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Municipal solid waste management in Indian cities – A review
, Kafeel Ahmad
, Gauhar Mahmood
, R.C. Trivedi
Department of Civil Engineering, Jamia Millia Islamia (Central University), Jamia Nagar, New Delhi-110025, India
Central Pollution Control Board, Paryavaran Bhawan, East Arjun Nagar, New Delhi-110092, India
Accepted 12 February 2007
Available online 12 April 2007
Municipal solid waste management (MSWM) is one of the major environmental problems of Indian cities. Improper management of
municipal solid waste (MSW) causes hazards to inhabitants. Various studies reveal that about 90% of MSW is disposed of unscientif-
ically in open dumps and landﬁlls, creating problems to public health and the environment. In the present study, an attempt has been
made to provide a comprehensive review of the characteristics, generation, collection and transportation, disposal and treatment tech-
nologies of MSW practiced in India. The study pertaining to MSWM for Indian cities has been carried out to evaluate the current status
and identify the major problems. Various adopted treatment technologies for MSW are critically reviewed, along with their advantages
and limitations. The study is concluded with a few fruitful suggestions, which may be beneﬁcial to encourage the competent authorities/
researchers to work towards further improvement of the present system.
Ó2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Rapid industrialization and population explosion in
India has led to the migration of people from villages to
cities, which generate thousands of tons of MSW daily.
The MSW amount is expected to increase signiﬁcantly
in the near future as the country strives to attain an
industrialized nation status by the year 2020 (Sharma
and Shah, 2005; CPCB, 2004; Shekdar et al., 1992). Poor
collection and inadequate transportation are responsible
for the accumulation of MSW at every nook and corner.
The management of MSW is going through a critical
phase, due to the unavailability of suitable facilities to
treat and dispose of the larger amount of MSW generated
daily in metropolitan cities. Unscientiﬁc disposal causes
an adverse impact on all components of the environment
and human health (Rathi, 2006; Sharholy et al., 2005;
Ray et al., 2005; Jha et al., 2003; Kansal, 2002; Kansal
et al., 1998; Singh and Singh, 1998; Gupta et al., 1998).
Generally, MSW is disposed of in low-lying areas without
taking any precautions or operational controls. Therefore,
MSWM is one of the major environmental problems of
Indian megacities. It involves activities associated with
generation, storage, collection, transfer and transport,
processing and disposal of solid wastes. But, in most cit-
ies, the MSWM system comprises only four activities, i.e.,
waste generation, collection, transportation, and disposal.
The management of MSW requires proper infrastructure,
maintenance and upgrade for all activities. This becomes
increasingly expensive and complex due to the continuous
and unplanned growth of urban centers. The diﬃculties in
providing the desired level of public service in the urban
centers are often attributed to the poor ﬁnancial status
of the managing municipal corporations (Mor et al.,
2006; Siddiqui et al., 2006; Raje et al., 2001; MoEF,
2000; Ahsan, 1999). In the present study, an attempt
has been made to provide a comprehensive review of
MSWM for Indian cities to evaluate the current status
and identify the problems of MSWM. The study also
aims at encouraging competent authorities/researchers to
work towards the improvement of the present system
through suggestions and recommendations.
0956-053X/$ - see front matter Ó2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author. Tel.: +91 11 26985227/9868941999; fax: +91 11
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (K. Ahmad).
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
Waste Management 28 (2008) 459–467
Author's personal copy
2. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of MSW
There are many categories of MSW such as food waste,
rubbish, commercial waste, institutional waste, street
sweeping waste, industrial waste, construction and demoli-
tion waste, and sanitation waste. MSW contains recycla-
bles (paper, plastic, glass, metals, etc.), toxic substances
(paints, pesticides, used batteries, medicines), compostable
organic matter (fruit and vegetable peels, food waste) and
soiled waste (blood stained cotton, sanitary napkins, dis-
posable syringes) (Jha et al., 2003; Reddy and Galab,
1998; Khan, 1994).
The quantity of MSW generated depends on a number
of factors such as food habits, standard of living, degree
of commercial activities and seasons. Data on quantity var-
iation and generation are useful in planning for collection
and disposal systems. With increasing urbanization and
changing life styles, Indian cities now generate eight times
more MSW than they did in 1947. Presently, about 90 mil-
lion t of solid waste are generated annually as byproducts
of industrial, mining, municipal, agricultural and other
processes. The amount of MSW generated per capita is
estimated to increase at a rate of 1–1.33% annually (Pappu
et al., 2007; Shekdar, 1999; Bhide and Shekdar, 1998). A
host of researchers (Siddiqui et al., 2006; Sharholy et al.,
2005; CPCB, 2004; Kansal, 2002; Singh and Singh, 1998;
Kansal et al., 1998; Bhide and Shekdar, 1998; Dayal,
1994; Khan, 1994; Rao and Shantaram, 1993)have
reported that the MSW generation rates in small towns
are lower than those of metrocities, and the per capita gen-
eration rate of MSW in India ranges from 0.2 to 0.5 kg/
day. It is also estimated that the total MSW generated by
217 million people living in urban areas was 23.86 mil-
lion t/yr in 1991, and more than 39 million t in 2001. The
quantity of MSW generated (CPCB, 2000) and the per
capita generation rate of MSW (CPCB, 2004) are shown
in Table 1 and Fig. 1, respectively.
