Solid  waste management – Types of solid waste, impacts of solid waste, recycling and reuse

Solid Waste Management; Types of Solid waste Management; Factors affecting Solid Waste Generation

Solid Waste Management

  • Solid waste management is basic public services which every citizen should have access to, both for health and hygiene, and for ensuring a good quality of living. Sanitation here refers to toilet facilities, whereas solid waste management refers to the management collection and disposal of solid waste (as opposed to liquid waste).
  • The image of a city as being clean and free of waste, impacts its desirability for doing business by entrepreneurs and for future residents to live.
  • Municipalities in India are responsible for collection, sweeping, storage, transfer, treatment and final disposal of waste.
  • A study by NIUA (2015) reports that urban areas in India generate more than 100,000 MT of waste every day, with Mumbai contributing 7000 MT, and Bangalore, 5000 MT.
  • While the Ministry of Urban Development has mandated several management and handling rules for solid waste, most cities and towns are finding it difficult to comply with these rules, keep their streets clean, and safely dispose the waste.
  • An analysis of waste disposal in 22 of India’s cities by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI (2009)), as pointed by Sridhar and Kumar (2013), shows that 14 out of India’s 22 cities which were studied, sent more than 75 per cent of their waste to dumpsites, indicating a lack of adequate treatment and disposal facilities.
  • Mumbai sends 100 per cent of its waste to dumpsites, while Delhi dumps 94 per cent of its waste.

Solid waste management Methods

Centralised method:

  • This method involves collection of municipal waste from all over the local area and by means of landfilling, dump outside the city/nagar panchayat limits.
  • This process looks at door-to-door collection of solid waste by waste pickers who hand over to the collection team who then discard the collected waste in the landfill.
  • The waste pickers are employees of the Municipal Corporation or Nagar Panchayat. The collection team is generally contracted out by a tendering process.

De-centralized method:

  • This is a model seen in a few places like Suryapet in Andhra Pradesh and Bangalore in Karnataka. The waste is collected ward-wise and is segregated at source into bio-degradable and non-biodegradable.
  • The biodegradable waste is composted at a nearby facility by different methods of aerobic and anerobic composting.
  • The non-biodegradable waste is further categorised into paper, plastic, metal and other waste and then further collected by recyclers for up-cycling or downcycling of products

Rules and regulations associated with SWM

  • Under the 74th Constitutional Amendment, Disposal and managemenf of Municipal Solid Waste is one of the 18 functional domains of the Municipal Corporations and Nagar Panchayats.
  • The various rules and regulations for solid waste management are:
  1. The Bio-Medical Waste (Management And Handling) Rules, 1998
  2. Municipal Solid Waste (Management And Handling) Rules 2000
  3. The Plastic Waste (Management And Handling) Rules, 2011
  4. E-Waste (Management And Handling) Rules, 2011
  • There are other court cases that find their importance in terms of Solid Waste Management in India:
  1. Almitra Patel vs. Union of India
  2. L Wadhera vs. Union of India.
  3. Judgement of Karnataka High Court towards Mandatory Segregation at Source

Solid Waste Management – Major Issue for India

  • The Government of India had notified the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules in 2000, thereby making it mandatory for all urban local bodies in the country to engage in collection, segregation, secondary storage in covered bins, transportation in covered vehicles, processing through composting or waste-to-energy technologies and disposal of rejects in engineered/sanitary landfills.


  • Door to door collection coverage is scanty at best, and segregation at household level is a rarity.
  • Collection even from community bins is not regular. Collection efficiency is low.
  • Processing is limited to very small portion of the waste.
  • Dumping is done in land-fills without any regard for environment and without following scientific methods of disposal. Such inadequate disposal practice lead to problems that will impair human and animal health and result in economic, environmental and biological losses.
  • Improper waste management causes public health and environmental hazards like climate change, air and water pollution, soil contamination, spreads odours and disease, and breeds vermin including flies, mosquitoes, rats, dogs and monkeys.
  • Even after 12 years, most cities have confined themselves to collection and transportation of solid waste. Processing and safe disposal are being attempted only in a few cases.
  • The CPCB report also reveals that only 68% of the MSW generated in the country is collected of which, 28% is treated by the municipal authorities. Thus, merely 19% of the total waste generated is currently treated. .

