Waste Management and Climate Change – Intention Vs Action

IMG-20170328-WA0003.jpgIndiscriminate open burning of waste has adverse impacts on climate change.

In India, Power generation (70%), Transport (10%) and Waste Disposal (3%) are three sectors that contribute significantly towards Green House Gas Emissions responsible for Climate Change.

While the world is divided on the reasons for climate change and continues to dither on binding commitments and a comprehensive plan of action, it is good to see India assuring the world that it is committed to a transition to a low carbon economy.

As a waste management practioneer, I have been closely tracking developments in India to understand and review intention versus action in the waste sector.

As things currently stand, here is a quick summary

Intention

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified six new waste management regulations in 2016 which focus on decentralised waste management and stretches to the extent that it welcomes the new international trends towards a circular economy.

We now have a comprehensive set of waste management rules that govern how we manage our wet/organic waste, plastic waste, medical, hazardous, E-Waste and Construction and Debris waste.

Highlights of these rules include –

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which brings brand owners and producers into taking responsibility for the waste which they generate as part of their business.
  • Recognition of the informal sector and the need for their inclusion in any waste
  • Focus on authorized destinations for all waste categories

Action

Three major gaps are herewith highlighted.

  • Swachh Bharat – The approach is more towards cleaning India rather than recovery of resources and moving towards a circular economy. According to the legislation, only a small fraction of waste should be disposed in a Waste to Energy facility. Instead we see urban and even rural India scrambling to set up large Waste to Energy units which can take care of mixed waste which will indiscriminately burn rather than recover resources. Even NITI Aayog, the custodian of long term planning, has now recommended Waste to Energy in its three-year draft agenda
  • Execution of EPR or Extended Producer Responsibility continues to be elusive. Whether its plastic or E-Waste, none of the brands have actually come up with well thought out strategies and plans with targets and review mechanisms that demonstrate capability to meet with compliances

India has a large informal sector that can play a significant role in executing our waste management rules. There is however almost nil efforts made by government or brands to formalise the sector and make the sector also accountable to the rules. Burning of waste and child labour within the sector continue to be ignored by brands as well as local government who would rather make use of the sector without going through efforts to formalise and reform this important sector.

 

By:

Wilma Rodrigues
Founder and CEO
Saahas Zero Waste