Solid Waste Management in India Notes: Definition,Types,Treatment (2022)

Solid waste is one of the biggest contributors behind the deteriorating quality of soil across the world. Open burning of solid waste contributes to air pollution. Moreover, unabated disposal of solid waste in freshwater resources results in increased levels of water pollution as well. To control the detrimental effects of solid waste on the environment, solid waste management is an important step. Different techniques and methodologies are used to manage solid waste in an environmentally-friendly manner thereby reducing its negative impact on the soil, water, air and nature as a whole.

If you are reading Solid Waste Management article, also read about Water Supply here.

What is Solid Waste Management?

One of the control measures to prevent the negative impacts of solid waste is proper management of solid wastes. Waste can be defined as substances that are disposed of or are disposed of according to the provisions of law. Depending on the physical states of wastes, there are two types of wastes – solid and liquid wastes.Solid wastes are any disposed materials that have resulted from industries, commercial uses, mining, agricultural and household or community activities. In order to classify waste as non-liquid/ solid, it must have 20% of its content as solid and must not liberate any liquids while transporting it. The collection, treatment and disposal of this solid waste in a proper manner is called solid waste management. On the other hand, liquid waste is defined as wastewater, fats, oils or grease (FOG), or sludges and hazardous household liquids that are harmful or potentially harmful to humans or the environment. In this article, let us learn in detail about solid waste management. Read on to know more.

Types of Solid Waste

We can classify solid waste in a number of ways. Based on the effects of solid waste on the environment and the health of humans, it can be differentiated between hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste.

Hazardous Waste

Wastes generated in industries and hospitals are generally hazardous in nature as they contain toxic substances. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act have come up with four important characteristics that define waste as hazardous – reactivity, ignitability, corrosivity or toxicity.

  1. Reactivity: Substances that are reactive, are in an unstable condition normally and can cause explosions and produce toxic fumes and gases when in contact with water.
  2. Ignitability: Substances that can easily ignite and burn at a vigorous and persistent rate.
  3. Corrosivity: Substances that have pH level lower than 2 or greater than 12.5 with capability of corroding metal surface are corrosive in nature.
  4. Toxicity: Substances that are harmful or fatal for human consumption are toxic in nature.

Examples of hazardous wastes: pesticides, insecticides, paints, cleaners, batteries, kerosene, chlorine bleach, prescription drugs, mothballs, fire extinguisher, toilet cleaners, medical waste, radioactive waste etc.

Non-Hazardous Waste

Waste that does not harm people’s health or the environment directly and whose disposal is less stringent is called non-hazardous waste. This waste can be divided into two kinds –

  • Municipal solid waste: This is commonly known as the garbage or trash that we collect at a domestic level from homes, schools, commercial level and clinics. This includes everyday items like paper, newspaper, food waste, glass, furniture, clothing, plastics etc. The high level of urbanization today has increased the level of municipal solid waste that is generated these days. Items like construction waste, automobiles bodies, combustion ash, industrial wastes, and municipal sludges are not included in municipal solid waste even if these wastes are disposed of in municipal landfills or incinerators.
  • Non-municipal solid waste: Agricultural waste, construction waste, automobile bodies, combustion ash, mining wastes, industrial wastes, and municipal sludges are the main components of the non-municipal solid waste.

If you are reading Solid Waste Management article, also read about Quality of Water here.

Solid Waste Characteristics

In order to have a better understanding of solid waste, we can analyse its characters in two parameters –

Physical Characteristics

  • Density: It is defined as the mass per unit volume. The densities of solid wastes vary with location, duration of time in storage, the season of the year etc. If a certain amount of waste needs to be disposed of in a landfill, it needs to be compacted or reduced to an optimum density. Any normal compaction can reduce the volume of wastes by 75%, thereby increasing the density manifold. So, 100 kgm3 becomes 400 kgm3 in density after compaction. Note: the compaction ratio is not more than 1.5:1. Changes in density can occur due to disposal, scavenging, wetting, drying, handling, etc.
  • Moisture: It is the ratio of the water weight to the total weight of the waste. The moisture content in solid waste is not more than 20%.Moisture content \(=\frac{\text { Wet weight-dry weight }}{\text { Wet weight }} \times 100\)
  • Size: The size of waste varies from particle size, small size, medium, large to huge. Size can be calculated by any of the following formulas –Size = length of the waste component in mm or
    Size \(=\frac{\text { Length in mm+width in } \mathrm{mm}}{2}\) or
    Size \(=\frac{\text { Length in } \mathrm{mm} \text { width in } \mathrm{mm}+\text { height in } \mathrm{mm}}{3}\)
  • Optical property: Solid wastes can be opaque like bricks, woods, batteries, etc. translucent like tissues, butter paper, frosted glass or transparent like glass and plastic sheets.
  • Magnetic property: Solid wastes with metallic contents that have magnetic properties and can easily be separated by magnetic separators like batteries, iron rods, etc.

