The waste sector has experienced greater penetration of information technology in management practices in the past few years. The government has taken key steps to improve waste management practices through its flagship schemes such as the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Smart Cities Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation. The urban local bodies (ULBs) have taken measures such as the deployment of smart bins, tracking of garbage pickup trucks and sanitation workers, route optimisation for trucks, and cross-checking of garbage weight to address the challenges of enforcement and transparency.
An Indian Institute of Technology, Madras-incubated start-up, Antariksh Waste Ventures, has developed a smart bin system enabled by internet of things (IoT) in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through waste generated at contagion vulnerable points. The bin, called AirBin, enables remote monitoring of waste accumulation levels and clearance through IoT systems. The digital waste management system generates alerts for sanitation workers at regular intervals on fill levels and on-demand clearance requests from end users for quick disposal of waste. In the long run, the use of IoT-enabled solutions can also be used for segregation of waste at the time of generation.
ULBs have also undertaken deployment of management information systems such as radio frequency identification (RFID), global positioning systems, geographic information systems (GIS) and general packet radio service for effective solid waste management. The Lucknow Municipal Corporation has installed RFID devices at the household level to ensure proper monitoring of door-to-door waste collection. RFID is a type of wireless communication that uses electromagnetic fields to identify or track tags, attached to objects or people, in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The system aims to aid authorities in tracking door-to-door garbage collection and check truancy of sanitation workers. Lucknow’s RFID project was inspired by the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) waste management system, which includes initiatives such as GIS mapping, communication and education awareness and capacity building programmes, along with implementation of waste processing projects. In addition, in Bengaluru, all the primary collection vehicles and secondary transportation vehicles have RFID tags installed to ensure that only authorised vehicles are allowed to enter the designated areas. In another development, the Patna Municipal Corporation is planning to implement QR code-enabled door-to-door garbage collection in the city at an estimated cost of Rs 130 million. The project will monitor the coverage of door-to-door waste collection vehicles and keep track of the work done by sanitation teams by fitting a QR code-based RFID tag for every house. The civic body is also planning to set up a control room at its headquarters to monitor the waste collection work.
The Maharashtra government has developed a solid waste management portal for its municipal corporations and municipal councils. The move aims to facilitate accurate tracking of the smart waste management (SWM) status of the state. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has finalised a five-year contract with Prakash Constrowell Limited to implement the world’s largest bio-mining project. Besides, the authority has set up 25 plastic waste collection centres across the city to handle the plastic waste generated. Further, it has implemented a vehicle tracking and monitoring system for 1,586 vehicles to ensure collection and management of waste from 1,414 community bins.
The Leh district administration, in collaboration with the rural development department and support from the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council, has launched Project Tsangda, an initiative towards sustainable waste management in rural and semi-rural areas of the district. The project began with the establishment of the region’s first-ever waste segregation centre where garbage from households and shops is collected and converted into resources. In 2019, the district administration decided to bring the Leh municipal area under the ambit of the project.
Further, a joint study is being conducted by the Bruhut Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP), the Indian Institute of Architects and the Sensing Local Foundation to plan for new infrastructure design and better management of dry waste centres, and integration of ragpickers and scrap dealers in Bengaluru. The BBMP is planning to introduce a centralised smart control room to monitor waste management activities in the city. All composting plants in Bengaluru will be equipped with 24-hour monitoring systems using CCTV cameras, and all the information will be stored digitally at the control room. The BBMP is also planning to set up a composting “kalika kendra” in each zonal jurisdiction of the city to promote segregation and in-situ composting at source.
SWaCH Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha Limited, a waste-pickers cooperative, is dedicated to providing door-to-door waste collection services to more than 2.3 million residents, including more than 450,000 slum dwellers. It collects more than $6.8 million in user fees each year and recycles 50 thousand tonnes of waste per day. ITC Limited, with the PMC and SWaCH, has launched a model for sustainable management of multilayer plastic (MLP) waste on an end-to-end basis. The company has set up a state-of-the-art waste processing facility at which MLP waste is converted into pellets and is used for making everyday items such as plastic chairs, stools, files, clips, etc. ITC plans to scale up the project to other cities such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
The Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority’s (GNIDA) decentralised composting plan aims at 100 per cent processing of organic waste at institutions, hospitals, vegetable markets, fish/meat markets, industries and commercial areas under the authority’s ambit. HCL Technologies Limited has signed an MoU with GNIDA for analysing, planning, designing and implementing solid waste management strategies, focusing on waste segregation at source and ensuring effective management solutions for the remaining waste. The scope of the MoU also includes developing IT-enabled solutions for solid waste management operations, maintenance, coordination, monitoring and evaluation.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has set up about 80 compactor stations and deployed more than 100 movable compactors for effective solid waste management in the city. Besides, it is planning to build two plants to manufacture compressed natural gas and organic fertilisers out of thousands of tonnes of vegetable, fruit, flower, fish and meat waste generated in the city. The KMC is also planning to introduce pollution-free, battery-operated vehicles and auto-tipper vehicles to enhance door-to-door garbage collection in the city. Besides, the corporation has installed a container tracking system in all its garbage carrying vehicles to closely monitor the city’s waste collection and transportation systems.
The Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to adopt a 3R formula – reduce, reuse and recycle. It plans to set up a waste recycling plant with an ultra-modern shredding machine to segregate non-biodegradable waste including plastic from biodegradable waste before reducing it to powder, which will be used as a raw material for road construction and roofing purposes. Besides, the CMC has also decided to rope in self-help groups for waste collection from inaccessible locations across the city.
The COVID-19 pandemic has halted both planned and ongoing projects across the country. The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation has recently missed the deadlines for 17 microcomposting centres that were planned to be set up by March 2020. The civic body has been unable to make any centre functional for waste treatment at the ward level in the first phase. Besides, there has been a lag from the demand side despite the successful deployment of technology in the waste collection, transportation, treatment and disposal practices under various programmes. The ULBs, primarily responsible for the management of solid waste, are ill-equipped financially and technologically to tackle the issue of suitable SWM. Besides, municipal boundaries have been limited to the traditional limits of cities with the new and expanding areas falling under the jurisdiction of state parastatals. This has limited the land available for alternative dumping and segregation grounds for the amount of waste now being generated. Further, the revenues earned from user charges are not even sufficient to recover the operations and maintenance costs of SWM infrastructure set up by the authorities. However, there lies ample opportunity for smart technology to increase efficiency and bring down the costs of waste-associated services.