Waste & I

This booklet is part of a Series of 6 Booklets on Environmental Sustainability with a special focus on Climate Change. Each booklet aims to motivate individuals to take action to mitigate global warming by providing basic information in an easy to understand manner.

Waste & I

Copyright © 2008 Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE)

ISBN 978-81-901929-9-6 PUBLISHER - Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be copied, transmitted or reproduced in a retrieval system in any form or by any means without prior permission of the Publisher.
This booklet is printed using environmentally-friendly materials. The inks used are vegetable oil-based inks and the paper is wood-free and chlorine-free.


I consume natural resources and create waste every single day of my life. The more I consume, the more I need and the more waste I generate.


I consume resources...

Canned drinks

Packaging & plastic


Electronic items

Styrofoam/ Thermocol

Paper products


Rubber (tyres etc)



All these products come from a limited store of natural resources found on Earth. 4

...I produce waste!

Empty cans

Packaging waste

Kitchen waste

Electronic waste

Styrofoam waste

Waste paper

Waste rags

Waste rubber

On an average, each individual produces 500g of waste every day. Urban India produces 1,20,000 tonnes of waste each day; Delhi: 7,405 tonnes, Mumbai: 7,025 tonnes, Chennai: 3,500 tonnes, Kolkata: 3,200 tonnes. 5



Waste, garbage, rubbish, trash, kachra, kudda is here to stay and everywhere. Throwing out garbage, taking waste to a dumpsite, burning rubbish, tossing trash into creeks and water bodies, burying kachra under the land - try as we might, we can never make it disappear. We may throw it away but there is NO AWAY and the waste just goes somewhere else.

The time waste takes to degrade: Vegetables/fruits: 2 - 3 weeks Paper bag: 1 month Wood: 10 - 15 years Aluminium: 200 - 300 years Plastic bags: 300 - 400 years Thermocol, glass: Never




Life Cycle of Waste
Pollution, Resource Loss
Left in dumpsite Re cy c








tio n




I rrespon sible dis posal

Muncipal Collection

Environmental Pollution

Most urban household waste reaches either a dumpsite or a landfill. Dumpsite: It is an area where waste is thrown untreated. Most dumpsites in India are well beyond their holding capacities and mountains of waste can be seen. The waste from these dumpsites easily contaminates the immediate soil and also leaches hazardous chemicals into the surrounding surface and ground water. These sites are also easily accessible to birds, rats and other vectors which may spread disease. Since the waste is dumped in layers, it gets isolated from air and does not decompose quickly.


Landfill: A more sustainable and hygienic alternative to dumpsites are well-constructed landfills that are lined with a synthetic geo-textile or a layer of clay that prevents the waste from coming in contact with the underlying soil. In such landfills the toxic chemicals and liquid wastes are drained away and treated, and methane gas which is released from most landfills is collected and used to generate energy instead of being allowed to escape into the air.


We are generating large amounts of waste and it keeps accumulating over the years, polluting every part of our environment including our land, air and seas. Air Pollution: Waste particles in the form of carbon and heavy metal dust are in the air we breathe. This is due to burning of garbage and excessive use of chemical sprays, which include leadbased paints in car garages and insecticide / pesticide solutions.

Incineration of waste releases dioxins, which cause cancer, neurological damage and disrupt the reproductive, thyroid and respiratory systems. Air pollution killed 72,000 persons across 36 Indian cities in 2005 - a 38% increase from the 1990s. 10

Melbourne Zoo

Water Pollution: Today every sea, river, lake, creek, pond and water body in India is polluted with waste. Several tonnes of untreated sewage waste, muncipal solid waste, construction debris and toxic industrial wastes are pumped into our water ways everyday. This affects the overall health of the environment, while killing and harming many marine organisms. Humans are also affected as water pollution helps spread many diseases including jaundice, typhoid and cholera.


