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How Can Municipalities Address Public Behavior in Solid Waste Disposal Practices?

Updated: May 21

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We rely on the environment for our survival, from the air we breathe to the water we drink, and the food we consume. However, mismanaged waste driven by public behaviour, poses a direct threat to the environment. This paper acknowledges the critical role of public behavior in waste management and proposes solutions to address disposal challenges.

Solid Waste Management (SWM) Trend:

Trend in


2nd Highest


Per Capita Generation

Delhi ~ 450 gm/day

Lakshadweep ~ 400 gm/day

Assam < 50 gm/day

Solid Waste processing (as % of solid waste treated)

Chattisgarh ~ 100%

DDDNH ~ 88.76%

Bihar ~ close to 0%

2.Problem of Public Behavior in Disposal

  • Disposal in nearby vacant/isolated land

  • Disposal in drainage

  • Disposal in public places

  • Improper waste segregation

  • Burning of wastes

Target Area - Regions facing challenges in public behaviour & needing improvement strategies.


1.Make it a movement


  • To catalyze real change in waste management, it's essential to shift public behavior towards responsible waste disposal.

  • Mere policies won't suffice; a movement is needed to instigate widespread behavioral change.

Case study: Indore, a city with best practices in Source Segregation, cleanest city of India in every Swachh Survekshan survey since 2017 with 5-star garbage-free city tag, spread awareness through Vehicles for door-to-door collection, Social media, nukkad nataks, wall paintings, radio jingles, Schools competitions, oath taking ceremonies in the morning assembly.

Tools and Channels:

1. Videos:

  • Utilize social media platforms for sharing educational videos.

  • Utilize movie theater advertisements to disseminate waste management awareness messages

  • Integrate waste management education videos into schools.

2. Photos/Posters:

  • Disseminate posters via social media, public offices, schools, newspapers, and public transportation.

3. Events:

  • Circulate circulars to colleges and schools

  • To conduct community clean-up events.

  • To organize tech-a-thons (with cash grants and startup assistance) to promote innovative waste management solutions.

  • To conduct awareness programs and competitions in schools.

4. FM (Radio):

  • Utilize radio broadcasts to reach a broader audience with waste management messages.

5. Other Strategies:

  • Engage popular figures to endorse waste management initiatives.

  • Host quizzes to educate and engage the public.

Themes and Messages: Creating themed weeks around different waste management themes to engage various segments of the population and promote sustained participation.





Highlight negative impacts of improper waste disposal.



Encourage individuals to rethink their usage and disposal habits.



Inspire action by encouraging people to start implementing waste management practices.



Urge individuals to stay committed to waste management efforts.



Empower individuals to speak up for and against waste management issues.

2.Digitization & Waste Categorisation

Implement digitized systems to track Waste - Generation Quantity and Processing on a ward-by-ward basis for each waste category


  • Understanding Waste Generation Patterns: Digitization allows for the analysis of waste generation patterns in each ward, aiding in the development of targeted waste management strategies.

  • Targeted Campaigns: Data obtained through digitization can inform targeted campaigns to promote responsible waste management practices.

  • Resource Planning: Digitization facilitates better resource planning by providing insights into waste generation trends and demands in different wards.

In the current waste management practices, waste categorization tends to be limited, often focusing on broad categories rather than detailed classifications. This limited categorization may hinder effective waste management strategies and resource allocation. An example of detailed categorization is given below.

Waste categories

1.Organic Waste

2.Paper and Cardboard

3.Plastics: Bottles (water bottles, soda bottles) Containers (food containers, yogurt cups) Packaging materials (plastic bags, wraps)

4.Glass: Bottles (wine bottles, beer bottles) Jars (sauce jars, pickle jars)

5.Metals: cans and scrap

6.Textiles: Clothing (shirts, pants, dresses) Linens (bed sheets, towels) Shoes

7.Electronics (E-waste)

8.Hazardous Waste: Batteries Paints Cleaning products Pesticides

9.Bulky Waste

10.Construction and Demolition Debris: Wood (lumber, plywood) Concrete Bricks Drywall

11.Medical Waste: Sharps (needles, syringes) Expired medications Biological waste

12.Other: Styrofoam Rubber (tires) Ceramics Toys

13.Animal Waste

Case study: Extensive waste categorization practiced by cities like Indore (a city with best practices in Source Segregation), Vengurla (a city with best practices in Biodegradable Waste Management), Surat (a city with best practices in Material Processing), Ambikapur (a city with best practices in Landfill Management), all with 100% waste processing, with Vengurla as 27 categories and Ambikapur as 20 in secondary and 156 in tertiary segregation.


Why Penalty?


1.    To Discourage Improper Practices: Penalties serve as a deterrent, discouraging individuals and entities from engaging in improper waste management practices such as illegal dumping, burning of waste, and failure to segregate waste.

2.    To Signal Government Commitment: Imposing penalties signals the seriousness of the government's commitment to effective waste management and underscores the importance of compliance with regulations.


