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Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022 – Explained, pointwise

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 What is the extent of plastic use in India?
  • 3 What is the meaning of Plastic Waste Management?
  • 4 What are the new Plastic Waste Management Rules?
  • 5 What are the earlier rules on Plastic Waste Management?
  • 6 What is the significance of the new rules?
  • 7 What are the associated challenges?
  • 8 What are the remedial measures?
  • 9 Conclusion


Plastic waste management is becoming a challenging task for countries across the globe and India is no exception to it. The use of plastic is on rise while its disposal and safe management hasn’t been commensurate with increased usage. This has resulted in creation of landfills on land and garbage patches in oceans. India has been actively taking steps to effectively manage the plastic waste as seen by frequent amendments to the Plastic Waste Management Rules. The Ministry of Environment has now launched new rules called the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022. 

What is the extent of plastic use in India?

India is one of the world’s largest producers, importers and consumers of plastic material, a sizable part of which is utilized for packaging. A Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report (2018-19) puts the total annual plastic waste generation in India at 3.3 million metric tonnes . 

This use of plastic is believed to have gone up substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the surge in online shopping. Consequently, the share of plastics in the municipal waste is reckoned to have spurted from around 10% earlier to close to 20% now. 

The worrisome part is that over 40% of the total plastic consumption is in the form of single-use items, including the plastic carry-bags. These have limited-period utility but high littering potential.

Types of Plastics and Uses

Source: NITI Aayog-UNDP Handbook on Plastic Waste Management

What is the meaning of Plastic Waste Management?

It refers to managing the plastic waste generated and processing it to make it reusable.  The characteristic activities of waste management include: (a) Collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste, (b) Control, monitoring and regulation of the production, collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste, and (c) Prevention of waste production through in—process modifications, reuse and recycling.

What are the new Plastic Waste Management Rules?

Classification of Plastics : The new rules classify plastics into three categories: (a) Category One will include rigid plastic packaging ; (b) Category Two will include flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets, carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches; (c) Category Three will include Multi-layered plastic packaging (at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic) .

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) : It covers reuse, recycling, use of recycled plastic content and end of life disposal by producers, importers and brand-owners. The term simply means the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life.

Extended Producer Responsibility under the Plastic Waste Management Rules

Source: NITI Aayog UNDP Handbook on Plastic Waste Management

Centralized Online Portal : It calls for creating a centralized online portal by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). It will be used for the registration as well as filing of annual returns by producers, importers and brand-owners.

Environmental compensation : It shall be levied based upon polluter pays principle, with respect to non-fulfilment of EPR targets by producers, importers and brand owners. However payment of compensation will not absolve the liability and unfulfilled EPR obligations for a particular year will be carried forward to the next year for a period of three years.

Committee creation : It will be constituted by the CPCB under the chairmanship of CPCB chairman. It would recommend measures to the ministry for effective implementation of EPR, including amendments to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) guidelines.

Extended Producer Responsibility Certificates : The guidelines allow for sale and purchase of surplus extended producer responsibility certificates.

What are the earlier rules on Plastic Waste Management ?

Plastic-waste management rules, 1999 : Its aim was to restrict the use of plastic carry bags (thickness 20 µm or less) and prevent food from being packaged in recycled plastic.

Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2003 : It diluted the restriction on carry bags but mandated registration of manufacturing units with regional pollution control authorities.

Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2011 : For the first time, there was a national law proposing a ban on the use of plastic materials in sachets to store, pack or sell gutkha, tobacco, and pan masala.

Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016 : It included many progressive propositions, like ‘polluter pays’ and ‘extended producer responsibility’.

Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021 : The rules aim to prohibit the use of specific single-use plastic items, which have “low utility and high littering potential” by 2022.

What is the significance of the new rules?

Manage High Usage : India has more than 1.3 billion people whose plastic usage has witnessed a considerable rise in the pandemic times. New rules will help manage the increasing demand of plastic and result in decreasing plastic pollution.  

Circular Economy : The rules seem to evolve a circular economy in the plastics sector by encouraging recycling, sharing, leasing, trading and safe disposal of the end-of-life plastic materials.

Circular Economy Definition NITI Aayog Plastic Waste Management

Domestic Targets : It would help the Government meet its targets in a more effective way e.g., the latest deadline for eliminating the single-use plastic waste is July 2022 .

Ease of Trading : These norms seek to create a market for the sale, purchase and sharing of EPR compliance certificates on the lines of the carbon trading mechanism for mitigating climate change.

Substitute promotion : The enhanced penalties and stricter norms would induce the manufacturers to shift to more environmentally friendly alternatives like jute . 

Landfill Reduction : The country is witnessing a rise in landfill creation especially across major cities like Delhi, Mumbai etc. The Ghazipur landfill in Delhi is soon expected to surpass the height of Qutub Minar. The promising provisions of new rules will reduce their creation. 

What are the associated challenges?

Poor track records : The success would rely largely on how effectively these norms are governed by the Central and State Pollution Control Boards whose past records in plastic waste management are quite uninspiring. This is testified by frequent violation of plastic rules in major cities like Delhi, Bengaluru etc. 

Corruption : The prevalence of corruption impedes the effective implementation of rules and fails to create a substantial deterrence on violators. India’s rank has slipped six places to 86th among 180 countries in Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2020.

Rigid Behavior : The rules calls for limiting plastic usage but the mass inclination towards it can’t be easily reduced owing to its cheap price and non availability of cost effective alternatives. 

Informalized Structure of waste collection : This inhibits a strong linkage between waste collectors and processing plants.

No global law or convention : There is currently no dedicated international instrument in place designed specifically to prevent plastic pollution throughout the entire plastics lifecycle.

What are the remedial measures?

First , the Government should support the creation of sustainable bioplastics . These plastics can be decomposed by the action of living organisms, usually microbes, into the water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. 

Second , the masses should be sensitized over adverse impacts of plastic use by collaborating with NGOs like Greenpeace India . They must be encouraged to adopt the notion of 3R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle plastic by inculcating green intelligence in them.

Third , the Government should provide sustained employment opportunities to rag pickers by giving them green jobs. This would significantly improve processing of plastic waste in the country and reduce creation of landfills.

Fourth , an independent environment regulator as envisaged by the Supreme Court should be created to oversee prudent implementation of the new rules.

Fifth , the countries must cooperate to draft a dedicated global law as isolated domestic acts can’t fully tackle the problem of plastic waste management.

Plastic was considered a miracle material, as its synthetic polymers give it astonishing durability. However today it is filling up our oceans and destroying marine life and even invading our food chain to get into our bodies. The menace posed by it needs to be tackled by ensuring robust plastic waste management and promoting the use of alternatives.

Source : Business Standard

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Essay on Plastic Pollution for Students in English [500+ Words]

August 29, 2021 by Sandeep

Plastic Pollution Essay: On average, around 8 million metric tons of plastic garbage and waste are collected in the oceans every year. The economically low plastics prices have increased their usage rate, but this material is highly non-biodegradable, causing substantial environmental damage. It largely affects human lives, wildlife, and marine animals. It pollutes land and water resources. Many governments have strictly implemented the plastic ban in their nations. Below we have provided an essay on plastic pollution suitable for school students of classes 1 to 12.

Essay on Plastic Pollution 500 Words in English

Below we have provided Plastic Pollution Essay in English, suitable for classes 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. This detailed essay of 150-500 words is greatly helpful for all school students to perform well in essay writing competitions.

Plastic pollution is a collection of plastic waste like plastic bottles, bags, etc., that adversely affects the environment. Nowadays, plastic is everywhere, and the amount of plastic we generate daily by using it for our comfort is enhancing rapidly. No one realizes how harmful it is. It is essential to understand how plastic harms nature, human beings, and other creatures on earth. We use plastic in various ways. It is used in building polythene bags, utensils, and many other things. Slowly it gets contaminated and leads to hazardous effects.

Causes of Plastic Pollution

Plastics cannot be decomposed because of its properties. It is cheap and has endless uses. As a result, it is contaminated in the environment. Plastic is everywhere, milk cartons, water bottles, food wrappers, and many products are made up of plastics. Every time these items are thrown away, and they create harmful effects on the environment. As plastic is not expensive, it is one of the most easily available and overused items. When disposed of, it does not get decompose easily and pollutes our environment.

When small organisms eat plastic, they become poisoned. This poisons large animals who eat these tiny animals for food. With each step further along the food chain, this problem increases. Plastic is also present in the fish that many people eat every day. Many people eat fish, so fishing is an important activity in many parts of the worlds. Fishing is done by using finishing nets, and they spend a long time in the water, leaking toxins, sometimes they are left to remain wherever they fall.

This kills and harms aquatic living beings. Plastic carried by water flows to the sea and oceans, thus creating water pollution. It is impossible to break down plastics. Burning plastic is toxic, which releases toxic gases and harms the atmosphere. It is a fact that 40% of plastic is used only once. Several items, such as bags, bottles, and food packaging, are used only once and are left behind as litter. It is one of the biggest causes of plastic pollution.

Harmful Effects of Plastics

Plastic is harmful to plants, animals, and people. Improper disposal of plastics causes several problems. Some of them are:

  • Throwing of plastics in open space creates unhealthy conditions, as it develops insects and mosquitoes that cause harmful diseases.
  • Plastics stays in the soil for years and affects soil fertility and its quality.
  • Plastic leftovers enter the drainage system and block the drains, which cause water-logging.
  • The plastic manufacturing industry throws waste directly into the water bodies, thus affecting water.
  • Burning of plastic leads to the release of poisonous chemicals. Thus leading to air pollution.
  • Natural disasters such as floods are also one of the causes of plastic pollution.
  • Plastic contains some chemicals that can affect the growth of crops by making it difficult for the process of photosynthesis to take place in agricultural fields.

Steps taken by Indian Government to decrease Plastic Pollution

The Government has announced several rules to stop the use of single-use plastics to reduce plastic pollution. These rules are applied in all states. Several rules announced by the government are-

  • The Government has banned the use of carry bags made up of plastics and has suggested using bags made up of clothes or recycled plastic.
  • The Government has banned all single-use plastics and the import of solid plastic waste. All states were prohibited from manufacturing single-use plastic products.
  • The plastic of minimal diameter that is not soluble in water is banned.
  • The Government has decided to use plastic waste for the construction of roads. It was stated that roads constructed using discarded waste plastics are durable against extreme weather conditions.
  • In many states, garbage cafe is opened, where food to the poor is provided free in exchange for plastic waste. The ‘Meal for Plastic’ initiative has gained success and is rolled out in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme under the state government’s Aahar Scheme.

Related Essays

  • Air Pollution Essay
  • Water Pollution Essay
  • Essay on Pollution Crisis in Urban Areas

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Plastic Pollution

plastic waste management essay upsc

Recently, Earth Observed its first Plastic Overshoot Day on 28 July, 2023.

More About News

  • According to Swiss-based research consultancy Earth Action (EA) , on July 28, 2023, the Earth saw its first Plastic Overshoot Day.


  • The global average consumption of plastic per person per year is 20.9 kg.
  • In the first 208 days of 2023 , plastic waste is well-managed, meaning it is collected and then either recycled, incinerated or deposited in a sanitary landfill.
  • Short-life plastics, encompassing plastic packaging and single-use plastic s, accounts for approximately 37% of the total plastic commercialized annually. 
  • By 2040 plastic production is set to double, with plastic pollution is expected to triple.
  • 175 countries account for 41% of the total mismanaged waste , or 64,63 days, while 12 countries are responsible for 52% of the world’s mismanaged plastic waste , or 145 days of overshoot for 2023.
  • 12 Countries:  India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Russia, Mexico, the United States, Saudia Arabia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Kazakhstan.
  • India ranks fourth in the MWI, with 98.55 per cent of generated waste being mismanaged and fares poorly in the management of plastics waste.
  • Expected mismanaged waste in India in 2023 will be 7,300,752 tonnes of plastic . 
  • India will also be responsible for releasing an average of 3,30,764 tonnes of microplastics into waterways.

Global Plastic Pollution Crisis

  • If this is to continue unchecked, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. 
  • Marine Plastic Pollution: More than 14 million metric tonnes of plastic enters and damages aquatic ecosystems annually.
  • Climate Change: Greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics are expected to account for 15 per cent of the total emissions allowable by 2050 if humanity is to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
  • Out of this, close to half is disposed off as residues , which results in only 9% of plastic waste getting recycled. 
  • Another 19% gets incinerated , 50% ends up in landfill and 22% evades waste management systems. 

Menace of Plastic Pollution in India

  • India is the second-largest consumer of plastic globally, with packaging materials contributing significantly to the plastic waste generated. 
  • Plastic waste often ends up in landfills, rivers, and oceans , causing irreversible damage to the environment and marine life. 
  • Threat To Ecosystem: It threatens the biodiversity and health of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Plastic can harm or kill wildlife, damage habitats, and d isrupt food webs.
  • Threat to Humans: It poses risks to human health and well-being. Plastic can contaminate the food chain and expose humans to harmful chemicals, reduce the quality and enjoyment of natural environments, and increase the spread of diseases.
  • Threat to Climate: It contributes to the climate crisis and resource depletion. Plastic emits greenhouse gases during its production, transportation, and degradation, and consumes large amounts of energy, water, and land.
  • Creates social and economic costs and inequalities : Plastic can affect the livelihoods and incomes of people who depend on natural resources, such as fishers or farmers. 
  • Climate Injustice: Plastic can create environmental injustice and discrimination, as some communities or countries bear a disproportionate burden of plastic waste generation or disposal.
  • Waste management is primarily f ocused on the collection and transportation of waste , while its d isposal remains largely neglected . 
  • This has r esulted in the pollution of water bodies and the emission of harmful gases like methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.

Steps Taken to Reduce Menace of Plastic Pollution in India  

  • Single Use Plastic Ban: On July 1, 2022, a ban was imposed on the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential
  • Tamil Nadu launched a massive campaign on using cloth bags with vending machines set up under the Meendum Manjappai campaign; 
  • Uttar Pradesh is implementing the refillable model to promote reuse of packaging material.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): EPR is a framework that holds producers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products, including their disposal.
  • EPR is implemented in India through various policies and regulations, such as the Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016), and through collaborations between the government, NGOs, and other stakeholders.
  • Circular economy: It is a resource efficient economy where waste and pollution are eliminated, products and materials are kept in use at their highest value for the longest time possible, and natural systems are regenerated.

Way Forward

  • Global plastic production must be capped and reduced to prevent plastic pollution from tripling by 2040. 
  • Circular economy solutions can reduce pollution by 80% by 2040. 
  • Financial mechanisms and capacity-building are essential for participation and national legislation implementation.
  • Global North countries that export their waste to Global South countries must be held accountable for supporting infrastructure development in importing countries by at least the volume they export annually.
  • Implement effective segregation system s, establish recycling centers, and promote the adoption of advanced technologies for plastic waste processing.
  • This can involve collaboration between the government, private sector, and civil society to develop innovative solutions.
  • India has the capacity to process 14.2 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, accounting for 71% of primary plastic production.

News Source: Down to Earth

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Latest regulation on plastic waste management

  • March 21, 2022
  • Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
  • Category: DPN Topics

Subject: Environment

Section: Pollution

Context : Recently Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change  announced the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022 , which notified the instructions on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic packaging.

N e w Plastic Waste Management Rules:

  • Classification of Plastics :

The new rules classify plastics into four categories :

  • Category One will include  rigid plastic packaging ;
  • Category Two will include flexible plastic packaging  of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets, carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches;
  • Category Three will include  Multi-layered plastic packaging (at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic);
  • Category Four will include plastic sheets used for packaging as well as carry bags made of  compostable plastics .
  • It covers reuse, recycling, use of recycled plastic content and end of life disposal by producers, importers and brand-owners.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility Certificates : The guidelines allow for sale and purchase of surplus extended producer responsibility certificates.
  • ‘ Minimum recycled content’ : which means producers of plastic will have to add a minimum quantity of recycled material in their product, increasing the recycled content over the years.
  • Centralized Online Portal : It calls for creating a centralized online portal by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) . It will be used for the registration as well as filing of annual returns by producers, importers and brand-owners.
  • Environmental compensation : It shall be levied based upon polluter pays principle , with respect to non-fulfilment of EPR targets by producers, importers and brand owners. However payment of compensation will not absolve the liability and unfulfilled EPR obligations for a particular year will be carried forward to the next year for a period of three years.
  • A committee constituted  by the  CPCB under the chairmanship of CPCB chairman  will recommend measures to the environment ministry for effective implementation of EPR, including amendments to  Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) guidelines.

