Effective Waste Management for a Sustainable Future

15 Jul 2022

Rapid population growth and economic development has led to severe environmental degradation that undermines the environmental resource base upon which sustainable development depends. The economics of environmental pollution, depletion and degradation of resources has in fact been neglected as compared to the issues of growth and expansion. India has been no exception to this worldwide phenomenon.

Industrialization has resulted in the generation of huge quantity of waste, both solid and liquid, in industrial sectors such as sugar, pulp & paper, fruit & food processing, sago/starch, distilleries, dairies, tanneries, slaughterhouses, poultries, etc.

While waste generation in India has gone up considerably, the infrastructure required to collect and process the waste remains is lagging, thereby creating a huge problem of waste disposal. The absence of source segregation has compounded the problem. Industrial units simply dump their waste, more often toxic and hazardous, in open spaces and nearby water sources.

The Challenges

Data states that urban India generates an estimated 50 million metric tonne (MT) of municipal solid waste per year and at current rates, this might touch 125 million MT a year by 2031. According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) Annual Report 2021-22, only 47% of the collected solid waste is being treated, while the remaining is going to the landfills and is yet to be managed.

Contamination is a major issue, as sites used to dump toxic and hazardous substances pollute the neighboring areas and pose a risk to human health and the environment, particularly soil, surface water and groundwater. As a result, communities and biodiversity in impact zones are often exposed to toxic substances.

Implementing Waste Management Strategies

It is important that India, where the population is very large and waste management practices are not yet fully adhered to, adopts innovative and scientific waste management practices that are socially, environmentally and commercially sustainable.

Many innovations and solutions are available and, to some extent, practised in many parts of the country by industries, start-ups and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to manage municipal solid waste (MSW). However, large scale implementation of solutions is yet to be seen.

Given the urgent need to focus on the subject and realizing the economic potential which could be generated from waste, CII has been working to develop ‘Waste to Worth’ initiatives to facilitate better policy and waste management practices that aim to protect the environment and human health, while capitalizing on the economic and strategic advances. CII recommends ‘Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWL)’ philosophy, which aims to prevent any waste material being disposed in landfills, in turn offering a more sustainable route towards waste management for future generations.

Gaining a Competitive Edge in Waste Management

The Indian industry’s adoption of practices, processes and solutions that encourage reducing, reusing and recycling plastic & packaging waste, e-waste and waste generated in industrial activities is commendable, however, we have a long way to go. It is necessary for industry to be cognizant of the waste generated during a product’s life cycle, which can be addressed through design interventions that eliminate the use of non-polluting materials and generate minimum waste at the user’s end.

It is important to recognize and reward industrial units, start-ups and ULBs for their exceptional efforts towards:

Managing waste generated from their own activities
Designing and developing products that generate minimal waste at the user’s end
Managing municipal solid waste (MSW)
Managing plastic & packaging and e-waste
Innovative solutions by start-ups for sustainable waste management
Excellence of MSW management by ULBs

With this background, CII, under its Waste to Worth initiative, has announced the 3rd edition of 3R (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle) Awards this year to recognize and reward best waste management practices in industry, start-ups and ULBs in order to set a benchmark for excellence in waste management for a large number of industries and encourage adoption of the best practices.

All companies and firms (large and MSMEs) registered in India across various sectors, PIBOs/ PROs/ recyclers/ processors, startups and Urban local bodies/ municipal corporations are invited to send their entries for the CII 3R awards 2022.

Waste management holds immense potential for industrial intervention and economy generation. It can evolve into a major economic sector and support the unorganized labour already involved in waste collection and sorting ecosystem.

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