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Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) strategy calls for the segregation, sorting, treatment and disposal of waste in a sustainable manner irrespective of the source generating it. It is a combination of common sense, willpower and policies. Technology is also playing an important role in solid waste management.

Challenges with waste: Waste generated in Indian cities, especially household waste, contains large amounts of organic material. This organic material not only makes the waste wet and heavy which is difficult to handle and transport, but it also makes it low in the calorific value.

Reduce, reuse and recycle: This age-old mantra of waste management holds true in every case of waste management. ISWM calls for intervention at the generation stage of waste. Prevention is always better than cure. Government should work with the manufacturers of products and materials to make products that last longer, can be recycled and generate as little waste as possible at the end of their lifecycle.  Customers should also be inclined towards buying things made by companies committed to reduction of waste or using sustainable materials for production.

Segregation at source: If waste is segregated at sources, half the work in sustainable waste management is already done. Waste at source, like a household, is small. It can be easily segregated into dry and wet waste. However, when unseparated waste reaches waste management facility, its volume becomes humongous. At this point, segregation of waste becomes an enormous task involving a huge amount of cost. Most of the time, due to lack of manpower and finances, waste management facilities are unable to segregate waste. This starts the chain of unsustainable waste management.

Role of ULBs is very important in this aspect. The government agencies should have strict rules for segregation of waste at source. For example, in Indore & Noida, sanitation staff have been given strict instructions not to collect mixed waste from households. Similar rules should be applied for institutions like medical facilities, education institutions, offices and industries. Strict penalties should be enforced on violators. ULBs should also have provisions for regular monitoring to ensure that segregation of waste at source is properly done.

Due to sheer volume of waste collected in cities, the dumping sites often become extremely large and almost impossible to manage. Waste management facilities already facing challenges like shortage of finance and skilled manpower, large size of facilities makes situation even worse. Waste disposal sites in Okhla and Ghazipur are prime examples of this situation. Therefore, there is a need for a centralized waste management system with smaller waste disposal sites that can be easily managed. Also, there is a need to provide proper training to sanitation staff who are engaged in these practices, so that they are well equipped to handle each type of waste properly, whether municipal, medical, industrial, or hazardous.

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