The Edge Factor

The Unheeded Supply Chain - Solid Waste Management in India

Posted by Anirban Bhattacharyya

Newsletter Header Image - Mar19

India produces 62 million tons of municipal solid waste every year. What’s more, the total waste generated is increasing by 5% every year. While the amount of waste being generated is increasing rapidly, the waste management situation in the country remains abysmal.

Almost 50% of waste generated in India is still organic. However, proportion of biomedical and hazardous waste is also increasing as India becomes more urbanized.

Waste Composition of India - Mar19Composition of waste in India - Mar19 

Alarming Waste Composition

Studies show that India's waste has more than doubled in past 25 years

Piling Problem - Mar19

Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM)

Munciple Waste Management - Mar19

Urban local bodies spend anywhere between INR 500 to INR 1500 per ton on solid waste management. However, the waste management supply chain continues to be highly skewed. 70% of the total amount is spent on just collecting the waste and the remaining 20-30% is spent on transportation.

Almost no money is spent on waste treatment and disposal. Crude dumping of waste remains the norm in many Indian cities. This contributes to pollution, climate change, and the urban water crisis. Waste dumping also means that recycling opportunities are completely wasted.

Issues and Challenges in MSWM:

 Policy and regulatory

Political will is severely lacking when it comes to waste management. As a result, most policies are underdeveloped and the regulatory framework is neither comprehensive nor rigorously executed.

Financing challenges 

There is no concept of result-based financing in municipal waste management so far. Therefore, projects that require huge upfront investment are often executed poorly.

Technology challenges

The Government does not have the cutting-edge technology expertise that is needed to create modern waste management solutions. Private-public partnerships are a much better approach when it comes to technologically sound waste management solutions.

Capacity challenges

The technical capacity of urban local bodies is severely limited, which makes it harder for them to undertake long-term projects.

Opportunities In Waste Management

In recent years, many private sector companies are seeing an economic opportunity in waste management. The focus is on creating a more efficient end-to-end supply chain for waste management. This starts at waste collection through segregation and ends with waste disposal and treatment.

Composting, pelletization, biogas, and waste-to-energy plants are all new-age methods of waste disposal that are both sustainable and profitable. Some private players are already making a mark in waste management. Protoprint, for instance, converts plastic waste into filaments for 3D printing. GPS Renewables is setting up compact waste-to-energy plants to convert kitchen waste into biogas.

The Future of Waste Management in India

The way forward in urban waste management can only come from a deep collaboration between the government and the private sector. The government needs to focus keenly on institutional efforts; particularly comprehensive policies and awareness campaigns. A lot of supply chain innovation, particularly in waste collection and disposal, will come from the private sector. A strong effort needs to be made by both sides to create profitable public-private partnerships.