India is experiencing rapid urbanization with physical, climatic, geographical, ecological, social and cultural challenges. According to Government of India’s Census report, only 27% of the total population lived in urban areas in 2001 ( however, recent statistics show the number has gone up to 33.5% in 2017. Migrating population growth is a major contributor for an increase in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in India.

What if the urban areas in India continue to dump its untreated garbage at the current rate for the next 20 years? Well, one for sure, it will lead to dumping of waste on scarce urban land, the other being, it will require a 10 metres high landfill of size 66,000 hectares which can hold 20 years’ worth of waste (source: That is equivalent to 90% of Bengaluru’s area – that it is quite perplexing.

With around one-third of World’s total waste (27 billion tonnes per year) coming from Asia, India is the third largest waste producer after China and the USA ( While the country is facing a considerable waste management challenge, it also offers an enormous opportunity to manage and treat its ‘waste’ resourcefully to gain from the recycling process. Over 429 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities (World Bank data) and generate over 70 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of MSW. Only 43 MTPA of the waste is collected, of which 11.9 MTPA (that is 22-28%) is treated and the balance 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites. (Source: Setting that aside, the remaining 27 MTPA of uncollected waste remains to be a serious threat to the whole ecosystem. The lack of solid waste management collection as well as improper disposal techniques can lead to various diseases and even the destruction of flora and fauna.

Management of solid waste through collection, processing, transportation and disposal in India is the responsibility of urban local bodies (ULBs). But most ULBs in India struggle to provide efficient waste management services due to financial problems, lack of infrastructure and technology, and a lack of involvement from the private sector and non-governmental organisations. The municipalities exhaust their Solid Waste Management budgets on the collection and transportation of waste leaving very little money for processing.

Government initiatives
In the year 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) declared Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Rules, which mandates processing of waste and scientific landfilling of rejects. The central government has taken up several initiatives to augment the country’s waste management infrastructure. At present, the emphasis is on waste management at different stages of generation, collection, and disposal under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a nationwide cleanliness campaign. Another National level initiative aimed at improving waste management is the Smart Cities Mission under which 100 cities will be provided with significant funding to improve civic services infrastructure.

In specific cities, the Central government has started a partner scheme, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), aimed at improving urban infrastructure. State governments also provide financial support to ULBs to improve their waste management system under various schemes and programs. As a result of these initiatives, many Indian cities have taken steps towards implementing good solid waste management practices aimed at community-based waste segregation and collection, public-private partnerships and investments in modern technology. Processing can reduce waste to landfill by 80%, reducing pressure on scarce land. Processing also provides an opportunity and is critical to cleaning the urban landscape while mitigating greenhouse gases.

The compost from municipal waste is also important for integrated soil management. There are significant positive outcomes of improved health, environment and soil productivity. The use of organic compost would reduce the overall requirement for chemical fertilizers and thereby reduce the overall subsidy burden on the Government at the same time addressing a major urban issue of cleaning up cities. The conversion of waste to energy will address the urgent need of urban clean-up and building decentralised energy solutions.

The Paradigm shift being sought is to move from a capital subsidy based regime to an output based regime. Though the government has put the waste management activities under the local bodies purview, many private players have joined in the task of waste management across various cities of India such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, etc. It is also noteworthy that the current capital subsidies already available under different government programs for solid waste management can be used more effectively if they are converted to process output-based payments.

The processing of Municipal Waste will serve four critical objectives: (Box item)

  • Ensure cleaning of our cities by processing waste and saving valuable land which otherwise would be used to dump waste;
  • Improving rural soil productivity and chemical fertilizer efficiency with the use of organic compost;
  • Mitigate greenhouse gases - as one ton of methane generated in a waste dump site is equivalent to 21 tons of carbon dioxide in terms of global warming potential; and
  • Decentralized Energy plants based on Municipal Waste as feedstock

Integrated Approach of IL&FS
IL&FS Environmental Infrastructure and Services Ltd. (IEISL) is following an integrated waste management approach that Reuses and Recycles all possible waste streams. Given the challenges in municipalities for the processing of waste, there is a need to evolve sustainable models for products/by-products. Most MSW services depend on payment of tipping fees or collection fees or Operation & Maintenance (O&M) and other contractual fees from municipalities.

