non-recyclable waste with high calorific value to generate energy, reducing the burden on landfills. Such waste can be used for co-processing in thermal power plants or cement, promoting more sustainable waste management practices.



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