Rules on Plastic Waste Management so far:

  • Plastic-waste management rules, 1999 : Its aim was to restrict the use of plastic carry bags (thickness 20 µm or less) and prevent food from being packaged in recycled plastic.
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2003: It diluted the restriction on carry bags but mandated registration of manufacturing units with regional pollution control authorities.
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2011 : For the first time, there was a national law proposing a ban on the use of plastic materials in sachets to store, pack or sell gutkha, tobacco, and pan masala.
  • Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016 : It included many progressive propositions, like ‘polluter pays’ and ‘extended producer responsibility’.
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021 : The rules aim to prohibit the use of specific single-use plastic items, which have “low utility and high littering potential” by 2022.

What is ‘polluter pays’ principle?

  • For instance, a factory that produces a potentially poisonous substance as a by-product of its activities is usually held responsible for its safe disposal.
  • The ‘polluter pay’ principle was first introduced by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) in 1972
  • The polluter pays principle is part of a set of broader principles to guide sustainable development worldwide. The ‘polluter pay’ principle forms a part of the environmental law of India.

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  • Ochre Colored Pottery (OCP)
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  • Painted Grey-Ware (PGW)
  • Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW)
  • Origin of Martial arts in India
  • Various forms of Martial arts in India
  • Scope of Environmental Science
  • Importance of Environmental Science
  • Components of Environment
  • Organizational Structure of Biosphere
  • Importance of Biosphere
  • Types of Biomes
  • Ecosystem-Types, Components
  • Ecology, Levels of Organisation, Principles of Ecology
  • Ecotone, Ecological Niche
  • Functions of Ecosystem
  • Energy Flow
  • Trophic Level, Food Chain, Food Web
  • Ecological Pyramid- Meaning ,Types
  • Bioaccumulation & Biomagnification
  • Biotic Interaction
  • Nutrient Cycling- Gaseous and Sedimentary Cycles
  • Ecological Succession
  • Wetland Ecosystem
  • Adaptation Mechanism of Mangroves
  • Distribution of Mangroves
  • Importance of Mangroves
  • Need for Conserving Mangroves
  • Conservation of Mangroves
  • Mangroves Conservation and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Coral reef ecosystems
  • Types of coral reefs
  • Coral characteristics
  • Threats to coral reef ecosystems
  • Benefits of coral reef ecosystems
  • Coral bleaching
  • Ozone Depletion and Protection
  • Reasons for loss of Biodiversity
  • Biodiversity Hotspots – 2 Main Qualifying Criteria
  • Biodiversity hotspot in India
  • Objectives and advantages of biodiversity conservation
  • Ex situ conservation
  • In situ conservation
  • Agrobiodiversity conservation
  • Biosphere Reserve (BR)
  • Convention of Biological Diversity
  • Projects to save threatened species
  • Environment Pollution- Introduction, Types and Sources
  • What Is Pollution?
  • Source of Air Pollution
  • Various Reports on Effect of Air Pollution
  • Control devices
  • Water Pollution and Associated Issues
  • Solid-Waste Management
  • Plastic Waste Management
  • E- Waste Management
  • Bio Medical Waste


Waste Management

Solid waste refers to all non-liquid wastes that include Solid as well as semi-solid wastes, but excluding Human and Animal excreta.

Solid waste can create very serious health problems and an unpleasant living environment if not disposed of in a proper and a safe manner, such waste may then also provide breeding sites for insect-vectors, pests, snakes and vermin that increase the risk of disease transmission. It may also pollute water sources and the environment.

Different categories of solid waste include:

  • Organic waste: Food waste, Market associated wastes etc.
  • Dead animals: Carcasses of animals (Cows, Buffaloes, Dogs etc.)
  • Combustibles: Paper, wood, dried leaves etc. (high organic and low moisture content) Non-combustibles: Metal, tin cans, bottles, etc.
  • Ashes: Residue from fires used for cooking.
  • Bulky waste: Tree branches, tyres, etc.
  • Hazardous waste: Battery acid, medical waste etc.
  • Construction waste: Roofing, broken concrete, etc.

Factors behind the generation of Solid Waste

Solid wastes are generated from Rural as well as Urban areas in India.

The main factors affecting these are:

  • Geographical Industrially and technologically developed regions like Delhi, Bengaluru generate more solid wastes when compared with less industrialized places like Shimla or Kashmir.
  • Socio-cultural practices such as dumping waste in rivers, performing rituals which generate a lot of solid wastes.
  • The packaging of food items use of packaged food items , that too more often, leads to generation of solid waste.
  • It is seen that the volume of waste generated is likely to be small and degradable where the population is of rural origin while the urban populations are more likely to generate larger volumes of non-degradable waste, especially where packaged food is consumed more.

The Present Scenario

  • Most of the dumpsites of megacities have reached way beyond their capacity and permissible height limit of 20 meters. It is estimated that more than 10,000 hectares of urban land are locked in these dumpsites in India .
  • The per capita waste generation in Indian cities ranges from 200 grams to 600 grams per day.
  • Only about 75-80% of the municipal waste gets collected and only 22-28 % of this waste is processed and treated.

India generates the most waste globally, and by 2050, our waste generation will double:

  • Drains and water bodies , emptying out into Indian rivers , also carry with them an unimaginable amount of waste.
  • The Ganga is among the top 10 polluted rivers in the world , together accounting for 90% of the total ocean plastic pollution .
  • India faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge of treating and getting rid of the legacy waste, with simultaneous and continuous accumulation of fresh everyday waste.
  • Central, state, city and municipal governments , over decades, have not been able to prevent this situation, nor deal with its scale.
  • For a country the size of India, there are about 92 large WTE plants . Of these, only a small fraction is operational, and the plants that are operational, run at suboptimal capacity.
  • State governments have, so far, invested an estimated Rs 10,000 crore in such plants.
  • The task now is to be clear on what needs to be done, on what has not been done, or done incorrectly, and to ensure correct execution of a national mission.
  • The proliferation of airless open dumps of garbage leads to emissions of methane, which absorbs the sun’s heat, warms the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
  • Leachate, which is a black liquid oozing out from the waste as it slowly decomposes over a period of 25 to 30 years, contaminates soil and groundwater.
  • Foul odour from the waste rotting in airless heaps, and smoke from the fires that routinely erupt in them, are other consequences of dumping waste in the open.
  • The earlier landfills are without bottom liners and sideliners, which allows the Leachate to seep into the ground causing groundwater and land pollution.
  • The dumpsites being open and easily accessible, have become a site for further dumping by the public aggravating the situation.

Some of the major issues concerning solid waste management are:

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

Associated Risks

  • Spread of Diseases: Decomposing solid waste attracts animals, mosquitoes, vermin and flies. They play a major role in the transmission of faecal-oral diseases and the transmission of diseases such as leptospirosis, typhoid, dengue, yellow fevers, microfilariae, gastro-enteritis, dysentery and other illnesses.

Water, Soil and Air Pollution

  • Poor management of the collection and disposal of solid waste may lead to Water Pollution (pollution of surface water/groundwater).
  • This may also result in deterioration of Soil (Soil Pollution).
  • Where large quantities of Solid dry waste are stored in hot climates this may create a fire hazard. Related hazards include Air pollution and fire threat to surrounding buildings and people.


  • Solid waste management can be divided into four key components: Generation Storage and Collection Transportation Disposal
  • Generation of solid waste is the stage at which materials become of no use to the owner and they wish to get rid of them.
  • Storage takes place after the materials have been discarded. Key here is to not discard items directly into family pits and poorly defined heaps close to dwelling areas, but an effective storage system must be at place, like the Government of India has directed municipal corporations to undertake Door to Door collection of Solid wastes under JawaharLal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
  • Whereas under Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, two different dustbins have been provided (Blue and Green Dustbins) which are used to segregate two different kinds of wastes, the green is meant for wet wastes while the blue one is for Solid dry waste.
  • This is the stage when solid waste is transported to the final disposal site. There are various modes and methods which may be adopted depending upon availability and the volume of waste to be transported.
  • In India, Solid wastes are generally transported first by small municipal vehicles to a dumping site, then big municipal vehicles carry them for final disposal, be it to landfills or to recycling plants.

The final stage of solid waste management is safe disposal where associated risks are minimised. There are six main methods for the disposal of solid waste :

  • Land application: Open dumps or landfilling, Open dumps and landfills are uncovered/covered areas that are used to dump solid waste of all kinds. The waste is not treated nor it is segregated and thus it is also a place where a lot of insects and other disease causing organisms breed.They are generally located in urban areas. For landfills, a pit is dug where garbage is dumped and the pit is covered with soil everyday thus preventing the breeding of flies and rats.Open dumps are more harmful than landfills as landfills after they are full can be used as a park/parking lot after covering it, but open dumps cannot be treated as such.
  • Composting: Composting is a biological process in which micro-organisms such as fungi or bacteria decompose in the presence of oxygen the degradable organic wastes.The finished product is very rich in carbon and nitrogen thus acting as a great medium for plant cultivation.
  • Burning or incineration: The process of burning solid wastes in a large furnace at a very high temperature whereby producing ash is called Incineration. It is only used as a last resort because it also produces a lot of toxic gases resulting in Air Pollution.
  • Pyrolysis: The process of burning solid wastes, but in the absence of oxygen in a large furnace at a very high temperature whereby producing charcoal, tar, methyl alcohol, acetic acid, acetone which can be used as fuels is called Pyrolysis.
  • Vermiculture: It is also known as Earthworm farming. In this method, Earthworms are added to the compost. These worms break the solid waste and along with the earthworms excreta, the compost becomes rich in nutrients.
  • Recycling: Solid wastes are also recycled, where the solid wastes are first taken to compost plants which are either set up by Government or by Private companies (under Corporate Social Responsibility), then they are either converted to fertilizers or they are recycled to produce various other items such as Plastics bottles, electronic instruments, building materials etc.

plastic waste management essay upsc

Legislation in India

  • These rules replace the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 , are now applicable beyond municipal areas and have included urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships etc.
  • They focus on segregation of waste at sourc e, responsibility on the manufacturer to dispose of sanitary and packaging wastes, user fees for collection, disposal and processing from the bulk generator.
  • It has also been advised that the bio-degradable waste should be processed, treated and disposed of through composting or bio-methanation within the premises as far as possible and the residual waste shall be given to the waste collectors or agency as directed by the local authority.
  • The rules promote the use of compost, conversion of waste into energy, revision of parameters for landfills location and capacity.
  • The government has also constituted a Central Monitoring Committee under the chairmanship of Secretary, MoEF&CC to monitor the overall implementation of the rules.
  • The Rules for the Safe Treatment of Legacy Waste prescribe bio-remediation and bio-mining in all open dumpsites and existing operational dumpsites in India.
  • Apart from this, Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution of India makes it a fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.

What are the current modes of challenges in waste disposal challenges associated with them?

  • 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 Celsius
  • Harmful emissions : Dioxins and furans are known to be carcinogenic and can lead to impairment of immune, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems.
  • Poor compliance : These WtE are not in compliance with guidelines given by the National Green Tribunal.
  • Environmentally unsustainable : Even when incineration takes place under optimal conditions, large amounts of flue gases, mercury vapour and lead compounds are released, and 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.
  • Also, 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 to 70 % of the total, compared with 30 % in the Western countries. This gives our waste high moisture content and low calorific value.
  • Compactors are expensive machines that squeeze and compress the volume of waste, this enables more waste to be carried per trip and, thus, reduces transportation costs.
  • The antithesis of segregation : The use of compactors on mixed waste makes it almost impossible to extract the recyclable dry waste such as plastics, metal, paper and cardboard from the mixture.
  • Polluting: The compression of wet waste in the mixture releases leachate (a black foul-smelling liquid) that is difficult to dispose of. Leachate percolates into the soil and contaminates groundwater. When it drains off into the sewer system, it overloads the sewage treatment plants.
  • Increases global warming : After the compacted waste is transported and dumped, the lack of aeration at the site results in the decomposing wet waste generating methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes global warming.
  • A payment for waste transportation is made on a tonnage basis.
  • This provides an incentive to maximize the weight of waste.
  • These private players mix whatever the waste is given to them separately.
  • Also, the unmixed transportation and processing of wet and dry waste encourage citizens to keep their waste unmixed too.

 Cleaning up the mess: the need for a waste management policy

plastic waste management essay upsc

In India, less than 60% of waste is collected from households and only 15% of urban waste is processed.

Hyperconsumption is a curse of our modern times. Humans generate monumental amounts of waste, a sizeable portion of which is disposed in landfills and through waste-to-energy incinerators .

However, billions of tonnes of garbage, including microplastics, never make it to landfills or incinerators and end up in the oceans .

This garbage chokes marine life and disturbs zooplankton, which are vital to the elimination of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

To understand the existing scenario of waste management, impact of poor waste management solutions, policies that have been framed to address it and the major systemic changes that need to happen to ensure this important public issue does not turn into a national calamity.

Problems of unscientific MSW disposal:

Only about 75- 80% of the municipal waste gets collected and out of this only 22-28 % is processed and treated and remaining is disposed of indiscriminately at dump yards.

It is projected that by the year 2031 the MSW generation shall increase to 165 million tonnes and to 436 million tons by 2050 .

If cities continue to dump the waste at present rate without treatment , it will need 1240 hectares of land per year and with projected generation of 165 million tons of waste by 2031, the requirement of setting up of land fil for 20 years of 10 meters height will require 66,000 hectares of land.

Scientific disposal of solid waste through segregation, collection and treatment and disposal in an environmentally sound manner minimises the adverse impact on the environment.

The local authorities are responsible for the development of infrastructure for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of MSW.

If municipal solid waste management is done through proper planning and management, it would lead to a business case of income generation and provide financial support to ULBs by generating revenue.

There are several problems in India in how waste is treated:

First, segregation of waste into organic, recyclable and hazardous categories is not enforced at source.

As a result, mixed waste lands up in the landfills, where waste-pickers, in hazardous conditions, try to salvage the recyclables, which are of poor quality and quantity by then.

Second, ideally, waste management should not be offered free of cost to residents.

Only if residents pay will they realise the importance of segregation and recycling .

Third, there is the issue of logistical contractors who are motivated to dump more garbage in landfills as their compensation is proportional to the tonnage of waste.

They are also prone to illegally dump waste at unauthorised sites to reduce transportation costs.

Fourth, and importantly, organic farming and composting are not economically attractive to the Indian farmer, as chemical pesticides are heavily subsidised, and the compost is not efficiently marketed .

There are solutions to the garbage pandemic through the crucial processes of material recycling and composting.

Efficient composting is possible through an optimal combination of microbes and temperature to produce a nutrient-dense soil conditioner.

Way Forward

  • There is a need for a comprehensive waste management policy that stresses the need for decentralised garbage disposal practices as this will incentivise private players to participate.
  • It is important that Biomining and Bioremediation are made compulsory for areas wherever they can be applied.
  • To overhaul the waste management sector and induce the necessary behavioural change, citizen participation and engagement is the key.
  • Waste segregation practice can be inculcated in the masses through an awareness-building programme accompanied by a fine if mixed waste is handed out.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs should either stop financing compactors or at least offer municipalities similar levels of support for more sustainable methods of waste management. For example, access to bio-composters in residential localities.
  • A much smarter alternative for municipalities under the Smart Cities Mission would be to promote decentralised composting of wet waste, tie-up with local “kabadiwalas” or NGOs for recyclable dry waste, and work on safe disposal of the rest.
  • The savings from eliminating costly secondary transport can easily fund the construction and operation of decentralised centres for the processing of wet and dry waste.

Solid Waste Management


1) What are various urban wastes? What are the different steps involved in solid waste management in municipal areas? Elaborate upon the major problems faced due to urban waste dumping sites. (250 words)

2) Discuss in detail the issues and challenges involved in India’s waste Management system also explain in what way India’s Smart Cities Mission is creating new opportunities for better management of wastes.(250 words)

3) Municipal Solid Waste Management poses the utmost challenge in Urban planning. Comment. (250 words)

4) Discuss the nature and causes of solid waste management problem in India cities. Recently, the union government formulated Solid Waste Management Rules. Comment on these rules. (200 Words)

5)  India needs to shift towards a Solid waste management plan alongside the existing Swachh Bharat mission and look beyond toilets. Discuss.(250 words)


  • Unlike other forms of wastes like paper, food peels, leaves etc, which are biodegradable (capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms) in nature, plastic waste because of its non-biodegradable nature persists into the environment, for hundreds (or even thousands) of years.
  • Plastic pollution is caused by the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment. It can be categorized in primary plastics , such as cigarette butts and bottle caps, or secondary plastics , resulting from the degradation of the primary ones.
  • A recent study conducted by Un-Plastic Collective has revealed that India generates 46 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which 40% remains uncollected and 43% is used for packaging, most of which are of single-use plastic .
  • Easy availability
  • Could be moulded into any shape
  • Didn’t break easily and didn’t degrade easily
  • But, the advantage of not breaking and degrading easily has become one of the biggest cause of concern today. There is no way to dispose it off. It may take thousands of years in degrading even if it is burnt. It is thus, very dangerous for the ecology.
  • In 1950, global plastic production = 1.5 million Tonnes
  • In 2016, global plastic production = 335 million Tonnes
  • Fragments as common microplastics
  • Plastic thread from synthetic fibres
  • Microbeads from soaps, cosmetics
  • Building and construction activities
  • Fishing and coastal tourism, etc.
  • Plastics are present in huge quantities in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Plastics in the form of polythene and polypropylene are present. Their consumption then kills the marine animals and human beings also acquire various diseases on their consumption of sea food.