If you are reading Solid Waste Management article, you may also be interested in learning more about Disposing of Sewage Effluents here.

Chemical Properties

  • Combustibility: A solid waste which has ignitability as one of its properties is combustible in nature. E.g. Wastes like paper, leaves, matchbox, etc. Solid wastes that are non-combustible in nature are glass, ceramic, metal, dust and ash.
  • Contents: Chemical content of most of the dry solid wastes is carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, and oxygen. Metals may also be present in some solid waste.
  • Volatility: The portion of the waste which gets converted into vapour during combustion. In a typical municipal solid waste, the volatility rate ranges between 40% – 60%.

Lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, natural fibres, plastics also make up the composition of solid wastes and therefore its percentage increase and decrease changes the chemical composition of the solid waste.

Check out this article about Sewage and its types here.

Sources of Solid Waste

There are many sources of solid wastes. The most prominent ones are –

  • Household
  • Commercial
  • Institutional
  • Construction & demolition
  • Municipal Services
  • Treatment plant sites
  • Industrial
  • Agricultural
  • Biomedical

Methods of Solid Waste Management & Treatment of Solid Waste

There are various methods of solid waste management. The most recognized ones include:

  • Solid Waste Collection: Collection refers to the method in which solid wastes are collected for transportation to final disposal. A collection system should be planned keeping in mind that there is no overload of storage systems and the process of collection also takes place periodically. These days in the country solid waste collection is done on a daily basis by the municipal corporations where the wastes are then transported to the disposal site.
  • Separation: It is the manual sorting of solid waste before disposing it. For e.g. sorting out the dry solid waste from the wet solid wastes or sorting out between biodegradable wastes and non-biodegradable wastes.
  • Sanitary Landfill: This is the most common and popular way of carrying out the disposal of solid waste today. The trash that is collected by the municipal workers is transported to huge areas of land that are dug deep. In these areas, the garbage is spread out and once the land is full, it is topped with layers of soil, sand, and gravels to prevent any water seepage. These days layers of plastic and sand are used to line landfills with an impervious liner to prevent any percolation and contamination of groundwater.
  • Incineration: In simple terms, this method is the burning of solid wastes at a very high temperature until the waste turns to ashes. Incinerators today are made in a way that does not give off a large amount of heat energy. Recycling incinerators have also come up that transforms the heat energy from the furnace into the boiler. These are called waste-to-energy plants. These are very expensive in nature. Although incineration helps in reducing the volume of the solid waste to 20-30% of the original volume, it emits gaseous pollutants through the smoke and can also cause a fire.
  • Recycling: Recycling is the conversion of discarded solid waste into new products. Recycling reduces solid waste and helps in recovering the material to make new products for reuse. Hence, the three Rs – Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. The waste collected is segregated and then re-processed to create new ones. For example, collecting plastics to create new plastic materials. Other examples are – glass, metal, paper, e-waste.
  • Composting: Composting is a biological process in which biodegradable solid wastes are allowed to decompose in the presence of a microorganism like fungi & bacteria which turns this degradable waste into the organic matter. The decomposed matter is high in carbon and nitrogen and therefore, functions well as eco-friendly manure to be used in agricultural practices for growing plants and trees.
  • Pyrolysis: Pyrolysis is a chemical decomposition process whereby solid wastes are subjected to heat up to 430 degrees Celsius at a specific pressure and in presence of oxygen. The waste gets converted to solid residue of ash, carbon and some liquid. The method may be effective in managing solid waste but it can cause incomplete combustion which can produce toxic residue which will again require proper treatment.

