Kid's Corner - Solid Waste

What is Solid Waste ?        

Each household generates garbage or waste day in and day out. Items that we no longer need or do not have any further use for fall in the category of waste, and we tend to throw them away. These items are called Solid Waste. At the household-level proper segregation of waste has to be done and it should be ensured that all organic matter is kept aside for composting...

Categories of Solid Waste 

Organic waste kitchen waste, vegetables, flowers, leaves, fruits.
Toxic waste old medicines, paints, chemicals, bulbs, spray cans, fertilizer and pesticide containers, batteries, shoe polish.
Recyclable paper, glass, metals, plastics.
Soiled hospital waste such as cloth soiled with blood and other body fluids

The type of litter we generate and the approximate time it takes to degenerate

Type of litter

Approximate time it takes to degenerate the litter

Organic waste such as vegetable and fruit peels, leftover foodstuff, etc. a week or two.
Paper 10-30 days
Cotton cloth 2-5 months
Wood 10-15 years 
Woolen items 1 year
Tin, aluminium, and other metal items such as cans 100-500 years 
Plastic bags One million years? 
Glass bottles Undetermined

Types of solid waste  
Solid waste can be classified into different types depending on their source:

Municipal solid waste (Household Waste)
Municipal solid waste consists of household waste, construction and demolition debris, sanitation residue, and waste from streets. This garbage is generated mainly from residential and commercial complexes. In 1947 cities and towns in India generated an estimated 6 million tonnes of solid waste, in 1997 it was about 48 million tonnes. More than 25% of the municipal solid waste is not collected at all.
Hazardous wastes (Industrial and hospital waste) 
Industrial and hospital waste is considered hazardous as they may contain toxic substances. India generates around 7 million tonnes of hazardous wastes every year, most of which is concentrated in four states: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. Household wastes that can be categorized as hazardous waste include old batteries, shoe polish, paint tins, old medicines, and medicine bottles.
Hospital waste (Biomedical waste )
Hospital waste is generated during the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals or in research activities in these fields or in the production or testing of biologicals. This waste is highly infectious and can be a serious threat to human health if not managed in a scientific and discriminate manner.

Health impacts of solid waste

  • Exposure to hazardous waste can affect human health, children being more vulnerable to these pollutants. Many studies have been carried out in various parts of the world to establish a connection between health and hazardous waste.
  • Waste from agriculture and industries can also cause serious health risks. Waste dumped near a water source also causes contamination of the water body or the ground water source.
  • Disposal of hospital and other medical waste requires special attention since this can create major health hazards.
  • Waste treatment and disposal sites can also create health hazards for the neighbourhood. Improperly operated incineration plants cause air pollution and improperly managed and designed landfills attract all types of insects and rodents that spread disease
  • Recycling too carries health risks if proper precautions are not taken.
  • Direct handling of solid waste can result in various types of infectious and chronic diseases with the waste workers and the rag pickers being the most vulnerable.

Preventive measures  
At the household-level proper segregation of waste has to be done and it should be ensured that all organic matter is kept aside for composting, which is undoubtedly the best method for the correct disposal of this segment of the waste.
What you can do to reduce solid waste ?

  • Carry your own cloth or jute bag when you go shopping.
  • Say no to all plastic bags as far as possible.
  • Reduce the use of paper bags also.
  • Reuse the soft drinks polybottles for storing water.
  • Segregate the waste in the house -keep two garbage bins and see to it that the biodegradable and the nonbiodegradable is put into separate bins and dispose off separately.
  • Dig a compost pit in your garden and put all the biodegradables into it.
  • See to it that all garbage is thrown into the municipal bin as the collection is generally done from there.
  • When you go out do not throw paper and other wrappings or even leftover food here and there, make sure that it is put in the correct place, that is into a dustbin
  • As far as possible try to sell all the recyclable items that are not required to the Kabariwala (person who trades in waste)


http://coe.mse.ac.in 2003-09. Madras School of Economics - Systems Department