Some of the major issues concerning solid waste management are:

  1. Absence of segregation of waste at source
  2. Lack of funds for waste management at ULBs
  3. Lack of technical expertise and appropriate institutional arrangement
  4. Unwillingness of ULBs to introduce proper collection, segregation, transportation and treatment/ disposal systems
  5. Indifference of citizens towards waste management due to lack of awareness
  6. Lack of community participation towards waste management and hygienic conditions
  7. Lack of sewage management plan.

Suggestion Made by Kasturirangan report For Solutions of Solid Waste

The Kasturirangan report by PC highlights the need for an integrated approach:

  • Reduction and segregation of waste at source and also efficient utilization of various components of the waste.
  • Principle of Reduce, Reuse, Recover , Recycle and Remanufacture (5Rs) should be adopted
  • Motivate Resident Welfare Associations (RWA), CBO / NGO’s to take up work of community awareness and door to door collection
  • Integration of kabadiwalas and rag pickers into MSWM system
  • It emphasizes setting up centralised (for incineration, gasification, pyrolysis) or decentralised (for biomethanation, vermicomposting) waste processing facilities keeping in view the quantity and quality of waste generated and financial viability of the processing technology.
  • Set up Common Regional Sanitary Landfill Facility, to reduce the land requirement. Cities above a population of one million should set-up their own landfill and permit all cities and towns within 50km periphery of the city to use the facility for disposal of their waste.

Internationally good example for Solid Waste Management: 

  • For instance, Copenhagen recycles most of the waste it generates and lets only 3 per cent go to the landfill.
  • Japan: In Japan, Incineration has been the primary disposal route for waste due to lack of space for landfills – 74% of all waste produced in Japan is incinerated with just 2% sent to landfill.
  • Extending the idea of recycling, Kitgum town in Uganda traps used water from houses and utilises it to grow food in grey water gardens.

Different type of Waste

Municipal Solid Waste

  • Municipal solid waste (MSW) is generated from households, offices, hotels, shops, schools and other institutions.
  • The major components are food waste, paper, plastic, rags, metal and glass, although demolition and construction debris is often included in collected waste, as are small quantities of hazardous waste, such as electric light bulbs, batteries, automotive parts and discarded medicines and chemicals.

Industrial Solid Waste

  • Industrial solid waste in Indian states, as elsewhere, encompasses a wide range of materials of varying environmental toxicity.
  • Typically this range would include paper, packaging materials, waste from food processing, oils, solvents, resins, paints and sludges, glass, ceramics, stones, metals, plastics, rubber, leather, wood, cloth, straw, abrasives, etc.
  • As with municipal solid waste, the absence of a regularly up-dated and systematic database on industrial solid waste ensures that the exact rates of generation are largely unknown

Agricultural Waste and Residues

  • Expanding agricultural production has naturally resulted in increased quantities of livestock waste, agricultural crop residues and agro-industrial by-products.

Hazardous Waste

  • With rapid development in agriculture, industry, commerce, hospital and health-care facilities, the Indian State is consuming significant quantities of toxic chemicals and producing a large amount of hazardous waste.
  • Currently, there are about 110000 types of toxic chemicals commercially available.
  • Each year, another 1 000 new chemicals are added to the market for industrial and other uses.
  • The availability of robust data on the generation of hazardous waste for Indian States is limited by the reliability of information on the quantities and types of hazardous waste produced at the country level.
  • This is due to a variety of reasons, including the lack of qualified personnel to undertake the necessary assessment, the reluctance of industries to provide process information (including waste arising data) and a poor appreciation of the extent to which generated waste is hazardous.
  • Where data is available, significant difficulties are encountered in seeking to draw international comparisons due to differences in classification and definition of hazardous waste from country to country within in the region.
  • Most hazardous waste is the by-product of a broad spectrum of industrial, agricultural and manufacturing processes, nuclear establishments, hospitals and health-care facilities.
  • Primarily, high-volume generators of industrial hazardous waste are the chemical, petrochemical, petroleum, metals, wood treatment, pulp and paper, leather, textiles and energy production plants (coal-fired and nuclear power plants and petroleum production plants).
  • Small- and medium-sized industries that generate hazardous waste include auto and equipment repair shops, electroplating and metal finishing shops, textile factories, hospital and health-care centres, dry cleaners and pesticide users.