Common sources of Plastic pollution:

Merchant ships expel cargo, sewage, used medical equipment, and other types of waste that contain plastic into the ocean.

The largest ocean-based source of plastic pollution is discarded fishing gear (including traps and nets).

Continental plastic litter such as Food Wrappers & Containers, Bottles and container caps, Plastic bags, Straws and stirrers etc. enters the ocean largely through storm-water runoff.

Types of Plastic Waste

  • Microplastic includes microbeads (solid plastic particles of less than one millimeter in their largest dimension) that are used in cosmetics and personal care products, industrial scrubbers which are used for aggressive blast cleaning, microfibers used in textiles and virgin resin pellets used in plastic manufacturing processes.
  • Apart from cosmetics and personal care products most of the microplastics result from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic that were not recycled and break up due to exposure to the sun or physical wear.
  • India has announced its commitment to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 at Confederation of Indian Industry’s Sustainability Summit in New Delhi.

Extent of Plastic Waste

  • Over 3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since 1950, and about 60% of that has ended up in landfills or in the natural environment.
  • Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled and about 12% has been incinerated , while the remaining 79% has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment .
  • Plastic waste, whether in a river, an ocean, or on land can persist in the environment for centuries , hence by 2050 , the amount of plastic in seas and oceans across the world will weigh more than the fish.

plastic waste management essay upsc

  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) , India generates close to 26,000 tonnes of plastic a day and over 10,000 tonnes a day of plastic waste remains uncollected.
  • According to a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) study the plastic processing industry is estimated to grow to 22 million tonnes (MT) a year by 2020 from 13.4 MT in 2015 and nearly half of this is single-use plastic.
  • India’s per capita plastic consumption of less than 11 kg, is nearly a tenth of the United States of America (109 kg).

Impact of Plastic Waste

  • For example, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are under the plastic threat and facing the aesthetic issue because of the international dumping of plastic waste at the island.
  • Plastic ingestion upsets or fills up the digestive systems of the animals thus contributing to their death due to intestinal blockage or starvation.
  • Marine animals can also be trapped in plastic waste where they are exposed to predators or starve to death.
  • The plastics may also contain toxic chemicals which can harm the animal’s vital organs or biological functions.
  • These chemicals can interfere with the functioning of the endocrine system and thyroid hormones and can be very destructive to women of reproductive age and young children.
  • Land Pollution: Plastics leach hazardous chemicals on land, resulting in the destruction and decline in quality of the earth’s land surfaces in term of use, landscape and ability to support life forms.
  • Air Pollution: Plastic burning releases poisonous chemicals into the atmosphere impacting general well-being and causing respiratory disorders in living beings .
  • Groundwater Pollution: Whenever plastics are dumped in landfills, the hazardous chemicals present in them seep underground when it rains. The leaching chemicals and toxic elements infiltrate into the aquifers and water table, indirectly affecting groundwater quality.
  • Water Pollution: Many lakes and oceans have reported alarming cases of plastic debris floating on water surfaces, affecting a great number of aquatic creatures. It leads to dreadful consequences to marine creatures that swallow the toxic chemicals. In 2014, United Nation report estimated the annual impact of plastic pollution on oceans at US$ 13 billion.
  • When the smaller animals (planktons, mollusks, worms, fishes, insects, and amphibians) are intoxicated by ingesting plastic , they are passed on to the larger animals disrupting the interrelated connections within the food chain.
  • Poor Drainage: Drainage system clogged with plastic bags, films, and other plastic items, causes flooding.
  • Impact on Habitats: Seafloor plastic waste sheets could act like a blanket, inhibiting gas exchange and leading to anoxia or hypoxia (low oxygen levels) in the aquatic system, which in turn can adversely affect the marine life.
  • Invasive Species: Plastic waste can also be a mode of transport for species, potentially increasing the range of certain marine organisms or introducing species into an environment where they were previously absent. This, in turn, can cause subsequent changes in the ecosystem of the region .
  • As plastics travel with ocean currents, an island of trash called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been created.
  • Spurious Biodegradable Plastic: In the absence of robust testing and certification to verify claims made by producers, spurious biodegradable and compostable plastics are entering the marketplace.

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  • Online or E-Commerce Companies: Apart from the plastic we consume through traditional retail, the popularity of online retail and food delivery apps, though restricted to big cities, is contributing to the rise in plastic waste.
  • Microplastic particles are commonly white or opaque in color, which are commonly mistaken by many surface-feeding fishes as food (plankton) and can even move up the food chain to human consumers (from eating contaminated fish/seafood/shellfish).
  • Marine Litter: Plastic pollution in freshwater and marine environments have been identified as a global problem and it is estimated that plastic pollution accounts for 60-80% of marine plastic waste .
  • Terrestrial Plastic: 80% of plastic pollution originates from land-based sources with the remainder from ocean-based sources (fishing nets, fishing ropes).
  • Improper Implementation and Monitoring: In spite of the notification of the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016 and amendments made in 2018 , local bodies (even the biggest municipal corporations) have failed to implement and monitor segregation of waste.

Solution: Plastic Waste Management

plastic waste management essay upsc

  • For example Project REPLAN (stands for REducing PLastic in Nature) launched by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) aims to reduce consumption of plastic bags by providing a more sustainable alternative.
  • Reuse: Reusing plastics can reduce the demand for new plastics, hence it can act as the natural restrain on plastic manufacturing.
  • Economic benefits due to value addition
  • Generates employment
  • Reduces depletion of fossil fuel reserves.
  • Reduces landfill problems
  • Recycling of plastics requires less energy

plastic waste management essay upsc

  • Recovery: It is the process of converting non-recyclable plastics into a range of useful forms of energy and chemicals for industry. Since plastics contain mainly carbon and hydrogen, with similar energy content to conventional fuels such as diesel, they can be used as a potential source of fuel.

Government and Global Interventions

  • On World Environment Day, 2018 the world leaders vowed to “Beat Plastic Pollution” & eliminate its use completely.
  • The Group of 20 (G20) environment ministers, agreed to adopt a new implementation framework for actions to tackle the issue of marine plastic waste on a global scale.

plastic waste management essay upsc

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 state that every local body has to be responsible for setting up infrastructure for segregation , collection, processing, and disposal of plastic waste.
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 introduced the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) .
  • A new national framework on plastic waste management is in the works, which will introduce third-party audits as part of the monitoring mechanism.

Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016:

The amended Rules lay down that the phasing out of Multilayered Plastic (MLP) is now applicable to MLP, which are “non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use.”

  • Prescribe a central registration system for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner.
  • Any mechanism for the registration should be automated and should take into account ease of doing business for producers, recyclers and manufacturers.
  • The centralised registration system will be evolved by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner.
  • A National registry has been prescribed for producers with presence in more than two states
  • A state-level registration has been prescribed for smaller producers/brand owners operating within one or two states

Rules to be followed to reduce Plastic usage:

India’s Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 called for a ban on plastic bags below 50 micron thickness and a phasing out, within two years, of the manufacture and sale of non-recyclable, multi-layered plastic (plastic that snacks come in).

More than 20 Indian States have announced a ban on plastic bags. Cities such as Bengaluru announced a complete ban (gazette notification), in 2016, on the manufacture, supply, sale and use of thermocol and plastic items irrespective of thickness.

These include carry bags, banners, buntings, flex, flags, plates, clips, spoons, cling films and plastic sheets used while dining. The exceptions are plastic for export, packaging material for use in forestry, milk packets and hospitals. There are stiff fines that cover manufacturing and disposal.

We also need strategies to deal with the plastic that has already been disposed of. The CPCB report says that As mentioned in the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 , waste has to be segregated separately at source. This includes separation of dry (plastic, paper, metal, glass) and wet (kitchen and garden) waste at source.

The primary responsibility for collection of used plastic and multi-layered plastic sachets (branded chips, biscuit and snack packets) lies with their producers, importers and brand owners.

However, none of this has happened at any perceivable scale. Companies say that plastic waste is too complex or pretend to be completely unaware of these rules.

From pollution to solutions:

Admittedly, the complexity of dealing with plastic waste is because of its ubiquity and distributed market. Several companies produce the same type of packaging so it is impossible for a given company to collect and recycle only its own packaging.

Instead, these companies can collectively implement EPR(extended producer responsibility) is a strategy designed to promote the integration of environmental costs associated with goods throughout their life cycles into the market price of the products, by geographically dividing a region into zones and handle the waste generated in their designated zones.

This strategy was used in Switzerland to recycle thermocol used for insulation of buildings. This also reduces collection, transportation and recycling costs. Companies and governments should interact and research on how to implement such plans.

Private sector Participation in Recycling plastic:

In India, some companies have helped empower the informal recycling sector, giving waste pickers dignity and steady incomes. Another firm has worked with the informal sector and engineered the production of high quality recycled plastic. These companies, large corporates and governments could cooperate to implement innovative means to realise the value of plastic disposed of while simultaneously investing in phasing it out.

For example, a Canadian company monetises plastic waste in novel ways. It has one of the largest chains of waste plastic collection centres, where waste can be exchanged for anything (from cash to medical insurance to cooking fuel). Through this, multinational corporations have invested in recycling infrastructure and in providing a steady and increased rate for waste plastic to incentivise collection in poor countries.

Such collection centres, like the ones operated by informal aggregators in India , can be very low-cost investments (a storage facility with a weighing scale and a smart phone).

Plastic: A wealth from the waste:

India generates an estimated 16 lakh tonnes of plastic waste annually . If sold at the global average rate of 50 cents a kg, it can generate a revenue of ₹5,600 crore a year. Why then is most of this waste around us? In order to realise the potential for recycling, waste must first be segregated at source . This segregated waste should be then transported and treated separately. If plastic waste is mixed with organic and sanitary matter, its recyclability drastically reduces and its value lost.

India’s efforts to beat plastic pollution:

So far, 22 States and Union Territories have joined the fight to beat the plastic pollution, announcing a ban on single-use plastics such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products.

India has also won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve declared on World Environment Day last year , under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 .

All such efforts have yielded positive results: Voluntary initiatives are having an impact in many States, as citizens reduce, reuse and sort their waste. A Bengaluru waste collective estimates that the volume of plastic waste that they collect dropped from about two tonnes a day to less than 100 kg .

Efforts at International level to curb Plastic waste?

  • Local policies and actions such as bans on micro beads and single-use plastic bags are spreading across the globe, but there are only a handful of international documents focused on plastic pollution.
  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, later modified as MARPOL , is an international agreement that addresses plastic pollution. MARPOL, which bans ships from dumping plastic at sea , was a great first step.
  • But even after MARPOL came into force, dumping of plastic waste into sea has not reduced. Steps to prevent plastic waste lack defined reduction targets, methods to monitor progress.
  • In 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States and UNEP created the Honolulu Strategy —a planning tool to reduce plastic pollution and its impacts.
  • In 2012, a voluntary commitment of a significant reduction of marine debris was introduced at Rio+20 with a deadline of 2025.
  • In February 2017, UNEP announced the Clean Seas campaign , asking for individuals, industries, and member states to voluntarily commit to an action of their choice to reduce plastic pollution.
  • United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, more than 193 nations passed a resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in our seas. However, it’s not a legally binding treaty.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

  • EPR is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant financial and physical responsibility (with respect to segregation and collection of waste at the source) for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
  • Assigning such responsibility could in principle provide incentives to prevent wastes at the source, promote product design for the environment and support the achievement of public recycling and materials management goals.
  • 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.
  • Provide economic incentives to encourage the uptake of eco-friendly and fit-for-purpose alternatives that do not cause more harm.
  • Support can include tax rebates, research and development funds, technology incubation, public-private partnerships and support to projects that recycle single-use items and turn waste into a resource that can be used again.
  • Reduce or abolish taxes on the import of materials used to make alternatives.
  • Provide incentives to the alternative industry by introducing tax rebates or other conditions to support its transition from plastic industry.
  • Expanding the use of biodegradable plastics or even edible plastics made from various materials such as bagasse (the residue after extracting juice from sugarcane), corn starch, and grain flour.
  • Use of microbeads in personal care products and cosmetics must be prohibited.
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission should emerge as a platform for plastic waste management.
  • Target the most problematic single-use plastics by conducting a baseline assessment to identify the most problematic single-use plastics, as well as the current causes, extent and impacts of their mismanagement.
  • Consider the best actions to tackle the problem of plastic waste management (e.g. through regulatory, economic, awareness, voluntary actions) given the country’s socio-economic standing.
  • Assess the potential social, economic and environmental impacts (positive and negative) of the preferred short-listed plastic waste management measures/actions, by considering how will the poor be affected, or what impact will the preferred course of action have on different sectors and industries.
  • Identify and engage key stakeholder groups like retailers, consumers, industry representatives, local government, manufacturers, civil society, environmental groups, and tourism associations in order to ensure broad buy-in.
  • Explaining the decision and any punitive measures that will follow, as a result of non compliance of plastic management rule.
  • Use revenues collected from taxes or levies on single-use plastics to maximize the public good, thereby supporting environmental projects or boosting local recycling with the funds and creating jobs in the plastic recycling sector with seed funding.
  • Enforce the plastic waste management measure effectively, by making sure that there is clear allocation of roles and responsibilities.
  • Monitor and adjust the plastic waste management measure if necessary and update the public on progress.

What are the 2021 rules?

Phasing out Single-use Plastics

Single-use plastics have been defined under the rules as “a plastic commodity intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled”.

  • The rules have proposed to ban the manufacture, use, sale, import and handling of some single-use plastic items on a ‘pan India basis.
  • The provisions will also apply to ‘multi-layered packaging’ – involved extensively in e-commerce and deliver services- but will exempt packaging used for imported goods.
  • They shall apply to every waste generator, local body, Gram Panchayat, manufacturer, Importers and producer as well as ‘brand-owner and “plastic waste processor (recycler, co-processor, etc.)
  • Thermoset plastic and Thermoplastic will also fall within the ambit of these rules.
  • These provisions will, however, not apply to commodities (including carrying bags) made of compostable plastic material, according to the rules.

The draft is proposed to be implemented in three stages starting this year and culminating in mid-2022.

The first set of rules propose that each sheet of non-woven plastic carry bag shall not be less than 60 (GSM per square metre) or 240 microns in thickness. A carry bag made of virgin or recycled plastic shall not be less than 120 microns, with effect from the same date.

The second stage will come into effect when six categories of single-use plastic — earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration — will be banned for sale, use, manufacture, stocking, import and distribution.

In the third stage, the list of banned items will grow to include single-use plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping/packing films around sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packets, plastic/PVC banners less than 100 micron and stirrers.

Local bodies and state pollution control boards will ensure the implementation and enforcement of these rules.

What else is covered?

One, the amendment has extended the applicability of the rules to brand-owner, plastic waste processor, including the recycler, co-processor, etc.  It will also include new definitions of:

  • Non-woven plastic bag
  • Plastic waste processing
  • Single-use plastic (SUP) item
  • Thermoset plastic
  • Thermoplastic

Why such a move?

  • As much as 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic waste was generated in India in 2018-19, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report 2018-19.
  • The total municipal solid waste generation is 55-65 million tonnes; plastic waste is approximately 5-6 percent of the total solid waste generated in the country.
  • Goa has the highest per capita plastic waste generation at 60 grams per capita per day, which is nearly double what Delhi generates (37 grams per capita per day).
  • Clearly, we do not know the amount of plastic we generate as a country, as the increase in wealth and affluence contributes to a higher generation of plastic waste.
  • Despite the Plastic Waste Management legislation of 2011, followed by numerous changes in the recent past, most parts of the country lack systematic efforts required to mitigate the risks associated with plastic waste.

Managing plastic waste requires effective knowledge, not only among those who produce plastic but also among those who handle it.

