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Scope of the Study

This report focuses on various options available for the disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) sustainably and attempts to provide a documented picture of their suitability to India. The report is divided into two parts, Part I and Part II. The first part will explain the present solid waste management (SWM) crisis in India, its impacts on public health, environment and quality of life and touch upon efforts towards SWM in the past. The second part deals with the Earth Engineering Center’s initiative, WTERT – India to help improve SWM in India and presents some articles viewership statistics of the internet blog (www.swmindia.blogspot.com) based upon this research.

Figure 2, Scope of the Study: Green Boxes Indicate the Methods of Waste Disposal Studied in Comparison to the Hierarchy of Sustainable Waste Management

 The first part introduces the Hierarchy of Sustainable Waste Management (Figure 10), which will act as the framework for the rest of this report. It then presents the current situation of SWM in Indian cities, discussing unsanitary landfilling and open burning of wastes; and their effects on the day-to-day lives of urban Indians. Part I also discusses specific technologies and mechanisms as probable solutions to India’s SWM crisis. The areas of focus were Recycling, Aerobic Composting (or Mechanical Biological Treatment), Small Scale Biogas (or Biomethanation), Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and Waste-to-Energy Combustion (WTE), as represented by the green boxes in (Figure 2). These technologies were selected based upon their success inside and outside India, suitability to Indian conditions, environmental impact and economics. Composting and small scale biomethanation were chosen specifically due to their success in India in treating organic wastes. Composting was also chosen to point out a likely side-effect of mixed waste composting. Mixed waste composting is also called as Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT). Use of compost from MBT facilities for agricultural purposes introduces heavy metals into human food chain. Small scale biomethanation was chosen due to its high position on the hierarchy of sustainable waste management and its collective potential to divert waste from landfills.
Informal recycling is studied as an integral part of SWM considering its effectiveness in recycling waste and its robust collection and supply chains in large Indian cities. Informal recycling is getting due recognition and gaining wider consensus around the world for its role in SWM in middle and low income nations.  RDF and WTE are chosen based upon their potential to divert wastes from landfill and their potential to generate energy from residual mixed wastes. Failures of RDF and WTE plants are analyzed and compared to the initial failures of MBT plants. Despite the best waste handling practices, a fraction of MSW that has to be landfilled will always exist; therefore an introduction to sanitary landfilling is included as an end-of-the-loop solution.
Short details of other sources of information about government policy and regulations, theoretical aspects of SWM, and specifications followed in Indian SWM projects are provided in Section 7.


  1. It is interesting that though waste management rules (MSW)dates back to 2000 there are only 5 or so sanitary landfills in the country in 2012

    1. Those sanitary landfills we see now are a result of JnNURM funds and Clean Development Mechanism. We can therefore conclude that proper policy, and incentives are also required in addition to robust rules and regulating agencies.

  2. Hello Mr. Muthusamy,

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    "Follow this Blog by Email" option is on the right side strip below "Follow this Blog", which is below "Blog Archive".

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CH4 Methane
Carbon Dioxide
Government of India
INR Indian Rupee
JnNURM Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
LFG Landfill Gas
Mechanical Biological Treatment
MSW Municipal Solid Waste
NEERI National Environmental Engineering Research Institute
Refuse Derived Fuel
SLF Sanitary Landfill
SWM Solid Waste Management
USD United States Dollar
WPs Waste Pickers
WTE Waste-to-Energy
WTERT Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council