The Effects of Solid Waste on Environment

Solid waste management is crucial for all the business operations. All businesses produce wastes, which can be hazardous to employees, customers or the environment if disposed improperly. Solid waste disposal methods vary based on the type and amount of waste generated. In the event of improper solid waste disposal, a vast amount of land space will be occupied.

What is Solid Waste?

Solid waste is unwanted solid waste generated from everyday activities in Industrial, business, and residential zones. The useless or ineffective solid-state materials discarded from society are called “Solid wastes.”

Solid waste management – the treatment of disposing of the end of life product or discarded solid material that is no longer useful for the environment needs to be managed accordingly as per the solid waste management guidelines.

A solid waste management program is imperative for any city to have a healthy and hygienic environment. It is the process of managing and treating solid waste from numerous residential zones in a particular area so that it does not cause any health hazards or negatively impact the environment.

Solid waste management also involves:

  • Maintaining clean public areas.
  • An odour-free environment.
  • Ensuring that all trash from homes, institutions, Industries and businesses goes through the correct channels for disposal or recycling.

A solid waste management system should be structured systematically in such a manner that it deals with various types of solid waste in a deliberate way.

Waste disposal is a requisite issue which can affect the whole world if not well handled.

What causes solid waste to end up in landfills?

When you think of landfills, the first things that probably come to mind are images of big holes in the ground filled with trash. But how exactly do those piles of the waste get from where they’re generated – which is almost always inside buildings to the landfill?

Solid waste management is a crucial part of any business operation. All businesses produce solid wastes, which can be hazardous to employees, customers or the environment if disposed of improperly. Solid waste disposal methods vary based on the quantity and category of waste produced.

Improper solid waste disposal causes solid waste materials to occupy the landfill space in a larger area.

More recently, the waste getting dumped into landfills has been a growing concern affecting our lands with toxic elements.

Solid wastes are generated in tonnes each day and discarded into landfills with no proper disposal directives.

India generates about 1,47,613 metric tonnes (MT) of solid waste each day, as per the report of “Swachhata Sandesh.”

The majority of the solid waste generated is Non-biodegradable, which dumps in a heap and stays on the land for years.

As a result of poorly managed waste, oceans are becoming increasingly contaminated, storm drains are clogged, flooding occurs, diseases are being transmitted, respiratory problems are being caused by burning, consuming waste unconsciously harms animals, and tourism is being affected by poorly managed waste, said Sameh Wahba, Global Director for Disaster Risk Management.

Types of Solid wastes

Solid wastes are categorized based on the field of the generation of waste. Each waste has its disposal or treatment method to reutilize the waste stream into useful resources and create a sustainable environment. Categories of solid waste are as follows,

  • Industrial wastes
  • Combustible and Non-combustible wastes
  • Municipal solid wastes (MSW)
  • Hazardous waste (HW)
  • Construction and demolition debris
  • Commercial wastes
  • Agricultural waste
  • Bio-medical waste

Industrial solid waste pollutes the soil and adjacent water bodies. Also can contaminate groundwater, lakes, streams, rivers or coastal waters. Management of industrial waste is, therefore, crucial for urban sustainability.

Combustible waste is organic waste, such as wood remains from craton boxes, cardboard, textile waste, and household waste.

Non-combustible waste – waste that is inorganic in nature, such as glass, metal, tin and can waste.

Agricultural solid wastes such as Crop remains, manure wastes and wastes from farm dump in larger amounts without proper disposal methodologies. Agricultural wastes dumped are immensely toxic and contaminate the land and water.

Municipal solid waste (MSW) – Waste collected from the municipal corporation and disposed of at the waste landfills includes household, residential, commercial, Industrial & agricultural wastes.

Hazardous wastes (HW) are the ultimate intoxicated wastes that severely harm the land, water, & environment. Hazardous substances are generated from multiple sources, such as the manufacturing of batteries from chemical industries, rubber manufacturing plants and industries dealing with petro-chemical composition.

Construction and Demolition Debris wastes are generated in the course of building, renovating, or demolishing. Construction wastes consist of heavy and bulky wastes in large numbers, as constructing buildings doesn’t have boundaries or stopping points.

Biomedical waste is potentially infectious material generated from clinical, research or educational activities involving human or animal pathogens. Improper Handling and disposing of this biomedical waste creates certain serious challenges for businesses & organizations. With proper disposal of Bio-medical waste, hazardous & infectious wastes getting dumped into the soil can be prevented.

