Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Sep, 05, 2019

Explained: Where does India stand on plastic waste?



  • On this Independence Day address, PM called for a movement to eliminate single-use plastic in India, beginning on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2).
  • The move is part of an ambitious drive against Single-Use Plastic (SUP), under the theme “Shramdaan”, for which a detailed plan has been worked out for ministries and departments.
  • The government is reported to be working on a ban on certain plastic items of common use such as carry bags, cutlery and plates under the Environment (Protection) Act, and this may be announced on October 2, well ahead of the earlier deadline of 2022.

Single-use plastic

  • As the name suggests, single-use plastics (SUPs) are those that are discarded after one-time use.
  • Besides the ubiquitous plastic bags, SUPs include water and flavoured/aerated drinks bottles, takeaway food containers, disposable cutlery, straws, and stirrers, processed food packets and wrappers, cotton bud sticks, etc.
  • Of these, foamed products such as cutlery, plates, and cups are considered the most lethal to the environment.

Plastic waste in India

  • Per capita consumption of plastic is projected to go up from 11 kg in 2014-15 to 20 kg by 2022 (FICCI data); about 43% is single-use packaging with poor rates of recovery.
  • In spite of the notification of the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016, and amendments made two years later, most cities and towns are not prepared to implement its provisions.
  • Even the biggest Municipal Corporations shouldering a staggering waste burden have failed to implement segregation of waste: collecting recyclable plastic, non-recyclable plastic etc.
  • This is a growing crisis amid criticism of under-reporting of the true extent of plastic waste.

Plastic waste management

  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 notified by the Centre called for a ban on “non-recyclable and multi-layered” packaging by March 2018, and a ban on carry bags of thickness less than 50 microns.
  • The Rules were amended in 2018, with changes that activists say favoured the plastic industry and allowed manufacturers an escape route. The 2016 Rules did not mention SUPs.
  • On World Environment Day in 2018, India pledged to phase out SUPs by 2022.
  • The PM has called for “a new revolution against plastic”, and some government-controlled bodies such as Air India and the Indian Railways have announced they would stop SUPs.

A failed attempt earlier

  • Recycling reduces the volume of non-recyclables that must be disposed of using methods such as co-processing in cement kilns, plasma pyrolysis or land-filling.
  • Neither is plastic marked with numerical symbols (such as 1 for PET, 4 for Low Density Polyethylene, 5 for Polypropylene and so on) to facilitate recycling using the correct industrial process.

Alternatives to Plastic

  • Although compostable, biodegradable or even edible plastics made from various materials such as sugarcane bagasse, corn starch, and grain flour are promoted as alternatives, these currently have limitations of scale and cost.
  • Some biodegradable packaging materials require specific microorganisms to be broken down, while compostable cups and plates made of polylactic acid, a popular resource derived from biomass such as corn starch, require industrial composters.
  • On the other hand, articles made through a different process involving potato and corn starch have done better in normal conditions, going by the experience in Britain.
  • Seaweed is also emerging as a choice to make edible containers.
  • In India, though, in the absence of robust testing and certification to verify claims made by producers, spurious biodegradable and compostable plastics are entering the marketplace.
  • In January this year, the CPCB said that 12 companies were marketing carry bags and products marked ‘compostable’ without any certification, and asked the respective SPCB to take action on these units.

A Janandolan ahead

  • A ban on single-use plastic items would have to therefore lay down a comprehensive mechanism to certify the materials marketed as alternatives, and the specific process required to biodegrade or compost them.
  • A movement against plastic waste would have to prioritise the reduction of single-use plastic such as multi-layer packaging, bread bags, food wrap, and protective packaging.
  • Consumers often have no choice in the matter.
  • Other parts of the campaign must focus on tested biodegradable and compostable alternatives for plates, cutlery and cups, rigorous segregation of waste and scaled up recycling.

Impact on packaging industry

  • Packaging is projected to grow into a $72.6 billion industry in India by 2020 from about $31 billion in 2015, with a proportionate rise in waste volumes.
  • The pressure on producers to streamline the collection, recycling and processing of all forms of plastic is bound to grow.
Sep, 03, 2019

[pib] Project REPLAN


  • Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) launched a first ever ‘Terracotta Grinder’ in Varanasi.

About the grinder

  • The grinder was designed by KVIC Chairman, and fabricated by a Rajkot-based engineering unit
  • This machine will grind the wasted and broken pottery items for re-using in pottery-making.
  • Earlier the wasted pottery items were grinded in normal khal-musal (mortar and pestle) and its fine powder was mixed with the normal clay.
  • Mixing this powder in stipulated ratio to normal clay makes the resulting pottery items stronger.
  • This Terracotta grinder will make grinding of wasted pottery items faster than the traditional mortar and pestle.
  • It will lessen the cost of production, and will also help in solving the problem of shortage of clays.
  • By mixing 20 percent of this wasted terracotta powder, the potter will make a saving of at least Rs 520.  This will also create more job opportunities in the villages.

Project REPLAN (REducing PLAstic in Nature)

  • KVIC, as part of its commitment to Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, had started manufacturing of plastic-mixed handmade paper under its project REPLAN (REducing PLAstic in Nature).
  • In this project, the waste plastic is collected, cleaned, chopped, beaten and treated for softness.
  • After that, it is mixed with the paper raw material i.e. cotton rags pulp in a ratio of 80 % (pulp) and 20% (plastic waste).
  • The institute has sold over six lakh handmade plastic mixed carry bags since September 2018.
Aug, 19, 2019

Microplastics Pollution


  • Tiny particles of plastic, known as microplastics, have been found in the Arctic region and the Alps, carried by the wind, according to a new study that was widely reported this week.
  • The study called for an urgent assessment of the risk of inhalation of the microplastics.

What are Microplastics?

  • Microplastics are defined as shreds of plastic less than 5 mm in length.
  • Microplastics are either manufactured — for instance, microbeads that are used in cosmetics and beauty products — or they are formed when larger pieces of plastic break down.
  • The small, shiny particles advertised as “cooling crystals” in certain toothpastes qualify as microplastics if the ingredients of the toothpaste mention “polyethylene”.
  • Even so, manufactured microbeads are not a major contributor to microplastic pollution.
  • One of the main contributors to this pollution, instead, is plastic waste, 90% of which is not recycled.
  • Plastic bottles, bags, fishing nets, and food packaging are some examples of the larger pieces that break down into microplastics, eventually finding their way into the soil, water and the air we breathe.

Growing concerns

  • The researchers found huge amounts of them in the Arctic snow; their study claims to be the first that contains data on contamination of snow by microplastics.
  • Several other recent studies have established the presence of microplastics in groundwater in the United States, and in the lakes and rivers of the United Kingdom.
  • A study published in June estimated that the average human ends up consuming at least 50,000 particles of microplastics in food every year.

Action by countries

  • In the recent past, several countries have passed laws to limit the amount of microplastics in the environment.
  • The US passed a law in 2015 to prohibit the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads.
Aug, 13, 2019

No harmful chemicals in PET bottles, finds CSIR study


  • PET bottles are safe, a comprehensive evaluation by the CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore has determined.
  • For years there’s been a swirling debate internationally on whether PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles, which are the mainstay of plastic bottles, leach harmful chemicals when exposed to high temperatures.

About PET

  • PET is short for polyethylene terephthalate, the chemical name for polyester.
  • PET is a clear, strong, and lightweight plastic that is widely used for packaging foods and beverages, especially convenience-sized soft drinks, juices and water.
  • It is also popular for packaging salad dressings, peanut butter, cooking oils, mouthwash, shampoo, liquid hand soap, window cleaner, even tennis balls.
  • Special grades of PET are used for carry-home food containers and prepared food trays that can be warmed in the oven or microwave.
  • The basic building blocks of PET are ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, which are combined to form a polymer chain.

Toxins are below detection limits (BDL)

  • The CFRTI analysis, commissioned by an industry body, concluded that antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, mercury, selenium and zinc “were below” their detection limits (BDL) of 0.001 mg/kg.
  • Along with metals, the scientists also measured terephthalic acid, Isophthalic acid, Ethylene Glycol, BPA (bis-phenol A) and phthalates.
  • Bisphenol-A (a synthetic organic compound and used in the manufacture of PET bottles) was below its detection limit of 0.02 mg/kg.
  • BPA is now phased out after research found a link between the presence of BPA and the disruption of hormone regulation, as well as breast cancer.
  • The CFTRI scientists found that the presence of metals, BPA and pthalates were “below detection limit”.