  • Brand owners, consumers, recyclers and regulatory authorities need to take long strides in ensuring that we first inventorize the total amount of plastic waste that we generate by means of proper calculations.
  • The second step would be to identify the avenues where the use of plastic can be minimised.
  • Third, the brand owner and manufacturer should try and understand the fates a plastic packaging material would meet after its purpose of packaging has been served.
  • Last, as consumers, we should ensure that all plastic waste leaving our homes is segregated and is not contaminated with food waste.

1) What is Single Use Plastic?Discuss the challenges posed by them and explain in what way one can deal with the plastic menace steadily and replace it? Also suggest way forward.(250 words)

2)  India has reached a long way in reducing plastic waste but a lot more needs to be done yet. Elucidate.(250 words)

3) Where does India stand on plastic waste management today? Discuss the solutions and alternatives to the plastic menace of India.(250 words)

4) India intends to move away entirely from single-use plastics by 2022,yet the fact is India hasn’t had much success with plastic waste regulation despite ambitious policy moves. Discuss in detail the underlying causes of such a situation and suggest solutions.( 250 words)

5) There is a need for a multipronged approach to reduce and ultimately phase out the consumption of plastics. Critically comment, in the light of the failure of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, to address the issue.(250 words)

  • E-Waste is short for Electronic-Waste and the term is used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances. It includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.
  • Information technology and communication equipment.
  • Consumer electrical and electronics.
  • Laws to manage e-waste have been in place in India since 2011, mandating that only authorised dismantlers and recyclers collect e-waste. E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 was enacted in 2017.
  • India’s first e-waste clinic for segregating, processing and disposal of waste from household and commercial units has been be set-up in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generated more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20, an increase from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017-18. Against this, the e-waste dismantling capacity has not been increased from 82 lakh tonnes since 2017-18.
  • In 2018, the Ministry of Environment had told the tribunal that 95% of e-waste in India is recycled by the informal sector and scrap dealers unscientifically dispose of it by burning or dissolving it in acids.
  • Further steps should be taken for scientific enforcement of E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 (EWMR) in the light of the reports of the CPCB. It noted gaps in collection targets, as the amount of e-waste collected in 2018-19 was 78,000 tonnes against a target of 1.54 lakh tonnes. There are clear governance deficits on the subject.
  • The CPCB may consider steps for compliance of Rule 16 requiring reduction in the use of Hazardous substances in the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment and their components or consumables or parts or spares.
  • It took note that a large number of accidents take place in residential areas on account of unscientific handling of e-waste. This needs special attention for constant vigilance in such hotspots. This also requires review and updation of siting norms for e-waste by the CPCB which may be done within three months.
  • All the state pollution control boards need to identify the hotspots by constant vigil and to coordinate with the District Administration at local levels to prevent damage to the environment and public health and meaningful enforcement of rule of law.

E-Waste Management Rules, 2016

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 in supersession of the E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011.
  • Over 21 products (Schedule-I) were included under the purview of the rule. It included Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and other mercury containing lamps, as well as other such equipment.
  • For the first time, the rules brought the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets. Producers have been made responsible for the collection of E-waste and for its exchange.
  • Various producers can have a separate Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) and ensure collection of E-waste, as well as its disposal in an environmentally sound manner.
  • Deposit Refund Scheme has been introduced as an additional economic instrument wherein the producer charges an additional amount as a deposit at the time of sale of the electrical and electronic equipment and returns it to the consumer along with interest when the end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment is returned.
  • The role of State Governments has been also introduced to ensure safety, health and skill development of the workers involved in dismantling and recycling operations.
  • A provision of penalty for violation of rules has also been introduced.
  • Urban Local Bodies (Municipal Committee/Council/Corporation) have been assigned the duty to collect and channelize the orphan products to authorized dismantlers or recyclers.
  • Allocation of proper space to existing and upcoming industrial units for e-waste dismantling and recycling.

Data Analysis of 2019:

  • There was 6 million tonnes (MT) e-waste in 2019, which is a nearly 21% increase in just five years.
  • Asia generated the greatest volume (around 24.9 MT) followed by the Americas (13.1 MT) and Europe (12 MT). Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 MT and 0.7 MT respectively.
  • Most E-waste consisted of small and large equipment like screens and monitors, lamps, telecommunication equipment etc and temperature exchange equipment.
  • Less than 18% of the e-waste generated in 2019 was collected and recycled. E-waste consisting of gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials worth at least USD 57 billion was mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.
  • The number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78 and includes India. It is far from the target set by the International Telecommunication Union to raise the percentage of countries with e-waste legislation to 50%.

plastic waste management essay upsc

  • Toxicity: E-waste consists of toxic elements such as Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Chromium, Polybrominated biphenyls and Polybrominated diphenyl.
  • Effects on Humans: Some of the major health effects include serious illnesses such as lung cancer, respiratory problems, bronchitis, brain damages, etc due to inhalation of toxic fumes, exposure to heavy metals and alike.
  • Effects on Environment: E-waste is an environmental hazard causing groundwater pollution, acidification of soil and contamination of groundwater and air pollution due to the burning of plastic and other remnants.

E-waste in India

  • Structured management of e-waste in India is mandated under the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016.
  • Some of the salient features of the rules include e-waste classification, extended producer responsibility (EPR), collection targets and restrictions on import of e-waste containing hazardous materials.
  • There are 312 authorised recyclers of e-waste in India, with the capacity for treating approximately 800 kilo tons annually. However, formal recycling capacity remains underutilised because over 90% of the e-waste is still handled by the informal sector.
  • Almost over a million people in India are involved in manual recycling operations. Workers are not registered so it is hard to track the issues of employment such as workers’ rights, remunerations, safety measures,
  • Labourers are from the vulnerable sections of the society and lack any form of bargaining power and are not aware of their rights. This has a serious impact on the environment since none of the procedures is followed by workers or local dealers.

E-waste Management

  • It is needed to come up with a strategy to engage with informal sector workers because doing so will not only go a long way in better e-waste management practices but also aid in environmental protection, improve the health and working conditions of labourers and provide better work opportunities to over a million people.
  • This will make management environmentally sustainable and easy to monitor.
  • The need of the hour is to generate employment, which can be done through identifying and promoting cooperatives and expanding the scope of the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 to these cooperatives or the informal sector workers.
  • Effective implementation of regulations is the way ahead to managing the e-waste that is yet to be regulated in at least 115 countries.







  • Covid-19 related Biomedical waste includes: personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, face masks, head cover, plastic coverall, hazmat suit, syringes among other gears and medical equipment used by both healthcare providers and patients.
  • It has the potential of spreading various types of diseases.
  • The covid related biomedical waste contains various medicines that are toxic in nature.
  • Central Level: The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to ensure strict compliance of biomedical waste management rules and scientific disposal of the waste.
  • State Level: The Chief Secretaries of all the States/UTs to oversee compliance and ensure that authorisation is secured by every health care facility in their respective jurisdiction and also there is adherence to the norms.
  • District Level: The District Magistrates in accordance with the District Environmental Plans.
  • Groundwater Contamination: While permitting deep burials, it may be ensured that groundwater contamination does not take place.
  • Segregation: Ensure that hazardous bio-medical waste is not mixed with the general waste.
  • Frequent Violation of Rules: The direction came as a result of regular fines being imposed on various healthcare facilities and biomedical waste treatment facilities
  • Earlier Observation: The segregation of Covid-­19 biomedical waste from general garbage is a must to avoid further contamination adversely affecting public health.

Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016

  • Objective: The objective of the rules is to properly manage the per day bio-medical waste from Healthcare Facilities (HCFs) across the country.
  • Ambit: The ambit of the rules has been expanded to include vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps or any other healthcare activity.
  • Phase Out: Chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags has been phased out within two years starting from March 2016.
  • Pre-treatment: Pre-treatment of the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection or sterilisation on-site in the manner prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
  • Categorisation: Bio-medical waste has been classified into 4 categories instead of the earlier 10 categories to improve the segregation of waste at source.
  • Stringent Standards for Pollutants: The rules prescribe more stringent standards for incinerators to reduce the emission of pollutants in the environment.
  • Role of State Government: The State Government provides the land for setting up common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal
  • Pandemic: The pandemic has presented a challenge in terms of capacity to scientifically dispose of generated waste and a challenge for civic authorities in charge of its collection and disposal.
  • Poor Compliance: States are not following the CPCB guidelines on Covid-19 related waste. In some states, improper segregation of waste has been reported from Covid-19 facilities and quarantine homes.
  • Non Segregation: The non-­segregation of waste results in the incineration of contaminated plastics producing toxic gases and adding to air pollution.
  • Increase in Waste: The rise in residential biomedical waste and its collection without adhering to safety protocols could also trigger a surge in caseload.
  • Health of Workers Associated: Without proper scientific management of such waste, it can potentially affect patients and can affect the concerned workers and professionals. Discarded masks and gloves risk the lives of thousands of sanitation workers who work often without any protection or training to handle such hazardous material.


  • Proper Segregation: Left-over food, disposable plates, glasses, used masks, tissues, toiletries, etc used by Covid-19 patients should be put in yellow-coloured bags, while used gloves should be put in red bags and sent for sterilisation and recycling at the CBWTFs. Where waste is not going to incinerators, deep burial systems should be properly maintained as per protocols taking all due precautions to prevent harm to the environment. A deep burial system involves burying biomedical waste in 2-meter-deep ditches and covering them with a layer of lime and soil.
  • Awareness Campaign: Initiatives like conducting an appropriate programme on Doordarshan, All India Radio and other media platforms to create mass awareness about the correct disposal of biomedical waste.
  • Creating Infrastructure: The government should set up recycling plants across the country (as envisaged under the Smart cities project ) under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Model.
  • Coherency in Rules: The Centre should form a national protocol combining the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 with the guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for producers of plastic.
  • Innovation: Incentivise start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) offering solutions for waste segregation and treatment.
  • Monitoring: There should be constant and regular monitoring by the central and state PCBs, Health Departments in the states/UTs and by the high-level task team at Central level with further coordination by CPCB.
  • It is an international treaty that aims to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between countries.
  • It provides for cooperation between the parties, including exchange of information on issues relevant to the implementation of the Convention.
  • It ratified the convention in June 1992 and brought it into force on 22nd September 1992.
  • However, India has not ratified the Basel ban amendment.
  • Adopted by the parties in the Basel Convention in 1995, the amendment prohibits all export of hazardous wastes, including electronic wastes and obsolete ships from 29 wealthiest countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to non-OECD countries.
  • 80% of Covid patients are recuperating/have recuperated at home. They are generating the biomedical waste at the places where it can not be treated properly. There is no proper facility for the management of the biomedical waste generated at home; it is being dumped in the ordinary municipal waste.
  • These local hospitals are not as updated in facilities and infrastructure and hence, don’t have proper biomedical waste management facilities.
  • Data shows that these workers too have been impacted extensively amid the pandemic, a lot of them have died too.
  • There is a common perception that the virus must have been transmitted by respiratory droplets, aerosols or by touching an infected surface. However, there is less attention given to the poor management of the biomedical waste, a large number of people, specially the municipality workers getting infected due to coming in contact with the waste disposed of in the open.
  • Lack of Awareness: People are also not aware of how to segregate the waste at source and this is a bigger concern.
  • They do not provide any information about how to manage such waste at home or any place other than hospitals.
  • However, in far off corners of the country, there is no such treatment facility at all.
  • Maharashtra had the highest number of such facilities (29) followed by Karnataka (26) and Gujarat (20). Kerala, which had witnessed the highest rate of daily generation, had only one CBWTF.
  • But with the occurrence of the second wave, the impact is so bad that the hospitals are not even able to upload any data now.
  • Also, considering the fact that the second wave has hit India in a worse way, the covid related biomedical waste generated should have been a lot more than 250 tons (probably around 500 tons) as in the first wave the daily biomedical waste generation was 200 tons.

NGT raises concern over COVID-19 bio-medical waste disposal

 What’s the concern now?

There are concerns regarding unscientific disposal of bio-medical waste by unauthorised healthcare facilities.

Only 1.1 lakh out of 2.7 lakh healthcare facilities are authorised under the Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 so far.

  What has the tribunal said?

  • There are gaps in compliance of the Bio Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 which are applicable to the disposal of the bio-medical waste generated out of handling a viral disease.
  • The State PCBS/PCCS have to make serious efforts to bridge the gap to mitigate possible risk in terms of unscientific disposal of bio-medical waste and enforce rule of law.
  • There is need for revision of the guidelines for ‘Handling, Treatment and Disposal of Waste Generated during Treatment, Diagnosis, Quarantine of COVID-19 Patients’ issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recently.

Need of the hour:

  • All aspects of scientific disposal of liquid and solid waste management should be taken care of not only at institution level but also at individual levels, such as manner of disposal of used Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), used bags, gloves, goggles, without the same getting mixed with other municipal solid waste causing contamination.
  • The effectiveness of the monitoring mechanism, including securing information should be reviewed by way of electronic manifest system from the handlers of such waste and its online reporting by the State PCBS or PCCS by developing necessary software.
  • There is the need to create awareness by special awareness programmes, organising training in concerned local bodies, health departments, providing workers handling COVID-19 waste with adequate protective gear, adequate coordination with media and other concerned regulatory authorities.

Salient features of BMW Management Rules, 2016:

  • The ambit of the rules has been expanded to include vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps or any other healthcare activity.
  • It calls for Phase-out the use of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags within two years.
  • It calls for Pre-treatment of the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection or sterilisation on-site.
  • It seeks to Provide training to all its health care workers and immunise all health workers regularly.
  • It seeks to Establish a Bar-Code System for bags or containers containing bio-medical waste for disposal.
  • As per the rules, Bio-medical waste has been classified in to 4 categories instead 10 to improve the segregation of waste at source.
  • As per the rules, State Government shall provide land for setting up common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facility.
  • The biomedical waste generated should be collected and treated properly and must not be allowed to reach the water bodies as then it will be a problem too big to handle.
  • The biomedical waste generated should either be incinerated or gasified.
  • Along with managing the biomedical waste generated, nature should also be taken care of. The waste must be managed so judiciously so that it does not contribute to climate change or trigger any other harm.
  • Role of State Agencies: The state agencies responsible for providing the data to higher authorities have to play a crucial part in ensuring that data is not missed and no wrong data is forwarded to the CPCB.
  • So the people must also be aware about these color codings as they represent the hazard level of each biomedical waste.
  • If people will have knowledge about such basic things then they will be more cautious about keeping themselves away from such hazardous waste.
  • People must also understand that even if they are not infected, they should not put their masks and gloves in the same municipal bins that they have; waste segregation is a must.
  • People have to follow the SOPs generated by not just the WHO but other various health agencies to control the infection.
  • While burning biomedical waste is not an option in urban areas as the pollution levels are already high, burning biomedical waste in pits can be a possible way of managing waste in the village areas.

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Plastic Waste Management Essay

plastic waste management essay upsc


Take a look around, and do you find anything that is not made from plastic? The pen with which you write, water bottle, mobile phone covers, everything and anything that is near you is made up of plastic. In this age, plastic has become an unavoidable part of our lives, but we need to switch to eco-friendly materials. Have you thought about how plastic waste is treated? What will you do with your used refill of the pen, or where do all the plastic covers end up? The essay on plastic waste management will give you answers to these questions. You can check out other trivia questions on BYJU’S website and make kids’ learning interesting.

Although the answers are disturbing, as they mostly turn up in landfills without decomposing or get burned down by emitting poisonous chemicals in the air, we can tackle this issue if we follow certain measures. Plastic pollution is becoming a grave concern, and that is why we need proper ways for plastic waste management.

Causes and Effects of Plastic Waste

Let us understand the impact of plastic waste on the environment through this plastic waste management essay in English. But first, let us see how plastic waste gets accumulates in our surroundings. It is considered that human negligence is the main culprit behind the cause of plastic waste. We carelessly throw plastic litter around, and they remain abandoned, thus polluting water and land resources. Even after years, they will not decompose and find their way into aquatic life, thereby threatening their lives. We must treat plastic waste differently from other garbage, and this highlights the importance of proper plastic waste management.

Plastic waste has serious effects on both the environment and living beings. If we just throw plastics around, it will act as a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects and cause us acute diseases. As plastic waste does not degrade completely, they remain on the land for many years, which affects soil fertility. There is also a high chance of clogging drains and pipes when the plastic enters the drainage system. Besides, when small plastic covers and sachets are disposed of, they get eaten by animals and fishes, thus threatening their lives. Therefore, plastic waste is a grave threat to everything in the environment at all levels.

Ways for Plastic Waste Management

The best way for plastic waste management is through the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. We can understand this further in BYJU’S essay on plastic waste management. We must reduce the use of plastic by carrying a cloth bag or paper bag while shopping and refusing to accept plastic bags from shops. We can also replace plastic containers with metal/wooden boxes to store goods and clothes. If you buy a bottled drink from a supermarket, remember not to throw away the plastic bottle after use, but instead, reuse it to store water or create something unique. In addition, we can recycle plastic and try to use recycled products. Apart from these, let us make a vow not to burn or dump plastics, as plastic waste management will only be complete with these measures.