It can be seen from Table 1 and Fig. 1 that the per capita
generation rate is high in some states (Gujrat, Delhi and
Tamil Nadu) and cities (Madras, Kanpur, Lucknow and
Ahmedabad). This may be due to the high living standards,
the rapid economic growth and the high level of urbaniza-
tion in these states and cities. However, the per capita gen-
eration rate is observed to be low in other states
(Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur and Tripura) and cities
(Nagpur, Pune and Indore).
3. MSW characteristics and composition
The composition and the quantity of MSW generated
form the basis on which the management system needs to
be planned, designed and operated. In India, MSW diﬀers
greatly with regard to the composition and hazardous nat-
ure, when compared to MSW in the western countries
(Gupta et al., 1998; Shannigrahi et al., 1997; Jalan and Sri-
vastava, 1995). The composition of MSW at generation
sources and collection points was determined on a wet
weight basis and it consists mainly of a large organic frac-
tion (40–60%), ash and ﬁne earth (30–40%), paper (3–6%)
and plastic, glass and metals (each less than 1%). The C/
N ratio ranges between 20 and 30, and the lower caloriﬁc
value ranges between 800 and 1000 kcal/kg. The physical
characteristics of MSW in metrocities are presented in
Table 2. It has been noticed that the physical and chemical
Municipal solid waste generation rates in diﬀerent states in India
Name of the
32 10,845,907 3943 0.364
2 Assam 4 878,310 196 0.223
3 Bihar 17 5,278,361 1479 0.280
4 Gujrat 21 8,443,962 3805 0.451
5 Haryana 12 2,254,353 623 0.276
1 82,054 35 0.427
7 Karnatka 21 8,283,498 3118 0.376
8 Kerala 146 3,107,358 1220 0.393
23 7,225,833 2286 0.316
10 Maharashtra 27 22,727,186 8589 0.378
11 Manipur 1 198,535 40 0.201
12 Meghalaya 1 223,366 35 0.157
13 Mizoram 1 155,240 46 0.296
14 Orissa 7 1,766,021 646 0.366
15 Punjab 10 3,209,903 1001 0.312
16 Rajasthan 14 4,979,301 1768 0.355
17 Tamil Nadu 25 10,745,773 5021 0.467
18 Tripura 1 157,358 33 0.210
41 14,480,479 5515 0.381
20 West Bengal 23 13,943,445 4475 0.321
21 Chandigarh 1 504,094 200 0.397
22 Delhi 1 8,419,084 4000 0.475
23 Pondichery 1 203,065 60 0.295
299 128,113,865 48,134 0.376
Source: Status of MSW generation, collection, treatment and disposal in
class-I cities (CPCB, 2000).
Name of the city
Generation rate kg/capita/day
Fig. 1. Per capita generation rate of MSW for Indian cities (CPCB, 2004).
460 M. Sharholy et al. / Waste Management 28 (2008) 459–467
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characteristics of MSW change with population density, as
shown in Table 3 and Table 4 (Garg and Prasad, 2003;
CPCB, 2000; Bhide and Shekdar, 1998).
