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Introduction, section snippets, references (25), cited by (200), recommended articles (6).


Resources, Conservation and Recycling

Solid waste management in india: options and opportunities.

In India, the collection, transportation and disposal of MSW are unscientific and chaotic. Uncontrolled dumping of wastes on outskirts of towns and cities has created overflowing landfills , which are not only impossible to reclaim because of the haphazard manner of dumping, but also have serious environmental implications in terms of ground water pollution and contribution to global warming. Burning of waste leads to air pollution in terms of increased TSP and PM 10 emissions, which is equivalent to vehicular emissions at times.

In the absence of waste segregation practices, recycling has remained to be an informal sector working on outdated technology, but nevertheless thriving owing to waste material availability and market demand of cheaper recycled products. Paper and plastic recycling have been especially growing due to continuously increasing consumption levels of both the commodities.

Composting-aerobic and anaerobic, both the options are available to the country for scientific disposal of waste in future. However, country also needs something in terms of policy and guidelines to enable the municipal corporations to run the waste services efficiently.

Until recently, environment was not an issue in a third world country like India and solid waste management was definitely not the prime concern of environmentalists and the government, when the awakening to the issue finally did happen. It is only in very recent times, when certain NGO’S started working and highlighting the pathetic state of municipal waste services provision in country, that the Indian decision makers realized the importance of this particular aspect of environmental management.

India lacks well formulated guidelines and policy structure regarding waste management services, in the absence of which the municipal agencies have not been performing their duties in this aspect satisfactorily. Though, few rules are there within the various municipal acts, which govern the day-to-day running of these agencies, the same however due to lack of enforcement, have not served much purpose. This paper looks in brief at the current waste management scenario in India in terms of collection, transportation and disposal and henceforth the various options available to the country for efficient management have been investigated in the light of environmental impacts associated with the current and envisaged practices.

Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi took up an exhaustive study in 1995 to document the environmental degradation which had occurred in India, over the last 50 years of its independence due to prolonged and uninhibited use of its natural resources, and if the present trends continued where would the country reach by 2047 AD [1]. The study was carried over a period of two years and covered all natural resources, i.e. forestry, soil, water, biodiversity, and pollution, air water and solid waste. This paper describes the solid waste component of this study, whereby various aspects of solid waste management issue have been looked into in the urban context. Both, the past and expected future trends were studied largely on the basis of secondary information collected from various sources.

Covering an area of 32 87 263 krn, India is the seventh largest country in the world. Lying entirely in the northern hemisphere, the Indian mainland extends between latitudes 8° 4′ and 37° 6′ north, longitudes 68° 7′ and 97° 25′ east and measures about 3214 km from north to south between the extreme latitudes and about 2933 km from east to west between the extreme longitudes.

It has achieved multifaceted socio-economic progress during the last 50 years of its independence and is now the tenth industrialized nation in the world, with a complete self-sufficiency in field of agriculture. India’s population, as in March 1991 stood at 856 million [1], making it the second largest populous country of the world. Assuming an annual growth rate of 1.3%, the estimated figures for 2021 AD are 1296.8 million [2]. The current per capita GDP figure is Rs. 3197.21 and is projected to increase to Rs. 11599.7 by 2021 (unpublished data, TERI). The quantum of waste generated in the country is increasing day-by-day on account of its increasing population and increased GDP, though the civic services have not been expanding proportionately and hence are under tremendous pressure.

Waste transportation services

Municipal solid waste management is the responsibility of local governments in India. Transportation of waste is carried out by the municipalities employing vehicles like open trucks, tractor-trailers, tipper trucks, dumper trucks and animal-drawn carts (mostly in small towns and rural areas). The recent trend in big cities and towns is however, towards using container-carriers and dumper-placers, wherein the containers of the vehicles are themselves the community bins.

The volume of the waste

Waste collection services

In the absence of modernization and automization of waste management services, its various components, i.e. collection, transportation and disposal, continue to be labour-intensive activities in India. About 80% of the total budget of all municipal corporations is accounted for by the salaries of sanitation workers engaged in road sweeping and related activities. A survey of 159 cities conducted by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) in 1989 [4]revealed that the waste collection

Waste characteristics

The composition of waste depends on a wide range of factors such as food habits, cultural traditions, lifestyles, climate and income etc. The variations due to such factors are found across different countries as well as across different regions within one country. The inter-regional variations are, however, not as marked as those across the countries. Variation also occurs within a region over the years as a consequence of economic and social changes. India is no exception to this, and the

Recycling and reuse

Though the consumption levels in India are very low as compared to those in the developed world, the idea of reuse has always been there largely due to prevailing socioeconomic conditions and partly due to traditional practices. Segregating and selling old newspapers, magazines, books, empty bottles of glass and plastic, metal cans etc. has been prevalent in all the income groups for a very long time now. Till a few years ago the stress was on recover-reuse which, however, has lately shifted to


In the absence of adequate past data on waste generation rates, it was extremely difficult to decide upon the methodology to make any kind of projections for the future. Hardly any primary survey studies have been conducted in the country which indicate the actual waste quantum generated. As a result, except for two data points for the years 1971 [18]and 1995 [6], there is no data available on the basis of which any future projections could be made. The methodologies used in arriving at the

Waste disposal practices

In majority of urban centers in India, MSW is disposed by depositing the same in low-lying areas outside the city. Compaction and levelling of waste and a final covering by earth are rarely observed practices at most of these disposal sites. These low-lying disposal sites, being devoid of a leachate collection system, landfill gas monitoring and collection equipment, can hardly be called sanitary landfills and are more in the nature of dumping sites. Nearly all the Indian cities dispose of


The municipal corporations being the responsible authority in India for SWM in addition to a wide range of responsibilities related to health and sanitation, have not been very effective as far as SWM services are concerned. Collection, transportation and disposal—all the three components of waste lack in terms of infrastructure, maintenance and upgradation. However, the weakest link in the chain of waste management in Indian situation is the collection of waste.

Proper segregation of waste into


The authors would like to thank Mr Paris William Reidhead (TERI) for his helpful comments and suggestions on a pre-publication draft of this paper. They are also thankful to Mr Yateen Joshi (TERI), for editing the draft manuscript of paper.

Municipal and industrial solid waste management in India

J indian assoc environ manag.

Numerical modeling and simulation of leachate transport in MSW contaminated soil: Impact on seasonal changes

A municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal site with an area of 200 m 2 and a depth of 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 m is studied to assess and control the environmental impacts of leachate discharge on the inner layers of soil. The numerical model was developed under rainy and dry seasonal conditions. The soil properties and leachate concentration data were used for the finite element modelling considering time steps and diffusion coefficient. The effect of seasonal variations in leachate transport is dependent on soil properties such as hydraulic conductivity, moisture content and porosity. Results obtained from numerical computations were compared with the experimental values. However, the comparison demonstrates a good agreement between experimental and numerical calculations.

