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Solid Waste Management: An Introduction

The term "solid waste management" refers to the collection, treatment, and disposal procedure for solid wastes. Wastes are gathered from various sources and are disposed of through the waste management process, which involves the collection, transportation, treatment, analysis, and disposal.

It is a serious worldwide problem as it causes both water and air pollution. It shows its direct effect on health, economic growth, and degradation of the environment. It can lead to pollution of the environment and outbreaks of vector-borne diseases (diseases spread by rodents and insects).

What is Solid Waste Management?

Solid waste is a non-liquid, non-soluble material ranging from municipal garbage to industrial waste that sometimes contains complex and hazardous substances. It includes domestic waste, sanitary waste, commercial waste, institutional waste, catering and market waste, bio-medical waste, and e-waste.

Several tonnes of garbage are left uncollected on the streets of most developing cities each day. It acts as a breeding ground for pests that spread disease, obstruct the sewers, and cause other infrastructural issues.

India produces 277.1 million tonnes of solid waste every year, which is likely to touch 387.8 million tonnes in 2030 and 543.3 million tonnes by 2050 due to ‘rapid urbanisation, population growth, and economic development.’

Types of Solid Waste Management

  • Landfill: It involves burying the waste in vacant locations around the city. The dumping site should be covered with soil to prevent contamination.

Benefits: A sanitary disposal method if managed effectively.

Limitations: A reasonably large area is required.

  • Incineration: It is the controlled oxidation (burning/thermal treatment) of mostly organic compounds at high temperatures to produce thermal energy, CO2, and water.

Benefits: Burning significantly reduces the volume of combustible waste.

Limitations: Smoke and fire hazards may exist.

  • Composting: It is a natural process of recycling organic matter like leaves and food scraps into beneficial fertilizers that can benefit both soil and plants.

Benefits: It is beneficial for crops and is an environment-friendly method.

Limitations: Requires high-skilled labour for large-scale operation.

  • Recycling: It is a process of converting waste material into new material. Examples: wood recycling, paper recycling, and glass recycling.

Benefits: It is environment-friendly.

Limitations: It is expensive to set up and not reliable in case of an emergency.

  • Vermicomposting: Vermicomposting is a bio-conversion technique that is commonly used to handle solid waste. Earthworms feed on organic waste to reproduce and multiply in number, vermicompost, and vermiwash as products in this bio-conversion process.

Benefits: It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and enhances plant growth.

Limitations: It is time-consuming, cost-ineffective, and requires extra care.

Various Methods of Solid Waste Management

Various Methods of Solid Waste Management

Municipal Solid Waste

  • Every day goods such as product packaging, yard trimmings, furniture, clothing, bottles, cans, food, newspapers, appliances, electronics, and batteries make up the municipal solid waste.

  • With rising urbanisation and change in lifestyle, the amount of municipal waste is also rising.

Different Sources of Municipal Solid Waste

Different Sources of Municipal Solid Waste

  • It is roughly classified into five categories:

  1. Recyclable Material: Glasses, bottles, cans, paper, metals, etc.

  2. Composite Wastes: Tetra packs, toys.

  3. Biodegradable Wastes: Kitchen waste, flowers, vegetables, fruits, and leaves.

  4. Inert Waste: Rocks, debris, construction material.

  5. Domestic Hazardous and Toxic Waste: E-waste, medication, light bulbs, etc.

  • Municipal solid waste management is the need of the hour and is important for the safety of public health and better environmental quality.

Harmful Effects of Solid Waste

  • Bad odour of waste

  • Production of toxic gases

  • Degradation of natural beauty

  • Air pollution

  • Water pollution

  • Soil pollution

  • Spread of diseases

  • Effect on biodiversity

Important Points About Solid Waste Management

  • With rapid urbanisation, industrialisation, and an explosion in population in India, solid waste management will be a key challenge for state governments and local municipal bodies in the 21st century.

  • Solid waste management is vital to the health and well-being of city dwellers.

  • The urban poor is particularly vulnerable, as they generally live in informal settlements with little or no access to solid waste collection and in locations near open landfills.

  • The ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ was created to tackle these issues related to waste management, and it created awareness among the people about the proper treatment of solid waste. Since the launch of this campaign, the waste management concept has started to gain momentum.


This article gives an insight into the different kinds of waste we humans are producing on a daily basis and how badly it is affecting our health and environment. It talks about the different processes which we can take into consideration to reduce the emission of waste. Consistent trash reduction and recycling actions will aid us in caring for our health and the environment.

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FAQs on Solid Waste Management

1. What is the solution to solid waste management?

Waste management can be done in two ways: through waste reduction and recycling. Consistent waste reduction and recycling activities mean there will be fewer waste materials to be sent to landfills and incinerators. As such, the emission of greenhouse gases and other forms of pollutants will be reduced by a large percentage. Reusing and recycling used items will also result in less production of new products. We have to be really mindful of integrated solid waste management practices in our day-to-day lives. These objectives of solid waste management will only help us to create a better space.

2. Define biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.

Biodegradable Waste:

  •  It comes from our kitchen, and it includes food remains, garden waste, etc.

  •  It is also known as moist waste.

  •  This can be composted to obtain manure.

  •  This waste decomposes itself over a period of time, depending on the material.

Non-Biodegradable Waste:

  • It includes broken glass, plastics, batteries, etc.

  • It is also known as dry waste.

  • It doesn’t decompose by itself and therefore acts as a major pollutant.

  • This waste can cause pollution, block drains, and harm animals.

3. What are the main features of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?

It intends to construct sanitary facilities for all households. Open defecation is one of the most common issues in rural areas. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to change that. Furthermore, the Indian government intends to provide all citizens with hand pumps, a proper drainage system, bathing facilities, and other amenities. Rural sanitation coverage has nearly reached 100% due to the availability of toilet facilities for all villagers and their motivation to use toilets. On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, all districts, states, and union territories declared an end to open defecation.

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