Where does waste originate and go?
Half the municipal solid waste of Delhi went to landfills in 2020-21
A recent report titled ‘EnviStats India 2022’, published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, has highlighted the herculean challenge of disposing of the solid waste generated by the States without harming the environment. By taking Delhi as an example, the report has calculated the “physical supply and use tables” to capture the source and destination of all types of solid waste in the capital city. Data were collected from all the five Urban Local Bodies and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee pertaining to 2020-21.
Chart 1 shows the various sources of solid waste generated in Delhi. Over 40 lakh tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) were generated in 2020-21. Municipal solid waste includes garbage (highly decomposable material such as food), trash (bulky items such as tree branches or old appliances), and rubbish (slowly decomposing items such as paper, glass, or metal). According to the report, about 85% of MSW in Delhi was generated by households and 15% by shops and restaurants.
That year, over 13 lakh tonnes of construction and demolition waste were also generated in the city along with over 5.4 lakh tonnes of plastic waste, about 11 thousand tonnes of bio-medical waste, and 610 tonnes of e-waste. Delhi also generated 3,239 tonnes of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is typically sludge from factories, industrial manufacturing process wastes and batteries.
Table 2 shows the various ways in which the waste was disposed of in Delhi. Half the municipal solid waste went to landfills and the other half was recycled and reused. About 35% of bio-medical waste was incinerated, while the entire share of construction and demolition waste was recycled. While bio-medical waste is incinerated, the ash generated after the process is sent to the landfills.
It is not known how e-waste is disposed of as there is no treatment and disposal facility available in Delhi for e-waste. According to the report, of the 610 tonnes of e-waste generated in 2020-21, refurbishers collected 28.6 tonnes and bulk consumers collected the rest. Notably, about 22% of plastic waste is converted into energy, while 37% is taken to landfills.
As the 2020-21 numbers were only available for Delhi, figures from 2019-20 were considered to assess the other States on the share of different types of waste processed. Table 3 shows the percentage share of various types of waste processed. Across India, 68% of the MSW generated is processed. Himachal Pradesh leads the list with 98% of MSW getting processed, followed by Chhattisgarh at 93%. In contrast, West Bengal processed only 9%. These data were of November 2020. In 2018-19, an average of 2.5 tonnes of plastic was generated per 1,000 population in India.
Across India, 87% of biomedical waste was treated. Seventeen States and five Union Territories have already achieved 100% bio-medical waste treatment, while in Bihar and Chhattisgarh just 29% of it got treated, respectively. These data pertain to 2018. Close to 614 tonnes of biomedical waste was generated per day in India in 2018.
Across India, only 45% of the hazardous waste generated was recycled/utilised. Most States lag in this indicator. Of the 30 States analysed, in 13, less than 50% was recycled/utilised; and in 22 of them, ess than 75% was recycled/utilised. These data pertain to the 2018-19 period. The hazardous waste generated in the country per 1,000 population was 8.09 metric tonnes in 2018.