Sources of solid waste generation are,

Source of waste generationWaste generator levelTypes of solid waste generated
ResidentialHousehold wastesFood wastes, paper, plastic, wood, steel, metal wastes, electronic wastes, leather & textile wastes, and bulky residential wastes such as household appliances
IndustrialHeavy and light manufacturing, fabrication, construction sites, power plants, and chemical plants.Packaging wastes, manufacturing wastes, food wastes, high quantity secondary wastes & waste generated from transportation.metal and steel wastes.
AgriculturalRemnants of farm waste, animal manure, orchards and fertilizer wastages.Agricultural wastes, including spoiled food wastes and animal manure,plastic covering on fruits and vegetables, and animal manure waste.
Hazardous wasteChemical & nuclear power plant wastes, waste collected from coal and mineral extraction processAutomobile manufacturing wastes, batteries, paints and solvents wastes, nuclear wastes such as Uranium tailings, flammable and radioactive wastes, transuranic waste (TR).
CommercialWastes collected from offices, hotels, buildings, resorts, and marketsPlastic cans, retail packaging waste, food wrappers, food and paper waste.
InstitutionalWastes generated from schools, colleges, educational institutions, government offices & non-cooperative organizationsPaper wastes, stationary wastes, food wastes, wood wastes, wastes evolved from constructional operations in Institutions
Constructionwastes generated during the process of building, renovation, and demolitionInsulation, e-wastes, construction wastes, material handling wastes, residual wastes, scrap metal, steel, cement & brick waste.
MunicipalPerforming maintenance on streets, parks, beaches, water treatment plants, and other recreational areas.Metal, leather & wood wastes. Street garbage, waste from public places, plastic waste, sanitary and other waste.

Effects of Solid waste disposal on Businesses​

Solid wastes are the primary contributor of waste, with an average of 70-90% in Urban and semi-urban cities and 50-70% in rural areas. In many of the cities in India, solid waste management practices have not emerged till now.

“On an average collection of municipal solid wastes, 94% of wastes are getting dumped into landfills while only 5% of the solid wastes are composted, treated and recycled.”

Untreated solid waste causes environmental pollution, spreads infectious diseases, and poses a health threat to communities near landfills. Risks can be reduced by managing waste carefully, storing it in covered bins/containers, separating waste to be recycled whenever possible, and disposing waste in the proper disposal containers.

Effects of Improper solid waste disposal causing many problems to the health and environment.

  1. Land & water contamination
  2. Litter Surroundings
  3. Toxic gas Emission
  4. Impact on Human health
  5. Sustainability becomes a “?

1.Land & Water Contamination

Indecorous solid waste management causes the land and water to get polluted to a large extent. What happens if all the waste generated is dumped into the land sites? Our land space to live & accommodate would get shrinked. Ultimately each day, we come up with waste.  

“India generates approximately 36.5 million tonnes of solid waste annually.”

Solid waste management is the major cause of land and water contamination. Impacts caused on the land & water due to the improper solid wastes management practices are, 

Day-by-day land slowly loses its fertility, clogging drains, causing air pollution and collapsing the food chain. 

Surface water level decreases, drinking water quality gets poor, and it transmits diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, and hepatitis A.  

The social, economic, and environmental costs of clearing out landfill sites are higher. Solid wastes generated should have a streamlined workflow from collection to combustion. 

2.Litter Surroundings

The majority of Industries induce litter around the surroundings with their large proportions of Industrial wastes, which causes environmental health to risk.

Litter Surrounding
“Due to the lack of commitment to solid waste treatment, we’re getting drowned into our own waste.”

Solid waste management is an important element in maintaining hygienic and sustainable living conditions within human settlements. Solid waste may be defined as unwanted materials or leftovers from industrial processes such as mining, manufacturing, or assemblies that have no further use.

If the same amount of solid waste is generated in 2041, Maharashtra alone will generate 200 million Metric tonnes of waste annually.

3.Emission of Toxic gas

India generates about 62,32,507 metric tonnes of hazardous waste annually.

Toxic gas
Hazardous wastes like Nickel, lead, zinc, batteries, other chemical solvent wastes, radioactive wastes and e-wastes get collaged with plastic and paper. When burned, the emission of toxic gas produces di-oxide, furans, carbon monoxide, and other toxic gases that get released, causing tuberculosis, suffocation and cancer.