If you found the plastic waste management essay informative, you can find similar essays on BYJU’S website to enhance kids’ learning experience.

Frequently Asked Questions on Plastic Waste Management Essay

What is meant by plastic waste management.

Plastic waste is a rising problem in the environment that pollutes air, water and land. There must be proper and effective methods to treat plastic waste, and this is known as plastic waste management.

How to reduce plastic waste?

Reducing, reusing and recycling plastic is the most sustainable way to reduce plastic waste. In doing so, the amount of plastic waste will decrease gradually, and thus we can save our environment.

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National Academies Press: OpenBook

The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges, American Lessons: Proceedings of a Workshop (2001)

Chapter: 14 problems of waste management in the moscow region, problems of waste management in the moscow region.

Department of Natural Resources of the Central Region of Russia

The scientific and technological revolution of the twentieth century has turned the world over, transformed it, and presented humankind with new knowledge and innovative technologies that previously seemed to be fantasies. Man, made in the Creator’s own image, has indeed become in many respects similar to the Creator. Primitive thinking and consumerism as to nature and natural resources seem to be in contrast to this background. Drastic deterioration of the environment has become the other side of the coin that gave the possibility, so pleasant for the average person, to buy practically everything that is needed.

A vivid example of man’s impact as “a geological force” (as Academician V. I. Vernadsky described contemporary mankind) is poisoning of the soil, surface and underground waters, and atmosphere with floods of waste that threaten to sweep over the Earth. Ecosystems of our planet are no longer capable of “digesting” ever-increasing volumes of waste and new synthetic chemicals alien to nature.

One of the most important principles in achieving sustainable development is to limit the appetite of public consumption. A logical corollary of this principle suggests that the notion “waste” or “refuse” should be excluded not only from professional terminology, but also from the minds of people, with “secondary material resources” as a substitute concept for them. In my presentation I would like to dwell on a number of aspects of waste disposal. It is an ecological, economic, and social problem for the Moscow megalopolis in present-day conditions.


Tens of thousand of enterprises and research organizations of practically all branches of the economy are amassed over the territory of 100,000 hectares: facilities of energy, chemistry and petrochemistry; metallurgical and machine-building works; and light industrial and food processing plants. Moscow is occupying one of the leading places in the Russian Federation for the level of industrial production. The city is the greatest traffic center and bears a heavy load in a broad spectrum of responsibilities as capital of the State. The burden of technogenesis on the environment of the city of Moscow and the Moscow region is very considerable, and it is caused by all those factors mentioned above. One of the most acute problems is the adverse effect of the huge volumes of industrial and consumer wastes. Industrial waste has a great variety of chemical components.

For the last ten years we witnessed mainly negative trends in industrial production in Moscow due to the economic crisis in the country. In Moscow the largest industrial works came practically to a standstill, and production of manufactured goods declined sharply. At the same time, a comparative analysis in 1998–99 of the indexes of goods and services output and of resource potential showed that the coefficient of the practical use of natural resources per unit of product, which had been by all means rather low in previous years, proceeded gradually to decrease further. At present we have only 25 percent of the industrial output that we had in 1990, but the volume of water intake remains at the same level. Fuel consumption has come down only by 18 percent, and the amassed production waste diminished by only 50 percent. These figures indicate the growing indexes of resource consumption and increases in wastes from industrial production.

Every year about 13 million tons of different kinds of waste are accumulated in Moscow: 42 percent from water preparation and sewage treatment, 25 percent from industry, 13 percent from the construction sector, and 20 percent from the municipal economy.

The main problem of waste management in Moscow city comes from the existing situation whereby a number of sites for recycling and disposal of certain types of industrial waste and facilities for storage of inert industrial and building wastes are situated outside the city in Moscow Region, which is subject to other laws of the Russian Federation. Management of inert industrial and building wastes, which make up the largest part of the general volume of wastes and of solid domestic wastes (SDW), simply means in everyday practice their disposal at 46 sites (polygons) in Moscow Region and at 200 disposal locations that are completely unsuitable from the ecological point of view.

The volume of recycled waste is less than 10–15 percent of the volume that is needed. Only 8 percent of solid domestic refuse is destroyed (by incineration). If we group industrial waste according to risk factor classes, refuse that is not

dangerous makes up 80 percent of the total volume, 4th class low-hazard wastes 14 percent, and 1st-3rd classes of dangerous wastes amount to 3.5 percent. The largest part of the waste is not dangerous—up to 32 percent. Construction refuse, iron and steel scrap, and non-ferrous metal scrap are 15 percent. Paper is 12 percent, and scrap lumber is 4 percent. Metal scrap under the 4th class of risk factor makes up 37 percent; wood, paper, and polymers more than 8 percent; and all-rubber scrap 15 percent. So, most refuse can be successfully recycled and brought back into manufacturing.

This is related to SDW too. The morphological composition of SDW in Moscow is characterized by a high proportion of utilizable waste: 37.6 percent in paper refuse, 35.2 percent in food waste, 10 percent in polymeric materials, 7 percent in glass scrap, and about 5 percent in iron, steel, and non-ferrous metal scrap. The paper portion in commercial wastes amounts to 70 percent of the SDW volume.

A number of programs initiated by the Government of Moscow are underway for the collection and utilization of refuse and for neutralization of industrial and domestic waste. A waste-recycling industry is being developed in the city of Moscow, mostly for manufacturing recycled products and goods. One of the most important ecological problems is the establishment in the region of ecologically safe facilities for the disposal of dangerous wastes of 1st and 2nd class risk factors.

Pre-planned industrial capacities for thermal neutralization of SDW will be able to take 30 percent of domestic waste and dangerous industrial waste. Construction of rubbish-burning works according to the old traditional approach is not worthwhile and should come to an end. Waste-handling stations have been under construction in the city for the last five years. In two years there will be six such stations which will make it possible to reduce the number of garbage trucks from 1,156 to 379 and to reduce the amount of atmospheric pollution they produce. In addition the switch to building stations with capacity of briquetting one ton of waste into a cubic meter will decrease the burden on waste disposal sites and prolong their life span by 4–5 fold. Trash hauling enterprises will also make profit because of lower transportation costs.

Putting into operation waste-segregation complexes (10–12 sites) would reduce volumes of refuse to disposal sites by 40 percent—that is 1,200,000 tons per year. The total volume of burned or recycled SDW would reach 2,770,000 tons a year. A total of 210,000 tons of waste per year would be buried. So, in the course of a five year period, full industrial recycling of SDW could be achieved in practice.

Collection of segregated waste is one of the important elements in effective disposal and utilization of SDW. It facilitates recycling of waste and return of secondary material into the manufacturing process. Future trends in segregation and collection of SDW will demand wide popularization and improvement of the ecological culture and everyday behavior of people.

In recent years the high increase in the number of cars in Moscow has brought about not only higher pollution of the atmosphere, but also an avalanche-like accumulation of refuse from vehicles. Besides littering residential and recreation areas, cars represent a source for toxic pollution of land and reservoirs. At the same time, automobile wastes are a good source for recycled products. In the short-term outlook, Moscow has to resolve the problem of collection and utilization of decommissioned vehicles and automobile wastes with particular emphasis on activities of the private sector. Setting up a system for collection and utilization of bulky domestic waste and electronic equipment refuse is also on the priority list.

In 1999 in Moscow the following volumes of secondary raw materials were produced or used in the city or were recycled: 300,000 tons of construction waste, 296,000 tons of metal scrap, 265 tons of car battery lead, 21,000 tons of glass, 62,500 tons of paper waste, 4,328 tons of oil-bearing waste, and 306 tons of refuse from galvanizing plants.

Such traditional secondary materials as metal scrap and paper waste are not recycled in Moscow but are shipped to other regions of Russia.

The worldwide practice of sorting and recycling industrial and domestic wastes demands the establishment of an industry for secondary recycling. Otherwise segregation of waste becomes ineffective.

There are restraining factors for the development of an effective system of assorted selection, segregation, and use of secondary raw resources, namely lack of sufficient manufacturing capacities and of suitable technologies for secondary recycling.

The problem of utilization of wastes is closely linked with the problem of modernization and sometimes even demands fundamental restructuring of industries. The practical use of equipment for less energy consumption and a smaller volume of wastes and a transition to the use of alternative raw materials are needed. Large enterprises—the main producers of dangerous wastes—are in a difficult financial situation now, which is an impediment for proceeding along these lines.

Private and medium-size enterprises are becoming gradually aware of the economic profitability in rational use of waste. For example, the firm Satory started as a transportation organization specialized in removal of scrap from demolished buildings and those undergoing reconstruction. It now benefits from recycling of waste, having developed an appropriate technology for the dismantling of buildings with segregation of building waste. So, as it has been already mentioned above, the first task for Moscow is to establish a basis for waste recycling.


Transition to modern technologies in the utilization of wastes requires either sufficient investments or a considerable increase in repayment for waste on the part of the population. Obviously, these two approaches are not likely to be realized in the near future.

The recovery of one ton of SDW with the use of ecologically acceptable technology requires not less than $70–100.

Given the average per capita income in 1999 and the likely increase up to the year of 2005, in 2005 it will be possible to receive from a citizen not more than $14 per year. This means that the cost of technology should not exceed $40 per ton of recycled waste. Unfortunately, this requirement can fit only unsegregated waste disposal at the polygons (taking into account an increase in transportation costs by the year 2005).

Such being the case, it looks like there is only one acceptable solution for Russia to solve the problem of waste in an up-to-date manner: to introduce trade-in value on packaging and on some manufactured articles.

In recent years domestic waste includes more and more beverage containers. Plastic and glass bottles, aluminium cans, and packs like Tetrapak stockpiled at disposal sites will soon reach the same volumes as in western countries. In Canada, for example, this kind of waste amounts to one-third of all domestic waste.

A characteristic feature of this kind of waste is that the packaging for beverages is extremely durable and expensive. Manufactured from polyethylene terephthalate (PTA) and aluminum, it is sometimes more expensive than the beverage it contains.

What are the ways for solving the problem? Practically all of them are well-known, but most will not work in Russia in present conditions. The first problem relates to collection of segregated waste in the urban sector and in the services sector. A number of reasons make this system unrealistic, specifically in large cities. Sorting of waste at waste-briquetting sites and at polygons is possible. But if we take into account the present cost of secondary resources, this system turns out to be economically unprofitable and cannot be widely introduced.

The introduction of deposits on containers for beverages is at present the most acceptable option for Russia. This system turned out to be most effective in a number of countries that have much in common with Russia. In fact this option is not at all new for us. Surely, all people remember the price of beer or kefir bottles. A system of deposit for glass bottles was in operation in the USSR, and waste sites were free from hundreds of millions of glass bottles and jars. We simply need to reinstate this system at present in the new economic conditions according to new types and modes of packaging. Deposits could be introduced also on glass bottles and jars, PTA and other plastic bottles, aluminium cans, and Tetrapak packing.

Let us investigate several non-ecological aspects of this problem, because the ecological impact of secondary recycling of billions of bottles, cans, and packs is quite obvious.

Most of the population in Russia lives below the poverty line. When people buy bottles of vodka, beer, or soft drinks, they will have to pay a deposit value (10–20 kopeks for a bottle). The poorest people will carry the bottles to receiving points. A system of collection of packaging will function by itself. Only receiving points are needed. Millions of rubles that are collected will be redistributed among the poorest people for their benefit, and a social problem of the poor will be solved to a certain extent not by charity, but with normal economic means.

A second point is also well-known. In a market economy one of the most important problems is that of employment. What happens when the trade-in value is introduced?

Thousands of new jobs are created at receiving points and at enterprises that recycle glass, plastics, etc. And we don’t need a single penny from the state budget. More than that, these enterprises will pay taxes and consume products of other branches of industry, thus yielding a return to the budget, not to mention income tax from new jobs.

There is another aspect of the matter. Considerable funding is needed from budgets of local governments, including communal repayments for waste collection and disposal at polygons and incinerators. Reduction of expenses for utilization of waste can be significant support for housing and communal reform in general.

It is practically impossible to evaluate in general an ecological effect when thousands of tons of waste will cease to occupy plots of land near cities as long-term disposal sites. Operation costs of receiving points and transportation costs could be covered by funds obtained from manufacturers and from returned packaging. Besides, when a waste recycling industry develops and becomes profitable, recycling factories will be able to render partial support to receiving points.

Trade-in value can be introduced on all types of packaging except milk products and products for children. It could amount to 15 or 30 kopecks per container, depending on its size. If all plastic bottles with water and beer are sold with trade-in value only in Moscow, the total sum will reach 450 million rubles a year. If we include glass bottles, aluminum cans, and packets, the sum will be one billion rubles. This sum will be redistributed at receiving points among people with scanty means when they receive the money for used packaging and jobs at receiving points and at recycling factories.

The bottleneck of the problem now is the absence in Russia of high technology industries for waste recycling. It can be resolved rather easily. At the first stage, used packaging can be sold as raw material for enterprises, including those overseas. There is unrestricted demand for PTA and aluminum on the part

of foreign firms. When waste collection mechanisms are established, there will be limited investments in this branch of industry.

With regard to the inexhaustible source of free raw material, this recycling industry will become one of the most reliable from the point of view of recoupment of investments. The Government, regional authorities, the population, and of course ecologists should all be interested in having such a law.

The same should be done with sales of cars, tires, and car batteries. Prices of every tire or battery should be higher by 30–50 rubles. These sums of money should be returned back to a buyer or credited when he buys a new tire or a new battery. For sure, such being the case we will not find used batteries thrown about the city dumps. In this case the task is even simpler because there are already a number of facilities for the recycling of tires and batteries.

In fact, a law of trade-in value can change the situation with waste in Russia in a fundamental way. Russian legislation has already been prepared, and the concept of an ecological tax has been introduced in the new Internal Revenue Code. Now it needs to be competently introduced. The outlay for waste recycling has to become a type of ecological tax. To realize this task much work has to be done among the deputies and with the Government. Public ecological organizations, including international ones, should play a leading role.


We know examples of the ever increasing role of the general public in the solution of the problem of waste utilization, first of all in those countries that have well-developed democratic institutions. “Fight Against Waste” is one of the popular slogans of public organizations abroad. Public opinion has brought about measures of sanitary cleaning in cities, secured better work by municipal services, shut down hazardous industries, and restricted and prohibited incineration facilities. Nevertheless, the struggle against wastes in the economically developed countries, being a manifestation of an advanced attitude towards the environment, has in the long run brought about a paradoxical result. Transfer of hazardous industries to countries with lower environmental standards and inadequate public support—Russia, as an example—has made the world even more dangerous from the ecological point of view.

Russia has just embarked on the path of formation of environmental public movements by the establishment of nongovernmental organizations. Representatives of nongovernmental organizations from Russia took part in the international gathering in Bonn in March 2000 of nongovernmental organizations that are members of the International Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Elimination Network. A declaration against incineration was adopted in

Bonn by nongovernmental organizations, which called for elaboration of effective alternative technologies for utilization of waste and safe technologies for elimination of existing stockpiles of POP.

Quite a number of environmental organizations are operating now in Moscow. First to be mentioned is the All-Russia Society for the Conservation of Nature, which was established in Soviet times. There are other nongovernmental organizations: Ecosoglasiye, Ecolain, Ecological Union, and the Russian branches of Green Cross and Greenpeace. All these organizations collect and popularize environmental information and organize protest actions against policies of the Government or local administrations on ecological matters. A new political party—Russia’s Movement of the Greens—is being formed.

Laws currently in force in the Russian Federation (“On Protection of the Environment,” “On State Ecological Examination by Experts,” “On Production and Consumption of Waste”) declare the right of the public to participate in environmental examination of projects that are to be implemented, including those on the establishment of facilities for elimination and disposition of waste. Public examinations can be organized by the initiative of citizens and public associations. For example, under the law of Moscow “On Protection of the Rights of Citizens while Implementing Decisions on Construction Projects in Moscow,” public hearings are organized by the city’s boards. Decisions taken by local authorities, at referenda and public meetings, may be the very reason for carrying out public examinations. Such examinations are conducted mainly by commissions, collectives, or ad hoc groups of experts. Members of public examination panels are responsible for the accuracy and validity of their expert evaluations in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation. A decision of a public environmental panel has an informative nature as a recommendation, but it becomes legally mandatory after its approval by the appropriate body of the State. Besides, the opinion of the public is taken into account when a project submitted for state environmental review has undergone public examinations and there are supporting materials.