Evaluation of cost benefit analysis of municipal solid waste management systems

The rate of municipal solid waste (MSW) generation in developing countries is continuously growing in proportion to the gross national product. Landfilling, incineration, composting, and waste to energy (WtE) have a brief history as management strategies for MSW in India. Economic evaluation via cost benefit analysis (CBA) of MSW is establishing the most appropriate treatment/disposal strategy and it is often a major concern for solid waste management (SWM) policymakers. Thus, this study aims to analyze the municipal solid waste management (MSWM) activities in India’s capital, Delhi, and the CBA of MSWM systems to identify the major problems and limitations involved. Sixty-six   samples totaling 6,600 kg were collected and analyzed at random from various locations, including the sources of generation, composting plants, and disposal sites. Storage, collection, transportation, and recycling information were gathered from departments such as Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), and self-surveys. The total costs of each MSW option were calculated for cost analysis. The results revealed a high organic moisture content, indicating the possibility of composting and bio-methanation, except for waste from commercial, institutional area and restaurants that can be used to develop Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). It was also revealed that only about 80% of the garbage generated in Delhi is collected. In terms of treatment and disposal, the MCD has proposed additional facilities such as disposal through sanitary landfills with linings, as well as a system for leachate collection and disposal. Furthermore, construction and demolition waste are used in the construction of various pavement components, such as base coarse, surface coarse, and so on. The total social value added by garbage trade operations in Delhi is expected to be INR 358.7 crores (approximately 46.60 million USD) between 2017 and 2020. Recycling saves the municipal budget about INR 17.6 crores (approximately 2.3 million USD per year).

Litter and plastic monitoring in the Indian marine environment: A review of current research, policies, waste management, and a roadmap for multidisciplinary action

Environmental contamination due to plastic waste mismanagement is a growing global concern. Plastic problem is of particular concern to the Indian Ocean nations as Asia currently contributes to the highest share of mismanaged plastic waste. Consequently, there is a worldwide interest to understand the distribution and transboundary movement of plastic from this region, which is crucial for implementing management measures. This review article focuses on current knowledge of plastic research, policies, waste management, socio-economics, challenges, and research opportunities. To date, marine plastic studies have focused on a few locations, providing an analysis of distribution and plastic–organism interactions in the Indian marine system. Along with scientific investigation, enforcement, improvisation, and, if necessary, framing new policies, integrated technologies to manage plastic waste, and behavioural changes are essential to mitigate plastic pollution. Such measures will be effective through a combination of actions among national and international researchers, industries, environmental managers, and the public.

Biodegradability of agricultural plastic waste

Agriculture is an essential aspect of our society, but the increased use of plastics in agriculture is a major point to ponder. Researchers and scholars have endeavored to collect and use them properly as raw materials or energy sources. A variety of plastics and polymers are used in agriculture. Neither the plastics nor the polymers are biodegradable. Polymers that promise biodegradability are photodegradable, bioerodible, controlled biodegradable, hydrobiodegradable, or partially biodegradable. This chapter discusses the issues and consequences of agricultural plastic waste and the product safety associated with aesthetic pollution.

A glance over current status of waste management and landfills across the globe: A review

The disposal of urban solid waste is a significant environmental issue. In developing countries, unsanitary waste disposal is the most commonly practised option. Leachate, a significant downside of landfilling, tends to be generated in massive amounts, and existing treatment methods are both expensive and inefficient. Assessment of landfill status, leachate characteristics and environmental effects of landfills is a critical subject in literature and, given the increasing environmental issues, has recently received increased attention. Significant information about scenario of landfills globally as a source of environmental risk was also included in the findings. In this analysis the most effective management strategy to reduce the harmful environmental impact of waste leachate is introduced. Gas and leachate production are unavoidable consequences of the activity of solid waste disposal in landfills, mainly due to microbial decomposition, climatic conditions, waste characteristics and landfill operations. In both current and new facilities, the migration of gas and leaching away from the landfill limits and their release into the local ecosystem raise significant environmental concerns. The current analysis compiles some of the most widely used approaches for landfill leachate treatment, including coagulation-flocculation and anaerobic filter treatment. The conclusion of various problems and challenges of leachate treatment in terms of sustainability has been reached.

The heterogeneous time and income effects in Kuznets curves of municipal solid waste generation: comparing developed and developing economies

In rapidly developing countries, it is imperative to study the changes in municipal solid waste (MSW) generation for planning waste management and treatment. This study took the largest 11 economies in the world as cases, comprising half of the global population, analyzed the variations of definition of MSW among these economies. Based on the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) hypothesis and using parametric model, Feasible General Least Squares (FGLS) regression, and nonparametric models, Generalized Additive Mixed Models (GAMMs), it was expected that the change features and its socioeconomic drivers of total MSW generation and per capita MSW (PCMSW) since the 1960s would be determined. Efforts were also made to find the turning/stabilizing point in the relationship between PCMSW and per capita gross domestic product (PCGDP) in each economy. It shows that population has the most important impact on total MSW, however, the economic indicators might be ignored. The United States and Germany have the highest PCMSW generation, while China and India indicate the lowest. The turning/stabilizing point in the relationship between PCMSW and PCGDP perfermed in most developed economies, Singapore and Korea reached the turning point around 1990, while for other developed economies it was 2000. Germany came to a stabilizing point in 1990, and with some arbitrary, so did the United States. The developing economies seem to be still in their early stage of the potential EKC. In developed economies, heterogeneous time effects on PCMSW seem to be more significant than heterogeneous income effects, which is contrary to developing economies.

Integrated Plastic Waste Management: Environmental and Improved Health Approaches

Plastics are integral part of society and have varied application. Plastics are composed of a network of molecular monomers bound together to form macromolecules. There are increasing concerns due to non degradability and generation of toxic gases on combustion during incineration. Due to fabrication of desired shape colour and specification convenient to customers there is increasing application in packaging, agriculture, automobiles and biomedical. They are indispensable to the modern generation due to development in information technology, intelligent and smart packaging system. Efforts are in progress for development of efficient and precise conversation of renewable raw materials into innovative polymeric product through recent technologies which are superior in terms of performance, environmental and cost perspectives. In rivers and at coastal regions the marine pollution is increasing at a faster rate due to indiscriminate disposal by the consumers. R&D studies are now centred for investigating whether consumption of plastic debris by marine organism translates into toxic exposures for people who consume seafood with particular relevance to plasticisers, stabilizers, heavy metals viz phthalates, BPA, lead cadmium, methyl mercury. Biological effects from pollution are linked with resulting economic effects and losses. A cornerstone of sustainable development is the establishment of affordable, effective and truly sustainable waste management practices in developing countries.