These hazardous toxic gases cause a great health crisis for human well-being. To prevent the emission of toxic gases, hazardous wastes need to be segregated and handled in the right way for re-treatment.

Some examples of air toxins or air pollutants include asbestos, toluene, and a few metals that cause a great imbalance in the sustainable environment.

Hazardous wastes affect the environment and human health and sometimes lead to death. These hazardous wastes are thrown away without being properly disposed of, increasing the risk to the environment and human health. Hazardous wastes like Nickel, lead, zinc, batteries, other chemical solvent wastes, radioactive wastes and e-wastes get collaged with plastic and paper. When burned, the emission of toxic gas produces di-oxide, furans, carbon monoxide, and other toxic gases that get released, causing tuberculosis, suffocation and cancer.

4.Impact on Human health

The risk of Unscientific solid waste disposal is critical to human health. Dumping, throwing and littering of wastes in open spaces or water bodies causes a great impact on the cycle of human health.

Untreated solid waste can also cause environmental pollution and spread infectious diseases. The health of the people who live close to a waste dump is under direct threat. Solid waste, such as paper and plastic, may cause harmful infections and even injuries through cuts.

Some of the serious health issues caused by improper waste disposal are infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid, pneumonia, diarrhoea, tetanus, whooping cough and many chronic diseases.

5.Sustainability becomes a “?”

As waste management practices become more lenient and inappropriate, the chances of stepping towards a “Sustainable environment” have more chances. The Uncollected or leftover amount of waste on the streets defines the development ratio of a country.Collection, segregation, and proper waste treatment reduce the adverse impact on environmental health.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests is engaged in policy formulation, guidelines setting up of monitoring systems, and research on various aspects of solid waste management to minimize the generation of wastes and develop cost-effective technologies for their management efficiently.

As per the Guidelines of Solid waste management act 2016 imposed,

  • From Source segregation of solid waste to treatment, the involvement of the process should be a waste to wealth recovery treatment.
  • By the 3R principle (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), solid waste management practice should not get led down at any instance.
  • No Individual should throw, burn or bury any waste resource outside the premises, on open space or in any water bodies.
  • Waste segregation is the first step to clearing waste being dumped. Environmental law of Solid waste management enforced three categories of waste segregation.
  • Biodegradable waste
  • Domestic hazardous waste (Cleaning agents, household chemical wastes, napkins)
  • Dry waste (Metal, scrap, plastic, glass, wood)
  • Industrial estate, industrial parks and special economic zone should also provide a mandatory rebate on stamp duty or registration fee for new factories/ warehouses with dual-vend or other waste management infrastructure.
  • All Manufacturers, Industrial owners and other businesses should propagate the EPR (Extended producers responsibility) guidelines for their products produced.
  • As per the Construction and demolition debris 2016, Construction waste should be treated separately to reduce the risk of dumping heavy & high solid waste that occupies more land space & pollute air, land and water reforms.
  • A Centralized Solid Waste Management Board has been constituted under the Ministry of Urban Development to ensure an effective collection of solid waste, disposal and treatment of municipal solid waste.

Treatment methods of solid waste management

Solid waste management is the process that deals with the collection, storage, transfer, processing, and disposal of solid waste in a safe and sustainable manner. Solid waste management is everyone’s responsibility to turn waste into useful resources. Waste collected needs efficient disposal and treatment methods to limit the waste dumped into landfills. Some of the systematic treatment of solid waste management include the following processes,

  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Source Reduction
  • Incineration
  • Pyrolysis


Recycling is the art of handling waste without getting wasted. Recycling of waste varies with the category or type of product. Recycling solid waste should be done to pose no health risks to the general public and not damage the environment.

Recycling methodology involves collecting, segregating, storing, transferring, processing, and treating solid waste. There are different processes of solid waste management that any city or town can adopt to manage municipal solid waste.

The most common methods include biodegradable recycling waste, non-biodegradable waste like discarded furniture, construction debris or broken glasses, etc., and other measures to reduce the quantity of waste in landfills on other disposal sites.

The process of recycling solid waste involves,

  • Waste destruction & dismantling
  • Segregation of solid wastes
  • Shredding
  • Bailing
  • Washing
  • Drying
  • Pelletizing
  • Cutting into pieces
  • Reprocessing
  • End product

Recycling takes over multiple manipulations, such as reducing, reusing, and reprocessing. Recycling preserves the planet, maintains a healthy state, and reduces the cost of many products and the usage of enormous natural resources.