Type-based classification Solid Waste

Classification of wastes based on types, i.e., physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of wastes, is as follows:

  1. Garbage:
  • This refers to animal and vegetable wastes resulting from the handling, sale, and storage, preparation, cooking and serving of food.
  • Garbage comprising these wastes contains putrescible (rotting) organic matter, which produces an obnoxious odour and attracts rats and other vermin.
  • It, therefore, requires special attention in storage, handling and disposal.
  1. Ashes and residues:
  • These are substances remaining from the burning of wood, coal, charcoal, coke and other combustible materials for cooking and heating in houses, institutions and small industrial establishments.
  • When produced in large quantities, as in power-generation plants and factories, these are classified as industrial wastes.
  • Ashes consist of fine powdery residue, cinders and clinker often mixed with small pieces of metal and glass. Since ashes and residues are almost entirely inorganic, they are valuable in landfills.
  1. Bulky wastes:
  • These include large household appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, furniture, crates, vehicle parts, tyres, wood, trees and branches.
  • Since these household wastes cannot be accommodated in normal storage containers, they require a special collection mechanism.
  1. Street wastes:
  • These refer to wastes that are collected from streets, walkways, alleys, parks and vacant plots, and include paper, cardboard, plastics, dirt, leaves and other vegetable matter.
  • Littering in public places is indeed a widespread and acute problem in many countries including India, and a solid waste management system must address this menace appropriately.
  1. Biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes:
  • Biodegradable wastes mainly refer to substances consisting of organic matter such as leftover food, vegetable and fruit peels, paper, textile, wood, etc., generated from various household and industrial activities.
  • Because of the action of micro-organisms, these wastes are degraded from complex to simpler compounds.
  • Non-biodegradable wastes consist of inorganic and recyclable materials such as plastic, glass, cans, metals, etc
  1. Dead animals:
  • With regard to municipal wastes, dead animals are those that die naturally or are accidentally killed on the road.
  • Note that this category does not include carcasses and animal parts from slaughter-houses, which are regarded as industrial wastes.
  • Dead animals are divided into two groups – large and small. Among the large animals are horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, etc., and among the small ones are dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, etc.
  • The reason for this differentiation is that large animals require special equipment for lifting and handling when they are removed.
  • If not collected promptly, dead animals pose a threat to public health since they attract flies and other vermin as they decay. Their presence in public places is particularly offensive from the aesthetic point of view as well.
  1. Construction and demolition wastes:
  • These are wastes generated as a result of construction, refurbishment, repair and demolition of houses, commercial buildings and other structures.
  • They consist mainly of earth, stones, concrete, bricks, lumber, roofing and plumbing materials, heating systems and electrical wires and parts of the general municipal waste stream.
  1. Farm wastes:
  • These wastes result from diverse agricultural activities such as planting, harvesting, production of milk, rearing of animals for slaughter and the operation of feedlots.
  • In many areas, the disposal of animal waste has become a critical problem, especially from feedlots, poultry farms and dairies.
  1. Hazardous wastes:
  • Hazardous wastes are those defined as wastes of industrial, institutional or consumer origin that are potentially dangerous either immediately or over a period of time to human beings and the environment.
  • This is due to their physical, chemical and biological or radioactive characteristics like ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity and toxicity.
  • Note that in some cases, the active agents may be liquid or gaseous hazardous wastes.
  • These are, nevertheless, classified as solid wastes as they are confined in solid containers.
  • Typical examples of hazardous wastes are empty containers of solvents, paints and pesticides, which are frequently mixed with municipal wastes and become part of the urban waste stream.
  • Certain hazardous wastes may cause explosions in incinerators and fires at landfill sites. Others such as pathological wastes from hospitals and radioactive wastes also require special handling.
  • Effective management practices should ensure that hazardous wastes are stored, collected, transported and disposed of separately, preferably after suitable treatment to render them harmless.
  1. Sewage wastes:
  • The solid by-products of sewage treatment are classified as sewage wastes.
  • They are mostly organic and derived from the treatment of organic sludge separated from both raw and treated sewages.
  • The inorganic fraction of raw sewage such as grit and eggshells is separated at the preliminary stage of treatment, as it may entrain putrescible organic matter with pathogens and must be buried without delay.
  • The bulk of treated, dewatered sludge is useful as a soil conditioner but is invariably uneconomical.
  • Solid sludge, therefore, enters the stream of municipal wastes, unless special arrangements are made for its disposal.