Plastic waste management is a critical issue. Over 300 million metric tons of plastics are produced in the world annually and about fifty percent of this volume is for disposal applications, product that are discarded within a year of their purchase. It is the boon and bane of our times. Although there are multiple uses, its waste and the resultant pollution clogs up our rivers, oceans, lands and adversely affects the biodiversity. We need to plan for disposal of new synthetic product, implants etc which have completed their shelf life. In future polymeric adhesives and implants are to be developed which address total joint replacement features for patients with varied complications and age. It should be robust, biocompatible with surface treatment options to allow for reduced friction and wear throughout the implant life. In a CPCB supported study we have found that the soil and ground water quality may be affected in dumpsite areas.

The International Organisation for standardization [ISO] Organisation for Economic Cooperation [OECD] and development, British specification [BS] Indian Standards [IS] need to be implemented for appropriate application and safe disposal. Globally steps are being taken for development of environmental friendly, innovative plastic items using the concept of green chemistry and also with safe disposal methods. Integrated waste management practices are to be encouraged, strengthened and supported with state of art scientific applications.

Prevalence of Health Hazards Associated with Solid Waste Disposal- A Case Study of Kolkata, India

Multiple factors like population density with high degree of commercialization and rapid urbanization has resulted in problems of solid waste disposal which produce 120,000 tones of solid waste per day in India (2014) and its detrimental consequences. But separate studies on the health hazards associated with waste disposal in the localities of Kolkata are scanty. The aim of this study is to explore the adverse health effects prevalent in the community associated with the solid waste disposal system in a specific locality (i.e. Garia) of Kolkata. A garbage disposable area of Kolkata was selected in Garia and the nearby households (within 500 m from the waste disposable land) were randomly selected and case study was done by interview on the effect of garbage disposal on the health of the adjacent residents with two self structured questionnaires, taking note of perception and awareness about garbage disposal practices. Their recommendation was also sought for eradication of menace. The study clearly indicates failure of the existing facilities, high volume of waste generation, inadequate collection space, and the presence of open-dump sites which generates serious health risks. Information of various types of waste materials like polythene bags, construction wastes, regular solid wastes from households were obtained. It was observed that the people living in this area have poor health like allergy, asthma, skin irritation and other gastro intestinal diseases. The public perception indicated that most people lack knowledge of the harmful effects of waste heaps including that they are breeding grounds for flies, cockroaches, and mosquitoes, rodents etc which are responsible for transmission of germs and zoonotic infections to the people living nearby. The findings of the study will help the stakeholders to take necessary steps to eradicate the problem and to grow a healthier environment.

Waste to energy status in India: A short review

India is one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world. It is witnessing growing industrialization and thus development. Such rapid development needs energy to progress, which further makes India an energy hungry nation. Currently India depends mainly upon fossil fuels and thus has to pay a huge bill at the end of every contractual period. These bills can be shortened and the expenditures brought down by using and exploiting non-conventional sources of energy. India holds a huge potential for such non-conventional sources of energy.

The rapid development of India is not just pressing hard upon its resources but forcing expenditures on the same. There are also some neglected side effects of this development process like, generation of waste. A population of 1.2 billion is generating 0.5   kg per person every day. This, sums up to a huge pile of waste, which is mostly landfilled in the most unhygienic manner possible. Such unmanaged waste not only eats up resources but demands expenditure as well. This can lead to the downfall of an economy and degradation of the nation.

Thus, the paper presents waste to energy as a solution to both the problems stated above, using which not only can we reduce the amount of waste, but also produce energy from the same, thus achieving our goal of waste management as well as energy security. The paper presents the current status, major achievements and future aspects of waste to energy in India which will help decision makers, planners and bodies involved in the management of municipal solid waste understand the current status challenges and barriers of MSWM in India for further better planning and management.

Economic and environmental evaluation of municipal solid waste management system using industrial ecology approach: Evidence from India

Industrial ecology based symbiotic system approach is applied to Indian municipal solid waste (MSW) for population size of one million, taking various alternative techniques: anaerobic digestion (AD), compost, refuses derived fuel (RDF), incineration and gasification. Considering the virtual operation of the existing plants for production of electricity and products, the economic and environmental evaluation of each technique is presented. For environmental impact assessment global warming, acidification, photochemical oxidation and eutrophication categories are considered. The conceptual analysis depicts that AD has maximum tendency to reduce global warming (123 tonne CO 2 eq./day) along with the economic benefits of 19099 INR/day (293 $/day). Gasification shows maximum reduction in acidification, photochemical oxidation and eutrophication by 189 kg SO 2 eq./day, 33 kg C 2 H 4 eq./day and 12 kg PO 4 eq./day with economic benefits of 46956 INR/day (722 $/day). Integrated operation of AD and gasification gives maximum economic benefits (INR 66056/day or 1016 $/day) with highest reduction in environmental impact (for all categories) as compared to a single technology and any other combination of technologies. Industrial ecology approach for MSW management system affects the economic and environmental results to significant level that can influence the policy and decision making.

Sustainable Municipal Solid Waste Management in India: A Policy Agenda

Municipal solid waste management (MSWM) has emerged as a big challenge not only because of the health and environmental concerns but also due to huge quantities of waste generated. It is observed from many research documents that most urban local bodies (ULBs) in India are unable to handle such huge quantities of solid waste due to financial and institutional debilities. Furthermore, ULBs rarely have sufficient funds, resources, infrastructure and appropriate strategies for improved solid waste management. Segregation of waste, door to door waste collection, technologies for the treatment of waste, land resources and scientific disposal methods are some of the major challenges. Recognizing these challenges, the two ministries of Government of India namely Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) have initiated several policies and programmes to improve the current scenario of MSWM in India. Environment Ministry had promulgated the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules in2000 which is now being revamped as Solid Waste Management Rules 2015 while the MoUD has prepared a draft manual on MSWM to support cities and towns on planning and implementing a proper MSWM system in line with the SWM Rules being promulgated in 2015. It is observed that many policies and programmes fail to achieve their objectives due to lack of clarity and awareness among the stakeholders and poor enforcement by the regulators. The present paper provides a comprehensive view of SWM and most importantly highlights some major points of the policies/programmes initiated by the Government of India to overcome the challenges of solid waste management in our country.

Municipal Solid Waste Management in India: A Few Unaddressed Issues

Issues related to waste management in the context of Indian Cities still requires a path finder as most of the SWM planners and Executers are still in the dark which part of the SWM rule 2002 needs to be addressed in the primary stage. In fact finding it hard to plan and execute it was thought it may be better to change certain part of the rules which is not even 15 years old. A draft rules awaits approval and most of the people are not actually knows what is being changed and why. In fact this part of the facilities has never been considered as part urban infrastructures neither the citizen's opinion was asked in any stage while framing the rules or while even changing it for betterment.

The present paper generates Certain issues related to Waste management which have been experienced while being involved in various cities in national and International arena and picks up certain unaddressed issues related to Waste management in Indian Cities. The main aim of this paper is to combine the opinion with a learned group of participants and try to evolve an effective pathway for its management. One of the most prominent factors which is missing in the entire process is the role of Community as a stake holder and their inclusion in the entire process.