Recycling solid waste plays a vital part in retaining the sustainability drive and global cleanliness to pursue a healthy standard of living. Recycling takes over multiple manipulations, such as reducing, reusing, and reprocessing. Recycling preserves the planet, maintains a healthy state, and reduces the cost of many products and the usage of enormous natural resources.


The incineration method implies the burning of wastes in a combustion house of heat at a high temperature. Using the Incinerating method, solid waste dumping has been reduced at a ratio of 20-30% of the total volume of waste collected. The incineration process is also called “Calcination” or “Controlled flame combustion.”

The incineration process involves,

  • Collect
  • Shed
  • Dry
  • Decide the size of the batch
  • Pre-heat the sorted waste
  • Load Incinerator
  • Warm or cool down
  • De-ash

Many people don’t realize that Incineration is a well-known method of reducing the amount of waste in landfills and is also used to heat water.

When solid waste is burned inside an incinerator, it does not emit extreme amounts of heat unlike other landfills.Waste is often packed in garbage bags and compacted before entering the chamber, where it’s burned at high temperatures that can reach 1,400 degrees.

Incineration process,

  • Reduces the space occupied by the wastes,
  • Electricity is generated using incineration process,
  • Ash produced in incineration is used for construction purposes and as a secondary raw material for many construction development products.

Incineration in waste management

Moreover, Incineration contributes by minimizing the solid waste sent to landfills or other ways of disposal. The incineration process is vital in transforming waste into reusable energy and materials.

The incineration process is highly used to transform bio-medical waste into energy. Contaminated biological wastes, Blood-stained cloth, biological tissues, and other biomedical toxic wastes are burned and get transformed into efficient energy resources.

Source Reduction

Source reduction prevents the waste at its generation phase. The circular economy works on the same principle of waste reduction.

A Circular Economy is a system-structured tech-stack framework to eliminate waste over-production, pollution, and environmental crisis at the initial stage.

Source reduction is inspired by nature, where everything becomes part of another cycle. It is also a social system that ensures that the benefits are distributed equitably among all community members regardless of their economic status.

The concept of a circular economy works on the principle of preventing waste production at its origin.

The purpose of source reduction is to preserve nature’s finite resources from being utilized for industrial manufacturing purposes. Incinerating one ton of waste produces 500-600 Kwh of electricity. Transforming the throwaway Economy to a circular economy needs a scintillating spurt.

It’s time to reuse, reutilize, and re-energize the sources from waste streams. Results of Source reduction are as follows,

  • One ton of waste can save how much of the world’s natural resources?
  • One ton of waste can do miracles.
  • One ton of newspaper waste saves 601 Kwh of energy, 700 gallons of water and 4.6 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • One ton of plastic waste saves 5774 kWh of energy, 16.3 barrels of oil and 30 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • One ton of Industrial steel waste saves 642kwh of energy, 1.8 barrels of oil and 4 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • One ton of glass saves 42kwh of energy, 0.12 barrels of oil and 2 cubic yards of landfill space. Another important aspect of the glass is about 30% of glass used now comes from recycled glass.
  • The basic conceptualization of source reduction is to balance the demand with the limited resources available.

So-called Circular Economy. Let’s use the resources in hand first by implementing systematic source reduction techniques.


Composting is the eco-friendly method to transform organic wastes into useful agricultural by-products such as natural fertilizers, humus and high-quality manures.

“More than 68 million tons of Food & organic waste are produced in India every year.”

CompostingComposting eliminates the acquiring space for landfills. The collected organic wastes can be sorted and buried in the land with prospective measures. Only Biodegradable waste can be decomposed using Composting.

Composting – a micro-biological process of converting degradable organic waste into useful agricultural products like humus, manure etc. Breaking down organic waste such as (food waste, leaves & grass clippings, farms and restaurant waste) at a certain period of time and transforming it into by-products or secondary raw materials to produce a new product.

The composting process can be achieved in three different modes. They are,

  1. Aerobic Composting
  2. Anaerobic composting
  3. Vermi composting

1. Aerobic Composting

In Aerobic Composting, the air is the primary energy source to break down the organic degradable wastes. Aerobic composting consists of a Tumbler style pit or spinning compost tumbler that needs switching or spinning every few days.

