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Solid Waste Management
Solid Waste Management

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Plastic waste is one of the biggest environmental problems facing our planet today. It is estimated that there are currently over 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste in the world, and this number is expected to double by 2030 if nothing is done to address the issue. Being the world's second most populous country, with over 1.3 billion people, India generates 9.46 million metric tons of plastic waste, ranking third globally. Less than 60% of plastic waste generated in the country was recycled in 2019, while the remaining 40% ended up in landfills, rivers, oceans, or was littered. It is estimated that 2,000 metric tons of plastic waste enter the Ganges River, considered sacred by millions of people, annually.

2. AIM

The aim of this paper is to understand the gaps in the process value chain of Plastic Waste Management in India, taking a case of the state of Kerala. India has limited infrastructure for waste management, and the existing facilities are often overburdened and inadequate. It is estimated that about 50% of the collected waste in urban areas is still disposed of in open dumpsites.

Kerala is one of the most developed states in India, with nearly 100% literacy rate and a consistently high HDI of 0.784 as compared to the national average of 0.647. Its higher economic development, marked by a 0.7% above the national GDP growth of 4.2% and population density makes it an ideal case study for identifying the gaps in the supply chain of plastic waste management.


With a population of about 34.8 million, densely packed settlements, and urban and rural areas interspersed across as a rural-urban continuum, Kerala generates more than 10,000 tonnes of waste per day (tpd). More than 70% of this waste is biodegradable with high moisture content, owing to the state’s hot-humid climate, and can easily be treated at source.

The Government of Kerala has adopted a policy for solid waste management with two strategies:

a. Decentralised waste management

b. Centralised waste management where necessary

In the case of Centralised waste management, landfill sites were identified and used for waste management. However, Landfills in half of these sites were consequently closed due to leachate penetrating the ground water and the Kerala administration gradually adopted DSWM as the main strategy, with the purpose of building a “circular-economy.” A circular economy follows the 3R approach - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle


Two critical aspects of proper waste management adopted by Kerala can, thus, be summarized as follows:

a. Building of sustainable systems

b. Behavioural changes

The Decentralized Solid Waste Management (DSWM) as conceived in Kerala, is a system involving the segregation and processing of waste at source to the maximum extent possible and then at the community level. The process flow of the waste can be seen in the Figure 1.

Figure 1: Process Flow of Solid Waste Management in Kerala

There are different methods for the treatment of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste in such a system. While composting and bio methanation are common methods used for treatment of biodegradable waste, Non-biodegradable and plastic wastes are collected and made available for recycling processes.

The collection process was undertaken by Haritha Karma Sena (HKS) since 2016 which refers to group of volunteers who were recruited by the state government to support the waste management process. Their services in addition to efficient door to door collection of waste also include Technical support to households, acting as service provider for community composting and also managing the infrastructure for waste management.

The infrastructure of decentralized management of non-biodegradable and plastic wastes consists of Material Collection Facilities (MCFs) set up as the LSG level centres for waste storage and segregation and Mini MCFs were set up at the ward levels- primarily as local centres for the storage of waste and to reduce the workload of and drudgery on waste collectors.

While some of the MCFs have the facility and infrastructure for waste segregation, they are mainly used as collection centres from there the waste is taken to RRF (Resource Recovery Facility).The RRF is a centralized facility that separates the waste into different categories, such as recyclable materials, organic waste, and non-recyclable waste, and processes them accordingly. The RRF uses different technologies, such as composting, anaerobic digestion, and recycling, to recover resources from the waste stream and minimize the amount of waste that goes to landfill.


There are a total of 941 Gram Panchayats, 87 Municipalities and 6 Corporations in Kerala spread across the 14 districts in Kerala and an evaluation was carried out on the efficiency of the system.


The status of collection within each district can be seen in the Figure 2 while the detailed table is attached in the Annexure A

Figure 2: Collection Statistics per District

Interestingly, out of all the three types of LSGIs Panchayat, Municipality and Corporation- It is in the Gram Panchayats that the waste is being collected from a higher number of households by HKS (48%), as opposed to 45% in case of municipalities and 44% in case of corporations. Also there is a relatively bug difference between the collection rates of the districts with Pathanamthitta collecting only 17% of the waste generated in the district while Ernakulam collecting 91% of the waste generated.


The status of installation of facilities for storage within each district can be seen in the Figure 3 while the detailed table is attached in the Annexure A

Figure 3: Status of Installation of MCFs

In addition to the facilities for storage, these facilities also have other equipment like Baling machines, Weighing machines that contribute to the process of waste management. Bailing machines are generally used to compress heavy scrap metal and plastic waste materials into large dense blocks by using a hydraulic baling press in order to increase the density of the scrap and only 20% of the MCFs have this equipment facility across the state.