There are over 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square mile of ocean today, which kills about 1,00,000 marine mammals and turtles every year. 11

Land Pollution: Waste covers vast areas of our urban and rural land. It is on our roads, along our railway lines and even around our homes, schools and offices. This waste remains in the land for a long time, contaminating the soil and ground water.
Today, heaps of waste are scattered even on the highest slopes of Mt. Everest and in the sacred Ganga and Yamuna rivers. DID YOU


Around 4.5 trillion cigarette butts or 76,54,37,124 kg of cigarette filter, are littered every year around the world. That is more than 8,40,000 tonnes of litter containing potent carcinogens and poisonous chemicals of which some 1,52,000 tonnes will be washed into our waterways. 12

There are many other types of waste that growing megapolis cities, like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and many more, generate in large quantities. Sewage: is liquid waste from households and industries. It includes faecal matter, washing water, chemicals and everything flushed into drains. Most of Mumbai’s sewage is pumped directly into the sea without treatment.
Palm Beach Reef Rescue/Marine Photobank

India’s sewage treatment plants treat only 13.5% of the country’s sewage. As a result, India’s 14 major, 55 minor and several hundred small rivers receive millions of litres of sewage, industrial and agricultural wastes. 13

Hazardous Waste: includes chemicals such as household toilet cleaners, aerosols like spray paints, pesticides like cockroach repellents and any chemical that is harmful to humans or the environment. Hazardous wastes poison the environment where they are disposed. Exposure to it has been known to cause chronic diseases, including cancers and respiratory illnesses. Hazardous Waste needs specialised disposal and cannot just be mixed with household waste in a garbage bin.
Hazardous waste also includes automotive fluids, beauty products (like nail polish remover), garden care products and mercury-based items such as thermometers and tubelights. 14


Biomedical Waste: is infectious waste generated from healthcare establishments like hospitals and diagnostic centres. Small quantities are also generated in our homes in the form of tablet strips, medicine bottles, and soiled bandages. Most of the city’s biomedical waste is mixed with household waste and ends up in our dumpsites. E-Waste or Electronic Waste: is made up of electronic machines, goods and appliances. They contain metals like mercury, lead and arsenic that are very harmful to humans. Most E-waste ends up in dumpsites after recyclers or ragpickers have stripped off the recyclable plastic casing.

About 30,000 litres of water is needed to make just one computer and all its components! 15

Land, water, air and visual pollution: Waste pollutes our water ways, the air we breathe and the land on which we grow crops. Diseases: Waste creates breeding grounds for rats, mice, fleas and spreads diseases like jaundice, cholera, plague, asthma and many more. Floods: Waste clogs our drainage systems and rivers and does not allow rainwater to flow into the sea, causing floods. Wastage of Resources: All materials come from natural resources. Paper comes from trees, metals and glass come from mineral ores and plastic comes from petroleum extracts. When we throw things away, we are really throwing away precious natural resources that are mined from the Earth. Consequently, more energy is spent to manufacture the resources again when it could have been recovered from the waste through recycling.

Dumpsites release a cocktail of toxic gases like carbon dioxide, sulphur oxides and methane for many years as the waste slowly degenerates. These greenhouse gases (GHGs) contribute significantly towards global warming that drives climate change.

For every tonne of paper recycled, we save 17 trees and 2,250 litres of oil.





Recycling of paper produces the greatest overall reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases, which trigger global warming. This is because decomposing matter in landfills causes the emission of methane gas, which is a major greenhouse gas. 17


Yes, waste is a problem facing everyone. However, there are many solutions, several of which can be practised at home or in the office.


I can segregate waste: Waste is made of wet or organic waste and dry or inorganic waste that must be separated. Everyone loses when we mix our dry and wet waste. The dry waste gets soiled by the wet waste and cannot be recycled. Similarly, the wet organic waste cannot be composted once it gets mixed with the inorganic dry waste. Thus, it is crucial that we segregate our waste.


Dry or inorganic waste for recycling

Wet or organic waste for composting


DRY cardboard books & magazines paper glass bottles aluminium foil cans & tins plastic products clothes/rags

Clean dry waste: It is important that we clean our dry waste before disposing it. Ensure that there are no food particles left in packaging materials, including milk bags and Tetra Paks. This ensures that the dry waste can be recycled with no loss of quality. Sell dry waste for recycling: Sell your recyclable waste to your local raddiwala or kabadiwala, who in turn sells our waste to large recycling factories across India. Not only do you get money for it, but it also ensures that the material gets recycled and re-used.

The waste recycling industry has an annual turnover in excess of Rs. 900 crores. 20

WET fallen leaves vegetables peels fruit peels floor waste hair wood shavings ash meat/bones

Clean wet waste: It’s important that no inorganic material contaminates our wet waste, whether or not it is composted. Compost wet waste: It is a natural process in which micro-organisms like fungi and bacteria convert degradable organic waste into compost. We can all develop a compost pit in our building compounds - in fact, municipal corporations are actively encouraging it. Vermicomposting is one method of composting where earthworms are added to the organic matter.