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Review article, solid waste management in indian himalayan region: current scenario, resource recovery, and way forward for sustainable development.

With the growing population, solid waste management (SWM) is becoming a significant environmental challenge and an emerging issue, especially in the eco-sensitive Indian Himalayan region (IHR). Though IHR does not host high local inhabitants, growing tourist footfall in the IHR increases solid wastes significantly. The lack of appropriate SWM facilities has posed a serious threat to the mountain-dwelling communities. SWM is challenging in the highlands due to the remoteness, topographical configuration, increasing urbanization, and harsh climate compared to plain areas. Difficulty in managing SWM has led to improper disposal methods, like open dumping and open burning of waste, that are adversely affecting the fragile IHR ecosystem. Open dumping of unsegregated waste pollutes the freshwater streams, and burning releases major pollutants often linked to the glacier melt. Processes like composting, vermicomposting, and anaerobic digestion to treat biodegradable wastes are inefficient due to the regions' extreme cold conditions. IHR specific SWM rules were revised in 2016 to deal with the rising problem of SWM, providing detailed criteria for setting up solid waste treatment facilities and promoting waste-to-energy (WtE). Despite governments' effort to revise SWM; measures like proper collection, segregation, treatment, and solid waste disposal needs more attention in the IHR. Door-to-door collection, segregation at source, covered transportation, proper treatment, and disposal are the primary steps to resource recovery across the IHR. Approaches such as waste recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion, refuse-derived fuel (RDF), and gas recovery from landfills are essential for waste alteration into valuable products initiatives like 'ban on single-use plastic' and 'polluters to pay' have a potential role in proper SWM in the IHR. Research and technology, capacity building, mass awareness programs, and initiatives like ‘ban on single-use plastic’ and ‘polluters to pay’ have a potential role in proper SWM in the IHR. This review highlights the current status of waste generation, the current SWM practices, and SWM challenges in the IHR. The review also discusses the possible resource recovery from waste in the IHR, corrective measures introduced by the government specific to IHR and, the way forward for improved SWM for achieving sustainable development of the IHR.


IHR provides ecosystem services in the form of energy, food, water, and other resources ( Gupta et al., 2019 ), contributing to supporting the livelihood of about 50 million people living in the IHR ( Aayog, 2018 ). IHR extending from the Indus river in the west to the Brahmaputra in the east covers 533,604 sq. Km, across ten hill states and four districts of India ( Aayog, 2018 ). A map showing the kernel density estimate of the amount of waste generated in the IHR in 2018–2019 is represented in Figure 1 . IHR is about 16.2% of the country’s total geographical area, including 16,627 glaciers, covering 40,563 sq. Km ( ISRO report, 2016 ), and forest cover of about 205,563 sq. Km—38.52% of the total IHR geographical area ( ISFR, 2019 ). Mountain headwaters down-streaming from snowfall fed glaciers form an essential source of North Indian Rivers. All the rivers originating from the higher Himalayas have a 30–50% annual flow from glacier's melt runoff ( ISRO report, 2016 ). The ceaseless water flow fulfills the water requirements of the people residing across the Indo-Gangetic plains of India ( Chauhan et al., 2012 ).

FIGURE 1 . The state-level estimate of total solid waste generated in the IHR. The map shows the kernel density estimate of the amount of waste generated in the IHR, using QGIS 3.12.3. In 2018–2019, 1.905 MT/Y solid waste was generated, out of which a mere 0.263 MT/Y was reported to be landfilled. Till 2019, there were only six operational landfills in the IHR (Data source: CPCB, 2019 ).

Over the last few decades, IHR is rapidly transforming with progressive development, achieving significant economic growth with tourism as one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the IHR ( Aayog, 2018 ). However, the rapid economic transformation has led to the rise in extensive risks to the ecosystem, people, and the wildlife of the IHR due to an increase in urbanization, consumption patterns, over-crowded tourist destinations, illegal dumping, mining operations, and ill-equipped SWM systems ( Aayog, 2018 ; Alfthan et al., 2016 ). Major challenges of solid waste management in the IHR are represented schematically in Figure 2 . This economic turnaround has resulted in unchecked solid waste generation, thus over-burdening the IHR ( Kumar S. et al., 2016 ). Hence, maintaining the health of the IHR concerning its flora, fauna, residing communities, and cultural diversity, along with sustainable development, should be prioritized ( Aayog, 2018 ).

FIGURE 2 . A schematic representation depicting the major challenges of SWM in the IHR. The primary challenges summarized in the image are open littering due to the rise in tourism activities; irregular topographical configuration; open/illegal dumping of waste; slower composting process; improper waste collection and disposal; and open burning of waste leading to release of black carbon, and other pollutants that may cause snow darkening and glacier melt.

SWM infrastructure plays a vital role in sustainable development in the IHR. The lack of SWM facilities for collection, segregation, processing, and disposal of waste has emerged as a major issue in the IHR ( Sapkota et al., 2015 ). Besides, SWM is more complex and challenging in highlands than in plain areas due to the remoteness, topographical configuration, and vulnerability to natural hazards and disasters. Since proper SWM facilities are not in place, open burning is practiced for the disposal of waste. Open burning has adversely affected the ecosystem; the release of major pollutants, including black carbon and other light-absorbing impurities into the air, are often linked to glacier retreat ( Thind et al., 2019 , Figure 2 ). The other informal means of waste disposal practiced in the region is the dumping of unsegregated waste in the gorges and rivers that have polluted the freshwater streams and led to a much larger footprint, thousands of kilometers downstream ( Mushtaq et al., 2020 ).

The composition of municipal solid waste (MSW) varies depending on the inhabitants' local economy and consumption patterns. Modernization and adoption of plastic packaging in rural IHR region perhaps have added the burden of SWM. The systematic way of collection and segregation of MSW plays a significant role in deciding the right method for waste management practices ( Kumar et al., 2017 ). The re-utilization of solid waste is a viable option and can recover valuable and economic resources, which supplements the growing energy demands. Several approaches for waste recycling and resource recovery from WtE facilities and safe residual waste disposal through sanitary landfills are some of the technologies for waste alteration into valuable products ( Vázquez and Soto, 2017 ; Dev et al., 2019 ; Hereher et al., 2019 ; Berardi et al., 2020 ). The proper implementation and sustenance for any planned SWM in the IHR should be possible through public participation, necessary finances, capacity building, and selection of specific waste technology for the region.

The current review selectively discussed a broader impact of solid wastes in the IHR and some of the downstream challenges that have prevailed in the past few decades. The review further recommends waste recycling approaches for re-utilization and resource recovery using WtE facilities for energy generation as a viable option for sustainable development in the IHR. Finally, a way forward has been discussed for the possible improvement of the existing SWM practices in the IHR by strictly implementing the revised SWM rules, community participation, civil awareness, capacity building, research and technology, and promoting initiatives like 'ban on single-use plastic' and 'polluters to pay.'