Compliant with global standards

  • The analysis found that no chemcials breached the EU-specified norms.
  • The reports were also below the EU regulation norms of the “specific migration limit”, which is the maximum amount of a substance that can migrate from a food packaging material or food container into food.
  • In most cases the EU standards are similar to the ones specified by the FSSAI, except for BPA for which FSSAI has not specified standards and zinc, where FSSAI permits 25mg/kg as opposed to the EU’s 5 mg/kg.

Safe for packaged water

  • The studies further confirmed that antimony does not leach out of PET bottles.
  • These findings further establish that no endocrine disruption happens from the use of PET bottles.
  • The scientists also studied water stored in PET bottles and checked whether it affected the hormone levels of rats and mice.
  • The evaluation found that the experimental male and female rats exhibited comparable blood hormone levels in both cases.
  • This conclusively proved that PET bottles did not cause any Endocrine Disruption activity if used to package water.
Jul, 12, 2019

[op-ed snap] picking out plastic


The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has put 52 producers, brand owners and importers, including big online retailers such as Amazon and Flipkart, and companies such as Patanjali Ayurved and Britannia, on notice, for failing to take responsibility for their plastic waste. These and other entities with a large plastic footprint need to respond with alacrity.

Failure of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

  • It is eight years since the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was incorporated into the Plastic Waste Management Rules, but municipal and pollution control authorities have failed to persuade commercial giants to put in place a system to collect and process the waste.
  • Tighter rules in 2016 and some amendments two years later put the onus on producers and brand owners to come up with an action plan for the retrieval of waste within six months to a year, but that too failed to take off.
  • Mountains of garbage with a heavy plastic load have been growing in suburban landfills, out of sight of city dwellers.
  • Without determined steps, the crisis is certain to worsen.

Retail sector’s Role

  • It should be noted that the retail sector expects e-commerce to grow from about $38.5 billion-equivalent in 2017 to $200 billion by 2026. Given the role played by packaging, the waste management problem is likely to become alarming.
  • There is also a big opportunity here, which the trade, municipal governments and pollution control authorities need to see.


  • The two prongs of the solution are packaging innovation that reduces its use by using alternatives, and upscaling waste segregation, collection and transmission.
  • Recovering materials from garbage should be a high priority, considering that India is the third highest consumer of materials after China and the U.S.; the Economic Survey 2019 estimates that India’s demand for total material will double by 2030 at current rates of growth.
  • Plastics may be less expensive than other inputs in manufacturing, but recycling them into new products extends their life and provides a substitute for virgin material.
  • Keeping them out of the environment reduces clean-up and pollution costs.


  • Unfortunately, in spite of legal requirements, municipal and pollution control authorities fail to see this and mostly pursue business-as-usual waste management methods.
  • Recyclable waste is rendered useless when it gets mixed with other articles. Online retailers have not felt compelled to take back the thousands of polybags, plastic envelopes and air pillows used to cushion articles inside cardboard boxes.
  • This is in contrast to more developed markets where they are trying out labels on packages with clear recycling instructions.
  • These companies can form waste cooperatives in India, employing informal waste-pickers.
  • In such a model, consumers will respond readily if they are incentivised to return segregated plastic waste.
  • Making municipal and pollution control authorities accountable is also equally important.
Jun, 18, 2019

G-20 Framework on Marine Plastic Waste  


  • Group of 20 environment ministers agreed to adopt a new implementation framework for actions to tackle the issue of marine plastic waste on a global scale.

About the Framework

  • The new framework is aimed at facilitating further concrete action on marine waste, though on a voluntary basis, after the G20 Hamburg Summit in Germany adopted the “G20 action plan on marine litter” in 2017.
  • Under the new framework, G20 members will promote a comprehensive life-cycle approach to prevent and reduce plastic litter discharge to the oceans through various measures and international cooperation.
  • They will also share best practices, promote innovation and boost scientific monitoring and analytical methodologies.

About G20

G20 – Comprehensive Notes

May, 18, 2019

Poly-Di-Ketoenamine (PDK): New plastic that could be fully recycled


  • The scientists have created a next-generation plastic that can be fully recycled into new materials of any colour, shape, or form, without loss of performance or quality.

Poly-Di-Ketoenamine (PDK)

  • A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Berkeley National Laboratory has designed a recyclable plastic called PDK.
  • The monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives by placing the material in a highly acidic solution.
  • It helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from chemical additives.
  • The recovered PDK monomers can be remade into polymers, and those recycled polymers can form new plastic materials without inheriting the colour or other features of the original material.
  • They could also upcycle the plastic by adding additional features, such as flexibility.

Why most plastics cannot be recycled?

  • Most plastics are made of polymers, chains of hydrogen and carbon which are chiefly derived from petroleum products like crude oil.
  • Polymers are composed of shorter strands called monomers and the process is called polymerization.
  • To give plastics certain characteristics like toughness, flexibility or color, certain chemicals are added which from strong bonds with the monomers.
  • While many polymers are thermoplastic, meaning they can be melted down and reused, the additives bonded to them can interfere with the process.
  • So when plastics are ground up and mixed together for recycling, all those additives make the final product unpredictable and lower quality.
  • That’s why most recycled plastic is “downcycled” or turned into items like handbags or benches instead of completing the recycling loop.
May, 13, 2019

Basel Convention


  • Nations agreed to add plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that regulates movement of hazardous materials from one country to another, in order to combat the dangerous effects of plastic pollution around the world.

Amending the Basel Convention

  • Parties to the Basel Convention have reached agreement on a legally-binding, globally-reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste.
  • The Geneva meeting amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework.
  • The new amendment would empower developing countries to refuse “dumping plastic waste” by others.
  • The resolution means contaminated and most mixes of plastic wastes will require prior consent from receiving countries before they are traded, with the exceptions of mixes of PE, PP and PET.
  • For far too long, developed countries like the U.S. and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country.

What is Basel Convention?

  • The Basel Convention stands for the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.
  • It is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).
  • It aims to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.
  • The Convention was opened for signature on 22 March 1989, and entered into force on 5 May 1992.
  • As of October 2018, 186 states and the EU are parties to the Convention. Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified it.
  • It does not, however, address the movement of radioactive waste.
  • The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management.

Why such move?

  • Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean.
  • Plastic waste pollution has reached “epidemic proportions” with an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic now found in the oceans.
  • Even though the U.S. and a few others have not signed the accord, they cannot ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.
  • Much of the contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned.

Ban on two chemicals           

  • The meeting also undertook to eliminate two toxic chemical groups — Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid, plus related compounds.
  • The latter has been used in a wide variety of industrial and domestic applications, including non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as carpets, paper and paints.
Apr, 24, 2019

Kumbh brought Allahabad to verge of an epidemic, says NGT


  • Both the governments, at the Centre and Uttar Pradesh, claimed to have organised a ‘swachh’ — clean — Kumbh in the winter of 2018-19, but the NGT seems to differ.
  • In fact, the quasi judicial body rang alarm bells about host city Allahabad being on the the verge of an epidemic.

Alarms raised by NGT

  • While predicting a rise in case of acute diarrhoea, enteric fever, viral hepatisis and cholera, the NGT said responsibility needs to be fixed so an epidemic can be prevented.

Why Kumbh left an epidemic behind?

I. Poor solid waste management

  • The green bench flagged poor solid waste management during the months-long religious gathering.
  • The NGT said 60,000 metric tonnes (mt) of solid waste had been collected at nearest SWM Plant which was lying untreated.
  • Of this, 18,000 mt was generated in Kumbh, but the plant was not operational since September 2018.

II. Polluted Groundwater

  • Also, the tribunal pointed out that groundwater too has been polluted.
  • Dirty water from toilets was being collected in kutcha pits.
  • The base of the soak pits had not been lined and the dirty water could percolate underground.

III. Ganga , the ultimate sufferer

  • The NGT found that a large number of toilets were constructed very close to the river.
  • The nearby geotubes had more sewage than it could treat.
  • The geo tube was not working satisfactorily and 50 per cent of the sewage from the drain was trapped and the rest was going into the Ganga.

IV. No lesson learnt from past

  • This is not the first Kumbh to have come under criticism for poor managment.
  • Things were far from perfect during the last Kumbh as well.
  • The CAG of India’s audit report of the event read, that no effective planning for protection of environment and pollution control was made for the Maha Kumbh.
Apr, 12, 2019

[op-ed snap] India stares at pile of solar e-waste


By 2050, India will likely stare at a pile of a new category of electronic waste, namely solar e-waste, says a study made public on Thursday.


