Solid Waste Management

The objective of solid waste management is to reduce the quantity of solid waste disposed off on land by recovery of materials and energy from solid waste This in turn results in lesser requirement of raw material and energy as inputs for technological processes.
Principles of Municipal Solid Waste Management
Municipal Solid Waste Management involves the application of principle of integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) to municipal waste. ISWM is the application of suitable techniques, technologies and management programs covering all types of solid wastes from all sources to achieve the twin objectives of

(a) waste reduction and (b) effective management of waste still produced after waste reduction.

Waste Reduction

It is now well recognised that sustainable development can only be achieved if society in general, and industry in particular, produces ‘more with less’ i.e. more goods and services with less use of the world’s resources (raw materials and energy) and less pollution and waste. Production as well as product changes have been introduced in many countries, using internal recycling of materials or on-site energy recovery, as part of solid waste minimisation schemes.

Effective Management of Solid Waste

Effective solid management systems are needed to ensure better human health and safety. They must be safe for workers and safeguard public health by preventing the spread of disease. In addition to these prerequisites, an effective system of solid waste management must be both environmentally and economically sustainable.

Environmentally sustainable: It must reduce, as much as possible, the environmental impacts of waste management.
Economically sustainable: It must operate at a cost acceptable to community.

Clearly it is difficult to minimise the two variables, cost and environmental impact, simultaneously. There will always be a trade off. The balance that needs to be struck is to reduce the overall environmental impacts of the waste management system as far as possible, within an acceptable level of cost. An economically and environmentally sustainable solid waste management system is effective if it follows an integrated approach i.e. it deals with all types of solid waste materials and all sources of solid waste .A multi-material, multi-source management approach is usually effective in environmental and economic terms than a material specific and source specific approach. Specific wastes should be dealt within such a system but in separate streams . An effective waste management system includes one or more of the following options:

(a) Waste collection and transportation.
(b) Resource recovery through sorting and recycling i.e. recovery of materials
(such as paper, glass, metals) etc. through separation.
(c) Resource recovery through waste processing i.e. recovery of materials (such as compost) or recovery of energy through biological, thermal or other processes.
(d) Waste transformation (without recovery of resources) i.e. reduction of volume, toxicity or other physical/chemical properties of waste to make it suitable for final disposal.
(e) Disposal on land i.e. environmentally safe and sustainable disposal in landfills.

Functional Elements of Municipal Solid Waste Management

The activities associated with the management of municipal solid wastes from the point of generation to final disposal can be grouped into the six functional elements: (a) waste generation; (b) waste handling and sorting, storage, and processing at the source; (c) collection; (d) sorting, processing and transformation; (e) transfer and transport; and (f) disposal.

Waste Generation: Waste generation encompasses activities in which materials are identified as no longer being of value (in their present form) and are either thrown away or gathered together for disposal. Waste generation is, at present, an activity that is not very controllable. In the future, however, more control is likely to be exercised over the generation of wastes. Reduction of waste at source, although not controlled by solid waste managers, is now included in system evaluations as a method of limiting the quantity of waste generated.

Waste Handling, Sorting, Storage, and Processing at the Source: The second

of the six functional elements in the solid waste management system is waste handling, sorting, storage, and processing at the source. Waste handling and sorting involves the activities associated with management of wastes until they are
placed in storage containers for collection. Handling also encompasses the movement of loaded containers to the point of collection. Sorting of waste components is an important step in the handling and storage of solid waste at the source. For example, the best place to separate waste materials for reuse and recycling is at the source of generation. Households are becoming more aware of the importance of separating newspaper and cardboard, bottles/glass, kitchen wastes and ferrous and non-ferrous materials. On-site storage is of primary importance because of public health concerns and aesthetic consideration. Unsightly makeshift containers and even open ground storage, both of which are undesirable, are often seen at many residential and commercial sites. The cost of providing storage for solid wastes at the source is normally borne by the household in the case of individuals, or by the management of commercial and industrial properties. Processing at the source involves activities such as backyard waste composting.


The functional element of collection, includes not only the gathering of solid wastes and recyclable materials, but also the transport of these materials, after collection, to the location where the collection vehicle is emptied. This location may be a materials processing facility, a transfer station, or a landfill disposal site.

Sorting, Processing and Transformation of Solid Waste:

The sorting, processing and transformation of solid waste materials is the fourth of the functional elements. The recovery of sorted materials, processing of solid waste and transformation of solid waste that occurs primarily in locations away from the source of waste generation are encompassed by this functional element. Sorting of commingled (mixed) wastes usually occurs at a materials recovery facility, transfer stations, combustion facilities, and disposal sites. Sorting often includes the separation of bulky items, separation of waste components by size using screens, manual separation of waste components, and separation of ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

Waste processing is undertaken to recover conversion products and energy. The organic fraction of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) can be transformed by a variety of biological and thermal processes. The most commonly used biological transformation process is aerobic composting Waste transformation is undertaken to reduce the volume, weight, size or toxicity of waste without resource recovery. Transformation may be done by a variety of mechanical (eg shredding), thermal (e.g. incineration without energy recovery) or chemical (e.g. encapsulation) techniques.

Transfer and Transport:

The functional element of transfer and transport involves two steps: (i) the transfer of wastes from the smaller collection vehicle to the larger transport equipment and (ii) the subsequent transport of the wastes, usually over long distances, to a processing or disposal site. The transfer usually takes place at a transfer station.


The final functional element in the solid waste management system is disposal. Today the disposal of wastes by landfilling or uncontrolled dumping is the ultimate fate of all solid wastes, whether they are residential wastes collected and transported directly to a landfill site, residual materials from Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), residue from the combustion of solid waste, rejects of composting, or other substances from various solid waste-processing facilities. A municipal solid waste landfill plant is an engineered facility used for disposing of solid wastes on land or within the earth’s mantle without creating nuisance or hazard to public health or safety, such as breeding of rodents and insects and contamination of groundwater.


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