  • Current treatment strategies are directed towards reducing the amount of solid waste that needs to be landfilled, as well as recovering and utilizing the materials present in the discarded wastes as a resource to the largest possible extent.
  • Different methods are used for treatment of solid waste and the choice of proper method depends upon refuse characteristics, land area available and disposal cost they are as follows
  1. Incineration
  2. Compaction
  3. Pyrolysis
  4. Gasification
  5. Composting
  6. Incineration
  • It is a controlled combustion process for burning solid wastes in presence of excess air (oxygen) at high temperature of about 1000 Degree Centigrade and above to produce gases and residue containing non-combustible material.
  • One of the most attractive features of the incineration process is that it can be used to reduce the original volume of combustible MSW by 80– 90%.
  1. Compaction
  • The waste is compacted or compressed. It also breaks up large or fragile items of waste.
  • This process is conspicuous in the feed at the back end of many garbage collection vehicles deposit refuse at bottom of slope for best compaction and control of blowing litter.
  1. Pyrolysis
  • Pyrolysis is defined as thermal degradation of waste in the absence of air to produce char, pyrolysis oil and syngas, e.g. the conversion of wood to charcoal also it is defined as destructive distillation of waste in the absence of oxygen.
  • External source of heat is employed in this process. Because most organic substances are thermally unstable they can upon heating in an oxygen-free atmosphere be split through a combination of thermal cracking and condensation reactions into gaseous, liquid and solid fraction
  1. Gasification
  • Gasification is a process in which partial combustion of MSW is carried out in the presence of oxygen, but in lesser amount than that is required for complete combustion, to generate a combustible gas (fuel gas) rich in carbon monoxide and hydrogen e.g. the conversion of coal into town gas.
  • When a gasifier is operated at atmospheric pressure with air as the oxidant, the end products of the gasification process are a low-energy gas typically containing (by volume) 20% CO, 15% H2, 10% CO2 and 2% CH4.
  1. Composting
  • Composting is the most responsible technical solution for many developing countries especially, where the climate is arid and the soil is in serious need of organic supplements.
  • The composting process usually follows 2 basic steps, which may be preceded or followed by pre- or post treatments (crushing, sorting, humidification, mixing with other waste, etc…)


  • Landfills:- Landfilling is the most simple and economical measure as far as natural decomposition occurs at the disposal site Unscientific and ordinary Landfilling is the common practice for solid waste disposal in many developing countries.
  • Sanitary Landfills:- Sanitary Landfilling is a process of dumping of MSW in a scientifically designed area spreading waste in thin layers, compacting to the smallest practicable volume and covering with soil on daily basis. The methane (rich biogas) is produced due to anaerobic decomposition of organic matters in solid waste.
  • Underground injection wells:- waste are injected under pressure into a steel and concrete-encased shafts placed deep in the earth.
  • Waste piles:- it is accumulations of insoluble solid, non flowing hazard waste. Piles serves as temporary or final disposal
  • Land treatment:- it is a process by which solid waste, such as sludge from wastes is applied onto or incorporated into the soil surface


Factors affecting the generation rate of solid waste

Factors that influence the quantity of municipal wastes generated include:

  • Geographic location.
  • Season of the year.
  • Collection frequency.
  • Use of kitchen waste grinders.
  • Characteristics of populace.
  • Extent of salvaging and recycling.
  • Public attitudes.

Typical commercial and industrial unit waste generation rates are:

  • Office buildings-0.5-1.1 kg/ employee *day
  • Restaurants- 0.2-0.8 kg/customer*day
  • Canned and frozen foods-0.04-0.06 tonnes/ tonne of raw product.
  • Printing and publishing-0.08-0.10 tonnes/ tonne of raw paper
  • Automotive-0.06-0.8 tonnes/ vehicle produced
  • Petroleum refining- Tonnes/ employee*day
  • Rubber 0.01-0.3 tonnes/ tonne of raw rubber.