From Table 2, it is observed that the diﬀerences in the
MSW characteristics indicate the eﬀect of urbanization
and development. In urban areas, the major fraction of
MSW is compostable materials (40–60%) and inerts (30–
50%). The relative percentage of organic waste in MSW
is generally increasing with the decreasing socio-economic
status; so rural households generate more organic waste
than urban households. For example, in south India the
extensive use of banana leaves and stems in various func-
tions results in a large organic content in the MSW. Also,
it has been noticed that the percentage of recyclables
Physical characteristics of MSW in Indian metrocities
Characteristics (% by weight)
Name of metrocity Paper Textile Leather Plastic Metals Glass Ash, ﬁne earth and others Compostable matter
Ahmedabad 6.0 1.0 – 3.0 – – 50.0 40.00
Banglore 8.0 5.0 – 6.0 3.0 6.0 27.0 45.00
Bhopal 10.0 5.0 2.0 2.0 – 1.0 35.0 45.00
Mumbai 10.0 3.6 0.2 2.0 – 0.2 44.0 40.00
Calcutta 10.0 3.0 1.0 8.0 – 3.0 35.0 40.00
Coimbatore 5.0 9.0 – 1.0 – – 50.0 35.00
Delhi 6.6 4.0 0.6 1.5 2.5 1.2 51.5 31.78
Hyderabad 7.0 1.7 – 1.3 – – 50.0 40.00
Indore 5.0 2.0 – 1.0 – – 49.0 43.00
Jaipur 6.0 2.0 – 1.0 – 2.0 47.0 42.00
Kanpur 5.0 1.0 5.0 1.5 – – 52.5 40.00
Kochi 4.9 – – 1.1 – – 36.0 58.00
Lucknow 4.0 2.0 – 4.0 1.0 – 49.0 40.00
Ludhiana 3.0 5.0 – 3.0 – – 30.0 40.00
Madras 10.0 5.0 5.0 3.0 – – 33.0 44.00
Madurai 5.0 1.0 – 3.0 – – 46.0 45.00
Nagpur 4.5 7.0 1.9 1.25 0.35 1.2 53.4 30.40
Patna 4.0 5.0 2.0 6.0 1.0 2.0 35.0 45.00
Pune 5.0 – – 5.0 – 10.0 15.0 55.00
Surat 4.0 5.0 – 3.0 – 3.0 45.0 40.00
Vadodara 4.0 – – 7.0 – – 49.0 40.00
Varanasi 3.0 4.0 – 10.0 – – 35.0 48.00
Visakhapatnam 3.0 2.0 – 5.0 – 5.0 50 35.00
Average 5.7 3.5 0.8 3.9 1.9 2.1 40.3 41.80
Source: Status of solid waste generation, collection, treatment and disposal in metrocities, (CPCB, 2000).
Physical characteristics of MSW in Indian cities population wise
Population range (in
No. of cities
Paper Rubber, leather and
Glass Metal Compostable
0.1–0.5 12 2.91 0.78 0.56 0.33 44.57 43.59
0.5–1.0 15 2.95 0.73 0.56 0.32 40.04 48.38
1.0–2.0 9 4.71 0.71 0.46 0.49 38.95 44.73
2.0–5.0 3 3.18 0.48 0.48 0.59 56.57 49.07
5.0 and above 4 6.43 0.28 0.94 0.8 30.84 53.9
All values are in percentage and are calculated on wet weight basis.
Source: NEERI report strategy paper on SWM in India, August 1995.
Chemical characteristics of MSW in Indian cities population wise
Population range (in million) Nitrogen as total nitrogen Phosphorus as P
Potassium as K
O C/N ratio Caloriﬁc value kcal/kg
0.1–0.5 0.71 0.63 0.83 30.94 1009.89
0.5–1.0 0.66 0.56 0.69 21.13 900.61
1.0–2.0 0.64 0.82 0.72 23.68 980.05
2.0–5.0 0.56 0.69 0.78 22.45 907.18
5.0 and above 0.56 0.52 0.52 30.11 800.70
Source: NEERI report strategy paper on SWM in India, August 1995.
M. Sharholy et al. / Waste Management 28 (2008) 459–467 461
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(paper, glass, plastic and metals) is very low, because of rag
pickers who segregate and collect the materials at genera-
tion sources, collection points and disposal sites.
4. Storage and collection of MSW
Storage of MSW at the source is substantially lacking in
most of the urban areas. The bins are common for both
decomposable and non-decomposable waste (no segrega-
tion of waste is performed), and the waste is disposed at
a communal disposal center. Storage bins can be classiﬁed
as movable bins and ﬁxed bins. The movable bins are ﬂex-
ible in transportation but lacking in durability, while the
ﬁxed bins are more durable but their positions cannot be
changed once they have been constructed (Nema, 2004;
Malviya et al., 2002).
The collection of MSW is the responsibility of corpora-
tions/municipalities. The predominant system of collection
in most of the cities is through communal bins placed at
various points along the roads, and sometimes this leads
to the creation of unauthorized open collection points.
Eﬀorts to organize house-to-house collection are just start-
ing in many megacities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore,
Madras and Hyderabad with the help of NGOs. It has
been observed that many municipalities have employed pri-
vate contractors for secondary transportation from the
communal bins or collection points to the disposal sites.
Others have employed NGOs and citizen’s committees to
supervise segregation and collection from the generation
source to collection points located at intermediate points
between sources and dumpsites. In addition, the welfare
associations on speciﬁed monthly payment arrange collec-
tion in some urban areas. A sweeper who sweeps the roads
manually is allotted a speciﬁc area (around 250 m
sweepers put the road wastes into a wheelbarrow, and then
transfer the waste to dustbins or collection points (Colon
and Fawcett, 2006; Nema, 2004; Malviya et al., 2002; Kan-
sal et al., 1998; Bhide and Shekdar, 1998).