Spinning the compost pile circulates air throughout the compost bin to break down the organic waste. To Decompose faster, an anaerobic composting pit needs more green wastes to bring up a lot of nitrogen flow, and it can be achieved by adding grass & leaves clippings.

Bacteria slowly tend to break down with the help of nitrogen content. Once the pit starts breaking down, the temperature inside the composter gets high. The aerobic composting pile must always be in a wet condition or moisturized state to break down the waste.

Ultimately, Aerobic composting is a process of decomposition that relies on oxygen. As in anaerobic bacteria, the energy to break down organic matter comes from the air and not from internal heat. This process is much like anaerobic bacteria, except for the need for oxygen. The end product generated is compost or humus.

2.Anaerobic Composting

The anaerobic composting method is similar to the aerobic method. The only difference is that anaerobic composting decomposes organic matter in the absence of oxygen. The anaerobic composting method needs a little effort compared to the aerobic process.

Anaerobic processes take place in sealed containers filled with organic waste. Fill the compost pile with organic waste and firmly tighten it with rigid caps. The anaerobic composting process will take a bit of time to break the waste as it takes part in the absence of oxygen.

Anaerobic composting works on two digesters to decompose the organic matter inside the compost pile.

  • Dry Anaerobic digester
  • Wet Anaerobic digester

Dry Anaerobic Digester is a Green Alternative “Waste-to-Energy” solution to reduce organic waste.

Dry Anaerobic Digesters are also called Bio Engines. The biodegradation process in Dry Anaerobic Digestion is not aided by additional water or fluids. Compostable materials are packed into airtight containers and allowed to decompose for several weeks or months.

On the other hand, Wet Anaerobic Digester uses animal manure and other sources mixed with water to compost biodegradable waste. These digesters use water as the primary resource to decompose the waste streams.

3.Vermi composting

Vermicomposting is the process of decomposing organic wastes by adding worms and other organic reactants.

Vermicomposting is not a new trend, but it’s an increasingly important method, especially when it comes to reducing the amount of trash you send to landfills. Vermicompost safely breaks down organic material using Earthworms, oxygen, and moisture.


Pyrolysis, the thermal decomposition method, is a common technique to break down solid waste at high temperatures. The pyrolysis process takes place at more than 500-600 degrees celsius.

The pyrolysis process is a way to convert waste plastic, tires, and other organic materials into useful oils and gas. Under controlled conditions, the process involves the thermal decomposition of organic materials.

At temperatures above 400°C and in the absence of air, organic matter is transformed into pyrolysis oil, pyrolysis gas, carbon black, and carbon monoxide.

These products can be utilized for several purposes, such as powering cogeneration facilities or producing charcoal fuel pellets to replace coal.

Pyrolysis decomposition methods can be achieved in three methods,

  • Conventional or Slow pyrolysis
  • Fast Pyrolysis
  • Ultra-fast or Flash Pyrolysis

Solid waste – A Resource to Streamline

With proper solid waste management, the focus on solid waste is to reuse products and materials to extract maximum value. The disposal of solid waste materials can be replaced by regenerative cycles in which output materials become inputs for further production processes.

Untapped solid waste has the potential to produce 439 MW of electric power from 32,890 tons per day (TPD). Still, It counts.

Solid waste management, the essential part of any company now, is to meet the EPR demands ethically.

The world is slowly changing from waste to health management with effective methodologies. Let’s properly utilize the waste stream to extract infinite energy resources from solid waste.

Waste is the most neglected yet integral part of the life cycle of any industry. But, the waste stream contains ample amounts of energy resources which can be sustainably utilized to meet the needs of the growing population.

With the advent of proper technologies and standards, we can effectively utilize this energy resource by developing valuable resources and circulating the recycling chain more effectively.

The waste stream has plenty of energy resources which can be efficiently utilized by converting it into renewable energy.

We need to manage waste properly and promote campaigns to recycle and reuse solid waste to save the environment. Environment is not a separate part of life. Together, we’re the environment. It’s our liability to maintain the planet with enough natural resources for the upcoming generation.

It’s time to preserve and recover all our lost resources to give back to the forthcoming generation for development and utilization. Proper waste disposal is vital to bringing back the Earth’s mainstream wealth and assets.

To Summarise, Proper solid waste management is essential in ensuring environmental conservation and protection of the human race.