Impact of Solid Waste; Recycling and Reuse


  • An effective solid waste management system is necessary to avoid public health disasters, spread of disease by insects and vectors and adverse effect on water and air.
  • Solid waste workers are the most exposed to the risks of parasitic infections and accidents, and therefore, a SWM system must include proper mechanisms to avoid these incidences.
  • To the direct and indirect risks through accidents, exposure and spread of disease, we must add the effect of visual pollution caused by litter and nuisance created by smoke and dust at disposal sites.

Public health effect

  • The volume of waste is increasing rapidly as a result of increasing population and improving economic conditions in various localities.
  • This increased volume of wastes is posing serious problems due to insufficient workforce and other constraints in disposing of it properly.
  • What are the consequences of improper management and handling of wastes? Consider the following:
  1. Disease vectors and pathways:
  • Wastes dumped indiscriminately provide the food and environment for thriving populations of vermin, which are the agents of various diseases.
  • The pathways of pathogen transmission from wastes to humans are mostly indirect through insects flies, mosquitoes and roaches and animals rodents and pigs.
  • Diseases become a public health problem when they are present in the human and animal population of surrounding communities, or if a carrier transmits the etiological agent from host to receptor.
  1. Flies:
  • Most common in this category is the housefly, which transmits typhoid, salmonellosis, gastro-enteritis and dysentery. Flies have a flight range of about 10 km, and therefore, they are able to spread their influence over a relatively wide area.
  • The four stages in their life-cycle are egg, larva, pupa and adult. Eggs are deposited in the warm, moist environment of decomposing food wastes.
  • When they hatch, the larvae feed on the organic material, until certain maturity is reached, at which time they migrate from the waste to the soil of other dry loose material before being transformed into pupae.
  • The pupae are inactive until the adult-fly emerges. The migration of larvae within 4 to 10 days provides the clue to an effective control measure, necessitating the removal of waste before migration of larvae.
  • Consequently, in warm weather, municipal waste should be collected twice weekly for effective control. In addition, the quality of household and commercial storage containers is very significant.
  • The guiding principle here is to restrict access to flies. Clearly, the use of suitable storage containers and general cleanliness at their location, as well as frequent collection of wastes, greatly reduces the population of flies.
  • Control is also necessary at transfer stations, composting facilities and disposal sites to prevent them from becoming breeding grounds for flies.
  • Covering solid wastes with a layer of earth at landfill sites at the end of every day arrests the problem of fly breeding at the final stage.
  1. Mosquitoes:
  • They transmit diseases such as malaria, filaria and dengue fever. Since they breed in stagnant water, control measures should centre on the elimination of breeding places such as tins, cans, tyres, etc.
  • Proper sanitary practices and general cleanliness in the community help eliminate the mosquito problems caused by the mismanagement of solid waste.
  1. Roaches:
  • These cause infection by physical contact and can transmit typhoid, cholera and amoebiasis.
  • The problems of roaches are associated with the poor storage of solid waste.
  1. Rodents:
  • Rodents (rats) proliferate in uncontrolled deposits of solid wastes, which provide a source of food as well as shelter.
  • They are responsible for the spread of diseases such as plague, murine typhus, leptospirosis, histoplasmosis, rat bite fever, dalmonelosis, trichinosis, etc.
  • The fleas, which rats carry, also cause many diseases. This problem is associated not only with open dumping but also poor sanitation.
  1. Animals:
  • Apart from rodents, some animals (e.g., dogs, cats, pigs, etc.) also act as carriers of disease.
  • For example, pigs are involved in the spread of diseases like trichinosis, cysticerosis and toxoplasmosis, which are transmitted through infected pork, eaten either in raw state or improperly cooked.
  • Solid wastes, when fed to pigs, should be properly treated (cooked at 100 C for at least 50 minutes with suitable equipment).
  1. Occupational hazards:
  • Workers handling wastes are at risk of accidents related to the nature of material and lack of safety precautions.
  • The sharp edges of glass and metal and poorly constructed storage containers may inflict injuries to workers.
  • It is, therefore, necessary for waste handlers to wear gloves, masks and be vaccinated.
  • The infections associated with waste handling, include:
  • Skin and blood infections resulting from direct contact with waste and from infected wounds;
  • Eye and respiratory infections resulting from exposure to infected dust, especially during landfill operations;
  • Diseases that result from the bites of animals feeding on the waste;
  • Intestinal infections that are transmitted by flies feeding on the waste;
  • Chronic respiratory diseases, including cancers resulting from exposure to dust and hazardous compounds.