  • Currently, India’s e-waste rules have no laws mandating solar cell manufacturers to recycle or dispose waste from this sector.
  • No laws mandating disposal; volume estimated at 1.8 million tonnes by 2050.
  • “India’s PV (photovoltaic) waste volume is estimated to grow to 200,000 tonnes by 2030 and around 1.8 million tonnes by 2050,” said the study by Bridge To India (BTI), an energy consultancy firm.

India’s achievement in solar sector

  • India is among the leading markets for solar cells in the world, buoyed by the government’s commitment to install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • So far, India has installed solar cells for about 28 GW and this is largely from imported solar PV cells.

Solar cell waste

  • Solar cell modules are made by processing sand to make silicon, casting silicon ingots, using wafers to create cells and then assembling them to make modules.
  • India’s domestic manufacturers are largely involved in assembling cells and modules.
  • These modules are 80% glass and aluminium, and non-hazardous.
  • Other materials used, including polymers, metals, metallic compounds and alloys, and are classified as potentially hazardous, says the study.

Handling of solar waste

  • India is poorly positioned to handle PV waste as it doesn’t yet have policy guidelines on the same
  • a lack of a policy framework is coupled with the fact that even basic recycling facilities for laminated glass and e-waste are unavailable.
  • Despite the e-waste regulation being in place for over seven years, only less than 4% of estimated e-waste is recycled in the organised sector as per the latest estimates from the Central Pollution Control Board


While the solar sector continues to grow robustly, there is no clarity on solar waste management in India.


Apr, 09, 2019

Biomedical Waste Management in India: Still a looming concern


  • The seemingly endless issue of biomedical waste management (BMWM) in India has necessitated the MoEFCC to amend and enforce the “parent rules” of 2016, yet again.
  • Combating the issues has multifaceted humanitarian and environmental challenges for various communities of the country, and therefore, needs immediate responsiveness for our common world.

BMWM (Amendment) Rules, 2018

  • All bedded healthcare facilities (HCFs) irrespective of their number of beds have to regularly update the BMWM register
  • HCFs which have beds less than 10 shall have to comply with the output discharge standard for liquid waste generated, latest by December 31, 2019
  • Corresponding duties of Ministry of Defence officials as per Schedule III: A report needs to be submitted to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) after the inspection and monitoring of HCFs, Medical Inspection (MI) rooms and AFMS.
  • In March 2018, the BMW amendments delve into extension of dates to phase out — chlorinated plastic bags (excluding blood bags) and gloves etc.

Scenario of bio-medical waste management in India

  • According to the CPCB annual report of 2016, total quantity of BMW generation in the country is approximately 517 tonnes per day (TPD).
  • To grapple with these manifold increase in generation of BMW, 199 common bio-medical waste treatment facilities (CBWTFs) are in operation and 23 are under construction (CPCB, 2017).
  • Safe and effective management of waste is not only a legal necessity but also a social responsibility.

Ineffective management

  • Nevertheless, these amendments are yet to be monitored and enforced on the ground.
  • Despite of having the BMWM legislation since 1998, followed by the changes in the recent past, many regions of the country still have dearth of systematic efforts to mitigate risks associated with such waste.
  • The compliance of rules is still an ongoing process in the country and law in many states is writ large.
  • The legal obligation has been reduced to paper formality only and there is a lack of concern, motivation, awareness and cost factor in proper biomedical waste management.

Way Forward

  1. Managing healthcare waste requires effective knowledge not only among those who produce the healthcare waste but also among those who handles it.
  2. So, to achieve this, HCFs and regulatory authorities have to take stringent measures in order to ensure safe disposal of BMW in the country.
  3. To state a few:
  • training and awareness programme for healthcare personnel needs to be conducted;
  • legal actions against defaulting HCFs and ill-operated CBWTFs is obligatory;
  • self-regulatory mechanism for monitoring and implementation for waste management should be encouraged and
  • well timed sufficient allocation of funds through central funding from National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) should be ensured.
Mar, 25, 2019

Galapagos Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Galapagos Islands

Mains level: Not Much


  • Tonnes of plastic waste wash up on the shores of the Galapagos Islands where microparticles end up in the stomachs of species found only in the Pacific archipelago 1,000 km west of mainland Ecuador.

Galapagos Islands

  • The Galapagos Islands an archipelago of volcanic islands part of the Republic of Ecuador, distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean surrounding the centre of the Western Hemisphere.
  • The island inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of evolution and was his field of study.
  • The Islands and their surrounding waters form the Galapagos Province of Ecuador, the Galapagos National Park, and the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
  • UNESCO recognised the islands as a World Heritage Site and as a biosphere reserve.

Menace of Microplastics

  • Sun rays and the ocean’s saltwater break down bottles, bags, lids, containers and fishing nets.
  • The tiny plastic pieces become part of the food chain.
  • Those microparticles, often from waste discarded in big cities from other countries and even continents, are perhaps one of the greatest threats to the iguanas, tortoises, birds and fish of the Galapagos.
  • More than 90 percent of the waste gathered doesn’t come from Galapagos activities, but rather from South America, Central America and even a great deal of waste with Asian branding.
Mar, 18, 2019

UN meet dilutes Indian plan to phase out single-use plastics


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issues related to plastic waste disposal in India


  • An ambitious resolution piloted by India to phase out single-use plastics by 2025, was watered down at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) that concluded recently in Nairobi.

Deadline pushed back

  • The final declaration on March 15 removed the firm timelines and edited out the “decisively” and only committed to a “reduction by 2030.”
  • At the World Environment Day summit on June 5, 2018 India had pledged to eliminate single-use plastics from India by 2022.
  • This pushed several States — notably Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh — to enforce previous commitments to ban plastic bags and similar disposables.
  • Ahead of the UNEA, the UN secretariat had invited inputs from member states to forge a common declaration regarding addressing a host of environmental challenges.

What concerns India?

  • A CPCB estimate in 2015 says that Indian cities generate 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste daily and about 70% of the plastic produced in the country ends up as waste.
  • Seventeen States have plastic bans, on paper.
  • Experts have rued the inadequacy of collection and recycling systems to address the burgeoning plastic waste problem.

Reasons cited

  • The UNEA lauded India for playing a key role in advocating a time-bound ban on single use plastic.
  • A person privy to negotiations told that India didn’t work enough to garner international support to carry it all the way through.

Curbing Nitrogen pollution

  • Along with plastic, India also piloted a resolution on curbing nitrogen pollution.
  • The global nitrogen-use efficiency is low, resulting in pollution by reactive nitrogen which threatens human health, ecosystem services, contributes to climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion.
  • Only a small proportion of the plastics produced globally are recycled, with most of it damaging the environment and aquatic bio-diversity.

Assist this newscard with:

Ministry plugs loophole that allowed plastic waste import

Mar, 07, 2019

Ministry plugs loophole that allowed plastic waste import


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Features of the Amendment rules

Mains level: Issues related to plastic waste disposal in India


  • Solid plastic waste has been prohibited from import into the country including in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and by Export Oriented Units (EOU) said the MoEFCC.
  • The change in law was part of the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Amendment Rules, 2019.

Salient features of the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management& Transboundary Movement) Amendment Rules, 2019:

  • Solid plastic waste has been prohibited from import into the country including in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and by Export Oriented Units (EOU).
  • Exporters of silk waste have now been given exemption from requiring permission from the Ministry.
  • Electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective can now be imported back into the country, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from MoEFCC.
  • Industries which do not require consent under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, are now exempted from requiring authorization also under the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016, provided that hazardous and other wastes generated by such industries are handed over to the authorized actual users, waste collectors or disposal facilities.

Why such move?

  • In spite of having a significant plastic pollution load of its own, and a ban on plastic waste imports, imported PET bottles from abroad for processing SEZ.
  • The influx of PET bottles was quadrupled from 2017 to 2018.
  • Indian firms are importing plastic scrap from China, Italy, Japan and Malawi for recycling.
  • India consumes about 13 million tonnes of plastic and recycles only about 4 million tonnes.
  • To incentivise domestic plastic recycling units, the government had banned the import of plastic waste, particularly PET bottles, in 2015.
  • In 2016, an amendment allowed such imports as long as they were carried out by agencies situated in SEZs.
Feb, 27, 2019

[op-ed snap] Cities at crossroads: Small town, cleaner future


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

Mains level: This article analyses how big cities can learn waste management from small cities and towns



Small and mid-size cities and towns of India are showing the way on how to manage solid waste by getting communities to segregate waste and keeping the waste streams separate.