Current Status of Waste Generation in the Indian Himalayan Region

The young towering mountains, magnificent landscapes, expedition areas, and religious spots all across the IHR allures visitors and pilgrims throughout the world, receiving a footfall of about 100 million tourists yearly ( Aayog, 2018 ). Over the last few decades, tourism in IHR has become one of India's fastest-growing economic sectors. Undoubtedly, it is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 7.9% from 2013 to 2023 and is projected to witness a rise in tourists to 240 million by 2025 ( Aayog, 2018 ). But the downside to this economic turnaround for the IHR is the unmonitored activities resulting in unchecked solid waste generation. Already, tourism-related activities like trekking, expeditions, etc., generate about 8.395 million tonnes per year (MT/Y) of solid waste, causing a concern toward the ecologically sensitive areas ( Kuniyal, 2005 ; Aayog, 2018 ). The waste generated is inconsistent throughout the year as tourist inflow varies in summers and winters, which burdens the otherwise afflicted waste collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal facilities. The waste generated by trekkers and campers is left behind in such delicate locations due to a lack of waste management education and awareness program and the absence of any formal management system for the appropriate collection of solid waste ( Puri et al., 2020 ). The unprecedented wastes are significantly changing the wildlife scenario in the Himalayas as extensive littering has altered the hunting abilities of many critically endangered species ( Geneletti and Dawa, 2009 ; NDTV. news, 2018 ; Figure 2 .). To mount the pressure and disrupt the critical ecosystem further, about 11 million urban populations ( Census of India, 2011 ) in IHR are generating about 1.905 MT/Y of solid waste ( CPCB, 2019 ; Figure 1 .). Out of generated waste, 1.688 MT/Y is collected, 0.413 MT/Y is treated, and a mere 0.263 MT/Y waste is landfilled ( Table 1 ; CPCB, 2019 ), inferring that there is a severe need for improvement in the waste management system across the urban local bodies (ULBs) of IHR. The untreated wastes are generally disposed off unscientifically by various informal means-open burning and dumping in the gorges and rivers-polluting the freshwater streams ( Kumar et al., 2017 ; Figure 2 .). On the other hand, about 32 million rural populations of IHR ( Census of India, 2011 ) have no choice to efficiently dispose off their waste resulting in a cumulative burden on these topographically fragile mountains ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ). To eliminate the accumulated solid waste, people in the region have adopted similar informal disposal methods that will impact the environment and public health ( Kumar et al., 2017 ; Figure 2 .).

TABLE 1 . Status of total solid waste generation, collection, treatment, and landfilled in the IHR states (Data Source: CPCB, 2019 ). A total of 1.905 MT/Y solid waste is generated, and out of which 1.688 MT/Y is collected, 0.413 MT/Y is treated, and 0.263 MT/Y is landfilled in IHR.

Current Scenario of Solid Waste Management Practices in the Indian Himalayan Region

Composition and type of solid waste generated in the indian himalayan region.

The composition of generated waste mainly depends on the residing population's local economy, consumption patterns, and eating habits ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ). The waste composition data focusing on the IHR is scarce. A study on waste composition for high-altitude subtropical regions across IHR, covering ten cities of eight states of North-East India and two towns of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, have revealed 54.83% was biodegradable waste; 21.06% inert, ash, and debris waste; 8.77% paper; 8.18% plastic; 4.45% glass and ceramics, and 2.71% metal ( Kumar S. et al., 2016 ; Figure 3 .). The higher composition of biodegradable waste may be attributed to less usage of packaged products in the region than the other high-income countries ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ). Mainly, biodegradable waste is generated from households, and inert waste is generated from road sweeping and maintenance, construction, excavation materials, and demolition ( CPCB, 2019 ). However, a steady increase in non-organic waste is also monitored in the IHR due to the rise in development, per capita income, and increased tourists' footfall ( Kumar S. et al., 2016 ).

FIGURE 3 . The component fraction of MSW generated in the IHR. The most dominant fraction comprises biodegradable waste, followed by inert, ash and debris, paper, plastic, glass and ceramics, and metals (Data source: Kumar S. et al., 2016 ). The picture of the waste segregation bins at the center of the image is taken at the base of the trekking route of Khangchendzonga National Park, West Sikkim. The bins are arranged by Khangchendzonga conservation committee (KCC) based at Yuksom, West Sikkim.

Existing Solid Waste Management Practices Across Indian Himalayan Region

The existing SWM systems in IHR face major challenges associated with inadequate facilities of solid waste collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal. The following practices are being carried out across IHR.

Collection and Segregation of Municipal Solid Waste

Mostly across the ULBs in the IHR, door-to-door garbage collection systems have been employed with the collaboration of the informal sector, private agency, non-government organizations (NGOs), housing society, through tipper trucks, dumper placers, and open body trucks, etc. ( Kumar S. et al., 2016 ). The waste segregation is attempted to be carried out at the source in different color-coded bins for wet biodegradable waste, non-biodegradable waste, and domestic hazardous waste ( Sharma and Jain, 2019 ). Rag pickers/scrap dealers also segregate waste in most municipal bodies from the source using large waste sacks to collect non-biodegradable recyclables such as plastics, glass, metals, cartons, etc. ( Thakur et al., 2018 ; CPCB, 2019 ). Across the IHR, the other collection systems where people deposit their waste are the centralized bins (big iron dustbins), which can be spotted at the roadsides in urban localities and market places where often biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste is collectively dumped ( Kumar S. et al., 2016 ). Mostly, due to lack of community involvement, the usage of such centralized bins/dumpers remains inefficient, and consequently, the locations of these bins usually become the dirtiest and most stinky places in the town ( Kumar S. et al., 2016 ).

Transportation of Municipal Solid Waste

Across ULBs in the IHR, MSW is primarily transported in covered vehicles to avoid spillage of the garbage along the route to the processing and disposal facilities ( CPCB, 2019 ). However, manual loading of dumped waste in open spaces and waste transportation in uncovered trucks is also reported from parts of IHR ( Mushtaq et al., 2020 ). Waste collectors, rag pickers, and street sweepers are involved in collecting and transportation of waste to the respective disposal sites where the lack of workers' protective equipment and their ignorance have led to various occupational health-related hazards in the IHR ( Thakur et al., 2018 ). The improper way of transportation leads to littering of waste, and in the rainy season, leachate runoff from the vehicles into the streets was also observed ( Kumar S. et al., 2016 ; Joshi and Ahmed, 2016 ).