Environmental effect

Besides causing health disorders, inadequate and improper waste management causes adverse environmental effects such as the following:

  1. Air pollution:
  • Burning of solid wastes in open dumps or in improperly designed incinerators emit pollutants (gaseous and particulate matters) to the atmosphere.
  • Studies show that the environmental consequences of open burning are greater than incinerators, especially with respect to aldehydes and particulates.
  • Emissions from an uncontrolled incinerator system include particulate matter, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide, lead and mercury.
  • Discharge of arsenic, cadmium and selenium is to be controlled, since they are toxic at relatively low exposure levels.
  • Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), commonly called dioxins and furans, are of concern because of their toxicity, carcinogenicity and possible mutagenicity.
  1. Water and land pollution:
  • Water pollution results from dumping in open areas and storm water drains, and improper design, construction and/or operation of a sanitary landfill. Control of infiltration from rainfall and surface runoff is essential in order to minimise the production of leachate.
  • Pollution of groundwater can occur as a result of: the flow of groundwater through deposits of solid waste at landfill sites; percolation of rainfall or irrigation waters from solid wastes to the water table; diffusion and collection of gases generated by the decomposition of solid wastes.
  • The interaction between leachate contaminants and the soil depends on the characteristics of the soil. Soil bacteria stabilise biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), i.e., the amount of oxygen required by micro-organisms to degrade organic matter, by anaerobic action, if toxic substances are in low concentration.
  • The carbon dioxide produced keeps the pH level low, causing the water to dissolve minerals in the aquifers. Consequently, the change in groundwater quality may take place depending on the characteristics of the aquifer.
  • Contamination can spread over considerable distances from the landfill, if the aquifers are of sand or gravel.
  • In clayey soils, the rate of movement is greatly reduced. The capacity of clay to exchange ions restricts the movement of metal ions by capturing them in the soil matrix. Changes in its chemical characteristics are due to hardness, iron and manganese compounds.
  1. Visual pollution:
  • The aesthetic sensibility is offended by the unsightliness of piles of wastes on the roadside. The situation is made worse by the presence of scavengers rummaging in the waste.
  • Waste carelessly and irresponsibly discarded in public thoroughfares, along roads and highways and around communal bins (i.e., makeshift containers, without lids, used for the storage of residential, commercial and institutional wastes) gives easy access to animals scavenging for food.
  • The solution to this social problem undoubtedly lies in the implementation of public education at all levels – primary, secondary, tertiary and adult, both short- and long-term, and in raising the status of public health workers and managers in solid waste management.
  1. Noise pollution:
  • Undesirable noise is a nuisance associated with operations at landfills, incinerators, transfer stations and sites used for recycling.
  • This is due to the movement of vehicles, the operation of large machines and the diverse operations at an incinerator site.
  • The impacts of noise pollution may be reduced by careful siting of SWM operations and by the use of noise barriers.
  1. Odour pollution:
  • Obnoxious odours due to the presence of decaying organic matter are characteristic of open dumps.
  • They arise from anaerobic decomposition processes and their major constituents are particularly offensive.
  • Proper landfill covering eliminates this nuisance.
  1. Explosion hazards:
  • Landfill gas, which is released during anaerobic decomposition processes, contains a high proportion of methane (35 – 73%).
  • It can migrate through the soil over a considerable distance, leaving the buildings in the vicinity of sanitary landfill sites at risk, even after the closure of landfills.
  • Several methods are available for control of landfill gas, such as venting, flaring and the use of impermeable barriers.