In most cities, a fraction of MSW generated remains
uncollected on streets, and what is collected is transported
to processing or disposal sites. The collection eﬃciency is
the quantity of MSW collected and transported from
streets to disposal sites divided by the total quantity of
MSW generated during the same period. Many studies
on urban environment have revealed that MSW collection
eﬃciency is a function of two major factors: manpower
availability and transport capacity. The average collection
eﬃciency for MSW in Indian cities and states is about 70%,
as shown in Fig. 2 and Table 5 (Rathi, 2006; Siddiqui et al.,
2006; Nema, 2004; Gupta et al., 1998; Maudgal, 1995;
Khan, 1994). Table 5 and Fig. 2 show that the collection
eﬃciency is high in the cities and states, where private con-
tractors and NGOs are employed for the collection and
transportation of MSW. Most of the cities are unable to
provide waste collection services to all parts of the city.
Generally, overcrowded low-income settlements do not
have MSW collection and disposal services. The reason is
that these settlements are often illegal and the inhabitants
are unwilling or unable to pay for the services. They throw
away the waste near or around their houses at diﬀerent
times, which makes the collection and transportation of
waste very diﬃcult in these areas. The Central Pollution
Control Board (CPCB) has collected data for the 299
Class-I cities to determine the mode of collection of
MSW. It is found that manual collection comprises 50%,
while collection using trucks comprises only 49% (CPCB,
5. Transfer and transport of MSW
Transfer stations (except in a few cases as in Madras,
Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Calcutta) are not used,
and the same vehicle, which collects refuse from individual
dustbins, takes it to the processing or disposal site (Colon
and Fawcett, 2006; Khan, 1994). The MSW collected from
Name of the city
Collection efficiency %
Fig. 2. Collection eﬃciency of MSW for Indian cities (Gupta et al., 1998;
Khan, 1994; Maudgal, 1995).
Per capita generation, disposal and collection eﬃciency of MSW for
State Per capita
India (sample average) 377 273 72
Andhra Pradesh 346 247 74
Bihar 411 242 59
Gujarat 297 182 61
Haryana 326 268 82
Karnataka 292 234 80
Kerala 246 201 82
Madhya Pradesh 229 167 73
Maharashtra 450 322 72
Orissa 301 184 61
Punjab 502 354 71
Rajasthan 516 322 62
Tamil Nadu 294 216 73
Uttar Pradesh 439 341 78
West Bengal 158 117 74
Source: (Nema, 2004).
462 M. Sharholy et al. / Waste Management 28 (2008) 459–467
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the dustbins and collection points is transported to the pro-
cessing or disposal sites using a variety of vehicles. In smal-
ler (rural) towns, bullock carts, tractor-trailers, tricycles
etc., are mainly used for the transportation of MSW. Light
motor vehicles and lorries are generally used in big towns
or cities for transport of MSW. The trucks used for trans-
portation of MSW are generally of an open body type and
are usually kept uncovered; thus during transportation, the
waste tends to spill onto the road resulting in unhygienic
conditions. In some cities, modern hydraulic vehicles are
gradually being introduced (Bhide and Shekdar, 1998;
Reddy and Galab, 1998).
Collection and transportation activities constitute
approximately 80–95% of the total budget of MSWM;
hence, it forms a key component in determining the eco-
nomics of the entire MSWM system. Municipal agencies
use their own vehicles for MSW transportation although
in some cities they are hired from private contractors
(Ghose et al., 2006; Siddiqui et al., 2006; Nema, 2004;
Bhide and Shekdar, 1998).
6. MSW disposals and treatment
The two leading innovative mechanisms of waste dis-
posal being adopted in India include composting (aerobic
composting and vermi-composting) and waste-to-energy
(WTE) (incineration, pelletisation, biomethanation).
