New Delhi: The environment ministry has decided to overhaul the way waste is managed in the country, putting in the public domain draft rules that will, among other steps, make households and commercial establishments pay for the waste they generate.

The ministry is now seeking public feedback on the proposed rules for handling solid, electronic, plastic and biomedical waste. It is also planning to put in place simple and clear rules for segregation, collection, transportation and disposal of waste.

The ministry will collect feedback for 60 days before finalizing these rules, one of which proposes that households and institutions pay municipal authorities for the collection and disposal of waste they generate.

“No waste generator shall throw the waste generated by him on the street, open spaces, drain or water bodies. All waste generators shall pay such user fee or charge or fines, as may be specified in the bye-laws of the urban local bodies for solid waste management," according to the rules.

The proposals stress the need for reuse of waste in a country that every year generates 400,000 tonnes of electronic waste, 1.5 million tonnes of plastic waste, 1.7 million tonnes of medical waste, 48 million tonnes of municipal waste, as per a report published by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in 2008.

As economic growth accelerates, the amount of waste generated will only increase.

Bharati Chaturvedi, founder-director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, a non-governmental organization (NGO), said the implementation of the draft rules would advance the way waste is managed in the country.

“The rules are commendable and those working in the waste sector, like Chintan, are happy to see a number of requests being accommodated in this final draft," she said.

“The need for decentralized composting and creation of material recovery facilities to be managed by the informal sector give the much-needed recognition to waste-pickers, who have been cleaning and segregating our waste for all these years," she said.

The new rules clearly define terms that were previously left ambiguous. The draft Solid Waste Management Rules, 2015, which would replace the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, clearly define “sanitary waste" and how it should be disposed of. The previous one had no mention of sanitary waste.

Sanitary waste includes used diapers, sanitary towels or napkins, tampons, condoms and incontinence sheets. The draft rules specify the need of their segregation so that they can be disposed of at the processing facilities.

The environment ministry has also devoted an entire chapter to the construction and demolition waste, which, for the first time, has been acknowledged as a huge problem.

No retailer or street vendor will sell products in unlabelled plastic carry bags, and if they do so, they will be fined.

Activists working on the management of electronic waste, a growing problem in a country where electronic gadgets are proliferating, cautioned that these are only draft rules and their enforcement is key.

“There are extensive changes in the new rules to make electronic waste rules more effective, like introducing the concept of dealers who sell the electronic items. However, a detailed study of new rules is still required," said Ravi Aggarwal, director at Toxics Link, an NGO that was among the first to start working on the issue of electronic waste.

In the draft rules, the dealer has been made responsible for collecting e-waste by providing consumers with a box, bin or a demarcated area to deposit e-waste, or through the take-back system on behalf of the producer of that electronic item.

Moyna Manku contributed to this story.

Close