How each one of us can reduce waste

  • Waste is everybody’s responsibility. A waste reduction strategy can be incorporated by each of us whether at home or at work by following the4 Rs principle.
  • This will not only reduce the amount of solid waste going to landfill, but turn waste into a resource & also save our fast depleting natural resources.
  1. Reduce:At home you can begin by purchasing things with lesser packaging, more durable & refillable items, carry your own shopping bag, avoid disposable items and reduce the use of plastics. At office one can cut down on paperwork, use electronic mail for communication.
  2. Reuse:You can donate your old clothes, books, phones and lots more. You can reuse old bottles, jars as storage bins and buy rechargeable items rather than disposable ones.
  3. Recycle:Segregate your waste for better disposal and purchase recycled/ green products. A ton of paper from recycled material conserves about 7,000 gallons of water, 17-31 trees, 60 lb of air pollutants and 4,000 KWh of electricity. You can recycle or compost your organic waste directly at source- leaving very little waste to reach the landfill. Watch this video of Vani Murthy, who composts in her own apartment.
  4. Recovery or reclaim:Various mechanical, biological and caloric systems and technologies can convert, reprocess or break up waste into new materials or energy. This means turning waste into fuel for manufacturing processes or equipment designed to produce energy. For example, the methane caused by rotting materials in dump sites can be recycled. Of course, this “R” is difficult for individuals to apply and applies more for industries or towns with a high volume of waste to manage.

Recycling and reuse

  • Recycling involves the collection of used and discarded materials processing these materials and making them into new products.
  • It reduces the amount of waste that is thrown into the community dustbins thereby making the environment cleaner and the air more fresh to breathe.
  • Surveys carried out by Government and non-government agencies in the country have all recognized the importance of recycling wastes.
  • However, the methodology for safe recycling of waste has not been standardized. Studies have revealed that 7 %-15% of the waste is recycled.
  • If recycling is done in a proper manner, it will solve the problems of waste or garbage. At the community level, a large number of NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) and private sector enterprises have taken an initiative in segregation and recycling of waste (EXNORA International in Chennai recycles a large part of the waste that is collected).
  • It is being used for composting, making pellets to be used in gasifiers, etc. Plastics are sold to the factories that reuse them.
  • The steps involved in the process prior to recycling include
  1. Collection of waste from doorsteps, commercial places, etc.
  2. Collection of waste from community dumps.
  3. Collection/picking up of waste from final disposal sites
  • Most of the garbage generated in the household can be recycled and reused. Organic kitchen waste such as leftover foodstuff, vegetable peels, and spoilt or dried fruits and vegetables can be recycled by putting them in the compost pits that have been dug in the garden.
  • Old newspapers, magazines and bottles can be sold to the kabadiwala the man who buys these items from homes.
  • In your own homes you can contribute to waste reduction and the recycling and reuse of certain items. To cover you books you can use old calendars; old greeting cards can also be reused. Paper can also be made at home through a very simple process and you can paint on them.
Some items that can be recycled or reused
Paper Old copies
Old books
Paper bags
Old greeting cards
Cardboard box
Plastic Containers
Glass and ceramics Bottles
Miscellaneous Old cans




The schematic diagram below depicts recycling of wastes


The main benefits of recycling are:

  • Recycling generates industry: As New Mexicans recycle, there will be a growing supply of materials generated. In order to utilize these recycled materials, manufacturing facilities will emerge to find uses for them. As more recycling plants are built and more products are manufactured, we will gain a greater understanding of the entire process.
  • Recycling creates jobs: EPA estimates that recycling 10,000 tons of materials would create 36 jobs compared to six for landfilling the same amount (EPA, 2002). Some communities have formed working partnerships with workshops for the disabled, developed and administered job-training partnerships, or otherwise found work for unemployed labor in recycling programs.
  • Cost avoidance of recycling: For years, recycling has been hampered by the belief that it should make money. That may be true for some recyclables, but not for others. Rather, recycling should be thought of as a cost-effective disposal option. It usually requires fewer government subsidies than landfilling or incineration. It saves natural resources and helps protect the environment. Lower taxes, energy savings, and a cleaner environment are the real “bottom lines” in favor of recycling.


  • Curbside collection requires homeowners to separate recyclables from their garbage. Clean recyclables may need to be placed in special containers, while the garbage goes in standard containers. Both are placed at the curb for collection by separate trucks.
  • Drop-off centers are one of the simplest forms of collecting recyclable materials; people can drop off their used glass, metal, plastic, and paper at a designated recycling drop-off site. These centers are usually placed in an easily accessible location near a high-traffic area such as the entrances of supermarkets and parking lots.
  • Buy back centers purchase aluminum and other metals, glass, plastic, newsprint, and sometimes batteries and other materials.


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