Waste management rules in India are based on the principles of “sustainable development”, “precaution” and “polluter pays”. These principles mandate municipalities and commercial establishments to act in an environmentally accountable and responsible manner—restoring balance, if their actions disrupt it. The increase in waste generation as a by-product of economic development has led to various subordinate legislations for regulating the manner of disposal and dealing with generated waste are made under the umbrella law of Environment Protection Act, 1986 (EPA). Specific forms of waste are the subject matter of separate rules and require separate compliances, mostly in the nature of authorisations, maintenance of records and adequate disposal mechanisms.
The key to efficient waste management is to ensure proper segregation of waste at source and to ensure that the waste goes through different streams of recycling and resource recovery. Then reduced final residue is then deposited scientifically in sanitary landfills. Sanitary landfills are the ultimate means of disposal for unutilised municipal solid waste from waste processing facilities and other types of inorganic waste that cannot be reused or recycled. Major limitation of this method is the costly transportation of MSW to far away landfill sites.
In some urban centres, people working in the informal sector collect solid waste for each doorstep to get a collection fee and derive additional income from sale of recyclables. The informal recycling industry plays a major role in waste management. It also ensures that less waste reaches landfills.