In addition weighing of waste is also an essential part of the process, however, only 164(15%) of the MCFs have this facility available and only 531 MCF Units (41%) have availability of Registers to record the weight of incoming and outgoing waste.


The status of installation of facilities for storage within each district can be seen in the Figure 4 while the detailed table is attached in the Annexure B

Figure 4: Segregation Facilities in the MCF

77% of MCFs across the state have segregation facilities while only 72% of the MCFs across the state have a storage facility for segregated waste. The presence of such a facility enables further compartmentalisation of the waste collected before being sorted for the recovery process. The segregation of waste is the first step towards price realisation of the recovered materials, as without proper categorisation of waste, further enhancement of these into resources becomes more difficult.


Resource Recovery Facilities (RRF) are an important part of the modern waste management system where a paradigm shift has occurred from ‘managing waste’ to ‘managing resources’. RRF operates as a space where non-biodegradable waste after a primary sorting is further sorted and made available for production and consumption activities with necessary infrastructure, tools and human power. The recyclable waste is channelized for recycling while the non-recyclable plastics are shredded and used for road tarring.

RRFs are for higher level storage of segregated non-biodegradable waste including hazardous waste, which the Clean Kerala Company further treats. They are strategically distributed across different regions of Kerala to ensure efficient waste management coverage and minimize transportation distances. There are various entities which are operating the RRFs across all districts as shown in the Figure 5

Figure 5: RRF Operations

6. Monitoring

According to the State Policy on Solid Waste Management, 2016, appropriate monitoring and evaluation up to a 100% shall be ensured by different tiers of government to make sure continued improvement in the performance efficiency of the waste management sector. The statistics in the case of monitoring is as follows:

a. Monthly monitoring of the waste management process by LSGs has been recorded in only over 66% of the local bodies.

b. Daily monitoring by LSGs has been recorded in less than 8% of the LSGIs, and weekly at 8.22%.

c. Malappuram and Thrissur have 37 and 23 local bodies respectively without any monitoring mechanism.


The stakeholders involved in the waste management process and their functions are listed below:

8. Government Projects


The state government has taken several measures to tackle this issue, such as banning plastic carry bags below 50 microns in thickness, imposing fines for littering and illegal dumping, and promoting the use of alternatives such as cloth bags and paper bags.

The Solid Waste management rules 2016 have mandated the following for each of the user groups which if enforced would tackle the issue of waste management completely.

a. Responsibility of local body- Every local body shall be responsible for development and setting up of infrastructure for segregation, collection, storage, transportation, processing and disposal of the plastic waste either on its own or by engaging agencies or producers.

b. Responsibility of waste generator- The waste generator shall take steps to minimize generation of plastic waste and segregate plastic waste at source in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Rules.

c. Responsibility of producers, Importers and Brand Owners- The producers, within a period of six months from the date of publication of these rules, shall work out modalities for waste collection system based on Extended Producers Responsibility and involving State Urban Development Departments, either individually or collectively, through their own distribution channel or through the local body concerned.

d. Responsibility of Retailers or street vendors- Retailers or street vendors shall not sell or provide commodities to consumer in carry bags or plastic sheet or multi layered packaging, which are not manufactured and labelled or marked, as per prescribed under these rules.

However, these measures have not been able to effectively address the problem of plastic waste management in the state.


The analysis of the waste management system and the subsequent pain points can be categorised into four sections based on the source of the problem as shown below:

10.1 Pain Points at Waste Generator End:

  • Waste Segregation in Kerala at a household level is not carried out efficiently.

  • Producers, Importers and Brand Owners are not fulfilling their extended producer responsibility.

  • Stringent checking on the burning of plastic and enforcement of fines is not carried out, especially in the rural areas.

10.2 Pain Points at Waste Processor/ Local Body End:

  • Majority of the local bodies in Kerala do not have an efficient and timely collection system. HKS ME Units are performing relatively better when it comes to household waste collection drives in GPs vis-a-vis more urbanized areas. Hence collection systems in the urban areas need more attention.

  • Lack of required facilities and infrastructure in the MCFs may cause significant increase in the effort to be taken by everyone involved including the HKS members. Appropriate infrastructure will ease this pressure and reduce drudgery.

  • Lack of planning and preparedness to deal with the waste management after natural disasters.

  • The review and tracking of the processes of waste management as well as the frequency of it- Daily, Weekly, Monthly are not efficient and accountability of panchayat/Urban body through consistent reviews is not maintained

10.3 Pain Points at Collaborative/State Government End:

  • Given that there are still 10% GPs without an MCF and certain districts where more than 20% GPs do not have MCFs at all, there is a need to have MCF as a prerequisite to start waste collection.