Processing of Municipal Solid Waste

For a proper SWM plan and a sustainable environment, all the collected waste should be subjected to various waste treatment techniques to obtain value-added products. Across IHR, a large part of the biodegradable waste is subjected to composting in compost pits, whereas the inert and non-biodegradable waste is indiscriminately landfilled ( CPCB, 2019 ). However, organic waste composting is difficult to carry out in IHR due to the lack of segregation at most sources, fewer processing facilities installed, and cold climate conditions ( Hou et al., 2017 ; Alfthan et al., 2016 ; CPCB, 2019 ). There are only 15 composting units, three vermicomposting, three biogas, and 2 RDF/pelletization facilities operational in IHR states treating 0.413 MT/Y of MSW ( CPCB, 2019 ; Tables 1 , 2 ). One WtE plant based on gasification technology has been established in the municipal corporation, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, with a 1.75 MW capacity to generate electricity ( CPCB, 2019 ). To the best of our knowledge, there is no report of any operational WtE plants across the IHR states.

TABLE 2 . A number of solid waste processing facilities operational in the IHR states (Data Source: CPCB, 2019 ). A total of 15 composting, three vermicomposting, three biogas, and two refuse‐derived fuel (RDF) plants are operational in IHR.

Disposal of Municipal Solid Waste

The efficient scientific methods for the disposal of MSW is critical for IHR across the ULBs and rural areas as it is extremely eco-sensitive. However, mostly the collected MSW is dumped at the disposal sites on open unused lands or hill slopes ( CPCB, 2019 ). A total of 0.263 MT/Y of solid waste is disposed off in the IHR, where only six landfills are currently operational across IHR states ( Figure 1 ; Table 3 ). Open dumping sites are reported to be prevalent across the IHR ( Table 3 ; CPCB, 2019 ).

TABLE 3 . The existing dumpsites and operational landfills in the IHR (Data source: CPCB, 2019 ).

Open Burning of Waste

Since the collection, segregation, treatment, and disposal systems are mostly inefficient across IHR, open burning of domestic waste is one of the preferred ways to manage solid waste ( Kumari et al., 2019 ; Figure 2 .). Open burning is a significant source of air pollution and particulate matter emissions ( Li et al., 2016 ). Due to the release of major pollutants such as dioxins, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, toluene, benzene, nitrogen oxides, ethyl benzenes, etc., into the atmosphere has deteriorated the air quality ( Ferronato and Torretta, 2019 ; Cheng et al., 2020 ). The most severe impact of open burning on IHR is the production of black carbon, and it is hypothesized that due to the black carbon and other light-absorbing impurities, the snow on these glaciers has darkened that may have a considerable role in the melting of mid-latitude glaciers ( Li et al., 2016 ; Thind et al., 2019 ; Figure 2 .). The snow darkening effect has been reported in Rohtang pass and other glaciers on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas ( Thind et al., 2019 ).

Open Dumping of Waste

Open dumping is another major unscientific practice of waste disposal in many developing countries ( Norsa'adah et al., 2020 ; Singh et al., 2020 ). In the places where MSW collection systems are not available, people prefer to dump their waste at an un-allotted location by the roadsides–usually in streets or in open dumpsites and water streams ( Kumar et al., 2017 ; Mushtaq et al., 2020 ). Apart from domestic sources, municipal dumpsites with organic and inorganic waste also contribute to river water pollution ( CPCB- river stretches report, 2018 ). A total of 228 open dumpsites are present across the IHR states ( CPCB, 2019 ; Table 3 ). Open dumping of unsegregated waste leads to the creation of huge stinking piles, which also serve as breeding homes for vectors of various diseases that affect human lives ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ; Figure 2 .). The wastes rotting in the open release toxic chemicals that seep into the soil underneath and contaminate the groundwater ( Naveen et al., 2017 ; Figure 2 .). Rainfall also carries away the leachate via runoff to the adjacent water bodies and results in wholesale contamination of the water resources, i.e., rivers, lakes, ponds, etc. ( CPCB, 2019 ). Any form of pollution in the upper stretches of the river basins may have a detrimental impact downstream and add further to water bodies' pollution. At present, there are 66 stretches of polluted rivers in IHR states ranging across different priority classes characterized according to the biological oxygen demand (BOD) ( CPCB- river stretches report, 2018 ; Table 4 ). In recent decades, the irresponsible exploitation of river resources has led to an increase in water pollution. Though pollution of rivers occurs through many channels, namely, industries, agriculture, domestic/community households, etc., but since industrial activity in the hilly regions is limited due to the geo-climatic conditions, MSW mismanagement can be attributed as the primary reason behind the pollution of the mountainous streams ( Mushtaq et al., 2020 ). The contaminated water may adversely affect the health of humans, animals, and soil productivity. The heavy metal contaminated water resources used for irrigation purposes can also affect agricultural output by restricting plants’ growth ( Kumar et al., 2017 ).

TABLE 4 . State-wize polluted river stretches characterized according to priority classes of IHR states (Data source: CPCB- river stretches report, 2018 ). The stretches lie in the Priority-I (BOD >30 mg/L), Priority-II (20–30 mg/L), Priority-III (10–20 mg/L), Priority-IV (6–10 mg/L), and Priority-V (3–6 mg/L).

Challenges of Solid Waste Management in the Indian Himalayan Region

The basic challenges of SWM are the inappropriate methods of waste collection, transportation, and disposal. According to the CPCB (2019) , lack of infrastructure, insufficient budget allotment to the municipal authorities, and improper waste collection/segregation systems are some of the major challenges for SWM. Additionally, most of the dumpsites are being operated without following any SWM norms and end up receiving mixed waste that causes environmental and health-related hazards leading to open-fires ( CPCB, 2019 ). It has also been reported that even after notification of the revised SWM rules (2016) and initiatives by the government, most of the states have struggled in the proper implementation of the policies/strategies ( CPCB, 2019 ).

IHR also embraces its own set of difficulties regarding the SWM practices owing to its challenging landscape and harsh environment. Due to poor connectivity and socio-economic condition of the residents, the waste generated in the terrain areas never reaches the proper SWM facilities ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ). As a result, waste generated is either dumped along the mountain slopes or burnt openly. The situation is worst during winters when heavy snowfall in the IHR cut-off many areas from the rest of the country. The temperature in the Himalayan region is typically cold (average maximum of 20°C and minimum −15°C) and offers sub-zero temperature conditions ( Saini et al., 2019 ). These freezing conditions pose a technical challenge for efficient composting and sometimes may even lead to the failure of the composting process in the cold hilly regions ( Hou et al., 2017 ). The improper treatment and disposal of MSW lead to the emission of pollutants, including greenhouse gases; heavy metals (Hg, Pb, Ni, Sb, etc.); acid gases; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; polychlorinated biphenyls; and carcinogenic agent (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans) ( Tian et al., 2013 ; Liu et al., 2017 ).

