In 2016, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (also known as MoEF & CC) put forward a set of new Solid Waste Management Rules. These rules were meant to replace the Municipal Solid Wastes Rules in 2000, which has been in existence for the past 16 years. The new rules are the sixth category of waste management rules brought out by the ministry.

These rules are now applicable beyond municipal areas and have included urban agglomerations, special economic zones, places of pilgrimage, notified industrial townships, places of religious and historical importance etc, under their purview.

Key takeaways from the new 2016 SWM rules

Separation at the source

The new rules mandate segregation of waste at the source to channelize waste to wealth. Now the waste would need to be segregated into three streams- Biodegradables, Dry wastes and Domestic Hazardous wastes before it is handed over to the collector.

In the case of an event or a gathering of more than 100 people at a location, the organizer has to ensure segregation of waste at the source and handing over this waste to the collector or agency, as stated by the local authority.

Hotels and restaurants also need to segregate these wastes and set up a collection system to ensure that food waste is being used for composting. Another part of the rule states that all resident welfare, market associations and gated communities, occupying an area of more the 5000 square miles will also have to separate waste at the source and hand over recyclable material either to the appointed waste-pickers or to the urban local body.

User fees for collection

Now, local bodies across India can decide user fees because of the new rules. Municipal authorities will levy fees for collection, disposal and processing from bulk generators. The new rules dictate the generator of wastes will have to pay a User Fee to the waste collector as well as a Spot Fine, in the case of non-segregation and littering. The amount will be decided by the local bodies.

Also, the new rules aim to integrate waste pickers, rag pickers and kabadiwalas from the informal sector to the formal sector by the state government. These rules stipulate a ‘no tolerance’ policy for throwing, burning or burying solid waste generated on streets or open public spaces.

Promote composting

The Department of Fertilizers and Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers need to provide assistance on city compost and ensure the promotion of co-marketing of compost in the ratio of 3-4 bags is to 6-7 bags by the fertilizer companies, to the extent of which compost is made available for marketing to the companies. Also, the Ministry of Agriculture should provide some flexibility in Fertilizer Control Oder to manufacture and sell compost, propagating use of compost of farm land and set up labs to test the quality of compost that is made by local authorities or authorised agencies.

Promoting waste to energy

The SWM Rules of 2016 also emphasise the promotion of waste to energy plants. The rules mandate that all industrial units who use fuel and are located within a 100-kilometre radius from a solid waste-based Refuse-Derived Fuel plant to replace at least 5% of their fuel with RDF.

The rules also state that non-recyclable waste which has a calorific value of 1500 kilocalories or more should be used to generate energy either through RDF or by giving away as feed stock to prepare refuse derived fuel. Solid wastes with high calorific values can also be used for co-processing in thermal power plants or cement.

Waste processing and treatment

It has been advised that bio-degradable waste needs to be processed, treated and disposed either through composting or through bio-methanation and the residual waste should be given to waste collectors or agencies appointed by the local authority.

Waste processing facilities would need to be set up by local bodies that have a population of 1 million residents or more within the span of two years. For towns with a population below one million, stand-alone sanitary landfills need to be set up in a period of three years.

The rules need to focus on making solid waste management a people’s movement by taking the issues, concerns and management of solid waste to the citizens. Organizing massive awareness campaigns in association with communities, NGO’s, students and stakeholders can be used to better implement these rules. In the end though, it will be a challenging process to see how segregation at the source will work, but if it does well, then in 4-5 years a drastic change will be seen in how the waste management systems works in India.

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