  • There is no specific body to enforce the directive to producers, Importers and Brand Owner and hence these are repeatedly violated.

  • Significant investment gap despite increasing fiscal transfers due to a substantial pending backlog of municipal investments and growing risk of natural disaster.

  • Long and cumbersome approval and sanctioning procedures at the state and district levels

  • Lack of initiative of interdepartmental cooperation.

  • Lack of cooperation between local bodies to capitalise common resources

10.4 Pain Points at Policy End:

  • Suboptimal infrastructure and technology systems for waste collection and recycling

  • Lack of centralized system to track the progress of the system.

  • Compliance with the provisions under the SWM Rules 2015 are not attained with respect to various aspects of the supply chain of waste management like enforcing the Extended Producers Responsibility or Responsibilities of Retailers or street vendors.

  • Action to improve regulatory actions for enforcement of good waste management practices and against illegal dumping of waste to be taken by all LSGs and monitored regularly at HQ level.

  • Given that there are still 10% GPs without an MCF and certain districts where more than 20% GPs do not have MCFs at all, there is a need to have MCF as a prerequisite to start waste collection.


Solid waste management is a pan India issue that is gaining importance owing to the rapid urbanization and increase in population. Different state governments and local self-governing bodies have taken various steps to address the problem, many of which were quite effective in tacking the issue. Some of the model cities that have combated the issue are listed below.

a. Kumbakonam: The measures taken by the city include the following:

  • Segregation of Temple waste and using organic waste to o maintain the gardens in the temples.

  • door-to-door waste collection system that includes segregation of waste at source.

  • Community participation with local NGOs, self-help groups, and other community organizations

  • Use of biogas technology to convert organic waste into biogas.

  • Organized public awareness campaigns to educate residents

b. Karnataka (NGO HASIRUDALA)

  • Waste segregation at source, door-to-door waste collection, treatment, and disposal

  • Set up several composting units that use different technologies such as aerobic and vermicomposting

  • Involvement of NGOs such as Hasiru Dala that works with waste pickers and promotes their inclusion in the formal waste management system.

In addition to traditional methods of dealing with waste management, the rising age of platforms have added a new dimension to the method of tackling the problem. Various Platforms catering to the specific issue in the supply chain gap have created immense impact in different parts of the world. Some examples of such platforms are listed below:

12. Recommendations

The recommendations for the issues of supply chain gaps of waste management can be proposed in a two-fold manner with one aspect focusing on the policy driven approach and the other focusing on the regulatory app development approach.

12.1 Policy Driven Approach

For waste generators

a. Mandatory rule for households for proper segregation of waste especially in rural areas along with the discounted / free bins for segregation. b. Introduction of hefty fines and consistent checks on the following of rules. c. Producers, Importers and Brand Owners need to be held severely accountable for inaction regarding their Extended Producer Responsibility.

For Government Bodies:

a. Local Bodies need to be held accountable by fines to the government for inefficiency in waste management b. There needs to be adequate preparedness and a waste management plan to deal with the waste accumulation that occurs during natural disasters like Flash floods and Landslides. c. Collaboration needs to be incentivised within the community youth and NGOs by providing stipend/monetary benefits to bring about behavioural changes.

12.2 Regulatory App Driven Approach

The development of a platform with the following features should be considered:

a. Provision to schedule bulky waste collections and report missed collections b. Real-time updates on collection schedules c. Develop pay-as-you-throw" system that charges residents based on the amount of waste they generate. d. Develop an interface with provisions for checking the Extended Producers Responsibility and imposing hefty fines in case of non-compliance. e. Develop an interface for volunteers and NGOs to contribute in the waste management process

13. Annexure

13.1 Annexure A

13.2 Annexure B

Meet The Thought Leader

Laboni Singh is a mentor at GGI and is currently working at The Bridgespan Group as an Associate Consultant. She takes keen interest in socioeconomic development issues, public policy, and equity across different vectors of gender, caste, class, and ability, which in turn fuelled her transition from working at a global bank to the social sector. She is an Urban Fellow from the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore and has a bachelor's degree in Economics from St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi.

Meet The Authors (GGI Fellows)

Raeshma is a Researcher with Leader Investment Group, Saudi Arabia. With 5+ years of experience, Raeshma holds a Master’s degree in City and Technology from Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain and Bachelor degree in Architecture from Kerala University, India. In her current role, Raeshma is responsible for the analysing policy gaps, developing proposals and their feasibility for large scale development projects in Saudi Arabia. She takes keen interest in solving macro issues through policy consulting, urban planning and research.

If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship program, you can access our application link here.



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