WTE projects for disposal of MSW are a relatively new
concept in India. Although these have been tried and tested
in developed countries with positive results, these are yet to
get oﬀ the ground in India largely because of the fact that
ﬁnancial viability and sustainability is still being tested
(Lal, 1996; Khan, 1994). Diﬀerent methods for the disposal
and treatment of MSW have been discussed in the subse-
In many metropolitan cities, open, uncontrolled and
poorly managed dumping is commonly practiced, giving
rise to serious environmental degradation. More than
90% of MSW in cities and towns are directly disposed of
on land in an unsatisfactory manner. Such dumping activ-
ity in many coastal towns has led to heavy metals rapidly
leaching into the coastal waters. In larger towns or cities
like Delhi, the availability of land for waste disposal is very
limited (Mor et al., 2006; Siddiqui et al., 2006; Sharholy
et al., 2006; Gupta et al., 1998; Das et al., 1998; Kansal
et al., 1998; Chakrabarty et al., 1995; Khan, 1994). In the
majority of urban centers, MSW is disposed of by deposit-
ing it in low-lying areas outside the city without following
the principles of sanitary landﬁlling. Compaction and level-
ing of waste and ﬁnal covering by earth are rarely observed
practices at most disposal sites, and these low-lying dis-
posal sites are devoid of a leachate collection system or
landﬁll gas monitoring and collection equipment (Bhide
and Shekdar, 1998; Gupta et al., 1998). As no segregation
of MSW at the source takes place, all of the wastes includ-
ing infectious waste from hospitals generally ﬁnd its way to
the disposal site. Quite often, industrial waste is also depos-
ited at the landﬁll sites meant for domestic waste (Datta,
1997). Sanitary landﬁlling is an acceptable and recom-
mended method for ultimate disposal of MSW. It is a nec-
essary component of MSWM, since all other options
produce some residue that must be disposed of through
landﬁlling. However, it appears that landﬁlling would con-
tinue to be the most widely adopted practice in India in the
coming few years, during which certain improvements will
have to be made to ensure the sanitary landﬁlling (Kansal,
2002; Das et al., 1998; Dayal, 1994).
6.2. Recycling of organic waste
If the organic waste is left unattended, it will tend to
decompose by natural process giving rise to odors, hosting
and feeding a variety of insects and pests, which in turn,
form the carriers of disease creating severe health prob-
lems. The segregation, decomposition and stabilization of
the organic waste by biological action forms the basis of
recycling through diﬀerent natural cycles.
6.2.1. Aerobic composting
The bacterial conversion of the organics present in
MSW in the presence of air under hot and moist conditions
is called composting, and the ﬁnal product obtained after
bacterial activity is called compost (humus), which has very
high agricultural value. It is used as fertilizer, and it is non-
odorous and free of pathogens (Ahsan, 1999; Khan, 1994).
As a result of the composting process, the waste volume
can be reduced to 50–85%. The composting methods may
use either manual or mechanical means and are accord-
ingly termed as a manual or mechanical process. Manual
composting is carried out in smaller urban centers and
mechanical composting plants have been set up in big
Indian cities. (Bhide and Shekdar, 1998; Chakrabarty
et al., 1995).
Composting was encouraged in the early initiatives of
the Government of India (GOI) regarding MSWM focused
primarily on promoting composting of urban MSW. In the
1960s, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture oﬀered soft
loans to urban local bodies for this purpose. The 4th 5-year
plan (1969–1974), block grants and loans were provided to
state governments for setting up MSW composting plants.
Finally, in 1974, GOI introduced modiﬁed scheme to revive
MSW composting, particularly in cities with a population
over 0.3 million. As far as large-scale composting is con-
cerned, many mechanical compost plants with capacities
ranging from 150 to 300 t/day were set up in the cities of
Bangalore, Baroda, Mumbai, Calcutta, Delhi, Jaipur and
Kanpur during 1975–1980 under the central scheme of
MSW disposal. Indore city was a famous center for
MSW composting, and the name was used to describe
the composting process. The composting was done success-
fully for many years up to 1980, but after that the compost
M. Sharholy et al. / Waste Management 28 (2008) 459–467 463
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from MSW was not used for soil enrichment due to many
problems. The ﬁrst large-scale aerobic composting plant in
the country was set up in Mumbai in 1992 to handle 500 t/
day of MSW by Excel Industries Ltd. However, only 300 t/
day capacity is being utilized currently due to certain prob-
lems, but the plant is working very successfully and the
compost produced is being sold at the rate of 2 Rs./kg
(US$0.046/kg). Another plant with af 150 t/day capacity
has been operated in the city of Vijaywada, and over the
years a number of other plants have been implemented in
the principal cities of the country such as Delhi, Bangalore,
Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Luknow and Gwalior.
Many other cities have either signed agreements or are in
the process of doing so to have composting facilities very
soon. Now, about 9% of MSW is treated by composting
(Gupta et al., 1998; Gupta et al., 2007; Sharholy et al.,
2006; Srivastava et al., 2005; Malviya et al., 2002; Kansal,
2002; CPCB, 2000; Reddy and Galab, 1998; Kansal et al.,
1998; Dayal, 1994; Rao and Shantaram, 1993).
Vermicomposting involves stabilization of organic waste
through the joint action of earthworms and aerobic micro-
organisms. Initially, microbial decomposition of biode-
gradable organic matter occurs through extra cellular
enzymatic activity (primary decomposition). Earthworms
feed on partially decomposed matter, consuming ﬁve times
their body weight of organic matter per day. The ingested
food is further decomposed in the gut of the worms, result-
ing in particle size reduction. The worm cast is a ﬁne, odor-
less and granular product. This product can serve as a bio-
fertilizer in agriculture. Vermicomposting has been used in
Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Faridabad. Experi-
ments on developing household vermicomposting kits have
also been conducted. However, the area required is larger,
when compared to dry composting (Ghosh, 2004; Bez-
boruah and Bhargava, 2003; Jha et al., 2003; Sannigrahi
and Chakrabortty, 2002; Gupta et al., 1998; Reddy and
Galab, 1998; Jalan, 1997; Khan, 1994).