The case study of Suryapet

  • The earliest and the best success story was of Suryapet, a city in Telangana, located 136 km east of Hyderabad, with a population of a little over one lakh.
  • A single individual, S A Khadar, the commissioner of Suryapet municipal corporation, demonstrated personal leadership which made a big difference.
  • He managed all of the Suryapet’s wet and dry waste (32 tonnes daily at that time) on a half-acre site within the city, earning a gross income of Rs 1 lakh per month from vermi-composting and recycling.
  • He began by winning the hearts of his sanitary workers by prompt satisfaction of minor demands, such as granting leave and/or reassignment of workplaces.
  • Next, he wooed the residents, one mohalla or street or commercial area at a time, by organising daily meetings on morning rounds from six to nine am before beginning his office work. Residential pockets that gave 100 per cent unmixed waste earned token gifts.
  • The commissioner got banks to fund new tractor-trailers (which can unload waste mechanically) for self-help groups by guaranteeing their monthly repayments to banks from the city payments to their SHGs for waste collection services.
  • Open drain cleaning was done in the afternoons. Soggy silt went directly into a wheelie-bin and then into a dedicated leak-proof collection vehicle which unloaded the silt and the debris for widening the road shoulders of all radial roads.
  • The Suryapet experience clearly shows that citizens can be incentivised to give wet and dry wastes unmixed when they see clear administrative will and primary collection vehicles designed to accept and transport wastes unmixed.

The case study of Karjat

  • Within two days of joining, Kokare commissioner of the municipal council of Karjat, strictly enforced Maharashtra’s ban on plastic carry bags. These are now replaced by sari-cloth bags which cost Rs 6 per bag.
  • Handcart vendors use bags made out of newspapers.
  • What is amazing is how he persuaded Karjat residents, already enjoying doorstep waste collection, to cooperate in giving 36 kinds of waste separately on different days of the week! This is probably a global first.

Secret of success

  • The secret of the success of Kokare and Khadar, is passion and daily personal supervision, both going around the city every morning before office hours to meet, persuade and exhort citizens to cooperate.
  • In Karjat, after initial warnings, doorstep collectors refuse to collect mixed waste and also report the person. The same evening, an official comes and grills the person on where they dumped their uncollected mixed waste.
  • Such intense individual effort is especially required at the start. Once word gets around, cooperation is easier.

Other examples

  • In Namakkal (population of 55,000) in Tamil Nadu, pushcart collection workers have been manually separating mixed waste into wet and dry, daily at the doorstep of each household, rather than attempt behaviour change.
  • Alappuzha in Kerala was recently recognised by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for its decentralised system of waste management.
  • In these and many more small towns, the secret of success is meticulous micro-planning, committed leadership at the administrative level and receptive and engaged communities. The objective is clear — a litter-free, bin-free and dump-free city.

Lessons for metro cities

  • Big cities scoff at small towns leading the way and claim that their own waste volumes are unmanageable. But even in large metropolitan cities, populations of most wards are smaller than of these towns. Decentralisation and effective use of delegated power at the ward level is crucial if micro-planning and implementation is to work with cooperation from RWAs. Only then can we find a collective solution to the challenges of solid waste management in our larger cities.


Feb, 25, 2019

[op-ed snap]Deodorizing waste


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Increasing pollution due to untreated waste and need of waste management as a policy issue



India’s cities are drowning in waste — but no one is bothered.

Effects of contaminated water

  • The World Bank estimates that more than a fifth of all communicable diseases in India (21%) are caused by contaminated water.
  • It attributes one in ten deaths in India to diseases or infections directly or indirectly transmitted through water.
  • Over 500 children die every day in India due to diarrhoeal diseases.

Nitrogen, a growing pollutant

  • According to a study by the Indian Nitrogen Group,  the amount of reactive nitrogen in a bulk of the water bodies in India is already twice the limit prescribed by WHO.
  • Nitrogen pollution from untreated sewage now outstrips nitrogen pollution from the Indian farmer’s urea addiction.

Clean India’s addition to nitrogen pollution problem

  • Under the mission, in the past four years alone, over nine crore toilets have been constructed.
  • Of these, only 60 lakh are in urban areas, where one assumes they are connected to some sort of sewage system.
  •  A study done by the Centre for Science and Environment in 30 cities in Uttar Pradesh found that only 28% of toilets in these cities were connected to a sewage system.
  • The rest will be generating fecal sludge, sewage and septage which has no place to go.
  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 63% of urban sewage flowing into rivers is untreated.
  • Up to a third of the installed sewage treatment capacity is fully or partly dysfunctional

Sewage management is missing from agenda

  • Of the 99 cities in the ‘Smart Cities’ mission, which are collectively spending ₹2 lakh crore over five years (from 2015), only 2.4% of the money is going to be spent on waste management.
  • AMRUT covers a much larger spread — 500 so-called ‘mission cities’ across the country. Of these, only 217 pitched for a sewage treatment plant as an AMRUT project.

No access to water

  • According to NITI Aayog’s composite water management index report released last year, 75% of households do not have access to drinking water on premises, 70% households lack piped water (potable or otherwise) and as many as 20 cities will effectively use up all available water resources by 2020!


  • Sewage and waste need to come centre stage in our policy debates. Elections may be fought on ‘bijli, Sadak, paani’ (power, roads, water) but no election is fought over naali (drain). Unless that happens, we run the real risk of eventually either choking or being poisoned by our own waste.


Jan, 30, 2019

[op-ed snap] Waste-to-Energy plants that use solid waste as feedstock pose threat to environment


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of Waste to Energy plants.

Mains level: The news-card analyses issues and challenges with Waste to Energy plants in India, in a brief manner.


  • Waste to Energy (WtE) plants in our cities, using inadequately segregated municipal waste as feedstock, are highly dangerous because of the toxic gases and particulates they spew when they burn mixed waste in the process of incineration.

The Okhla WtE Plant Case

  • Residents of Okhla and surrounding areas in Delhi have been protesting that the WtE plant in their vicinity is not complying with the stipulations of National Green Tribunal (NGT).
  • It is not too much for an urban locality with houses, hospitals, schools and shops to want no industrial polluter in their midst.
  • With its location within 30 metres of the residential areas, emissions remain a major issue with the residents.
  • The plant was slapped a fine of Rs 25 lakh in February 2017 by the NGT but many questions about air quality standards in the area remain unanswered, including why the plant spews soot and ash in the neighbourhood.

Latest Protest

  • The authorities are considering the expansion of this WtE plant from 16 MW to 40 MW.
  • The latest protests by the residents at a public hearing were reported in the press only a few days ago.
  • The residents claim that the plant’s original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) issued to IL&FS bears no resemblance to the plant now in operation.
  • A new EIA has been filed for the proposed expansion, and they are apprehensive about the proposal to add two boilers.

WtE Plants in India: Lazy solution to solid waste management

  • There are five municipal WtE plants operational in India with a total capacity to produce 66.4 MW electricity per day.
  • Of this, the lion’s share — 52 MW per day — is generated in Delhi by its three existing plants.
  • There is also talk of setting up a new WtE plant with a capacity of 25 MW at Tehkhand in South-East Delhi.
  • The bandwagon is rolling on with cities across different states vying for WtE plants as a quick and lazy solution to the complex challenge of solid waste management.

Issues with WtE Plants

  1. WtE plants in India burn mixed waste
  • The presence of chlorinated hydrocarbons like PVC results in the release of dioxins and furans when the waste is burnt at less than 850 degree C.
  • Appropriate filtering mechanisms need to be installed to control such dangerous emissions.
  • Dioxins and furans are known to be carcinogenic and can lead to impairment of immune, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems.

2. They are extremely difficult and costly to measure, as the experience of Okhla shows.

  • In the past, joint inspections involving the residents have shown that the plant was being operated without the adequate use of activated charcoal to filter out dioxins, furans and mercury from the emissions.

3. Serious pollutants of air and water

  • Even when incineration takes place under optimal conditions, large amounts of flue gases, mercury vapour and lead compounds are released.
  • There is always about 30 per cent residue from incineration in the form of slag (bottom ash) and fly ash (particulate matter), which are also known to be serious pollutants of air and water.