Public environmental examination is supposed to draw the attention of state bodies to a definite site or facility and to disseminate well-grounded information about potential ecological risks. This important facet of public environmental organizations in Moscow and in Russia is very weak. To a large extent, it can be explained by an insufficient level of specific and general knowledge of ecology even on the part of the environmentalists themselves. Lack of knowledge on the part of ordinary citizens and public groups and inadequate information (for various reasons) produce alarm-motivated behavior by those who harm the organization of environmental activity in general and waste management in particular.

There are nevertheless positive examples of public participation in designing policies of local authorities in the waste management sphere.

Speaking about the Moscow region we can point to the very productive work of the Public Ecological Commission attached to the Council of Deputies in Pushchino, in Moscow Oblast.

The population of Pushchino is 21,000. The polygon for solid biological wastes (SBW) has practically exhausted its capacities. In 1996, in order to find a way out, the Administration of the town showed an interest in a proposal made by the Austrian firm FMW to support financially the construction of an electric power station in the vicinity of the town that would operate using both fuel briquettes and SBW of the town. The briquettes would be manufactured in Turkey and would contain 70 percent Austrian industrial waste with added oil sludge. It was also envisaged that during the construction period of the electric power station, 300,000 tons of briquettes would be shipped and stockpiled. The original positive decision was annulled due to an independent evaluation of the project organized by the Public Ecological Commission.

The general public of Puschino put forward a counter proposal before the Administration in order to reduce volumes of SBW disposal at the polygon and to prolong its operation—segregation of SBW (food waste, paper refuse, fabrics, metal, glass, used car batteries). As a result, a new scheme for sanitary measures in the town was worked out in 1998, which on the basis of segregation of waste provided for a considerable decrease in refuse flow to the polygon. Unfortunately, for lack of finances in the town budget, the scheme has not been introduced to the full extent. But in spite of severe shortages of special containers for segregated wastes, a network of receiving points for secondary materials was set up.

One of the pressing tasks for greater public activity is wide popularization of environmental knowledge on waste management, especially among the young generation. There is a very important role for public organizations to play in this domain when enlightenment and education are becoming a primary concern of nongovernmental organizations. Referring again to the example of the Public Ecological Commission in Pushchino, I have to underline that this organization is taking an active part in the enlightenment of the population through organizing exhibitions, placing publications in the press, and spurring school children into action to encourage cleaning of the town by means of environmental contests, seminars, and conferences. Children help the Commission organize mobile receiving points for secondary material. They even prepare announcements and post them around the town calling on the citizens to take valuable amounts of domestic wastes and car batteries to receiving points.

There are other examples of a growing influence of public organizations on the policy of administration in the sphere of waste management in the Moscow region. The Moscow Children’s Ecological Center has worked out the Program “You, He, She and I—All Together Make Moscow Clean,” which is being introduced with the support of the Moscow Government. In the framework of this program, children collect waste paper at schools, and they are taught how to

be careful about the environment and material resources. The storage facilities agreed to support the initiative. They buy waste paper at a special price for school children. Then, the schools spend the earned money for excursions, laboratory equipment, books, and plant greenery.

Another example of an enlightened activity is a project realized in 1999 by the firm Ecoconcord on producing video-clips for TV about the adverse effects of waste incineration and the illegality of unauthorized storage of waste.

The name Ecoconcord speaks for the main purpose of this organization—to achieve mutual understanding between the general public and governmental organizations, to encourage public involvement in decision-making, and to promote the formation of policy bodies that would not let public opinion be ignored.

Proceeding from the global task of integrating the activities of interested parties in lessening adverse waste pollution, public organizations have to cooperate with authorities and not stand against them. Cooperation and consensus between governmental and nongovernmental organizations in working out strategies and tactics in waste management should become a prerequisite in successful realization of state policy in this sphere in the Russian Federation.

An NRC committee was established to work with a Russian counterpart group in conducting a workshop in Moscow on the effectiveness of Russian environmental NGOs in environmental decision-making and prepared proceedings of this workshop, highlighting the successes and difficulties faced by NGOs in Russia and the United States.

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Waste to Wealth

Last updated on December 28, 2023 by ClearIAS Team

waste to wealth

Due to waste generation and insufficient garbage collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal, India faces significant health, environmental, and economic concerns. To tackle the menace numerous initiatives have been taken out which waste to wealth a key one. Read here to know more about the waste to wealth mission.

Increased trash volumes and increasing use of paper, plastic, and other inorganic materials generating waste are two effects of rising affluence, fast-expanding but unplanned urbanization , and changing lifestyles in India.

The environment and public health in India are significantly impacted by improper waste management.

Along with addressing the urgent environmental and public health concerns brought on by the current solid waste management system, a long-term strategy must be developed to meet solid waste management in Indian cities’ future challenges.

Table of Contents

Waste management in India

Waste is majorly classified into- solid, e-waste , liquid , plastic , metal, and nuclear. These broadly fall into dry (non-biodegradable) and wet (biodegradable) waste.

The urban local bodies (ULBs) are responsible for the collection, transportation, disposal, and segregation of solid waste according to Municipal Solid Waste Management handling rules, 2000.

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  • In 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) notified the new Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016 that replaced the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.
  • Now the waste management rules were changed in India and were made applicable beyond municipal areas.
  • It now includes urban agglomerations, census towns, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbases, Ports, and harbors, defense establishments, special economic zones , and places of pilgrims, among others to manage the humongous amount of solid waste being generated in the country.

India’s sewage treatment facilities (STPs) are only equipped to handle little more than a third of the country’s daily sewage production as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

  • Most of India’s dumpsites have exceeded their capacity and height limit of 20 meters.
  • It is estimated that these sites enclose more than 10,000 hectares of urban land.

Many cities are also resorting to waste-to-energy plants – waste management facility that burns waste to produce electricity.

  • Currently, 11 waste-to-energy plants are operational in India.
  • But, to function well, these plants require segregated waste, and even then, they don’t produce enough energy.

Poor waste management

  • The majority of the state government’s financial expenditures are being used for waste dumping methods, leaving the municipal bodies understaffed.
  • The segregation of household garbage is not widely understood by a sizable portion of the population. Trade trash that is improperly segregated ends up intermingled in landfills.
  • India lacks panel data or time series data related to solid or liquid waste. Therefore, it is highly challenging for the nation’s waste planners to evaluate the economy of trash management.
  • The majority of Indian towns have trash dumped on the outskirts, close to the villages, which affects the village environment and creates several health risks, leading to urban-rural conflict.

Also read: Biomedical Waste Management

Waste to wealth mission

The Waste to Wealth Mission is one of the nine scientific missions of the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PMSTIAC).

The mission is spearheaded by the office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA), Government of India.

The mission aims to identify, develop, and deploy technologies to treat waste to generate energy, recycle materials, and extract resources of value.

The vision of waste to wealth is to:

  • The mission will also work to identify and support the development of modern technologies that promise to create a clean and green environment.
  • The mission will assist and augment the Swachh Bharat and Smart Cities projects by leveraging science, technology, and innovation to create circular economic models that are financially viable for waste management to streamline waste handling in the country.
  • To create ready reckoners that are financially viable for waste management.
  • To streamline waste handling in India.

Circular Economy Action Plans for 10 waste categories have been finalized, and are under implementation:

  • Lithium-ion batteries
  • Toxic and hazardous industrial waste
  • Scrap metal (ferrous and non-ferrous)
  • Tyre and Rubber
  • End-of-Life Vehicles
  • Solar Panels
  • Municipal Solid Waste

Respective Nodal Ministries are coordinating the progress of the implementation of these action plans.

  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the Nodal Ministry for Circular Economy Action Plan for Tyre and Rubber and stakeholder ministry in other CE Action Plans.

Regulations on the market-based Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle have been notified for four categories of wastes i.e., plastic packaging waste, battery waste, e-waste, and waste tire.

  • In EPR for Plastic Packaging, targets for minimum recycling, minimum use of recycled content, and use of rigid plastic packaging in identified sizes have been mandated.
  • In rules incorporating the EPR principle that have been notified/amended this year, different targets of minimum recycling, minimum recovery percentage, and minimum use of recycled content have been given lead times to start with.
  • The optimum level will be reached over some time. This has been done to provide time to the industry as well as recyclers for the development of systems and recycling infrastructure.
  • Regulations to bring in EPR for end-of-life vehicles are under development.

Significance of waste to wealth

The ‘Waste-to-Energy’ and Waste Management market in India is set to be a $14bn opportunity by the year 2025. The population of 1.3 billion in India currently generates 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per year.

And by 2027, India is set to become the world’s most populous country as per projections of the United Nations with 7 new megacities.

  • At this exponential population and urban growth rate, landfills almost 90% of the size of Bengaluru would be required for dumping if the waste remains untreated.
  • Though rapid urbanization presents a humungous challenge, with the right policy framework and action, this challenge can be turned into a golden opportunity.

The benefits of effective waste management are immense.

  • India presents an opportunity in numerous subsectors of waste management including municipal solid waste, electronic waste, bio-medical waste, agricultural waste, and others.
  • It is predicted that India has the potential to generate 3GW of electricity from waste by 2050

The Waste-to-Wealth Mission/ Mission Circular Economy is bound to create new business models as well as new employment opportunities.

  • This will also result in the integration of the informal sector. Participation in the industry is of critical importance to make the Waste-to-Wealth Mission a success.
  • This will result in moving away from mindless consumption to mindful utilization and will help achieve the vision of Mission LiFE – Lifestyle for Environment.

Various other Indian cities were identified for the best practices of waste management.

  • Alappuzha (Kerala) and Panaji (Goa) for reducing operating costs through source segregation.
  • Mysuru (Karnataka) is applying scientific techniques to turn biodegradable garbage into compost.
  • Paradeep (Odisha) has adopted a decentralized and community-driven model with micro-composing centers and material recovery facilities.

Also read: E-Waste: Causes, Concerns and Management

Way forward

If the garbage is not controlled, it eventually finds its way to the land, where it may be dispersed, dumped in landfills, or polluted by it.

Waste may both be a resource and a problem for the environment. Ineffective waste management causes substantial material loss and may be harmful to the environment and public health.

This means that we must try to generate as little non-hazardous waste as possible. Where it is environmentally appropriate, material recycling should take precedence over energy recycling for rubbish that still gets created.

The emphasis should be on source segregation, especially by using taxation policy to make fresh plastic and other trash creation more expensive than recycling.

  • To establish waste-to-energy units, innovative concepts and new firms need to receive financial backing.
  • Landfills should be provided by all local governments in proportion to the waste they generate after recycling.
  • A new tax could be implemented to charge producers according to the amount of rubbish they produce.
  • This will assist in raising the necessary funding for the infrastructure of solid and liquid waste management.
  • The major responsibility for treating and selling treated water for agricultural and industrial use should be placed on the producer and the private sector.
  • The complexities and relationships both inside and outside of government must be taken into account in waste management governance.

Also Read:  Solid Waste Management; Solar Waste Management

-Article written by Swathi Satish

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Russia looking for way out of its recycling stalemate

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Filipino domestic workers have been warned not to work in Moscow and other Russian cities. Photo: iStock

Russia has been notorious for its poor recycling rates and massive landfills. But growing concerns about climate change and public protests may have finally influenced some positive changes. And the so-called “waste reform” is currently driven by joint state and corporate efforts.

Available data show that more than 90% or about 70 million tons of waste in Russia is brought to landfills every year. In comparison, in Germany a total of 68% of municipal waste is recycled .

In Russia, every year the total area of waste disposal sites grows by 400,000 hectares, and by last year it totaled 4 million hectares , or the size of the Netherlands.

These numbers are some of the largest in the Global North and point to predominantly ineffective recycling patterns.

The country’s landfills are composed of 34% food, 19% paper, 14% polymers, 12% glass and 6% wood . Russia is also responsible for 15% of all flared associated petroleum gas (APG), which is a byproduct of oil exploration .

Part of the problem comes from the country’s historical legacies and geography. As the world’s biggest country, Russia has never experienced a shortage of land. In addition, the Soviet legacy of decades of shortages of consumer goods contributed to the situation where the population and authorities became confident that massive territory could hedge Russia against pollution.

But the situation has started to change in recent years. The city of Moscow and the surrounding region are the country’s two major polluters . Both also boast the highest standards of living and fastest-growing populations. And both have been struggling with waste management .

In January, Moscow started rolling out its first citywide recycling scheme to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Officials believe it will lead to more than 50% of waste being recycled, while currently around 88% goes to landfill.

In 2018, the Russian government introduced a national Ecology Project that set a recycling target of 36% of municipal solid waste (MSW) by 2024. It also aims to eliminate unauthorized landfills in urban areas by the same year.

The so-called “waste reform” seeks to expand the use of incinerators and introduce eco-technology parks.

The new waste legislation authorized Russia’s federal authorities to set uniform requirements for MSW treatment, recycling and disposal facilities. In 2019 a public company, the “Russian Environmental Operator,” was established to coordinate the activities of regional operators and ensure the implementation of MSW treatment. The entity is authorized to develop a federal waste-management scheme and to review territorial waste.

According to the strategy for the development of the waste industry, in 2030 up to 80% of all waste will be sent for recycling.

The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade believes that it is the creation of eco-technology parks that will largely contribute to the implementation of the strategy. The parks started to appear in 2019, and are described as clusters of enterprises designed for sorting, processing and disposal of waste.

In order to stimulate businesses to enter such clusters and create new factories, the state has launched subsidies for interest payments on loans, as well as compensating part of the direct construction costs.

State initiatives are not the only forces that are breaking the country’s recycling stalemate. Many Russian corporations have also been actively participating in the transition.

Last month, Russian state media reported that plants for processing plastic waste will be built by Rostec, one of the largest industrial and state-run corporations in Russia, on the territory of waste-sorting complexes across Moscow. The first two plants will appear as early as 2022.

Sibur, Russia’s largest petrochemical company, plans to increase by 50% investments in research and development aimed at processing polymer waste and involving renewable sources of raw materials.

It is also striving to build an effective system of interaction on sustainable development and the involvement of recyclable materials in polymer production. In particular, Sibur is implementing such a project for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic widely used in packaging and drink containers.

The company has also signed a cooperation agreement with state ministries. The investment project provides for installing equipment to treat and sort PET flakes, which will make it possible to feed the recycled feedstock into production lines.

Last year, M.Video-Eldorado, the largest Russian consumer-electronics retail chain, launched the largest project in the country for the permanent collection and recycling of household appliances and electronics . The company seeks to provide a full cycle of collection and recycling of equipment with a minimum impact on the environment.

All in all, this justifies cautious optimism about Russia tacitly embracing more responsible behavior toward its environment.

Dimitri Frolowscki

The author is a political analyst and independent journalist. He is a consultant on policy and strategy and has written about Russia’s foreign policy.

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Municipal solid waste management in Russia: potentials of climate change mitigation

  • Original Paper
  • Open access
  • Published: 29 July 2021
  • Volume 19 , pages 27–42, ( 2022 )

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The goal of this study was to assess the impact of the introduction of various waste management methods on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from these activities. The assessment was carried out on the example of the Russian waste management sector. For this purpose, three scenarios had been elaborated for the development of the Russian waste management sector: Basic scenario, Reactive scenario and Innovative scenario. For each of the scenarios, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated during waste management was calculated. The calculation was based on the 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. The results of the greenhouse gas net emissions calculation are as follows: 64 Mt CO 2 -eq./a for the basic scenario, 12.8 Mt CO 2 -eq./a for the reactive scenario, and 3.7 Mt CO 2 -eq./a for the innovative scenario. An assessment was made of the impact of the introduction of various waste treatment technologies on the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions generated in the waste management sector. An important factor influencing the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from landfills is the recovery and thermal utilization of 60% of the generated landfill gas. The introduction of a separate collection system that allows to separately collect 20% of the total amount of generated municipal solid waste along with twofold increase in the share of incinerated waste leads to a more than threefold reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions from the waste management sector.

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Population growth, urbanization and changing life style have resulted in increased amounts of generated solid waste, which poses serious challenges for many cities and authorities around the world (Abu Qdais et al. 2019 ; Chen 2018 ; Dedinec et al. 2015 ). In 2011, world cities generated about 1.3 Gt of solid waste; this amount is expected to increase to 2.2 Gt by 2025 (Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata 2012 ). Unless properly managed on a national level, solid waste causes several environmental and public health problems, which is adversely reflected on the economic development of a country (Abu Qdais 2007 ; Kaza et al. 2018 ).