6.2.3. Anaerobic digestion (biomethanation)
If the organic waste is buried in pits under partially
anaerobic conditions, it will be acted upon by anaerobic
microorganisms with the release of methane and carbon
dioxide; the organic residue left is good manure. This pro-
cess is slower than aerobic composting and occurs in fact
naturally in landﬁlls. However, thermophilic digestion for
biomethanation is much faster and has been commercial-
ized. Anaerobic digestion leads to energy recovery through
biogas generation. The biogas, which has 55–60% methane,
can be used directly as a fuel or for power generation. It is
estimated that by controlled anaerobic digestion, 1 t of
MSW produces 2–4 times as much methane in 3 weeks in
comparison to what 1 t of waste in landﬁll will produce
in 6–7 years (Ahsan, 1999; Khan, 1994).
In India, Western Paques have tested the anaerobic
digestion process to produce methane gas. The results of
the pilot plant show that 150 t/day of MSW produce
of biogas with a methane content of 55–65%,
which can generate 1.2 MW of power. The government is
looking forward to biomethanation technology as a sec-
ondary source of energy by utilizing industrial, agricultural
and municipal wastes. A great deal of experience with bio-
methanation systems exists in Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow
and many other cities. There is little experience in the treat-
ment of solid organic waste, except with sewage sludge and
animal manure (e.g., cow dung). Several schemes for bio-
methanation of MSW, vegetable market and yard wastes,
are currently being planned for some cities (Ambulkar
and Shekdar, 2004; Chakrabarty et al., 1995).
The study reveals that in all situations (rural, urban or
city, etc.) where space is available, composting is the better
option because it prevents the load on municipalities for
collection and transport of MSW and then reduces the
pressure on the landﬁlls. It also provides a valuable
byproduct for agriculture.
6.3. Thermal treatment techniques of MSW
The destruction of MSW using heat energy is called
thermal treatment. Although there are many thermal pro-
cesses, incineration is the most widely used at present.
Incineration is the process of control and complete com-
bustion, for burning solid wastes. It leads to energy recov-
ery and destruction of toxic wastes, for example, waste
from hospitals. The temperature in the incinerators varies
between 980 and 2000 °C. One of the most attractive fea-
tures of the incineration process is that it can be used to
reduce the original volume of combustible solid waste by
80–90%. In some newer incinerators designed to operate
at temperatures high enough to produce a molten material,
it may be possible to reduce the volume to about 5% or
even less (Jha et al., 2003; Ahsan, 1999; Peavey et al.,
1985). Unfortunately, in Indian cities, incineration is not
very much practiced. This may be due to the high organic
material (40–60%), high moisture content (40–60%), high
inert content (30–50%) and low caloriﬁc value content
(800–1100 kcal/kg) in MSW (Kansal, 2002; Joardar,
2000; Bhide and Shekdar, 1998; Sudhire et al., 1996; Jalan
and Srivastava, 1995; Chakrabarty et al., 1995). The ﬁrst
large-scale MSW incineration plant was constructed at
Timarpur, New Delhi in 1987 with a capacity of 300 t/
day and a cost of Rs. 250 million (US$5.7 million) by Mil-
jotecknik volunteer, Denmark. The plant was out of oper-
ation after 6 month and the Municipal Corporation of
Delhi was forced to shut down the plant due to its poor
performance. Another incineration plant was constructed
at BARC, Trombay (near Mumbai) for burning only the
institutional waste, which includes mostly paper and it is
working as of this writing. In many cities, small incinera-
tors are used for burning hospital waste (Sharholy et al.,
2005; Lal, 1996; Chakrabarty et al., 1995; Dayal, 1994).
464 M. Sharholy et al. / Waste Management 28 (2008) 459–467
Author's personal copy
6.3.2. Gasiﬁcation technology
Incineration of solid waste under oxygen deﬁcient condi-
tions is called gasiﬁcation. The objective of gasiﬁcation has
generally been to produce fuel gas, which would be stored
and used when required. In India, there are few gasiﬁers in
operation, but they are mostly for burning of biomass such
as agro-residues, sawmill dust, and forest wastes. Gasiﬁca-
tion can also be used for MSW treatment after drying,
removing the inerts and shredding for size reduction.