Public disposal/dumping

Burning of leaves and waste

Non segregation

To households

To commercials

To Sanitary workers (if they themselves involve in such activities)

Case study: In Keonjhar, Odisha, a city with best practices in Technological Innovation, penalties are imposed through CCTV cameras installed at public places. This has almost put an end to the practice of garbage dumping.

Penalties are also imposed by other cities with 100% waste processing like – Surat, Indore, Bicholim in Goa etc.

In Karad, Maharashtra, a city with best practices in Sanitary Waste Management, households that failed to segregate even after the training could attract a penalty in the form of increased water or electricity tariff. Fear of penalty resulted in 100 per cent source segregation in the city by 2018.

Bengaluru, a city with best practices in Technological Innovation, has introduced the ‘Ezetap’ app for monitoring garbage-vulnerable points/ Black spot, where a field marshal monitors and penalise people.

4.Complaint system

Why a Complaint System?

1.    Supplementing Penalty System: While penalties serve as deterrents, active inspection by departmental officers may be challenging due to resource constraints. A complaint system empowers the public to report violations, supplementing enforcement efforts.

2.    Enhancing Public Engagement: Involving the public in reporting violations fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility for waste management within the community.

3.    Expanding Surveillance: With the public acting as additional eyes and ears, the reach of surveillance and enforcement efforts can be significantly expanded.



1.    First Complaint Generation

 Public can lodge complaints via phone calls, WhatsApp bot, or QR codes connected to bots.

 Details provided on corporation website and social media.

complaint token generated

2.    Response and Inspection

An Animator/Sanitary Supervisor/ Green squad assigned to respond within 24 hours and visit the complaint location.

Separate penalty generation devices/platforms be made available.

 SS/Animator can issue penalties themselves if they come across cases during inspections.

Authorized staff for penalties issuance be decided by the corporation.

3.    Penalty Issuance to Households

 Collect identity cards and mobile numbers only if there's a change requested.

 Message sent to registered number for penalty payment.

4.    Penalty Issuance to Commercial Establishments

 Similar procedures followed for commercial establishments.

5.    Consequences of Non-Payment

Additional Fines or service disruptions for nonpayment within deadline.

6.    Penalty Tracking

 Each penalty assigned a unique ID for tracking on corporation website.

7.    Status Update and Feedback Option:

Complaint tokens display "action taken" status

 Individuals provide feedback on resolution status (resolved/still persists).

 Feedback options available via message or entering complaint number on website.

8.    Closure of Resolved Complaints:

 Resolved complaints result in closure of complaint tokens.

9.    Follow-up for Unresolved Complaints:

 Officials follow up on unresolved complaints.

 If no response, a follow up call made after 2 or 3 days.

 Persistent complaints escalate to Senior Inspector for intervention.

Case study: In Vengurla, a city with best practices in Biodegradable Waste Management, complaint number is provided, and usually, complaints are resolved within a few hours and similarly in Gurugram also.

5.Clean & Green Squad – Volunteers


1.    To Drive Movements and Change: Engaging volunteers in the Clean & Green Squad initiative aims to mobilize community action and drive positive change in waste management practices.

2.    To Instill Responsibility: By actively participating in clean-up activities and waste management efforts, volunteers develop a sense of ownership and responsibility towards fostering a clean and sustainable society.

What it is Not?

1.    Not Passive, but Active: The Clean & Green Squad is not a passive program but an active initiative that encourages hands-on involvement in addressing local waste management challenges.

2.    Not for Certificates, but for Change: Participation in the squad is not motivated by the pursuit of certificates but by the desire to enact meaningful change and contribute to community well-being.

3.    Not Unpaid Labor for the Corporation: While participation in the Clean & Green Squad is voluntary, it is important to ensure that volunteers are not exploited for unpaid labor by the corporation. Volunteers should not be utilized to perform duties that would otherwise be the responsibility of paid employees.

Role of Volunteers:

  • Active Inspections: Volunteers conduct active inspections in their allotted wards, coordinating with local authorities such as Sanitary Supervisors (SS), Solid Waste (SW) personnel, and Animators to prevent waste mishandling and ensure compliance with waste management regulations.

  • Assist in Complaint Redressal: Volunteers assist in the process of complaint redressal, offering voluntary support to address waste management issues reported by the community.

  • Encouragement of Innovation: Volunteers are encouraged to exercise absolute freedom in generating innovative ideas, methods, and solutions to address local waste management challenges, fostering a culture of creativity and problem-solving.

“Program for collaboration, not for being authoritative”

Induction program

Pre-Induction Tasks

As part of the Clean & Green Squad Volunteer Program, volunteers are required to complete pre-induction tasks to ensure their commitment and readiness to contribute effectively to the program. These tasks are designed to uphold standards of sincerity and quality among program participants.


