scorecardMSMEs can aid waste management in India but need more hand holding
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MSMEs can aid waste management in India but need more hand holding

MSMEs can aid waste management in India but need more hand holding
Business3 min read
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the second phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban Mission to make Indian cities ‘garbage free’ last year.
  • About 2.24 billion tonnes of waste was generated in 2020, and if all this waste is put on trucks they would go around the world a little over 24 times.
  • India was ranked at the bottom position of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022, with 151st position in waste management.
It was less than a year ago that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the second phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban Mission to make all cities of India ‘garbage free’. Indian micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) are struggling everyday in order to make that dream of Swachh Bharat into a reality.

India faces major environmental challenges associated with waste generation and inadequate waste collection, transport, treatment and disposal. The current systems in India are not able to cope with the volumes of waste generated — about 960 million tonnes of it — by an increasing urban population, and this impacts on the environment and public health.

“As per Material Recycling Association (MRAI) India’s recycling rate stands at 30%. The data associated with this recycling rate is largely dominated by highly recyclable materials such as ferrous and non-ferrous scrap, paper, rubber, and tyre etc,” Anurag Asati, co-founder of a waste management company The Kabadiwala, told Business Insider.

He noted that the recycling of materials such as plastics is “not very well documented” as a lot of recyclables in the daily garbage and litter does not get collected/recycled because of its low value. Some of it is also informally recycled by waste pickers and kabadiwala associations.

The Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban Mission plan relies on a multi pronged strategy — segregate solid waste on source; follow the 3Rs of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling; scientifically process all types of municipal solid waste; and remediate legacy dumpsites for effective solid waste management. This may help, but the growing consumerism is just adding more challenges to the bucket.

Consumerism, fast fashion are making waste management expensive

About 2.24 billion tonnes of waste was generated in 2020 as per The World Bank’s data, and if all this waste is put on trucks they would go around the world a little over 24 times.

“With rapid population growth and urbanization, annual waste generation is expected to increase by 73% from 2020 levels to 3.88 billion tonnes in 2050,” the global organisation added.

Increasing consumerism and fast fashion trends have pushed consumers to purchase more, leading to an increased contribution to solid waste. “99% of what we buy is discarded within six months, which is one of the key reasons for these alarming numbers,” Monisha Narke, founder of RUR Greenlife said, citing data from the United Nations.

That type of waste is difficult to recycle too as they are difficult to collect, Asati of The Kabadiwala said. “Disposal of material like multi-layer packaging, single-use plastic, styrofoam, old clothes is difficult because the collection and processing of this kind of waste requires a lot of effort and resources which makes it expensive,” he noted.

Lack of awareness, budget and consistent policy is an issue too

Lack of awareness, budget, financial viability and infrastructure are some other challenges that India’s waste management system is facing. According to the World Bank, effective waste management is expensive, often comprising 20%–50% of municipal budgets. The lack of land in metropolitan areas like Mumbai and other Tier I cities is making recycling even more difficult and expensive, Narke noted.

India was ranked at the bottom position of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022, with 151st position in waste management, 165th position in climate policy. The country also scored low on rule of law, control of corruption and government effectiveness.

Apart from the basic awareness, India also needs clearer policies around solid waste management systems in India. “MSME policy and schemes in the waste management sector should be clearer and conducive as it will help form proper structure and processes. Frequent changes in the policies makes it difficult to modify the service/product in the given time frame,” Asati added.

He emphasized that the government helps promote MSME and green entrepreneurship culture, but there needs to be more focus on tax rebates, subsidies in land and electricity. “The government can also provide community spaces for storing and material recovery facilities for waste management,” Narke added.

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