Two diﬀerent designs of gasiﬁers exist in India. The ﬁrst
one (NERIFIER gasiﬁcation unit) is installed at Nohar,
Hanungarh, Rajasthan by Narvreet Energy Research and
Information (NERI) for the burning of agro-wastes, saw-
mill dust, and forest wastes. The waste-feeding rate is about
50–150 kg/h and its eﬃciency about 70–80%. About 25% of
the fuel gas produced may be recycled back into the system
to support the gasiﬁcation process, and the remaining is
recovered and used for power generation. The second unit
is the TERI gasiﬁcation unit installed at Gaul Pahari cam-
pus, New Delhi by Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI)
(CPCB, 2004; Ahsan, 1999).
6.3.3. RDF Plants
The main purpose of the refuse derived fuel (RDF)
method is to produce an improved solid fuel or pellets from
MSW. In India, many RDF plants are in operation at
Hyderabad, Guntur and Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh
State. The Hyderabad RDF plant was commissioned in
1999 near the Golconda dumping ground with a 1000 t/
day capacity (but receiving only 700 t/day at present).
The RDF production is about 210 t/day as ﬂuﬀ and pellets,
and it is going to be used for producing power (about
6.6 MW). The RDF plant at Deonar, Mumbai was set up
in the early 1990s for processing garbage into fuel pellets.
It is based on indigenous technology. However, the plant
has not been in operation for the last few years and it is
owned by Excel India at present. A similar project has been
established in Bangalore and has had regular production of
fuel pellets since October, 1989, compacting 50 t/day of
garbage, converting into 5 t of fuel pellets, which can be
designed both for industrial and domestic uses (Yelda
and Kansal, 2003; Reddy and Galab, 1998; Khan, 1994).
Gasiﬁcation–combustion seems to be promising as it can
reduce pollution and increase heat recovery. RDF is
another promising technology, which is going to be used
for producing power. In addition, the RDF plant reduces
the pressure on landﬁlls. Combustion of the RDF from
MSW is technically sound and is capable of generating
power. RDF may be ﬁred along with the conventional fuels
like coal without any ill eﬀects for generating heat. Opera-
tion of the thermal treatment systems involves not only
higher cost, but also a relatively higher degree of expertise.
6.4. Recovery of recyclable materials
A number of recyclable materials, for example paper,
glass, plastic, rubber, ferrous and non-ferrous metals pres-
ent in the MSW are suitable for recovery and reuse. It has
been estimated that the recyclable content varies from 13%
to 20% (for example, in Mumbai 17% and in Delhi 15% of
MSW is recyclables). A survey conducted by CPCB during
1996 in some Indian cities revealed that rag pickers play a
key role in SWM. They work day and night to collect the
recyclable materials from the streets, bins and disposal sites
for their livelihood, and only a small quantity of recyclable
materials is left behind them. In India, about 40–80% of
plastic waste is recycled compared to 10–15% in the devel-
oped nations of the world. However, the recovery rate of
paper was 14% of the total paper consumption in 1991,
while the global recovery rate was higher at 37% (Pappu
et al., 2007; CPCB, 2004; Yelda and Kansal, 2003; Shek-
dar, 1999; Ahsan, 1999; Dayal, 1994; Khan, 1994).
The role of governments in recovering secondary mate-
rials is small compared to the informal sectors. In Delhi,
there are more than 100,000 rag pickers and the average
quantity of solid waste materials collected by one rag
picker is 10–15 kg/day. About 17% of Delhi waste handling
is done by rag pickers, who collect, sort and transport
waste free of cost, as part of the informal trade in scrap,
saving the government Rs 600,000 (US$13,700) daily. In
Bangalore, the informal sector is attributed with preventing
15% of the MSW going to the dumpsites. The municipali-
ties in Pune save around Rs. 9 million/yr (US$200,000) on
account of waste pickers. In Hyderabad, the cost of
MSWM per ton is less in the areas where THE private sec-
tor participated compared to the areas serviced by munic-
ipality. In Mumbai, it is found that the cost of per ton of
MSWM is US$35 with community participation, US$41
with public private partnership (PPP) and US$44 when
only Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM)
handles the MSW. Hence, community participation in
MSWM is the least cost option and there is a strong case
for comprehensively involving community participation
in MSWM. Many other studies that have been undertaken
by diﬀerent institutes and authorities revealed that the
role of the informal sector in MSWM is very important
because it provides a livelihood to many immigrants and
marginalized people. The informal collection avoids envi-
ronmental costs and reduces capacity problems at dump-
sites; also, rag pickers can provide excellent segregation
of MSW (Sharholy et al., 2005, 2006, 2007; Rathi, 2006;
Joseph, 2006; Agarwal et al., 2005; Srivastava et al.,
2005; CPCB, 2004; Kansal, 2002; Reddy and Galab,
1998; Khan, 1994).