WtE plants are being phased out in the West

  • Even people living in the neighbourhood of the best-maintained plants in the West are said to be prone to higher levels of cancer and other illnesses.
  • That is why WtE plants are being phased out in the West.
  • Unfortunately, while the clamour for WtE plants is growing in India, their operations are neither strictly maintained nor adequately monitored.

4. Inefficient in generating energy

  • WtE plants in India are also inefficient in generating energy.
  • Municipal waste in India has a very high biodegradable (wet) waste content ranging anywhere between 60 and 70 per cent of the total, compared with 30 per cent in the West.
  • This gives our waste a high moisture content and low calorific value.
  • Also, since Indian households have traditionally been recycling their waste such as paper, plastic, cardboard, cloth, rubber, etc, to kabadiwalas, this further lowers the calorific value of our waste.

Challenge of segregation at source

  • India’s Solid Waste Management policy requires that wet and dry wastes should not be mixed so that only non-compostable and non-recyclable wastes with at least 1,500 kcal/kg should reach WtE plants.
  • Such waste comprises only 10 to 15 per cent of the total waste.
  • The challenge of segregation at source is compounded by the municipal governments themselves when they use compacters to reduce the transport cost of the waste.
  • Compacting compresses the waste and makes even gross segregation at the plant site impossible.
  • In the absence of adequate feedstock of non-compostable and non-recyclable waste, it becomes necessary to use auxiliary fuel, adding to the cost of operating the plants.

Waste to energy solutions

  • Private companies (mostly foreign) are keenly hawking “waste to energy solutions” to handle our growing volumes of urban waste.
  • Our urban local bodies, which bear the responsibility for solid waste management in our cities, are easily misguided into adopting these “solutions”.
  • They are themselves reluctant to make an effort at keeping wet and dry wastes, recyclable and non-recyclable wastes, unmixed.
  • They find WtE plants an easy option to legitimise the burning of mixed waste.

Way Forward

  • Municipal authorities should be made aware that WtE technologies are being phased out in the West.
  • They should not be allowed unless the waste offered meets the criterion specified by the SWM Rules 2016.
  • A crucial element of enforcement will be to first ensure that the waste is not mixed at the source of generation and then that the handling of waste is in unmixed streams.
  • Even where outsourcing contracts clearly specify that handling must be in unmixed streams, there should be strict penalties for non-compliance.
  •   WtE plants using municipal solid waste from Indian cities as feedstock pose a serious threat to our health and environment.
  • We must explore low cost options such as composting and bio-methanation.
  • First things first: No mixing of waste at the point of generation.
Jan, 22, 2019

Global alliance of companies to eliminate plastic waste launched


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AEPW

Mains level: Issues related to plastic waste.


  • An alliance of global companies launched a new organisation to help eliminate plastic waste, especially in the ocean.

Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW)

  1. The AEPW comprises of about 30 companies, which pledged over $1 billion to eliminate plastic waste across the world.
  2. The aim is to develop solutions to mitigate plastic pollution and promote a circular economy by utlising used plastics.
  3. The Alliance has been working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as a founding strategic partner.
  4. Designed as a non-profit organization, the Alliance includes companies from across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa as well as the Middle East are part of the Alliance.
  5. Member companies include those that make, use, sell, process, collect and recycle plastics, as well as chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies, also called the plastics value chain.
  6. From India, Reliance Industries will advance efforts towards a sustainable future.

Focus areas of AEPW

  • Infrastructure development to collect and manage waste and increase recycling
  • Innovation to advance and scale up new technologies that make recycling and recovering plastics easier and create value from post-use plastics
  • Education and engagement of governments, businesses, and communities to mobilize action;
  • Clean-up of concentrated areas of plastic waste in the environment, particularly the major conduits of waste, such as rivers, that carry land-based waste to the ocean.
Dec, 17, 2018

[op-ed snap] No time left to waste on waste


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bioremediation

Mains level: Issues related to waste management and how to tackle this problem seeing urbanization trend in India


Waste management problem in Delhi

  1. Delhi’s garbage woes have been hurtling towards some sort of an endgame ever since a portion of the landfill at Ghazipur, on the city’s eastern edge, collapsed onto an adjoining road and buried two people in September 2017
  2. A temporary ban on dumping at the site was immediately announced, but the Ghazipur garbage mountain is already nearly as tall as the Qutub Minar, as the Supreme Court caustically observed recently
  3. With the quest for another dumpsite going nowhere (as nobody wants a mound of garbage next to their neighbourhood), there is no clarity yet on what to do with the thousands of tonnes of solid waste Delhi generates every day

Garbage problem set to rise

  1. The impasse in Delhi is a reflection of India’s troubling relationship with waste
  2. India’s cities already generate over 150,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste every day, with Mumbai being the world’s fifth most wasteful city
  3. The waste heaps that dot the edges of India’s cities are set to double in size by 2025
  4. Only one-third of the waste undergoes even rudimentary treatment, according to the urban ministry and hardly any of it is segregated, which would make processing easier
  5. As India’s economic growth accelerates, the garbage problem would only get bigger, unless immediate solutions are found to delink growth from garbage generation
  6. According to the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, cities are already beginning to run out of land on which to dump their waste and have begun throwing it in the backyards of smaller towns, suburbs and villages
  7. Thus, garbage may soon become a flashpoint that sets off recurrent conflict across the urban landscape

How India plans to deal with the waste?

  1. The only big national idea on offer has been to incinerate or burn the garbage. That is what the NITI Aayog had proposed in its medium-term three-year vision for the country, which was released in August 2017
  2. By burning the waste, a small amount of energy could also be produced, at least in theory
  3. Currently, about 3% of urban India’s daily garbage output gets fed into waste-to-energy incinerators
  4. A minuscule amount of energy is generated, but there has been very little debate on whether incinerators work in the Indian context

Problems with incineration

  1. Unlike the Western world, a large chunk of India’s waste is still organic kitchen waste—almost 40% of the total volume
  2. Since segregation of waste is yet to become a reality, incineration is a highly inefficient solution
  3. In the Indian context, there is also very little certainty on whether the harmful gases, which are a byproduct of incineration, are adequately contained and treated

Using bioremediation

  1. Apart from incineration, the other big idea that several cities have tried is bioremediation, which effectively involves the use of living micro-organisms to degrade the contaminants in a landfill into less toxic forms
  2. While the technology is somewhat effective in dealing with existing landfills, in an ideal future, the waste processing chain should abolish the need for a landfill to begin with
  3. Various Indian cities have set on aim to build a “zero landfill” city
  4. Segregation and composting are a big part of the mix of solutions that are being implemented
  5. Their experience in inducing collective action among ordinary citizens to segregate waste may hold important lessons for India’s large cities

Way forward

  1. Global examples show that the national mood changes under the influence of an adequate trigger, which makes a radical change in collective behaviour possible
  2. When PM Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission, the hope was that it would serve as India’s trigger. Four years down the line, nothing much has changed
  3. Indians should start demanding clean and healthy cities as a basic right and governments must step up and deliver that basic human need
Dec, 14, 2018

India’s 'Help Us Green' wins UN Climate Action Award


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Help Us Green, UN Climate Action Award

Mains level: Problem of ceremonial wastes in India and its disposal



  1. Indian group ‘Help Us Green’ has received a UN Climate Action Award.
  2. Help Us Green is based in four cities of Uttar Pradesh and got the award in the Women for Results category.

Why awarded?

  1. It is doing its part to clean up the Ganges by recycling flowers from temples and mosques.
  2. It gives marginalized women a chance to earn livelihoods and be respected in their communities through collecting temple ceremonial flowers tossed into the Ganges and turning them into sustainable incense.
  3. Over eight million tonnes of flowers are discarded in the river every year for religious purposes. This is contributing to the pollution of the Ganges, which provides drinking water for over 420 million people.

