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Written by Kabir Arora


Country India

April 26, 2016

Revised Solid Waste Management Rules Mandate Inclusion of Wastepickers!
Written by Kabir Arora. Waste Narratives. 04/23/2016


The recently released Solid Waste Management Rules in India,  2016 are a matter of celebration. They acknowledge the contribution of waste pickers. Prescriptions are made for the inclusion of waste pickers and informal waste workers (identified as informal waste collectors) in waste management services. There are a few flaws in the given document and those need to be rectified while making policies and plans for solid waste management at the state and city level as mandated by the rules.

Clear mandate for inclusion of waste pickers in door to door collection and other waste management services

The rules define waste pickers and other informal waste collectors as follows:

“waste picker” means a person or groups of persons informally engaged in collection and recovery of reusable and recyclable solid waste from the source of waste generation the streets, bins, material recovery facilities, processing and waste disposal facilities for sale to recyclers directly or through intermediaries to earn their livelihood.

“informal waste collector” includes individuals, associations or waste traders who are involved in sorting, sale and purchase of recyclable materials.

As per our understanding of the waste economy hierarchy i.e. apart from waste pickers; itinerant (kabadiwallas) buyers, scrap dealers etc. have all been clubbed together in the definition of ‘informal waste collector’. Such a measure is welcome as it is inclusive of all relevant vocations in informal waste economy. Further, the rules propose issuance of occupational identity cards to waste pickers and informal waste collectors and their integration in door to collection as responsibility and duty of local authorities and village panchayats, rules also command setting up of material recovery facilities which enables waste pickers and waste collectors to separate recyclables from the waste, and state that incentives need to be provided to recycling initiatives by informal waste recycling sector. Local bodies have been asked to do capacity building of waste pickers and waste collectors through training. For the strengthened implementation of rules, the department in charge of local bodies of all state governments have been asked to constitute state level advisory committees, which will have representatives of waste pickers and informal waste recyclers.

It is worth mentioning that the representative of waste pickers: General Secretary of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP)- Harshad Barde was included in the committee to finalize these rules. We are grateful to all committee members including Harshad Barde for such a commendable job.

Coming to the measures which need to be rectified are:

  • Source segregation: The rules prescribe source segregation in 3 categories: Dry, Wet & Hazardous Waste. Instead of streamlining sanitary waste separately, they suggest that waste generators ‘wrap securely the used sanitary waste like diapers, sanitary pads etc., in the pouches provided by the manufacturers or brand owners of these products or in a suitable wrapping material as instructed by the local authorities and shall place the same in the bin meant for dry waste or non- bio-degradable waste.’ This is unacceptable, sanitary waste should be considered a separate stream and should not be mixed up with dry waste. As we know dry waste will be sorted by waste pickers in secondary collection center or material recovery facility, in case of Bengaluru- those are termed as Kartvavya/ neighbourhood dry waste collection centers. If sanitary waste is mixed with dry waste, while sorting waste pickers will be forced to touch the human excreta and other biological waste, which is a violation of prohibition of manual scavenging act. Therefore, while framing state and city plans collection of sanitary waste should be separately streamlined as is done in Bengaluru through the enforcement of 2 bin 1 bag. 2 bins for organic waste and sanitary/reject waste respectively and bag for dry waste. Karnataka High in its order given on 16th December, 2015 has also directed the implementation of 2 bin 1 bag concept at household level. For reference- definitions of dry, biodegradable and hazardous waste have been provided here: dry waste” means waste other than bio-degradable waste and inert street sweepings and includes recyclable and non-recyclable waste, combustible waste and sanitary napkin and diapers, etc; “biodegradable waste ” means any organic material that can be degraded by micro-organisms into simpler stable compounds; “domestic hazardous waste” means discarded paint drums, pesticide cans, CFL bulbs, tube lights, expired medicines, broken mercury thermometers, used batteries, used needles and syringes and contaminated gauge, etc., generated at the household level.
  • Removal of quantity from definition of Bulk Generator: “bulk waste generator” means and includes buildings occupied by the Central government departments or undertakings, State government departments or undertakings, local bodies, public sector undertakings or private companies, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, colleges, universities, other educational institutions, hostels, hotels, commercial establishments, markets, places of worship, stadia and sports complexes having an average waste generation rate exceeding 100kg per day. The mention of quantity makes it cumbersome to identify bulk generators as most of these institutions don’t generate uniform amount of waste every day. For example, on a day of festival a temple must be generating around 500 kilograms of waste and on a regular day it’s waste generation doesn’t exceed 50 kilograms. In such cases monitoring of average waste generated will be next to impossible. It is suggested that the definition should exclude mention of quantity of waste generation i.e. average waste generation rate exceeding 100kg per day.
  • Rules command manufacturers or brand owners of sanitary napkins and diapers to ‘explore the possibility of using all recyclable materials in their products or they shall provide a pouch or wrapper for disposal of each napkin or diapers along with the packet of their sanitary products. All such manufacturers, brand owners or marketing companies shall educate the masses for wrapping and disposal of their products.’ As per the principle of Extended Producers’ Responsibility the duty of manufactures and brand owners should not be limited to providing packets for their products but also taking the charge of creating disposal facility for sanitary waste with the support of municipal authority.

Continued reading at WasteNarratives is the live blog of Hasiru Dala, organization of waste workers in Bangalore.

  1. I am interested in advocating for the inclusion of wast pickers in India. What are your needs at this time regarding advocacy? I am preparing a letter of alliance to mail. What government agencies or other figures would be the most appropriate audience for me to reach out to?

    Comment by Kayla — May 20, 2016 @ 11:07 am