Apart from the region’s inherent limitations posing as a challenge to SWM, the IHR is also a popular tourist destination in the country. The North-Western Himalayas, in particular, is a major religious pilgrimage. Modern tourism is also rampant in the region, and the number of visitors is increasing every year ( Aayog, 2018 ). The tourists serve as a floating population and add to the generation of waste in the IHR.

Resource Recovery from Waste in the Indian Himalayan Region (An Alternative for Sustainable Development)

With the inevitable rise in the native population, tourist inflow, and improper or defective approach to SWM, escalating waste streams have posed a great threat to the mountain ecosystem ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ). Although there are many challenges in the collection, transportation, segregation, and disposal of solid waste in the IHR, very little intervention is carried out in terms of resource recovery. Therefore, to fulfill the advent demand of resources, SWM and resource recovery is a matter of concern in the IHR. Resource recovery from WtE facilities (composting/vermicomposting, anaerobic digestion, RDF, and gas recovery from landfills) and safe residual waste disposal through sanitary landfills are some of the possibilities that must be explored proficiently for IHR ( Figure 4 .).

FIGURE 4 . Overview of resource recovery from MSW. MSW is segregated into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. Biodegradable waste undergoes composting process and produces organic fertilizer, whereas anaerobic digestion ends up with the production of biogas and undigested material (digestate). Both fertilizer and digestate pose potential applications in the field of agriculture. The energy produced in the form of biogas can be used for cooking purposes and to generate electricity. The non-biodegradable waste such as plastic and inert waste can be recycled and reused into materials that can be used to construct roads, buildings, and RDF. The unprocessed or untreated waste is targeted to landfilling that can produce landfill gas, which helps in electricity generation.

Composting is a well-established and widely accepted approach that involves the decomposition and transformation of organic biomass under the action of several microorganisms into humus-like material that has the ability to fertilize crops ( Zhao et al., 2017 ; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2018 ; Yu et al., 2019 ). The conversion of organic matter is carried out either in the presence of oxygen (erobic composting) or in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic digestion) ( Mittal et al., 2018 ; Li et al., 2019 ; Rasapoor et al., 2020 ).

Aerobic Composting

In cold hilly regions, the temperature is one of the main parameters that define the overall composting process ( Xiao et al., 2009 ; Hou et al., 2017 ; Xie et al., 2017 ). The presence of cold ambient conditions lengthens the mesophilic phase and reduces the thermophilic phase, ultimately resulting in low compost quality ( Shukla et al., 2016 ; Hou et al., 2017 ; Xie et al., 2017 ). To overcome such problems, the addition of cold-tolerant microbial consortia with efficient hydrolytic activities have been reported to breakdown complex organic waste into nutrient-rich compost that can be utilized as fertilizer ( Hou et al., 2017 ; Xie et al., 2017 ). Cold-tolerant bacteria with potential hydrolytic activities such as protease, lipase, pectinase, cellulase, amylase, xylanase has been reported from IHR ( Kumar et al., 2015a ; Kumar et al., 2015b , Kumar R. et al., 2016 ; Kumar R. et al., 2018 Kumar et al., 2019 ; Kumar et al., 2020 ; Himanshu et al., 2016 ; Borker et al., 2020 ; Mukhia et al., 2021 ). However, reports on utilizing such bacterial consortia for organic waste management in IHR are scarce. Few reports on improved organic waste degradation and plant growth-promoting bacteria to enhance compost/soil quality from IHR are available ( Mishra et al., 2008 ; Adhikari and Pandey, 2020 ; Borker et al., 2020 ). In mountain regions, the issue of efficient composting using scientific interventions is less studied and needs special attention.

Initiatives for the promotion of improved composting using cattle dung mixed with agro-forest green waste have been taken by the government of India to promote rural livelihood in the IHR by sanctioning organized clusters through the SFURTI (Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries) scheme at Sikkim ( MSME, 2020a ) and Himachal Pradesh ( MSME, 2020b ). The initiative involves the scientific intervention of utilizing cold-tolerant bacteria with plant growth-promoting potential to convert cattle dung and green waste into enriched compost/vermicompost. The cluster includes the establishment of a common facility center in a rural area with a microbial culture room, bioreactor room, compost quality test room, training hall, and model 20 concrete compost pits. More such grass root level initiatives would be required in the field of improved composting at IHR.

Anaerobic Digestion

Due to the increase in waste production and energy consumption by human activities across IHR, anaerobic digestion (AD) technology can be the other alternate practice utilized for organic waste management. AD converts organic waste by hydrolysis, acidogenic fermentation, hydrogen-producing acetogenesis, and methanogenesis to bio-energy (biogas) that can be transformed into electric energy and heat energy ( Mittal et al., 2018 ; Dev et al., 2019 ; Li et al., 2019 ). The biogas recovery promotes sustainable practices bringing out cost-effective and social benefits by reducing greenhouse gases, improving sanitation, and indoor air pollution ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ; Mittal et al., 2018 ).

In India, the number of biogas plants has increased from 1.27 to 4.54 million between 1990 to 2012 ( Lohan et al., 2015 ), and about 2.07 billion m 3 /year biogas production is estimated which is relatively lower than expected ( Mittal et al., 2018 ). It has been reported that IHR states like Jammu and Kashmir have made use of only 0.06% of total biogas plants installed in the country ( Lohan et al., 2015 ). The foremost reason behind such a low number is the cold ambient temperature in IHR ( Saini et al., 2019 ). The temperature plays a significant role in biogas production; hence, the cold temperature in IHR acts as a limiting factor in carrying out sufficient AD process ( Lohan et al., 2015 ). Therefore, biogas production at cold temperature regions requires more instrumentation, set-up expenditure, and new, improved, cost-effective technologies. To surmount the low-temperature problem and achieve proper functioning of biogas plants, the floating drum type of biogas plants has been developed in Kashmir ( Lohan et al., 2012 ; Lohan et al., 2015 ). Lohan et al. (2015) , have also reported the development of various insulating materials that can sufficiently maintain the digester’s temperature. Defense Institute of High-Altitude Research has installed a biogas plant at Leh-Ladakh, India, where the dual process of erobic digestion is employed, followed by AD ( Balat and Balat, 2009 ). For adequate biogas production, various additives such as activated carbon, biochar, phenazine, and carbon fibers can also be used in biogas plants ( Rasapoor et al., 2020 ).

