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Waste Management - A Social Problem

Modern life-style with its emphasis on consumption and disposal has brought in its wake the acute problem of Solid Waste Management across the globe. The problem is aggravated due to pressure on land space on our planet. The urban solid waste consists of different materials - wet and dry. In a typical composition of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), it is estimated that plastic waste constitutes only 5-6 per cent.

Composition of Municipal Solid Waste in Mumbai - Click here

Plastics are quite often, probably due to their bright colour and visibility, criticized for contributing to the waste problem, although, in reality plastics constitute a very miniscule percentage of urban solid waste both in volume and weight. Instead of singling out any one material our effort should be to streamline waste management system right from source reduction to collection, sorting, re-usage and recycling and finally disposal and incineration wherever applicable.


The Potential Of Recycled Plastics - A Second Life

Plastics' recycling takes place on a significant scale in India. As much as 60 per cent of both industrial and urban plastic waste is recycled. Plastic wastes have immense economic value. Almost all the plastic waste is converted into co-products and by-products. Most of it is mechanically recycled into products like containers, footwear, boards, partitions, profiles, pipes and other building and construction materials. Waste plastics are also recycled into lumber/wood products like rails, fencings, posts, benches, water pots, monofilaments etc. Plastic beverage bottle is being recycled into synthetic fibre for clothing and bedding applications.

Plastics are 100 per cent recyclable by various means. Technology is being continuously upgraded to improve the process of recycling, quality of recyclate and the quality and performance of the end products. Raw materials have a high value and are a precious resource, so to conserve both money and the environment the industry makes every effort to recover as much as possible.

It is often reported that burning of plastic bags releases toxic and carcinogenic elements into the environment while the truth is that plastic bags are made from polyethylenes which have basic building blocks of carbon and hydrogen. Burning of such bags provides only harmless carbon dioxide and water which are part of the natural atmospheric cycle.



The majority of municipal waste is still used as landfill, due to the very high cost of facilities for the sorting, separation and recycling of waste. As plastics are stable, both physically and chemically they in turn provide stability to the tips. This provides a safe and solid foundation upon which to build; thereby releasing land for development. However, as far as plastic waste is concerned, recycling and re-use is the answer or incineration at the end of it all.


Conserving The Environment

The plastics industry is concerned that it should take appropriate care of resources and the environment. The advantages of plastics over other raw materials are apparent from the beginning of their life cycle. Research shows that it often takes less energy to make products in plastics, and although most plastics depend on oil, coal or gas they are responsible for only a small fraction of the national consumption of these fuels. In addition, as plastics are lighter and easier to store and transport, energy savings are made. As well as developments in the recycling of plastics, there have been interesting advances in the production of degradable plastics for products that need only a limited life.


The Future

Plastics recycling are in the growth phase as the whole industry is still relatively young. A further development in recycling, which is being researched, is the recovery of the individual chemical components of plastics for re-use as chemicals, or for the manufacture of new plastics. ICPE is committed to encouraging industry to exploit the potential of plastics for recycling. It recognizes that many of the measures that could be taken to increase recycling ventures are inhibited by both cost and practicalities. The ICPE proposes to hold seminars on recycling issues, to ensure innovation and development within the plastics industry.

Plastic recycling industry in Indian is of tremendous economic importance. Besides providing gainful employment to thousands of skilled and unskilled people it provides cheap inputs for industry and also cheap, affordable consumer products for the middle class and poorer sections of the society.


A Source Of Energy

Material recovery is by no means the only way to recycle plastics. Incineration is another option that also helps recover their thermal content, providing an alternative source of energy. An average typical value for polymers found commonly in house hold waste is 38 mega joules per kilogram (MJ/kg), which compares favourably to the equivalent value of 31 MJ/kg for coal. This represents a valuable resource raising the overall calorific value of domestic waste which can then be recovered through controlled combustion and re-used in the form of heat and steam to power electricity generators. This method is being put to use in Japan, the UK and in some of the European countries. However, it will take a long time before India could adopt the technology.


News Items / Special Information

Chennai : Garbage Segregation Drive yet to take off due to ignorance of Issues by households - Students Survey shows

Plastic garbage posing solid waste crisis

Jivan Mitr: Lesson in waste management

Scottish plan for plastic waste


The model of Dry Waste Management of Cuffe Parade ('A' Ward), Mumbai was followed at Matheran

Waste Disposal - Calif. waste board votes to tighten plastic container rules

Pakistan keen to adopt plastic road technology

Imagine not taking out the trash for a year. Vijay pawgi will show you how

Pali Village divided over waste segregation

Is Britain dumping e-waste on India?

BMC gets wise about waste to enforce segregation of garbage in residential societies


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