IEISL has implemented a Waste-to-Energy facility at Ghazipur, near Delhi to convert waste into 12 MW of power. With significant capital investment to ensure European emission standards (first in the Country) are met and the right boiler design suited to the Indian waste characteristics is installed. These projects are not merely power generation projects, rather as waste processing schemes where power is a welcome by-product. Therefore, Waste to Energy should be treated higher or on par with other renewable energy sources such as solar.
The company is utilizing Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste for making tiles, pavement blocks, Kerbstones and Ready-Mix Concrete (RMC), manufactured sand etc. The first in the Country to set up a pioneering facility at Burari, Delhi to process C&D waste, IEISL has now established 3 facilities in Delhi – processing more than 2500 tons per day of C&D waste of the city. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India has also communicated to the states about the Burari facility as the role model to be replicated.
The scientific closure of the Gorai dumping site in Mumbai is another benchmark which IL&FS has developed in the country. The site which was infamous for its 20m+ height operational since 1971 was finally converted into 19 hectares of green space in the city like Mumbai. It led to fresh air into the houses of the people living near the earlier dumpsite who earlier could not even open their windows.
“IEISL has set up a pioneering project to recycle construction debris in the country with its path-breaking facility at Burari, Delhi. The facility continues to be a major mitigator of pollution in the city of Delhi. The Waste to Energy plant at Ghazipur, Delhi is the first Euro norms emission compliant plant in the country. The scientific closure of dumping ground at Gorai, Mumbai, was developed by IEISL and has won several laurels in urban development space due to its replicability. With waste management mandates across 36 sites in 10 States, IEISL has set a benchmark in Integrated Waste Management (IWM) by managing over 5.8 million tons of municipal solid waste annually. The Company is also amongst the first to mainstream Carbon Financing in Waste Management.” says Mr. Mahesh Babu, Managing Director, IL&FS Environmental Infrastructure and Services Ltd. on the involvement of IEISL towards creating pioneering waste management projects in India.

Top Waste Generating Cities in India: Talking about solid waste, according to a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report, Maharashtra tops in solid waste generation by generating over 26,820 tonnes of solid waste per day. In the e-waste sector, Mumbai comes first as it generates an estimated 1,20,000 tonnes of e-waste annually. Delhi and Bengaluru are ranked second and third, with 98,000 and 92,000 tonnes of e-waste generation respectively. The biggest threat to our environment comes from plastic. 60 major cities in India together churn out over 3,500 tonnes of plastic waste every day, with cities like New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad being the biggest culprits.  (Source:


Source: Central Pollution Control Board, Govt. of India

Where India Stands
According to Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India has the potential to generate 1700 MW of power, however, only about 24 MW of power is produced, which is less than 1.5% of the total potential. If India starts collecting and treating its waste effectively, then the same can be used to generate a lot of energy. Did you know that unused waste has the potential to generate 439 MW of power from 32,890 TPD of combustible waste? To put it in perspective, this much energy is enough to meet the power demand of a union territory like Pondicherry. (Source:

Apart from overflowing waste, India’s landfills are also home to toxins, leachate and greenhouse gases. With time, toxins produced by waste leaches into the soil and groundwater, and become environmental hazards for years. Another area of concern is the imminent danger of Green House gases. When organic material like food scraps and green waste is put in the landfills, it is generally compacted down and covered. As a result, the oxygen is removed from it which causes it to break down in an anaerobic process. Eventually, this releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. (Source:

A few ways India can do better Waste management

  1. Reward people for giving-up plastics
    Recently Maharashtra has announced a complete ban on plastic products. The government has warned some strict actions against errant manufacturers. The ‘Rewards for Recycling’ idea is also being tried in India and Mumbai is the first city to get a ‘Swachh Bharat Recycling Machine’. Till now, the machines, installed at a few railway stations, have been hugely successful among the city’s commuters. South American country Colombia also built on this idea and completely changed the way citizens managed their garbage. They implemented a scheme where anyone who recycled their plastic was rewarded.

  2. Smart garbage bins
    Gone are the days of good-old garbage bins that only helped in storage. The world is getting smarter! Australia has found the perfect solution with the Bigbelly Solar compactor bins and SmartBelly bins. These bins are smart enough to create extra space for garbage when the bin is full and even segregate the waste automatically at the point of collection. For a country like India, where we get maximum sunshine, BigBelly works perfectly with power from the sun. As garbage fills up, special sensors placed inside these bins are triggered, resulting in up to five times more garbage storage space. More garbage space means fewer collection trips, lower costs and fewer emissions.

  3. Need for ‘One Nation, One Policy’
    A critical first step in order to tackle India’s growing waste woes is to segregate household waste into organic and inorganic components at the source and ensure that each component is handled appropriately. For instance, did you know that recycling 5 PET bottle produces enough fibre for making one T-shirt?  There are a few start-ups that have started providing innovative solutions like, waste to 3D printing, Trash-to-cash service that pays for your unwanted recyclable trash, food waste into biogas, etc.
    The need of the hour is to extend the reach and accessibility so that more people become aware about how to deal with waste in a more sustainable manner.
    It is high time that we realize waste management is not only essential from a public welfare perspective, it can also contribute to economic growth if the recycling industry is promoted alongside. Such an integrated approach would put India at an advantage while managing its growing waste issues.


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