Plastic, with its exclusive qualities is now a serious worldwide
environmental and health concern, essentially due to its non-
biodegradable nature. More than 50% of the plastic waste
generated in the country is recycled and used in the
manufacture of various plastic products.
Dioxin is a highly carcinogenic and toxic by-product of the
manufacturing process of plastics. Burning of plastics,
especially PVC, releases this dioxin and also furan into the
Plastics are so versatile in use that their impact on the
environment is extremely wide ranging. Careless disposal of
plastic bags chokes drains, blocks the porosity of the soil and
causes problems for groundwater recharge. Plastic disturbs the
soil microbial activity. Plastic bags can also contaminate
foodstuffs due to leaching of toxic dyes and transfer of
pathogens. In fact, a major portion of the plastic bags i.e.
approximately 60-80% of the plastic waste generated in India
is collected and segregated for recycling. 20 – 40% remains
strewn on the ground, littered around in open drains.
Designing eco-friendly, biodegradable plastics are the need of
the hour. Though partially biodegradable plastics have been
developed and used, completely biodegradable plastics have
only recently been developed.
The various sources of generation of plastics wastes include:
Household such as (Carry bags, Pet bottles, Containers, Trash
bags), Health and Medicare(Disposable syringes, Glucose
bottles, Blood and urine bags, Intravenous tubes, Catheters,
Surgical gloves), Hotel and Catering (Packaging items,
Mineral water bottles, Plastic plates, cups, spoons) Air/Rail
Travel(Mineral water bottles, Plastic plates, cups, spoons,
Characterization studies indicate that MSW contains large
organic fraction (30-40%), ash and fine earth (30-40%), paper
(3-6%) along with plastic glass and metal (each less than 1%),
calorific value of refuse ranges between 800-1000 kcal/kg and
C/N ratio ranges between 20-30%. The collection bin and
implements used in various cities are not properly designed. It
has been observed that community bins have not been
installed at proper location. This has resulted in poor
collection efficiency. Lack of public awareness has made the
situation worse. Various types of vehicles are used for
transportation of waste to the disposal site. However, these
vehicles are not designed as per requirement. In many urban
centers, proper garages are not provided for the vehicles for
protection from heat and rain. Preventive maintenance system
is not adopted and as a result the life of the vehicle is reduced.
Many of the vehicles used for transportation of waste have
outlived their normal life.
Waste is disposed off in low-lying areas without taking any
precautions and without any operational control. Solid waste
workers handle the waste without any protective equipment
and are prone to infection.
The waste characteristics are expected to change due to
urbanization, increased commercialization and standard of
living. The present trend indicates that the paper and plastics
content will increase while the organic content will decrease.
The ash and earth content is also expected to decrease mainly
due to an increase in the paved surface. Although the organic
content is expected to decrease, the material will still be
amenable to biodegradation and the calorific value will
continue to be unsuitable for incineration.
In keeping with the present practices and estimates of waste
generation, around 90% of the generated wastes are land filled
requiring around 1200 hectare of land every year with an
average depth of 3 m. Due to rapid urbanization
land use regulation and completing demands for available
land, it is desirable that adequate land be earmarked at the
planning stage itself for solid waste disposal. The larger
quantities of solid waste and higher degree of urbanization, prevailing
will necessitate better management involving a higher level of
expenditure on manpower and equipment.