About 40% to 62% of India’s waste is biodegradable or compostible wet waste. 21

I can be a responsible consumer: Another practical step that we can take is to be a responsible consumer by reducing the amount of waste we produce. Buy products such as household provisions like rice, wheat, sugar, pulses, biscuits, tea, coffee, soaps and washing powders in bulk, which come with less packaging. This will help pressurise companies to reduce packaging material and use more environmentally friendly packaging as per consumer demand.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board packaging material constitutes 52% of plastic consumption.



I can reduce the use of plastic bags: Plastic is a petroleum by-product that does not degrade and remains in the environment forever. Therefore, it is vital to reduce the amount of plastic carry bags each of us use and if possible, refuse to use it all together. Use cloth bags instead, which are easily available in the market or can be made from old clothes, can be repaired and are biodegradable. Many hill stations, pilgrimage sites, national parks and towns in India have become ‘Plastic Carry Bag Free Zones’.

Pick the least recyclable material: Plastic Glass Metal Plastic can be recycled only a limited number of times, at most 4 to 5 times, while glass and metal can be recycled over and over without loss of quality



The waste that we generate can be lowered by the waste mantra of the 4 R’s namely, Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle.

Reduce the use of plastics, insecticide and pesticide sprays, canned foods and electronic items. Reuse paper, plastic, glass and cloth products as many times as possible before selling it for recycling. This will optimise the use of available resources before they are recycled and keep them away from dumpsites.
Dumpsites in Mumbai cover an area of 318.77 hectares of land with the largest being Deonar covering 132 hectares. 24


Repair mechanical, electrical and electronic goods like toasters, irons, television sets, radios, music systems, computers, microwave ovens and washing machines. We need to become a less consumer-oriented market that buys and throws as per changing fashion trends. Recycle newspapers, writing paper, envelopes, books, magazines, cardboard boxes, glass bottles, metallic cans and tins, aluminium foil, plastic containers and Tetra Paks. If our dry waste is managed by the 4 R's and our wet waste composted, each of us will have reduced our waste quantity drastically and our Zero Waste Goal will be achieveable. If every person does this, the municipal corporations will no longer need huge dumpsites and valuable resources will be saved!

Waste Champions Ragpickers form the backbone of the informal recycling sector in India and they handle between 9% to 15% of the solid waste. Ragpickers work several hours a day collecting recyclable material from dumpsites and along roads and railway lines. The collected waste is then sold to small-scale raddiwalas or kabadiwalas who in turn sell to bigger junk dealers. Finally, it ends up at recycling factories. Scavenging through garbage is a risky business. Ragpickers often get cuts, allergies, dog-bites and diseases. They face stigmatisation and discrimination from society but continue providing invaluable service in the waste sector.

Learn more about waste and spread awareness on waste issues in your residential building, locality and among friends and family. Work with others in your locality to form an Advanced Locality Management (ALM) group to ensure... ...each building in the area is given information on waste management for its flat owners. …every building in the locality should make it compulsory for its members to segregate their waste everyday. ...wet waste is composted in a common pit. ...dry waste is either sold or disposed off during municipal waste collection. ...streets are kept clean and green. ...coordination with the municipality on civic matters pertaining to your locality.


In India, we have little respect for public property and throw waste on the road, use street corners as open toilets and scribble graffiti on historic monuments. Do not throw waste on streets or outside the window. If waste is littered in the street, it will invariably end up in our drainage system or in our waterways. It takes a little effort but we must carry our waste to a waste bin from where it will be properly disposed - recycled (if it is dry waste) or composted (if it is wet waste).

Spoiling public property is an offence by law with heavy fines and penalties. The fines imposed as per the BMC Bye-laws (2006) for some common offences are as follows (a) littering = Rs. 200/-, (b) spitting = Rs. 200/-, (c) urinating or defecating = Rs. 200/-, (d) washing vehicles = Rs. 1,000/-, (e) burning of waste = Rs. 100/- and (f) throwing debris on roads = Rs. 20,000/-. 29

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has laid down strict laws pertaining to waste management. As responsible citizens, we can help the BMC enforce these laws and implement a more effective waste management system to improve our own locality and city. More and more cities across India are following Mumbai in enforcing strict waste management laws.
BMC spends more than Rs. 450 crores annually and hires 1 lakh people to handle the city’s waste. There are also more than 4 lakh ragpickers in the city scavenging for dry waste.