1.    Must-Watch Video/Complete Pre-Reads: Volunteers must watch a designated video or complete pre-reading materials related to waste management and environmental conservation.

2.    Complete MCQ Assignment to Become "Active": Volunteers must successfully complete an assignment consisting of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) to attain "active" status within the program. Multiple attempts may be provided to ensure understanding.

Reasoning: These pre-induction tasks are essential to ensure that sincere and quality individuals join the program, equipped with the necessary knowledge and understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

Orientation Meetings: Weekly orientation meetings, conducted either in-office or online with cameras on, will be held. Volunteers will be welcomed by designated program coordinators, including SS (Sanitary Supervisor), SI (Sanitary Inspector), and SO (Sanitary Officer). These meetings will serve to clarify doubts, provide insights into the work, and highlight the potential for positive change through collective efforts.

Access to Tools and Contacts: Volunteers will be provided with the necessary tools, communication channels, and contact numbers to access relevant resources and connect with community members effectively.

Application Process: Interested individuals can apply to join the Clean & Green Squad Volunteer Program through either of the following methods:

  • Visit their respective zonal/ward office.

  • Fill out an online application form available on social media platforms or the corporation website.

Criteria for Participation:

  • Age Requirement: Volunteers be 18 years or older.

  • Aadhar Verification

  • Mobile Number Verification: Mobile numbers be verified for communication purposes.

Additional Details:

  • Individual or Group Participation: Volunteers can participate individually or in groups of 2 to 5 members.

  • Zonal and Ward Interest: Volunteers can express interest in one/multiple zones and wards (with allocation on areas with higher complaint rates in case of multiple)

  • Duration: Specific Participation periods like 1 or 2 weeks for short-term engagement (or) 1 or 2 months for long-term involvement.

Certificates: Upon completion of the program, volunteers shall receive the following certificates based on their performance

1.    General Participation Certificate.

2.    Work Done Certificate, detailing the number of complaints assisted and areas revitalized.

3.    Exceptional Work Recognition for outstanding contributions.

Case study: In city of Panaji, a city with best practices in Source Segregation, authorized volunteers blew whistles every time they saw anyone litter.

In Kumbakonam, a city with best practices in Plastic Waste Management, Volunteers drew kolams (floor drawings with cultural and religious significance made from coloured flour) at garbage vulnerable points, educated children in government schools, and priests and street vendors outside temples.

6.Active updation of corporation Website

To ensure transparency and accessibility of information related to waste management, the corporation website should be actively updated with relevant data and schemes. This includes:

1.    Penalty Scheme: Provide comprehensive details about the penalty scheme, including types of violations, corresponding penalties, and procedures for penalty issuance.

2.    Complaints – for Transparency:

·        Number of Complaints Received: Regularly update the website with the total number of complaints received from the public regarding waste management issues. This provides insight into community concerns and helps prioritize resolution efforts.

·        Number of Penalties Initiated: Display the number of penalties initiated as a result of complaints, demonstrating the responsiveness of the corporation to reported violations.

·        Number of Complaints Resolved: Track and publish the number of complaints resolved successfully, showcasing the effectiveness of complaint redressal mechanisms.

3.    Volunteers – for Motivation:

·        Number of Active Volunteers: Highlight the active involvement of volunteers in waste management initiatives by showcasing the total number of volunteers engaged in the Clean & Green Squad or similar programs.

·        Impact of Volunteers: Share success stories and testimonials illustrating the positive impact of volunteer contributions on waste management outcomes. This motivates existing volunteers and attracts new participants.

·        Recognition of Exceptional Volunteers: Feature profiles of exceptional volunteers on the website, including their photos, bios, and the impact they have created in their communities. This serves as positive reinforcement and encourages continued engagement.

4.Measuring Outcomes

In evaluating the success of the waste management initiative, outcomes can be measured using several key indicators:

1.    Changes in waste quantity collected.

2.    Conducting surveys - pre & post-implementation.

3.    Percentage of complaints resolved.

4.    Rate of volunteer enrollment.

Case study: In Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, a city with best practises in Technological Innovation, Reducing the number of complaints around solid waste management was taken as one of the yardsticks to measure the performance of the new regime. Data shows that complaints reduced substantially over time as the system emerged to be an effective tool.

In Chandrapur, Maharashtra, a city with best practices in Landfill Management, a house-to-house survey was also carried out to ensure that waste segregation and house composting are carried out effectively and efficiently.



1. Annual Report on Solid Waste Management (2020-21), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi.

2. Waste - Wise Cities: Best practices in municipal solid waste management, NITI Aayog, 2021.

Meet The Thought Leader

Laboni is a mentor at GGI and is currently working at The Bridgespan Group as a Senior Associate Consultant. She takes 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)

Shuruthi Saraswathi is a B.Tech Biotechnology graduate from VIT, Vellore, with a track record of academic excellence, including state and university-level achievements. She aims to leverage her skills and experiences to make meaningful contributions.


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


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