One of the important environmental impact of the waste management sector are the generated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These emissions come mostly from the release of methane from organic waste decomposition in landfills (Wuensch and Kocina 2019 ). The waste management sector is responsible for 1.6 Gt carbon dioxide equivalents (CO 2 -eq.) of the global GHG direct anthropogenic emissions per year (Fischedick et al. 2014 ), which accounts for approx. 4% of the global GHG emissions (Papageorgiou et al. 2009 ; Vergara and Tchobanoglous 2012 ). The disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) contributes to 0.67 Gt CO 2 -eq./a worldwide (Fischedick et al. 2014 ), which is approx. 1.4% of the global GHG emissions. Per capita emissions in developed countries are estimated to be about 500 kg CO 2 -eq./a (Wuensch and Kocina 2019 ), while in the developing and emerging countries, it is around 100 kg CO 2 -eq./a per person. This low contribution of waste management sector comparing to other sectors of the economy, such as energy and transportation, might be the reason for the small amount of research that aims to study GHG emissions from the waste management sector (Chung et al. 2018 ).

However, it is important to consider that the mitigation of GHG emissions from waste management sector is relatively simple and cost-effective as compared to other sectors of the economy. Several studies proved that separate waste collection and composting of biowaste as well as landfilling with landfill gas recovery is currently found to be one of the most effective and economically sound GHG emissions mitigation options (Chen 2018 ; EI-Fadel and Sbayti 2000 ; Yedla and Sindhu 2016 ; Yılmaz and Abdulvahitoğlu 2019 ). Metz et al. 2001 estimated that 75% of the savings of methane recovered from landfills can be achieved at net negative direct cost, and 25% at cost of about 20 US$/Mg CO 2 -eq./a. In any country of the world, the potential of the waste management sector is not yet fully utilized; the implementation of relatively simple and inexpensive waste treatment technologies might contribute to national GHG mitigation goals and convert the sector from a net emitter into a net reducer of GHG emissions (Crawford et al. 2009 ; Voigt et al. 2015 ; Wuensch and Simon 2017 ).

While there are many well-established solutions and technologies for the reduction in GHG emitted from the waste sector, there is no universal set of options that suits all the countries. When thinking to adapt certain solutions of GHG mitigation, it is important to take into account local circumstances such as waste quantities and composition, available infrastructure, economic resources and climate (Crawford et al. 2009 ).

It is expedient to assess how the introduction of modern waste management methods affects the amount of GHG emissions from the waste management process by the example of those countries in which the waste management sector is undergoing reform. These countries include the Russian Federation, where the values of targets for the waste management industry until 2030 are legally established (Government of the Russian Federation 2018 ). In addition, on February 8, 2021, Russia issued a Presidential Decree “On Measures to Implement State Scientific and Technical Policy in the Field of Ecology and Climate,” which prescribes the creation of a Federal Program for the Creation and Implementation of Science-Intensive Technologies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Decree of the President of the Russian Federation 2021 ).

The goal of this study was to quantify the impact of the introduction of various modern waste treatment methods on the volume of GHG emissions from the waste management sector using the example of Russia. To achieve this goal, the following objectives were set and solved:

Elaborate scenarios for the development of the waste management industry, based on the established Industry Development Strategy for the period up to 2030 (Government of the Russian Federation 2018 )

Determine the weighted average morphological composition of MSW;

Select emission factors for various waste treatment methods;

Calculate GHG emissions under each scenario and analyze the calculation results.

The study was conducted from November 2019 to May 2020; the text was updated in March 2021 in connection with the changed situation, as climate change issues began to play an important role on the agenda in Russia. The study and its calculations are theoretical in nature and did not involve experimental research. It was carried out by the authors at their place of work—in Germany (Technische Universität Dresden, Merseburg University of Applied Sciences) and in Russia (Perm National Research Polytechnic University).

Greenhouse gas emissions related to municipal solid waste management sector in Russia

According to the State Report on the Status of Environmental Protection of the Russian Federation of 2018 (Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation 2019 ), the volume of generated MSW has increased by 17% from 235.4 to 275.4 m 3 (49.9 to 58.4 Mt) during the time period 2010 to 2018. With approx. 147 million inhabitants, the annual per capita generation rate is about 400 kg. Until now, MSW management in Russia has been disposal driven. More than 90% of MSW generated is transported to landfills and open dump sites; 30% of the landfills do not meet sanitary requirements (Korobova et al. 2014 ; Tulokhonova and Ulanova 2013 ). According to the State Register of the Waste Disposal Facilities in Russia, there were 1,038 MSW landfills and 2,275 unregistered dump sites at the end of 2018 (Rosprirodnadzor 2019 ). Such waste management practices are neither safe nor sustainable (Fedotkina et al. 2019 ), as they pose high public health and environmental risks and lead to the loss of valuable recyclable materials such as paper, glass, metals and plastics which account for an annual amount of about 15 Mt (Korobova et al. 2014 ).

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requirements, the signatory parties of the convention need to prepare and submit national communication reports that document GHG emissions and sinks in each country by conducting an inventory based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines (UNFCCC 2006 ). Being the fourth biggest global emitter of GHG emissions, Russia submitted its latest National Inventory Report (NIR) to UNFCCC in April 2019. The report documents national GHG emissions by source and removals by sink (Russian Federation 2019 ). The total emissions had been decreased from 3.2 Gt in 1990 to about 2.2 Gt of CO 2 -eq. in 2017, which implies 30% reduction over a period of 27 years. At the same time, the emissions from the disposal of solid waste increased from 33 Mt in 1990 by more than 100% to 69 Mt CO 2 -eq. in 2017. In terms of methane emissions, Russian solid waste disposal sector is the second largest emitter in the country and accounts for 18.1% of the total emitted methane mostly in the form of landfill gas, while the energy sector is responsible for 61.2% of methane emissions (Russian Federation 2019 ).

Landfill gas recovery from MSW landfills is not widely practiced in the Russian Federation. According to the statistics of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology, the share of landfill gas energy in the total renewable energy produced in Russia was 8.61%, 5.43%, 2.77% and 2.59% in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively (Arkharov et al. 2016 ). Different studies show that the potential of recovering energy from landfill gas in the Russian Federation is high (Arkharov et al. 2016 ; Sliusar and Armisheva 2013 ; Starostina et al. 2018 ; Volynkina et al. 2009 ).

Waste-to-energy technology is still in its infancy in Russia; the country is lagging in this area (Tugov 2013 ). Despite that, there is a great interest among the public as well as the private sector in the possibilities of the recovery of energy from MSW. In April 2014, the State Program “Energy Efficiency and Energy Development” was approved, which includes a subprogram on the development of renewable energy sources in the Russian Federation (Government of the Russian Federation 2014 ). In this program, MSW was considered as a source of renewable energy. Until the year 2017, there were only four waste incineration plants in Moscow region processing 655,000 Mg MSW per year, with only one incinerator recovering energy in form of heat and electricity (Dashieva 2017 ). In the nearest future, the construction of four additional incinerators in Moscow region and one in the city of Kazan is planned. The annual total combined capacity of the four new plants in Moscow will be about 2.8 Mt (Bioenergy International 2019 ). In the Kazan incinerator, 0.55 Mt of MSW will be treated annually, which eventually will allow ceasing of landfilling of solid waste in the Republic of Tatarstan (Bioenergy International 2019 ; Regnum 2017 ). The construction of these five new incineration plants is part of the Comprehensive Municipal Solid Waste Strategy adopted by the Russian government in 2013 (Plastinina et al. 2019 ). The focus of this strategy is the reduction in the amount of landfilled waste by creating an integrated management system and industrial recycling of waste.

Separate collection of MSW and the recycling of different waste fractions at the moment plays only a negligible role in the Russian Federation.

Materials and methods

Scenarios of the development of municipal solid waste management system.

To assess the current situation and the potential for reducing GHG emissions from the MSW management industry, three scenarios of the development of the Russian waste management system had been elaborated. The developed scenarios are based on the official statistics data on the amount of waste generated and treated, and also on the adopted legislative acts that determine the development directions of the Russian waste management system and set targets in these areas (Council for Strategic Development and National Projects 2018 ). That is why the developed scenarios include such measures to improve the waste management system as elimination of unauthorized dump sites, introduction of landfill gas collection and utilization systems at the landfills, incineration of waste with energy recovery, separate collection of waste, and recycling of utilizable waste fractions, and do not include other waste-to-energy technologies and waste treatment strategies contributing to climate change mitigation. Separate collection and treatment of biowaste is not applied in the national waste management strategy of the Russian Federation (Government of the Russian Federation 2018 ) and therefore was beyond the scope of the elaborated scenarios. For the purpose of the current study, three scenarios had been developed.

Scenario 1: BASIC (business as usual)

This scenario is based on the current waste management practices, under which 90% of the generated mixed MSW is disposed of on landfills and dump sites. According to the 6th National Communication Report of the Russian Federation to UNFCCC, the total MSW generated that found its way to managed landfills Footnote 1 was 49.209 Mt in 2009, while the amount of MSW disposed in unmanaged disposal sites (dumps) was 5.067 Mt. In 2017, the amount of MSW generated was 58.4 Mt with 10% being diverted from landfills: 3% incinerated and 7% recycled (Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation 2019 ). According to Russian Federation 2019 , landfill gas recovery is not taking place at Russian landfills. This scenario implies the closure of unorganized dump sites, with all the waste to be disposed of on managed dump sites or landfills only.

Scenario 2: REACTIVE (moderate development)

The reactive scenario implies a moderate development of the waste management sector, based on the construction of several large incinerators, a small increase in the share of waste to be recycled and the disposal of remaining waste at sanitary landfills, Footnote 2 with the closure of all the existing unorganized dump sites. In this scenario, all Russian regions were divided into two clusters: the first cluster included the city of Moscow and the Republic of Tatarstan, where new waste incinerators are being built, and the second cluster which includes — all the other cities and regions.

Moscow and the Republic of Tatarstan

In Moscow and Tatarstan together, 8.586 Mt of mixed MSW is generated annually (Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Tatarstan 2018 ; Department of Housing and Communal Services of the city of Moscow 2019 ). In an attempt to introduce the waste-to-energy technology in Russia, an international consortium that consists of Swiss, Japanese and Russian firms is currently involved in constructing five state-of-the-art incineration plants in these two areas. Four incinerators are to be built in the Moscow region and one in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. The annual combined capacity of the four plants in Moscow will be about 2.8 Mt of MSW, and the one of Kazan 0.55 Mt (Bioenergy International 2019 ; Regnum 2017 ). In this scenario, it is assumed that compared to the basic scenario, the share of waste undergone recycling is increased to 10%, i.e., 0.859 Mt annually. Furthermore, these 10% would be transferred to recycling plants to recover secondary raw materials. The remaining 4.377 Mt of mixed MSW would be disposed of in sanitary landfills.

Other cities and regions

In the other cities and regions of Russia, in accordance with the Development Strategy of Waste Recycling Industry until 2030 (Government of the Russian Federation 2018 ), over two hundred new eco-techno parks (i.e., waste recycling complexes) will be built. These facilities will receive mixed MSW that will be sorted there for recycling purposes. Under this scenario, it is also assumed that compared to the basic scenario, the share of waste undergone recycling is increased to 10%, thus transferring 4.982 Mt annually of the mixed MSW to recycling plants. The remaining 44.932 Mt of MSW are disposed of in sanitary landfills.

Scenario 3: INNOVATIVE (active development)

This scenario is based on the legally established priority areas for the development of the industry (Council for Strategic Development and National Projects 2018 ; Government of the Russian Federation 2018 ). The scenario implies deep changes in the industry with the introduction of technologies for incineration, separate collection and recycling of waste. In this scenario, the regions of Russia are divided into three clusters, in accordance with the possibilities of improving the infrastructure for waste management and the need for secondary resources and energy received during the processing of waste. When determining the share of waste to which this or that treatment method is applied, federal targets (Council for Strategic Development and National Projects 2018 ; Government of the Russian Federation 2018 ) and estimates made by the World Bank (Korobova et al. 2014 ) were used.

The first cluster includes two huge, densely populated urban agglomerations in which large incineration plants are under construction: Moscow and Tatarstan. With the construction of new waste incinerators, 3.35 Mt of mixed MSW will be incinerated annually. It is assumed that some 10% of mixed MSW (0.859 Mt) generated in these two regions is to be transferred to eco-techno parks for secondary raw material recovery. Some 20% of the MSW (1.712 Mt) is to be recovered from separately collected waste, and the rest of 2.66 Mt (31%) to be disposed of in sanitary landfills.

Cities with more than 0.5 million inhabitants

This cluster includes large urban agglomerations with developed industry and high demand for materials and energy resources. In this cluster, approx. 28 Mt of MSW is generated annually (Korobova et al. 2014 ). Under this scenario, it is assumed that waste incineration plants are also built in some larger cities, besides Moscow and Kazan. However, the exact quantity and capacity of these plants is yet unknown; it was assumed that in comparison with the basic scenario, in this scenario, the share of incinerated waste increased to 10%, the share of recycled waste to 15%, and a separate waste collection system is partially implemented. Hereby, 10% of the generated mixed MSW (2.79 Mt) is undergoing incineration, 15% (4.185 Mt) is transferred to sorting facilities for secondary raw material recovery, some 20% of the MSW (5.58 Mt) is recovered from separately collected waste and the rest 55% (15.345 Mt) is disposed of in sanitary landfills.

Smaller cities with less than 0.5 million inhabitants and rural areas

This cluster includes smaller cities and towns with some industrial enterprises, as well as rural areas. The amount of waste generated annually in this group of settlements is 21.914 Mt. It is assumed that no waste is incinerated, 15% of the mixed MSW (3.287 Mt) is transferred to sorting facilities for secondary raw material recovery, 10% (2.191 Mt) is recovered from separately collected waste, and the rest 75% (16.435 Mt) is disposed of in sanitary landfills.

Waste flow diagrams corresponding to the three scenarios with their input and output flows are shown in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

MSW management scenarios with model inputs and outputs

In all the three scenarios, mixed MSW is transferred to sorting facilities where the recovery of valuable materials by mostly hand sorting takes place. Detailed accounts of process efficiency for material recovery facilities, in terms of recovery rates and quality of recovered materials, are scarce in the published literature (Cimpan et al. 2015 ). In the study of Cimpan et al., 2015 , at least three data sets were evaluated with the result that 13–45% of paper, 3–49% of glass, 35–84% of metals and 1–73% of plastics were recovered from the plant input of these materials. Two other studies report similar recovery rates between 60 and 95% for paper, glass, plastic and aluminum for hand and automatic sorting test trials (CalRecovery, Inc and PEER Consultants 1993 ; Hryb 2015 ). Based on this data and the results of the authors’ own experimental studies on manual waste sorting in Russia, the recovery rates for the most valuable waste fractions, including paper/cardboard, glass, metals and plastics had been calculated (Table 1 ). In the Scenario 3, separate collection of paper/cardboard, glass and plastic is introduced. Recovery rates related to the input of the corresponding waste type into each waste management cluster (see Table 1 ) for Moscow and Tatarstan as well as for the cities with more than 0.5 million inhabitants are considered to be higher than for the settlements with less than 0.5 million inhabitants.

For the comparison of GHG emissions of the three elaborated scenarios, a specific assessment model was elaborated.

Model structure

The calculation of the amounts of released and avoided GHG emissions for the different considered waste treatment technologies are based on the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. The IPCC methodology is scientifically widely recognized and used internationally, which makes the results easy comprehensible and easier to compare with other studies.

For the elaboration of the model that would allow calculating the GHG balance emissions, the upstream-operating-downstream (UOD) framework (Gentil et al. 2009 ) was used, where direct emissions from waste management procedures and indirect emissions from upstream and downstream activities are differentiated. On the upstream side, the indirect GHG emissions, like those related to fuel and material extraction, processing and transport as well as plant construction and commissioning, are excluded from the consideration. Indirect emissions from infrastructure construction on the downstream side are outside the system boundaries and not accounted for as they are relatively low (Boldrin et al. 2009 ; Mohareb et al. 2011 ). Direct GHG emissions from the waste transport are also excluded from the system boundaries since they are negligible comparing to the direct emissions from the waste processing/treatment (Weitz et al. 2002 ; Wuensch and Simon 2017 ). Since indirect GHG emissions avoided due to energy and material substitution, as well as carbon sequestration in the downstream processes is significant, they are included into the model. The conceptual framework of the model and its boundaries are shown in Fig.  2 .

figure 2

Conceptual framework of the model showing upstream and downstream processes along with the system boundaries [derived from Abu Qdais et al. ( 2019 )]

The inputs to the model are waste (its quantity, composition, carbon content fixed in biomass and no-biomass), as well as energy and fuel that are used in the waste treatment processes (see Table 2 and Figs.  1 , 2 and 3 ). The outputs include generated and delivered electricity, recovered secondary materials and sequestrated carbon.

figure 3

Compensatory system for the substitution of primary materials and energy [derived from Abu Qdais et al. ( 2019 )]

The analysis of MSW composition is not regularly done in Russia, and only a limited number of studies on this subject are published. Since waste composition is the basis for the determination of direct GHG emissions from waste management activities, accurate data is desirable. The Russian Federation is a huge country with both densely populated urban areas and sparsely populated rural areas. Due to the different settlement structures, the waste compositions also differ a lot. It is not expedient to assume an average composition for the entire country. Therefore, hereinafter three clusters had been considered to define waste compositions. The first cluster includes Moscow and the Republic of Tatarstan, since in these regions, a larger amount of mixed MSW is/will be incinerated in the nearest future. The second cluster includes the cities with the population of more than 0.5 million people, and the third cluster includes the settlements with the population of less than 0.5 million people. The waste compositions for these three clusters given in Table 2 are weighted averages of the results of a number of experimental studies of waste composition which were found in sources of the literature published after 2010 and further analyzed. Weighted average here means that the respective data on waste composition that was found for a city or region was included in the weighted average with the proportion that the amount of MSW generated in the city or region takes up as part of the total mass of MSW generated in the respective cluster.