Read more about Waste-water, here.

Importance of Solid Waste Management

Solid waste management is an essential service in this modern society. Solid waste management is important because it is very important to manage and handle solid waste according to prescribed law to ensure that the environment is not littered and polluted as it can not only be very harmful for the environment at large, but also the people who are a part of the environment. Environmental hygiene and public health are the biggest reasons as to why solid management is so necessary today. Other objectives include reduction and elimination of waste materials for better quality of life and economic development in the society.

Seven Principles of Solid Waste Management

The seven principles or the 7 Rs of solid waste management are as following –

  • Rethink: This is the stage where you should rethink before buying anything – is an item really necessary? Will it not get wasted if you do not have an urgent need for it? For e.g. you should not buy plastic water bottles as they are very harmful for the environment. Instead, buy a glass bottle or a steel one for reuse.
  • Refuse: Refuse buying overpacked materials and plastic bags for your items. Carry your own paper or jute bag and use that for every shopping experience. Refuse to harm nature.
  • Reduce: Try to reduce the waste you generate at home. Buy things only that you require. Reuse plastic bags that you have. Reuse glass jars, storing containers, and paper. Turn your biodegradable waste into compost for plants. Try to avoid taking paper receipts when you withdraw money. Reduce unnecessary solid waste.
  • Reuse: The best way to reuse discarded items is to recycle most of them so that they turn to valuable items. Plastic items, glass, paper etc can be easily recycled and hence, reused. You can also reuse old clothes by donating them or using them at home.
  • Repurpose: Repurposing or upcycling is changing or modifying the item in a way to reuse them. For e.g. using an old tire as a swing on your tree, painting your old shoes to make them new, using small glass jars as candle stands etc.
  • Repair: Repairing broken or old materials to bring them back to life and to minimize the generation of waste is very important in solid waste management. For example, repairing your radio instead of throwing it in junk or repairing your broken chair.
  • Rot: Rotting or composting is a biological process in which biodegradable solid wastes are allowed to decompose in the presence of a microorganism like fungi & bacteria turning the waste into organic matter which is high in carbon and nitrogen and therefore, functions well as an eco-friendly manure to be used in agricultural practices for growing plants and trees.

Learn more about Waste Management, here.

Effects of Poor Solid Waste Management

  1. Littered environment: If there is no proper waste disposal system, then the solid wastes will be thrown in heaps in roads and the environment will become more and more polluted. People will clean their homes, but their surroundings will be littered and because of that air, water, and land pollution will increase.
  2. Affect on human health: Improper disposal of solid waste can lead to pollution of air, water and land that can in turn cause various health risks. The polluted air can lead to bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer; water containing lead etc can lead to growth problems and even reproductive issues etc.
  3. Emission of toxic gases: If there is poor solid waste management in function then toxic substances will not be disposed properly and then these substances will release toxic fumes which can be fatal to our health.
  4. Affect on land and marine creatures: Since water, land, and air will pollute high levels of poisonous substances like plastic, metals, chemicals etc consumed by animals on land and marine animals can lead to their death.

Now that you have read this article covering important aspects of solid waste management, you can download the Testbook App to access expert-curated e-resources for preparations for competitive examinations.

Solid Waste Management FAQs

Q.1What is the scope of solid waste management?

Ans.1 In its scope, the management of solid wastes include planning, engineering, administration, finance, and legal functions. Solutions in solid waste management relates to other fields such as economy, sociology, political science, demography, regional planning etc

Q.2Can the topic on Solid Waste Management be completed in a day?

Ans.2 Yes, you can easily complete the Solid Waste Management topic in a few hours if you use the Testbook App to access expert-curated content including all possible questions.

Q.3What is repair and recovery in solid waste management?

Ans.3 Repairing broken or old materials to bring them back to life and to minimize the generation of waste is very important in solid waste management. Recovery is changing or modifying the item in a way to reuse them.

Q.4What is solid waste management in one line?

Ans.4 The collection, treatment and disposal of this solid waste in a proper way is called solid waste management.

Q.5What are some examples of biomedical wastes?

Ans.5 Some examples of biomedical wastes are syringes, bandages, and medicines etc.

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