Policy Brief: Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

What exactly is solid waste?

Solid waste may contain any of the following components:

  1. Hazardous waste - this primarily refers to wastes that pose an immediate danger to the environment or individuals such as batteries and pesticides.
  2. Plastic waste - bottles, bags, food covers etc.
  3. Construction and demolition waste - generated during construction, renovation or demolition of buildings and other structures
  4. Biomedical waste - generated during medical treatment of humans, animals etc. This includes syringes, needles, and other medical equipment.
  5. E-waste - electronic wastes such as mobile phones, wires, chargers, earphones and so on.

What is the Bill about?

It is no news that our extravagant, consumerist urban lifestyles result in a colossal generation of solid waste. There are broadly two major problems with this - one, the burgeoning quantity of domestic and industrial solid waste and two, the nature of the waste itself. In recent years, the percentage of plastic, sanitary and packaging material waste is relatively increasing. To this extent, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) notified the new Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM) in 2016.

These rules replaced the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules published in 2000. Before the 2016 Bill which brought about rules exclusively for solid waste, the government had formulated rules for five other types of waste - plastic, e-waste, biomedical, hazardous, and construction and demolition waste.

What are some of its features?

  • The 2000 Bill on solid wastes was applicable only to municipal areas. This Bill extends the rules to census towns, urban agglomerations, industrial townships, places of worship, airports, Special Economic Zones and so on.
  • The Bill mandated that waste be segregated into three categories - biodegradables, dry waste (including metal, wood, plastic etc.), and domestic hazardous wastes (sanitary waste, cleaning agents etc.). This is not restricted to households but includes restaurants and hotels, event organisers, and other institutional set-ups.
  • Brand owners of sanitary napkins and diapers must increase awareness about the method of disposing of such wastes. They must also provide pouches or wrappers along with the napkin/diaper for disposal.
  • The ‘user fee’ amount to be paid can be fixed by local municipal bodies. This amount is paid to waste collectors in lieu of their service. Additionally, ‘spot fines’ must be paid in case of non-segregation or littering.

What are some of its criticisms?

  • The absence of a strict penalty and incentives in case of poor implementation makes it rather ineffective.
  • Processes such as conversion of waste into energy are centralised, leaving little room for local and decentralised action.
  • The Bill lacks provisions to raise awareness and bring about behaviour change amongst citizens with respect to waste generation and segregation procedures.
  • The informal sector has been conveniently neglected with regard to the applicability of these rules.

Here is the link to the Bill (the English version begins from page 50):

http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Solid%20Waste%20Management%20Rules,%202016.pdf

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