To determine the avoidance of GHG emissions in the downstream processes by means of energy and material substitution as well as carbon sequestration, a compensatory system must be used. In Fig.  3 , the compensatory system for the substitution of energy and primary materials is shown.

Emission factors

Waste incineration.

It is necessary to know the emission factors when calculating GHG emissions from thermal treatment of waste, and also when compiling national emissions inventories (Larsen and Astrup 2011 ). Information on GHG emission factors of various solid waste treatment technologies for each country is of great importance for the assessment of GHGs emitted as a result of adopting a certain technology. However, such factors are not available for the Russian Federation, which implies using the data available in the literature for the countries with the conditions similar to the Russian ones, examining local circumstances of solid waste management system (Friedrich and Trois 2013 ; Larsen and Astrup 2011 ; Noya et al. 2018 ).

There are different factors affecting GHG emission levels from waste incineration. One of the most important factors in determining CO 2 emissions is the amount of fossil carbon in the waste stream meant for incineration. Non-CO 2 emissions are more dependent on the incineration technology and conditions, and for modern waste incinerators, the amounts of non-CO 2 emissions are negligible (Johnke 2001 ; Sabin Guendehou et al. 2006 ).

The amount of fossil carbon was calculated based on waste composition, carbon content and share of fossil carbon given in Table 2 ; the resulting fossil carbon content in wet waste was 0.117 kg C/kg. For the indirectly avoided GHG emissions, the recovery of electricity with a net efficiency of 24% for all the scenarios and for the Scenario 3 also from metals contained in the incinerator slag to substitute primary metals was considered. The recovery of heat in form of process steam or district heat was not considered in the scenarios (Dashieva 2017 ). Further parameters for the calculation of GHG emissions from waste incineration are given in Table 3 .

For the calculation of the impact of the methane released from landfills to climate change over a 100 years’ time horizon, the first-order decay kinetics model was used. Almost 80% of the Russian MSW landfills occupy an area larger than 10 ha (Volynkina and Zaytseva 2010 ). Here, it is assumed that all the MSW is highly compacted and disposed of in deep landfills under anaerobic conditions without the recovery of landfill gas (Govor 2017 ). Since no landfill gas is recovered, in Scenario 1, only the sequestrated non-biodegradable biogenic carbon in the landfill results in avoided GHG emissions. There is an intention in Russia to introduce the collection of landfill gas as the primary measure to reduce GHG emissions from the waste management sector (Government of the Russian Federation 2018 ; Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation 2013 ) within the next years. In the literature, methane recovery rates between 9% (Scharff et al. 2003 ) and 90% (Spokas et al. 2006 ) are reported. For example, most US landfills are well-controlled and managed; in particular, in California, gas collection efficiencies are as high as 82.5% (Kong et al. 2012 ). Based on these values, for both Scenario 2 and Scenario 3, landfill gas recovery is introduced with a recovery rate of 60%. Under these two scenarios, in addition to carbon sequestration, the recovered landfill gas is used to produce electricity, which results in avoided indirect GHG emissions. Other parameters used for the calculation are mainly taken from the latest Russian National Inventory Report where IPCC default parameters were used (Pipatti et al. 2006 ; Russian Federation 2019 ). The parameters used for the calculation of GHG emissions from landfills for all the three scenarios are shown in Table 4 .

  • Material recovery

In all the scenarios, some part of mixed MSW is treated in eco-techno parks, where valuable secondary raw materials like metals, paper, glass and plastics are recovered, and the sorting residues are forwarded to landfills. In addition, separate collection of some amounts of paper, glass, and plastics in the Scenario 3 is presumed. The corresponding recovery rates are already given in Table 1 . Each recovered secondary material substitutes a certain amount of primary material. Since the production of primary materials is usually connected with higher energy and raw material consumption than that of the secondary materials, more GHGs are released during the production of the former ones. Therefore, every unit of recovered secondary material obtained leads to a reduction in released GHGs.

GHG emission or substitution factors are developed for specific geographical areas and technologies, and their appropriateness to other circumstances may be questionable (Turner et al. 2015 ). The application of one specific emission factor for a recovered material in the whole Russian Federation would already be debatable due to the size of the country. Perhaps that is why emission factors for Russia cannot be found in the literature. For this study, the average values of GHG emission/substitution factors determined for other industrial countries from the study of (Turner et al. 2015 ) were used. The amounts of avoided GHG, i.e., the values of the emission factors in CO 2 equivalents for the recovered valuable waste fractions, including steel, aluminum, paper/cardboard, glass and plastic, are given in Table 5 .

In Table 5 , the used equivalent factor (Global Warming Potential over a time horizon of 100 years) of released methane versus carbon dioxide, the emission factor of the use of fuel oil in the waste incineration process and the substitution factor of delivered electrical power are shown. The emission factor of the generated electricity in the Russian Federation is relatively low, since approx. half (52%) of the electricity is produced by natural gas and approx. 13% by hydro- and nuclear power, while only 13% is produced by coal (British Petrolium 2019 ; U.S. Energy Information Administration 2017 ). The electricity mix factor is therefore only 0.358 Mg CO 2 -eq./MWh generated electricity (Gimadi et al. 2019 ).

Results and discussion

The population of the Russian Federation is expected to decrease in the next decades (United Nations 2019 ), but due to the economic growth, the amount of waste generated per capita is expected to increase in the same ratio; that is why the calculation of the GHG emissions for all the three scenarios was based on an assumed fixed annually amount of 58.4 Mt of MSW. Average waste compositions were calculated for this study on the basis of eleven waste analyses conducted in different Russian cities between 2010 and 2017 and grouped into three clusters (Moscow and Tatarstan, cities with more than 0.5 million inhabitants and cities/settlements with less than 0.5 million inhabitants). From the available literature data for the countries with conditions similar to Russian ones, emission factors were adopted to be further used in calculations of GHG emissions from waste disposal on managed and sanitary landfills, waste incineration and waste recycling with the recovery of secondary raw materials.

In Fig.  4 , the amounts of CO 2 -equivalent emissions per year that contribute to global warming for each of the three scenarios considered in the study are shown. Since the emissions related to the collection and transportation of waste, as well as energy consumption in the upstream side, are almost similar for all the treatment processes (Komakech et al. 2015 ), and as they are relatively small compared to the operational and downstream emissions (Boldrin et al. 2009 ; Friedrich and Trois 2011 ), they were not considered in the model. Avoided and sequestrated emissions were subtracted from the direct emissions to calculate GHG net emission values.

figure 4

Global warming contribution of the three considered scenarios

The basic scenario (mostly managed landfilling without landfill gas recovery) gives the highest GHG net emissions among all the analyzed scenarios of approx. 64 Mt CO 2 -eq./a, followed by the reactive scenario (mostly sanitary landfilling with landfill gas recovery) with approx. 12.8 Mt CO 2 -eq./a of GHG net emissions. The innovative scenario (sanitary landfilling with landfill gas recovery and increased shares of MSW incineration, separate collection and material recovery) had shown an almost neutral GHG balance with approx. 3.7 Mt CO 2 -eq./a of GHG net emissions.

To assess the impact of the introduction of various waste treatment methods on the amount of GHG emissions from the waste management sector, the specific GHG emissions for each scenario as a whole was calculated, as well as “within” scenarios for each considered waste management process/method (Table 6 ).

The amount of specific total GHG emissions under Scenario 2 is five times less than under Scenario 1. Such a large difference is due to the modernization of existing managed dumpsites (Scenario 1), instead of which MSW is disposed of at sanitary landfills equipped with landfill gas and leachate collection systems, with intermediate insulating layers and top capping (Scenario 2). Such a transition from managed dumpsites to sanitary landfills leads not only to a decrease in the amount of specific released GHG emissions by approx. 1 Mg CO 2 -eq./Mg MSW, but also to a decrease in total emissions due to avoided emissions in the amount of 0.053 Mg CO 2 -eq./Mg MSW generated by energy recovery.

The amount of specific total GHG emissions under Scenario 3 is 3.4 times less than under Scenario 2. This reduction is mainly due to an almost twofold increase in the volume of waste incinerated, along with the introduction of a separate waste collection system (Scenario 3). At the same time, in Scenario 3, the share of plastic in the mixed waste stream sent to incineration is less than in Scenarios 1 and 2 (see Fig.  1 ). Climate-related GHG from waste incineration are generated mainly due to the plastic contained in the waste. Therefore, in Scenario 3, less GHG emissions are released during waste incineration. Reduction in GHG emissions from waste incineration is also facilitated by the recovery of metals from the bottom ash, which occurs only in Scenario 3.

In Scenario 3, the total amount of recycled material is larger than in Scenario 2, since not only part of the mixed waste is recycled, but also separately collected. According to the Scenario 3, metals are not included in the waste fractions collected separately. Metals have a comparably high GHG substitution factor (see Table 5 ); this explains the slight decrease in avoided GHG emissions due to material recovery in Scenario 3 compared to Scenario 2 because of a decreased share of metals in the total waste stream sent for recycling.

Many studies confirm GHG emissions reduction by the application of these waste treatment concepts. It is shown that the recovery of landfill gas from managed landfills has a high potential to reduce GHG emissions from landfills (EI-Fadel and Sbayti 2000 ; Friedrich and Trois 2016 ; Lee et al. 2017 ; Starostina et al. 2014 ). The transfer from the disposal of mixed MSW on landfills to the incineration on waste incineration or waste-to-energy plants leads to further reduction in GHG emissions (Bilitewski and Wuensch 2012 ; Chen 2018 ; Voigt et al. 2015 ). The recovery of secondary materials from MSW allows avoiding additional amounts of GHG emissions (Björklund and Finnveden 2005 ; Franchetti and Kilaru 2012 ; Turner et al. 2015 ; Wuensch and Simon 2017 ).

It should be noted that the calculated results of the direct GHG emissions from landfilling and waste incineration are subject to uncertainties. Waste composition (Table 2 ) and the parameters set/assumed for the landfills (Table 4 ) and waste incineration (Table 3 ) affect the level of the results. Indirect downstream emissions from recovered secondary materials and substituted energy cannot be provided with accuracy, as indicated by missing data for the substitution factors of recovered secondary materials in Russia and the variability of the scenarios for substituted electricity. To get an impression about the possible fluctuation range of the determined results, a sensitivity analysis was carried out. Therefore, all values shown in Tables 1 , 3 , 4 and 5 were ones decreased by 10% and once increased by 10%. The impact of the sensitivity analysis on the GHG net emissions is shown as error bars in Fig.  4 . The results of the sensitivity analysis show a range for the GHG net emissions of the basic scenario between 35.129 and 91.446 Mt CO 2 -eq./a, for the reactive scenario between 5.133 and 16.324 Mt CO 2 -eq./a and for the innovative scenario from − 1.516 to 4.871 Mt CO 2 -eq./a.

All the exact values of the final results shown in Fig.  4 as well as the graphical representation of the results of the sensitivity analysis can be checked in the provided supplementary materials.

The most recent data about global GHG emissions from solid waste disposal shows that direct emissions contribute with 0.67 Gt CO 2 -eq./a (Fischedick et al. 2014 ) to about 1.4% of the total anthropogenic GHG emissions of 49 Gt CO 2 -eq./a (Edenhofer et al. 2015 ). For the Russian Federation, the contribution of the direct emissions from the MSW management accounts for approx. 3.7% of the total GHG emissions of the country of around 2.2 Gt CO 2 -eq./a (Russian Federation 2019 ). In this study, the potential of different waste management methods in relation to climate change impact was assessed using the example of the Russian waste management industry. For this purpose, three scenarios had been developed and analyzed:

Basic scenario (business as usual), based on the existing waste management practices. The scenario implies that 90% of the generated mixed MSW is disposed of on managed dumpsites, 7% is undergone material recovery and 3% incinerated. All the unorganized dumpsites are closed; on managed dumpsites, there is no landfill gas recovery.

Reactive scenario (moderate development). This scenario implies construction of a number of large waste incineration plants and an increase in the share of waste to be recycled so that 84.3% of generated MSW is disposed of in sanitary landfills, 10% is sent to recycling plants for material recovery, and 5.7% is incinerated.

Innovative scenario (active development). This scenario assumes partial implementation of a separate waste collection system and broader introduction of waste processing technologies. As a result, 20% of the total generated MSW is collected separately and then recycled, 14.3% undergoes material recovery, 55.2% is disposed of in sanitary landfills, and 10.5% is incinerated.

For determining weighed average morphological composition of MSW, three clusters of human settlements had been considered, and the respective data on waste compositions had been analyzed. The first cluster includes Moscow and the Republic of Tatarstan, the second cluster includes the major cities (those with the population of more than 0.5 million people), and the third cluster includes the minor cities and rural areas.

For determining emission factors, both own calculation results and reference data from the National Inventory Report and other sources were used. Thus, the amount of fossil carbon, being one of the most important factors determining CO 2 emissions from waste incineration, was calculated based on the waste composition, carbon content and the share of fossil carbon in the waste. For the calculation of the amount of CH 4 released from MSW landfills, the first-order decay kinetics model was used. Avoided GHG emissions are the result of sequestrated non-biodegradable biogenic carbon in landfills (all the scenarios) and recovered landfill gas used to produce electricity (Scenarios 2 and 3). With the use of emission factors for material recovery included those for the recovered valuable waste fractions steel, aluminum, paper and cardboard, glass and plastic, GHG emissions were calculated under each scenario. As it was expected, the basic scenario gives the highest amount of total GHG net emissions of approx. 64 Mt CO 2 -eq./a (1.096 Mg CO 2 -eq./Mg MSW). Under the reactive scenario, the amount of total GHG net emissions is approx. 12.8 Mt CO 2 -eq./a (0.219 Mg CO 2 -eq./Mg MSW), and under the innovative scenario, it is about 3.7 Mt CO 2 -eq./a (0.064 Mg CO 2 -eq./Mg MSW).

The calculation of specific GHG emissions made it possible to assess the extent to which the introduction of various waste treatment methods makes it possible to reduce GHG emissions resulting from the respective waste treatment processes. Analysis of the results of these calculations showed that the transition from managed dumpsites to sanitary landfills can reduce total GHG emissions from the Russian waste management sector by up to 5 times. The introduction of a separate collection system (in which 20% of waste is collected separately) with a simultaneous twofold increase in the share of waste incinerated has led to a more than threefold reduction in total GHG emissions from the sector of Russian waste management. Another factor influencing the reduction in GHG emissions from waste incineration is the recovery of metals from the bottom ash.

Direct GHG emissions can be further reduced with a shift from landfilling to treatment of mixed MSW in material recovery facilities and waste incinerators or even to separate collection and treatment of MSW. In addition, indirect downstream emissions can be avoided by a significant amount via energy and material recovery. With a separate collection and treatment of biowaste and the recovery of district heat from waste incineration process, further GHG mitigation can be obtained. With these additional measures, the MSW industry of the Russian Federation could become a net avoider from a net emitter.

For this study, a number of parameters and emission factors from the literature where used, which does not precisely reflect the situation in Russia. Conducting further research for determining country specific, for a huge country like Russia, possibly even region-specific data and emission factors resulting in the development of a corresponding database would be useful to minimize these uncertainties.

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CW involved in conceptualization, data curation, methodology, validation, visualization, writing — original draft, and writing — review and editing. AT involved in conceptualization, data curation, investigation, and writing — original draft.

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Wünsch, C., Tsybina, A. Municipal solid waste management in Russia: potentials of climate change mitigation. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. 19 , 27–42 (2022).

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Received : 17 September 2020

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Published : 29 July 2021

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