NOTE: Neither all this money nor this army of people are able to manage the mountains of waste we produce. Each of us has an important role to play! 30

This newly emerging term refers to becoming more resource literate and attaching a greater value to nature, time and quality, instead of focussing on consumerism and environmentally-unsustainable lifestyles. It encourages us to become conscious of the impact our consumption patterns are having on nature and the world we are leaving behind to our future generations.


Take your pick of jewellery, bags or furniture all made from waste ! Jewellery and bags all made with waste juice cartons by a women’s cooperative in the Phillipines.

Fancy interlocking pavers and bricks for your garden all made with construction waste or debris.
(http://cidcoyuvabuildingcentre.org) 32

In the slums of Delhi, ragpickers collect discarded plastic and recycle them into trendy bags and accessories made from pressed plastic bags.

Doors, furniture and cabins are all made from recycled Tetra Paks.


Make a conscious decision to buy products made from recycled materials. This helps create a market demand for recycled products and encourages recycling of waste.

Some recycled products currently available: Recycled paper products like writing pads, note books, brown paper carry bags, envelopes etc. Buy chipboards, bags and jewellery made from recycled materials.
Bajaj Automobile has replaced plywood as a base for their seats in all scooters and autorickshaws with chipboards made from recycled Tetra Paks. 34




This section has some down-to-earth and practical tips to manage ‘waste’ that each of us can easily adopt in our everyday lives.


AT HOME IN THE KITCHEN Participate in your local recycling program. Place kitchen scraps in a compost pile. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. If you use paper napkins, compost them. Use reusable plates and utensils instead of disposable ones made of thermocol. Use reusable containers to store food instead of aluminum foil and cling wrap. Reduce your use of household products that are hazardous or toxic. ELSEWHERE IN YOUR HOME Install water-saving devices, which are easily available in stores, on your showers, faucets and toilets. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Use rechargeable batteries. Reuse packaging cartons and shipping materials. Old newspapers also make excellent packaging materials. Reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive.

WHEN SHOPPING Carry your own cloth bag instead of using a paper or plastic bag. If you buy only one or two items, tell the cashier that you don't need a bag. Purchase products in bulk. Buy items like liquid washing detergent and fruit juices in concentrate form. Avoid products with several layers of packaging when only one is sufficient. About 33% of our waste is packaging. Avoid disposable products. Buy products that have a longer life or can be reused over and over again. Here is a list of recycled content products you can buy for your school or office: (a) Copier and printer paper (b) Legal pads, notepads, envelopes (c) Pencils, pens, rulers (d) Transparencies (e) Remanufactured toner cartridges (f) Bulletin boards (g) Remanufactured office furniture
(h) Rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries

WHEN TRAVELLING Walk or ride a bicycle whenever possible. Keep your car tuned and check the air in your tyres for better fuel efficiency. Car pool whenever possible. It helps keep the air clean by reducing emissions. Use public transport whenever possible. Use litter and recycling bags in your car. Recycle your used oil, filter, motor oil bottles, tyres and car batteries.

Maharashtra Nature Park in Dharavi, Mumbai used to be a garbage dump a few years back. Thanks to the dedication and belief of a few people, it is today a world famous nature park. It is a good example of how nature can recover, if given a chance. It is no longer smelly and dirty. In fact, it is now home to 38 species of butterflies and more than 80 species of birds. There are more than 200 tree species in the park, many of which were planted naturally by birds and insects. 38

AT SCHOOL & WORK Copy and print on both sides of the paper. Reuse items like envelopes, folders and paper clips. Use mailer sheets for inter-office mail instead of an envelope. Use a bulletin board for memos instead of sending a copy to each employee. Use e-mail instead of paper correspondence. Ensure all electrical equipment is shut off in the evening to save energy. Encourage your school/company to use recycled paper. Encourage your school/company to have documents printed using soy-based inks, which are less toxic. If you have a print shop, ask them to make this an option. Make use of discarded paper by using it as rough paper. Set up a school or office recycling program.


WHEN ON VACATION When staying in hotels insist that your bed sheets and towels are not changed everyday. The same goes for all toiletry items. In hotels, if you do open the little shampoo or conditioner bottles, keep them in your travel kit for future use. Encourage the hotel to set up a recycling program. Tell them you would like to see it the next time you stay with them.