Help Us Green

  1. Help Us Green has come up with the world’s first profitable solution to the monumental temple waste problem: flowercycling.
  2. Women working with Help Us Green collect floral-waste daily from temples.
  3. The waste is up-cycled to produce organic fertilizers, natural incense and biodegradable packaging material.
  4. Till date, 11,060 metric tonnes of temple-waste has been flowercycled and 110 metric tonnes of chemical pesticides that enter the river through temple waste have been offset.
  5. So is the income of 73 manual scavenger families has increased at least six-fold.
  6. A total of 365 families have been impacted by Help Us Green through increased living standards and stable incomes.
  7. By 2021, Help Us Green, which plans to expand to Bangladesh, and Nepal, aims to provide livelihoods to 5,100 women and recycle 51 tonnes of temple waste daily.
Nov, 28, 2018

[op-ed snap] The three bin solution


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Various laws for waste management in India and the need for segregating hazardous waste from household waste


Need for better solid waste management

  1. With changing lifestyles, our homes are awash with different chemicals and products which, often without us being aware, are corrosive, explosive, flammable or toxic
  2. These are dangerous wastes that need to be kept out of the wet and dry waste streams
  3. They are harmful not only for our health but also for the environment if not disposed of properly

Lead exposure risk

  1. Leftover paints and varnishes are examples of common polluting wastes in homes
  2. They often contain toxic heavy metals and flammable solvents
  3. Lead, a highly toxic metal, is found in lead-based paints which are often used on walls, toys and art supplies
  4. Young children are particularly vulnerable as even low levels of lead exposure can cause cognitive disabilities in children
  5. WHO lists lead exposure as one of the top 10 environmental health threats globally
  6. Many countries have phased out lead from their paints. In November 2016
  7. India brought in a regulation which allowed a maximum of 90 ppm lead content in paints
  8. A study by Toxic Links published in October 2018 shows that the concentration of lead in paints manufactured by small and medium enterprises in India remains very high
  9. They found paint samples with as high as 199,345 ppm lead content — more than 2,000 times the maximum limit

Rules for safe disposal of different kinds of wastes

  1. There are rules galore for domestic hazardous waste with quite a bit of overlap in coverage for different types of waste
  2. Domestic hazardous waste comes under the ambit of Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016
  3. Hazardous waste generated by industries and large offices is separately covered under the Hazardous Waste Rules 2016
  4. Some biomedical waste is included in the definition of domestic hazardous waste, but only waste from healthcare establishments is covered under the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules 2016
  5. Similarly E-waste Management Rules 2016 are applicable to e-waste including computers, printers, TV, fluorescent and other mercury-containing lamps, while lead acid batteries from home inverters and cars come under Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules 2001

Weak implementation

  1. It is the responsibility of the municipal authorities under the SWM Rules 2016, to collect hazardous waste quarterly or periodically, and/or set up deposit centres, where such waste can be dropped off by waste generators
  2. The authorities must also ensure safe storage of the waste and its transportation to the hazardous waste disposal facility
  3. But the rules lose their significance because there are hardly any deposit centres for domestic hazardous waste
  4. The Biomedical Waste Management Rules 2016 require safe disposal of only healthcare waste
  5. While only 10-25 per cent of biomedical waste is infectious or hazardous, if not properly handled, it presents the physical, chemical and microbiological risk to the general population as well as those who handle this waste
  6. Discarded hazardous medical waste leads to the unintended release of drug-resistant microorganisms in the environment

Drug resistance increasing

  1. According to the WHO, in 2016, 490,000 persons developed multi-drug resistant TB globally and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, as well
  2. A WHO report also shows that there were 65,000 cases of multidrug-resistant and Rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis in India in 2017

Way forward

  1. With changing lifestyles, our homes are awash with different chemicals and products which, often without us being aware, are corrosive, explosive, flammable or toxic
  2. These are dangerous wastes that need to be kept out of the wet and dry waste streams
  3. They are harmful not only for our health but also for the environment if not disposed of properly
  4. People should start keeping three bins for waste: Dry, wet and hazardous
Oct, 24, 2018

[op-ed snap] Recycle and build


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need of recycling C&D waste in India and ways for doing that


Problem of construction & demolition waste

  1. The growing menace of construction and demolition (C&D) waste in Indian cities has a harmful effect on the environment and public health
  2. C&D Waste Management Rules were notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in March 2016
  3. For these to be translated into action, municipal corporations, municipalities and other urban local bodies need to prepare waste management plans, notify bye-laws with penalties for non-compliance, and put in place enforcement mechanisms
  4. Facilitating the recycling of C&D waste has to be an important plank of the waste management plans

Steps that need to be taken

  •  Waste generators must be made aware of the nature of the hazard posed by C&D waste as cooperation from the community
  1. Compared with municipal solid waste, it causes more traffic congestion and also pollution from dust
  2. People must understand that as water gets trapped in the debris, this becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and no amount of spraying can reach the hidden pockets of water
  3. They also have to be made aware that as lakes, stormwater drains, ponds and other water bodies get choked, the city becomes more vulnerable to floods
  4. Dumping C&D waste in lakes for encroachment, a common practice in large cities, also results in loss of wetlands which are necessary for water purification
  •  Unmixed discards can almost all be put to use
  1. The deconstruction of buildings enables a much larger recovery of unmixed materials for reuse than mechanical demolition
  2. The Report on Resource Efficiency in the Indian Construction Sector by GIZ and Development Alternatives (2015) points out that manual demolition by hammer and pickaxe is the norm in northern India, primarily due to the higher rates of reuse of building materials, especially good quality whole bricks, and the low wage rate
  3. All waste from construction and/or demolition for large projects should be stacked on-site unmixed, with different heaps for soil, stones, bricks, cementitious waste, plastics, wood, etc to make reuse and recycling easier
  4.  This can only be accomplished with community cooperation and oversight
  • A proactive effort on the part of the municipalities is called for to keep C&D waste off the roads, pavements and vacant sites and encourage its transport to recycling units
  1. The use of pavement for storing C&D materials should be limited to 2-3 months or until completion of the first slab
  2. Thereafter progressive escalation of the ground rent should be explored, to discourage on-site stacking of construction materials
  • There is a need for public discussion on measures to ensure the beneficial uses of vacant sites without harming the rights of site owners but supporting the rights of neighbours for a pollution-free environment
  1. Municipalities must also remove unauthorised dumpsites on vacant land — public or private — while recovering the cost of transporting the waste to the recycling plants through a penalty from the owner
  2. Property tax on unfenced vacant sites should be the same as the tax on a ground floor building on a similar plot area, and interest must be charged on tax dues
  3. Unfenced plots, in any case, should be periodically cleaned or fenced for nuisance-proofing by the municipal corporation and charges added to property tax dues

Way forward

  1. Government construction works can set an example by using the recycled products as prescribed in Sec 9 (4) of C&D Waste Management Rules (2016)
  2.  Following international practice, it is important to set standards and have quality certification for the recycled materials so that more and more builders are encouraged to use these materials and contribute to the cause of sustainable urban development
Sep, 11, 2018

Ocean Cleanup team heads to the Pacific


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Photodegradation

Mains level: Ocean Cleanup Project and its strategy


The Ocean Cleanup Project

  1. A supply ship towing a long floating boom designed to clean ocean plastic has set sail from San Francisco for a test run ahead of a trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
  2. The ambitious project by The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit group, hopes to clean up half of the garbage patch within five years once all systems are deployed.
  3. The supply vessel was towing a 600 meter-long boom device dubbed System 001, designed to contain floating ocean plastic so it can be scooped up and recycled.
  4. The system includes a tapered three-meter skirt to catch plastic floating just below the surface.
  5. The main mission is to show that it works, and hopefully then in a few months from now, the first plastics will arrive back into port, which means that it becomes proven technology.

About Great Pacific Garbage Patch

  1. The patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean discovered between 1985 and 1988.
  2. The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative pelagic concentrations of plastic, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.
  3. It consists primarily of an increase in suspended, often microscopic, particles in the upper water column.
  4. The patch has one of the highest levels known of plastic particulates suspended in the upper water column.