7. MSWM rules in India
The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of the
government of India has issued MSW (management and
handling) rules in the year 2000 for scientiﬁc MSWM,
ensuring proper collection, segregation, transportation,
processing and disposal of MSW and upgrade of the exist-
ing facilities to arrest contamination of soil and ground
water. As per the provision, CPCB has been assigned to
M. Sharholy et al. / Waste Management 28 (2008) 459–467 465
Author's personal copy
monitor the implementation of these rules, and the munic-
ipalities will be required to submit annual reports regarding
the status of MSW in their areas to the CPCB. These rules
are applicable to every Municipal Authority in India, which
is responsible for MSWM. In addition, there are Municipal
Corporation Acts by diﬀerent states such as the Delhi
Municipal Corporation Act 1959, Uttar Pradesh Municipal
Corporation Act 1959 and Karnataka Municipal Corpora-
tion Act 1976. These Acts also deal with environmental pol-
lution caused by improper disposal of MSW, for example
The Delhi Plastic Bag (Manufacture, Sales and Usage)
and non-biodegradable garbage (control) Act, 2000, was
enacted to prevent contamination of foodstuﬀ carried in
recycled plastic bags, reduce the use of plastic bags, throw-
ing or depositing non-biodegradable garbage in public
drains, roads and places open to public view. Local author-
ities often see MSWM as a poor service compared to other
basic services because MSWM can barely recover operating
costs. However, most of the municipalities are unable to
provide the desirable level of conservancy services. Due to
a number of problems, they have not been very eﬀective
as far as SWM services are concerned (Siddiqui et al.,
2006; Kansal, 2002; MoEF, 2000; Gupta et al., 1998).
8. Concluding remarks
The informal policy of encouraging the public to sepa-
rate MSW and market it directly to the informal network
appears to be a better option. The involvement of people
and private sector through NGOs could improve the eﬃ-
ciency of MSWM. Public awareness should be created
among masses to inculcate the health hazards of the wastes.
Littering of MSW should be prohibited in cities, towns and
urban areas notiﬁed by the state government. Moreover,
house-to-house collection of MSW should be organized
through methods like collection on regular pre-informed
timing and scheduling. The collection bins must be appro-
priately designed with features like metallic containers with
lids, and to have a large enough capacity to accommodate
20% more than the expected waste generation in the area,
with a design for mechanical loading and un-loading,
placement at appropriate locations, etc. Municipal author-
ities should maintain the storage facilities in such a manner
that they do not create unhygienic and unsanitary condi-
tions. Proper maintenance of the MSW transportation
vehicles must be conducted, and the Dumper Placer should
replace the old transportation vehicles in a phased manner.
Currently, at the level of waste generation and collection,
there is no source segregation of compostable waste from
the other non-biodegradable and recyclable waste. Proper
segregation would lead to better options and opportunities
for scientiﬁc disposal of waste. Recyclables could be
straightway transported to recycling units that in turn
would pay a certain amount to the corporations, thereby
adding to their income. This would help in formalizing
the existing informal set up of recycling units. It could lead
to several advantages such as enabling technology upgra-
dation, better quality products, saving of valuable raw
material resources of country, reducing the need for landﬁll
space, a less energy-intensive way to produce some prod-
ucts and employing labor in recycling industries. Organiz-
ing the informal sector and promoting micro-enterprises
are an eﬀective way of extending aﬀordable services. Pro-
motion and development of recycling is a means of upgrad-
ing living and working conditions of rag pickers and other
Most of the MSW in India is dumped on land in an
uncontrolled manner. Such inadequate disposal practices
lead to problems that will impair human and animal health
and result in economic, environmental and biological
losses. Comparing the biological, chemical and thermal
treatment options in the Indian scenario, perhaps the bio-
logical processing options get the priority. Composting
and vermicomposting are successful and quite popular
now in India instead of incineration. But, it is slow process
and requires a large space. An open dump or an uncon-
trolled waste disposal area should be rehabilitated. It is
advisable to move from open dumping to sanitary landﬁll-
ing in a phased manner. Landﬁlling should be restricted to
non-biodegradable, inert waste and other waste that are not
suitable either for recycling or for biological processing.
The current regulations (MSWM rules, 2000) are very
stringent. Norms have been developed to ensure a proper
MSWM system. Unfortunately, clearly there is a large
gap between policy and implementation. The producer
responsibility is to avoid having products on the market
that cannot be handled eﬀectively and environmentally cor-
rectly when they become waste products. A new survey
should be carried out on the generation and characteriza-
tion of MSW in India. Since the MSW is heterogeneous
in nature, a large number of samples have to be collected
and analyzed to obtain statistically reliable results.
Finally, the study concluded that the lack of resources
such as ﬁnancing, infrastructure, suitable planning and
data, and leadership, are the main barriers in MSWM.
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