Fifty years ago, Nek Chand, a transport officer in Chandigarh decided to do something about the garbage he saw around him. He cleared a small patch to make a small garden. He then picked up waste material and used it to make figures of human beings and animals. When government officials discovered the garden, they rewarded Nek Chand for helping Chandigarh by recycling and reusing their waste. Thus was born the famous Rock Garden of Chandigarh. 40

The Greater Mumbai Cleanliness and Sanitation Bye-Laws came into effect from 12 December 2007. Schedule I (Schedule of Fines) Bye-law 4.1: Littering, Creating Nuisance and Clean Aangan 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Bye-law Description Fine No. 4.1 Littering on roads/streets Rs. 200 to 4.4 No. 4.5 Spitting Rs. 200 Creating Bathing Nuisance Rs. 100 Urinating Rs. 200 Defecating Rs. 100 Feeding animals/birds in Rs. 500 non-designated areas Washing vehicles Rs. 1,000 Washing utensils / clothes / any other object No. 4.6 For not maintaining Clean Aangan: (a) for owners / occupiers of single premises Rs. 1,000 (b) for others Rs. 10,000


Bye-law 5: Segregation, Storage, Delivery and Collection Bye-law Description Fine 10 No. 5.1 For delivering waste that is not & 5.2 segregated and stored as specified in separate bins (a) individual Rs. 100 (b) bulk generator Rs. 500 11 No. 5.3 For not delivering bio-degradable waste in a segregated manner as specified Rs. 100 12 No. 5.5 (a) For not delivering individual specified hazardous waste in a segregated manner as specified Rs. 1,000 (b) For not delivering bulk specified hazardous waste in a segregated manner as specified Rs. 10,000 13 No. 5.6 For not delivering biomedical waste in a segregated manner as specified Rs. 20,000 14 No. 5.7 For not delivering construction / demolition waste in a segregated manner as specified Rs. 20,000 15 No. 5.8 For not delivering dry waste in a segregated manner as specified Rs. 100 16 No. 5.9 For not delivering garden waste and tree trimmings as specified Rs. 100 17 No. 5.10 For disposal of waste by burning Rs. 100


Bye-law 7: Specific categories / Situations Bye-law Description Fine 18 No. 7.2 For not delivering (non-household) fish, poultry and meat waste in a segregated manner as specified Rs. 1,000 19 No. 7.3 (a) For a vendor/ hawker without a container/waste basket Rs. 500 (b) For a vendor / hawker who does not deliver waste in a segregated manner as specified Rs. 500 20 No. 7.4 For not keeping a house gully clean Rs. 200 21 No. 7.5 For littering by pet / owned animal Rs. 500 22 No. 7.6 For not cleaning up after public Forfeiture public events within 4 hours of cleanliness deposit 23 No. 7.8 Uncleanliness due to car/ vehicles parked on the road at the sweeping time Rs. 500 24 No. 7.10 Sticking of posters, banners and hoardings Rs. 500 to Rs. 5,000


WEBSITES: http://www.chintan-india.org An informative website that focuses on sustainable consumption and environmental, social justice and waste management. http://www.almitrapatel.com A website dedicated to solid waste management across India. http://www.exnorainternational.org It focusses on achieving environmental sustainability by mobilising and empowering communities. http://toxicslink.org It focusses on collecting and sharing information on the sources and dangers of poisons in the environment. http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/waste This website focusses on recycling and waste reduction as viable strategies to manage waste. http://www.cleanindia.org This website focusses on the various issues of waste management and covers several strategies to address them.


ORGANISATIONS: Solid Waste Mgt: National Solid Waste Association of India Tel: +91-22-29251088 / 29251088 E-mail: nswai@envis.nic.in Website: http://www.nswai.com Plastic Recycling: Indian Centre for Plastics in the Environment Tel : +91-22-2282 0451, Fax: 22641468 Email: icpe@vsnl.net Website: http://www.icpenviro.org, www.envis-icpe.com Composting: FORCE Tel: +91-22-25546172 / 30931656 Email: poonam_rh@rediffmail.com Ragpickers Association: Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS) Tel: 9820224529 / 9867724529 Website: http://www.streemuktisanghatana.org Recycled Chipboards: Deluxe Recycling India Pvt Ltd Tel: +91-22-2201 8595, 2201 8291 Website: http://www.ecolinkindia.com

For information, contact: Centre for Environmental Research and Education Email: cere_india@yahoo.co.in Website: www.cere-india.org 45

This Series of 6 Information Booklets on Environmental Sustainability includes the titles: Waste & I Water & I Energy & I Biodiversity & I Citizenship & I Climate Change & I

The Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) is a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation that works to promote environmental sustainability.


ISBN 978-81-901929-9-6