Risk of Photo Degradation

  1. As a result, it is one of several oceanic regions where researchers have studied the effects and impact of plastic photodegradation in the neustonic layer of water.
  2. The photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level.
  3. Some plastics decompose within a year of entering the water, leaching potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A, PCBs, and derivatives of polystyrene.
  4. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean’s surface.
Aug, 29, 2018

[op-ed snap] Cities at crossroads: No more cover-ups


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Increasing number of landfill sites of waste in Indian cities and their ill effects on human health as well as environment


Managing solid waste in cities

  1. There are two separate challenges of solid waste management in our cities
  2. One, managing the continuous flow of solid waste on a daily basis
  3. Two, dealing with the legacy of neglect which has resulted in garbage hills having been built up at dumpsites that were meant for waste processing and landfills

Lanfills: Overburdened by garbage

  1. The sites for landfills were originally located outside of the cities, but as the cities have expanded the dumpsites are now almost inside the cities
  2. It is estimated that more than 10,000 hectares of urban land is locked in these dumpsites in India
  3. Delhi’s open dumps at Ghazipur (69 metres high), Okhla (55 metres high) and Bhalswa (56 metres high), for example, are all much higher than the permissible height limit of up to 20 metres
  4. They are also way past their capacity for holding the amount of waste for which they were set up

Bad effects of landfills

  1. In the absence of exposure to air, the high-rises of rotting mixed waste on these sites generate methane (a greenhouse gas) and other landfill gases which contribute to global warming
  2. They also produce leachate (liquid generated by airless waste), which pollutes groundwater
  3. Frequent outbreaks of fire at the dumpsites lead to air pollution

Using bio-remediation and bio-mining to get rid of waste

  1. Bio-remediation and bio-mining are clearly specified as the first choice under Rule 15 (zj) of The Rules for the Safe Treatment of Legacy Waste in all open dumpsites and existing operational dumpsites in India
  2. The low-cost solution of bioremediation to remove the garbage hills and their lingering ill effects permanently achieves near-zero emission of harmful gases (such as methane, hydrogen sulphide, and ammonia) and leachate
  3. In rapid bioremediation method, the hill is terraced, grooved and then slashed to form high slices to let air into the waste and drain out leachate
  4. Each heap is turned weekly, four times to ensure aeration of all parts of the waste and sprayed with composting microbes to accelerate biological decomposition
  5. After four turnings, there is about 40 per cent volume reduction in the waste as the organic fraction of the original waste is degraded biologically by the bioculture
  6. Specific microbes are also used for leachate treatment. Once the waste is stabilised, it is ready for bio-mining
  7. Bio-mining efforts include loosening thin surface layers of the garbage hill and forming this into windrows before screening
  8. These fractions can then be used for different purposes — for compost, road sub-grade, making RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) pellets, recycling plastics, or inerts for landfills

Why is this method useful for growing cities?

  1. The most valuable part of this exercise is that the land which was hosting waste dumps is now fully recovered for alternate uses
  2. Since it is very hard to win local acceptance for new waste processing sites, the recovered land can be used for waste management

Way Forward

  1. Capping is being projected in Indian cities as a solution to the challenges posed by our unlined open dumps even where bio-remediation and bio-mining are feasible and desirable
  2. The Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Central Pollution Control Board should swing into action immediately to issue guidelines on the capping of dumpsites, taking account of health, environment and financial perspectives
Jun, 27, 2018

[op-ed snap] Plastic-free India is a nudge away


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016), Nudge theory

Mains level: The editorial discusses how nudge theory can be implemented in reducing usage of plastic


Change in Plastic Waste Management Rules

  1. The Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change amended the Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016)
  2. According to the amendment, manufacturers, suppliers, and sellers of plastic (and plastic products) across the nation will now be required to phase out, over a period of two years, all such products which have no alternative use or are non-recyclable and non-energy recoverable
  3. This move was preceded by a state-wide ban in Maharashtra on the manufacture, usage, sale (wholesale and retail), distribution, storage and import of plastic bags and all disposable products made out of plastic

Impact of the ban on average Indian citizen

  1. To the people employed in the industry, it could mean the shutdown of factories and potential job losses
  2. To the consumer, it would mean choosing between alternatives that are either too expensive, impractical or not as easily available
  3. The unrealistic timeline for the implementation of the plastic ban has caught all stakeholders unawares, making it extremely difficult to comply with

An end-to-end approach to eradicate the use and sale of plastic


  • The government can nudge rather than coerce citizens to demand and use less plastic
  • A “nudge”, as Nobel laureate Richard Thaler defines it, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives
  • One way of doing this would be to give discounts to customers who bring their own bags, or reward points for not requesting a plastic bag—as opposed to fining, penalizing, or charging high prices
  • Normative social influence bias can be leveraged to nudge Indian citizens away from plastic
  • This bias taps into people’s intrinsic urge to conform and be liked by those around them
  • Another nudge, which has been extremely successful globally in donation scenarios, is the “opt-out model”
  • Here, customers would by default be considered as opted-in for non-plastic items, forcing them to manually opt-out to choose otherwise

Way forward

  1. In 2025, it is estimated that the annual input of plastic waste from land to ocean will be over 16 million metric tons—almost 100 bags of plastic per foot of coastline in the world
  2. Estimated 60-95% of this marine pollution comes from land-based sources (primarily plastic), resulting in the death of 100,000 marine mammals annually, apart from killing millions of birds and fish
  3. India has indeed taken a step in the right direction, with 18 states and Union territories having imposed a complete ban on plastic
  4. But we also need to realize that a ban can only be a means to an end, and not the end itself
Jun, 26, 2018

[op-ed snap] Reduce, segregate: On plastic ban


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Environment Day, Bureau of Indian Standards

Mains level: Scourge of plastic waste in India & world and methods that can reduce it


Plastic ban in Maharashtra

  1. Maharashtra has put a ban on several consumer articles made of plastic, after a three-month notice period to industry and users
  2. It is being termed as naturally disruptive and extreme

Need for reducing plastic usage

  1. Today, stemming the plastic tide is a national imperative
  2. India hosted this year’s World Environment Day and PM Modi made a high-profile pledge, to international acclaim, that it would do away with all single-use plastics by 2022
  3. Worldwide, the problem has got out of hand, with only 9% of about nine billion tonnes of plastic produced getting recycled

What led to the ban?

  1. India has an uninspiring record when it comes to handling waste
  2. India’s plastic waste is estimated officially at 26,000 tonnes a day
  3. If the Centre and the States had got down to dealing with the existing regulations on plastic waste management and municipal solid waste, a ban would not even have become necessary
  4. Specifications for the recycling of different types of plastics were issued two decades ago by the Bureau of Indian Standards

What needs to be done?

  1. There has to be an effort on a war footing to segregate this waste at source
  2. Priority should be given to stop the generation of mixed waste, which prevents recovery of plastics
  3. Companies covered by extended producer responsibility provisions must be required to take back their waste
  4. Incentives to reduce the use of plastic carry bags, single-use cups, plates and cutlery must be in place
  5. Retailers must be required to switch to paper bags
  6. Carry bag production using cloth can create more jobs than machines using plastic pellets
  7. The Urban Development Secretary in each State, who heads the monitoring committee under the rules, should be mandated to produce a monthly report on how much plastic waste is collected, including details of the types of chemicals involved, and the disposal methods
  8. Such compulsory disclosure norms will maintain public pressure on the authorities, including the State Pollution Control Boards

Way Forward

  1. Plastics became popular because they are inexpensive, can be easily produced and offer great convenience
  2. Their wild popularity has turned them into a scourge
  3. We need substitutes for plastic, incentives to re-use, and better waste disposal
Jun, 07, 2018

[op-ed snap] Life in plastic: on waste management framework


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

Mains level: This article critically analyses policy vacuum in India in plastic waste management.


Dismal Framework on Paper only

  1. The Solid Waste Management Rules and the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016, which built on previous regulations, mostly remain on paper.
  2. The Centre’s somewhat liberal estimate shows over 60% of about 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste generated daily is collected.
  3. That essentially means a staggering 10,000 tonnes of trash is being released into the environment, a lot of it going into the sea. Also, not every piece of plastic collected by the system is scientifically processed.
  4. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system is on the UN map of 10 rivers worldwide that collectively carry the bulk of the plastic waste into the oceans.
  5. The effects are evident: they threaten marine life and the well-being of people, as microplastics are now found even in drinking water.

Outreaching with Environment (Protection) Act: Need of the hour

  1. In their response to the crisis, communities and environmentally minded individuals are ahead of governments and municipal authorities.
  2. But, valuable as they are, voluntary efforts cannot achieve what systemic reform can.
  3. It is the Centre’s responsibility to ensure that the Environment (Protection) Act, the overarching law that enables anti-pollution rules to be issued, is implemented in letter and spirit.
  4. Ideally, regulation should help stop the manufacture of single-use plastic articles such as carry bags and cutlery, and encourage the use of biodegradable materials.

The Real Challenge

  1. The provisions of the Plastic Waste Management Rules require manufacturers of compostable bags to get a certificate from the Central Pollution Control Board, but this has not stopped counterfeit products from entering the market.
  2. Local bodies mandated under rules to ensure segregation, collection and transfer of waste to registered recyclers have spectacularly failed to fulfil their responsibilities.
  3. The State Level Monitoring Committees provided for under the rules have not been made accountable. The waste management framework is dysfunctional, and India and the world face a plastics crisis.
  4. Solving it will take more than slogans
Jan, 18, 2018

Govt seeks tech solutions for waste management


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Waste to wealth concept

Mains level: Rising domestic as well as industrial waste in India and problems associated with it


Concept note in waste management technologies

  1. The science and technology ministry has called for a concept note in waste management technologies by 31 January from interested academic institutes and research & development (R&D) organizations
  2. The government is seeking technological solutions for managing the huge untreated waste across the country
  3. The waste is not only leading to poor sanitary conditions but also damaging the environment

What is government seeking?

  1. The government is looking at organizations to participate in developing technologies for biomedical waste and for setting up a demo plant for hazardous waste in an institute or university
  2. It is also looking at technologies to address agricultural waste (stubble management) to find an alternative to crop burning
  3. The move is part of government’s concept of ‘waste to wealth
  4. Electronic waste is another focus area as the government is looking at developing “simple indigenous material recovery technology for specific applications (precious and other metals, plastics, glass and rare earths) in collaboration with industry
  5. Besides these, other major areas that are on the government’s radar are urban and rural solid waste and industrial waste

Problem of waste management

  1. Around 62 million tonnes (mt) of solid waste is generated in India every year but only 43 mt is collected and a mere 12 mt treated
  2. About 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day but of that, only 9,000 tonnes is collected and processed
  3. India generates 1.7 million tonnes of e-waste annually, which is rising at the rate of 5% a year
Dec, 29, 2017

Bali declares ‘garbage emergency’ amid sea of waste

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Clean seas campaign, Global Partnership on Marine Litter

Mains level: Harmful effects of plastic waste on marine life and ways to reduce it


World’s second-biggest contributor to marine debris

  1. A colossal 1.29 million metric tons is estimated to be produced annually by Indonesia
  2. The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is the world’s second-biggest contributor to marine debris after China

Garbage emergency

  1. The waves of plastic flooding into rivers and oceans have been causing problems for years
  2. It has been clogging waterways in cities, increasing the risk of floods, and injuring or killing marine animals who ingest or become trapped by plastic packaging
  3. Microplastics can contaminate fish which, if eaten by humans, could cause health problems including cancer
  4. The problem has grown so bad that officials in Bali last month declared a “garbage emergency” across a six-kilometer stretch of coast

Clean Seas campaign

  1. Indonesia is one of nearly 40 countries that are part of UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign
  2. As part of its commitment, the Indonesian government has pledged to reduce marine plastic waste by 70 % by 2025


UNEP Clean Seas Campaign

  1. The campaign aims to halt the tide of plastic trash polluting the oceans
  2. UN Environment launched #CleanSeas in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic litter
  3. Over the next five years, UNEP will address the root-cause of marine litter by targeting the production and consumption of non-recoverable and single-use plastic
  4. The campaign contributes to the goals of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, a voluntary open-ended partnership for international agencies, governments, businesses, academia, local authorities and non-governmental organizations hosted by UN Environment


Dec, 02, 2017

[pib] Star Rating Protocol for Garbage Free Cities Introduced


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Star rating protocol for garbage free cities

Mains level: Urbanisation challenges


  • A guide Book for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) on Bulk Solid Waste Generator’s Compliance of Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, and the online database for states and cities, both pertaining to SBM Urban was launched
  • The guidebook lays out the roles and responsibilities of bulk waste generators and will handhold ULBs in implementing the SWM Rules,
  • While the online database will henceforth capture data directly from states and cities online, regarding their progress on SBM components, thereby enhancing the robustness and transparency of Mission monitoring.
  • The star rating protocol is different from the Swachh Survekshan ranking survey in that it will allow multiple cities to be awarded the same star rating, and is expected to be formally introduced by the Ministry in the next few weeks.

Major takeaways:

  • In order to enthuse cities with a spirit of healthy competition, the concept of a star rating protocol for garbage free cities was introduced during the workshop.
  • Given its potential as a developmental cum aspirational tool for cities to incrementally improve their overall cleanliness, while working towards a garbage-free status, this is expected to greatly enthuse the city administrators.
  • The focus on the issue of cleanliness of community and public toilets, there is a concerted drive to seek user feedback for CT/PTs through the Google toilet locator and Swachhata app.
  • Uploading all community / public toilets in cities on Google maps under the Business listing category, integrating with Swachhata app
Sep, 21, 2016

National wastewater reuse policy sought- II

  1. Source: The report ‘Closing the water loop: Reuse of treated wastewater in urban India’- by the global consulting firm PwC
  2. Ground water: Regulatory intervention is key to prevent industries from over-exploiting groundwater
  3. The current low cost of exploiting groundwater makes reuse unviable and at the same time, irrecoverably depletes groundwater resources
  4. Norms: The Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Water Resources should work together to define quality norms for different grades of industrial water
  5. This would help standardise the design of reuse systems nationwide
  6. Historically, infrastructure development in the water sector has been fully funded by the Central Government
  7. For PPP (public-private partnership) structures to evolve in this sector, significant Govt interventions are required to create a favourable environment for private sector participation
Sep, 21, 2016

National wastewater reuse policy sought- I

  1. Source: The report ‘Closing the water loop: Reuse of treated wastewater in urban India’- by the global consulting firm PwC
  2. Why policy? To help address the perennial concern of urban water stress by mandating targets and laying out legislative, regulatory and financial measures to hit those targets
  3. Urban growth: Country is expected to add approximately 404 million new urban dwellers between now and 2050
  4. This rapid urban growth will be linked with higher industrial output and greater energy demand thus adding to the urban water stress
  5. Institutionalising the reuse of treated wastewater could go a long way in helping utilities to address this challenge in an effective manner

Discuss: With rapid urbanisation, municipal solid waste and waste water is increasingly generated. What could be done to tackle this mess in present context so as to balance urbanisation with the environment?

Apr, 06, 2016

Govt. notifies new rules on waste management

  1. News: The Environment Ministry has notified rules to ensure that the solid waste generated by some groups are treated and recycled
  2. Municipal bodies will be allowed to charge user fees and levy spot fines for littering and non-segregation
  3. There is a key provision is to formalise the profession of rag-picking, who form a critical arm of society
  4. Groups: Hotels, residential colonies, bulk producers of consumer goods, ports, railway stations, airports and pilgrimage spots
  5. Significance: The rules on solid waste management have been amended after 16 years
  6. Criticism: There is no binding provision on fines
Mar, 30, 2016

Rules to manage construction & demolition waste

  1. Context: Govt notified The Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016
  2. Also include barring people from dumping such waste on roadsides and mandatory recycling
  3. Rules stipulate that building permits will be given only after a waste management plan is provided to authorities
  4. Aim: Reducing dust pollution that is linked to a spurt in respiratory diseases in big cities
Mar, 19, 2016

New plastic waste management rules

  1. Context: The Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules 2016, issued by the Union environment ministry
  2. Highlights: They bring the country’s gram panchayats into the picture
  3. It introduced the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR)
  4. Under the new ERP concept, producers are responsible for collecting waste generated from their products
  5. It also banned plastic carry bags thinner than 50 microns
Feb, 12, 2016

Centre makes it mandatory for power firms to buy from solid waste plants

  1. Context: Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Mission
  2. Background: About 1.68 lakh tonnes of solid waste is collected across the country
  3. What’s in the news? – It is mandatory for power distribution companies to buy electricity from power plants fuelled by solid waste
  4. Why? – Power discoms were not willing to buy electricity from solid waste-run power plants
  5. Objective: To generate 700 megawatts of electricity from solid waste-run plants in the next 5 years
Oct, 02, 2015

Swachh Bharat: plan to produce power, compost from solid waste

The Urban Development Ministry is planning to generate electricity and compost from municipal solid waste.


  1. A proposal will be introduced before Cabinet to provide Market Development Assistance on sale of city compost to farmers.
  2. Ministry of Power will amend the Electricity Act 2003 to enable mandatory purchase of power generated from municipal solid waste.
  3. The Power Ministry was finalising a tariff rate that would help “waste to energy projects” sustain in the market.
  4. The Ministry is also finalising the pricing model for the compost produced out of city trash, and it would be sold to farmers on subsidised rates.
Jun, 12, 2015

Delhi reels under 15,000 tonnes of waste

  1. Why? because  12,000 sanitation workers are refusing to work without getting their salaries.
  2. The Municipal corporations have the power to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance (ESMA) Act and force the sanitation staff to resume work but that’s far from their mind.
  3. Typhoid, jaundice and skin allergies are some of the most common health problems that can occur.
  4. Post-trifurcation of Delhi, the corporations, mainly East and North, have been struggling to streamline basic services like sanitation.
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