Sweden is one of the countries which produces biogas from sewage treatment plants, industries, and landfills and uses it efficiently as vehicle fuel ( Olsson and Fallde, 2015 ). Like Germany and Italy, other countries have also developed an extensive technique for producing renewable energy from energy crops via biogas production through the AD process ( Lindfors et al., 2020 ). In China, using an integrated solar energy system in biogas production during low-temperature conditions has proven to be more efficient to achieve the optimum temperature for carrying out a sufficient AD process ( Gaballah et al., 2020 ). In the high-altitude region of Bolivian Altiplano, Alvarez et al. (2006) have reported biogas production from the Llama and dairy cattle manure. Other studies conducted at higher altitudes by Ferrer et al. (2011) and Garfí et al. (2011) also showed biogas production from cow and guinea pig manure. The indigestible materials left after AD are reported to have crop fertilizing ability ( Garfí et al., 2011 ; Owamah et al., 2014 ). Additionally, the role of anaerobic psychrophilic microorganisms has also been reported to convert organic waste into biogas under cold conditions ( Dev et al., 2019 ). Hence, improvements like cold-tolerant anaerobic microbial consortia and advanced engineering to improve anaerobic biodigesters may help carry out effective AD in the IHR, which further facilitates the increase in biogas plants in IHR.

Human Excreta Composting

In IHR, areas such as Ladakh's union territory and Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh experience minimal rainfall during monsoon and heavy snowfall during winters, making the availability of water difficult ( Bodh and Mehta, 2018 ; Saini et al., 2019 ). The temperature goes into sub-zero conditions in winters freezing the water supply, and to overcome this hurdle, this region has been practicing a unique traditional system of dry toilets for generations ( Oinam, 2008 ; Gondhalekar et al., 2015 ). The dry toilets have helped the inhabitants deal with water scarcity, and the decomposed end product has been supplementing the agroecosystem of the region with manure ( Oinam et al., 2008 ). The dry toilet is a two-tiered structure in which the upper section is attached to the house’s living room, and the lower section is used as a store for collecting the night soil ( Oinam et al., 2008 ; Bodh and Mehta, 2018 ). After every time the toilet is used, the feces are covered by a dry mixture of wood chips, ash, animal dung, sand, etc. ( Oinam et al., 2008 ; Borker et al., 2020 ).

The inappropriate way to handle traditional dry toilet causes several problems. One of the issues associated is the intense foul odor and unhygienic conditions. There remains a threat of communicable disease or parasitic infections if the human excreta are improperly decomposed or mishandled ( Oinam et al., 2008 ; Carlton et al., 2015 ). Moreover, heavy metals in human excreta are another issue that causes soil toxicity ( Tervahauta et al., 2014 ; Harder et al., 2020 ). Further, heavy metals in soil affect the indigenous microbial population's metabolic activity, leading to decreased soil fertility ( Iglesias et al., 2018 ), and when these heavy metals enter the food chain, they are responsible for causing various health-related issues ( Xu et al., 2019 ). Thus, even heavy metals will be persistent, and it becomes essential to properly decompose before utilization of human excreta for compost preparation. Social apprehensions, modernization, and increase in tourism have led to the popularization of septic toilets and the decline of these traditional toilets, which has led to an increase in the dependence on chemical fertilizers, impacting the fragile agroecosystem of the high-altitude region ( Borker et al., 2020 ). For decades this age-old practice of dry toilets has conserved water in freezing winter and sustained organic farming with the supply of manure; however, there have been very few initiatives taken to promote the use of traditional toilets.

To find a scientific solution to the issue, the National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS), implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC), has granted a project on improvisation of night soil composting using microbiological interventions ( NMHS, 2018 ). Under the project, formulations containing efficient hydrolytic and plant growth-promoting indigenous cold-tolerant bacteria with suitable carrier material were developed ( India science wire. news, 2019 ; CSIR-IHBT, 2020 ). The formulations were given to dry toilet users for trials in the Lahaul valley of northwestern Himalaya. The feedback received from the users was very inspiring as they claimed a complete reduction of foul odor, reduced biomass, and improvement in the final compost quality ( Supplementary Figure S1 ). With increased demand and product popularity; awareness, interaction, and training programmes were conducted across 5 g-panchayats of Lahaul valley, and ‘Compost booster: formulations for odorless rapid night soil degradation’ was distributed to approximately 160 dry toilet users in December 2020 and January 2021 ( NMHS, 2020 ). Similar interventions in other IHR where dry toilets are being used like Ladakh, Spiti are also proposed to be covered in the future. There are reports of other countries using human excrement as a potential source for organic fertilizer ( Low-tech magazine, 2010 ). Japan, China, and Sweden are some countries using human excrement as a source of fertilizer in agriculture ( Low, 2013 ; Carlton et al., 2015 ; Akram et al., 2019 ). A study carried out in Sweden to enhance nutrient recycling from human and animal excrement reported that recycling excrement enhances plants’ nutrient availability and could reduce the dependency on synthetic fertilizers and lead to sustainability ( Akram et al., 2019 ). Thus, a traditional practice combined with modern scientific knowledge, including microbiological interventions and engineering the toilet structures, can prove to be more efficient and acceptable in attaining a sustainable future in the mountain ecosystem.

Plastic Solid Waste

Plastic has become an inherent part of our society, and the amount of plastic consumption has increased due to the rising population and changing consumption patterns. In India, 12 MT/Y plastic products are used, and approximately 70% of plastic is considered waste ( Kumar A. et al., 2018 ). In IHR alone, about 0.087 MT/Y of municipal plastic waste (MPW) is generated ( Supplementary Table S1 ; PWM report, 2019 ). However, there is no existing system in rural or urban bodies for the collection, transportation, processing, and disposal of all kinds of plastic waste. But directives are given to ULBs and Gram panchayats to ensure the setting up of plastic waste facilities ( PWM-Swachh Bharat, 2019 ). Recycling and resource recovery from plastic waste seems to be a promising solution to assuage the widespread problem ( Saleem et al., 2018 ; Yao et al., 2018 ). Approximately 5.6 MT/Y of plastic waste is recycled in India, and about 3.8 MT/Y is not collected or is being littered in the environment ( PWM-Swachh Bharat, 2019 ). Though India’s recycling rate is higher than the global average of 20%, the existing waste is still landfilled or ends up polluting the water streams and causes soil infertility ( PWM-Swachh Bharat, 2019 ). A popular solution for plastic reuse is making it an integral component for construction purposes, such as in the construction of roads ( Appiah et al., 2017 ), manufacturing of tiles ( Awoyera and Adesina, 2020 ), and building materials ( Mansour and Ali, 2015 ). In IHR, single-use plastic waste is now used to manufacture poly bricks ( The better India. news, 2019 ) and construction of roads ( The Indian express. news, 2019a ; The Indian express. news, 2019b ).

Resource recovery is another alternative that can be utilized for producing oil, wax paraffin, benzene, styrene, terephthalic acid, di-isocyanate, hydrocarbons, hydrogen, and carbon nanotubes from plastic waste through different techniques such as pyrolysis, hydrocracking, and gasification ( Fivga and Dimitriou, 2018 ; Salaudeen et al., 2018 ; Yang et al., 2018 ; Yao et al., 2018 ; Zhang F. et al., 2020 ; Qureshi et al., 2020 ). The non-recyclable fraction of the plastic waste recovered after mechanical treatment (MT) can be used as RDF in energy extensive plants like chemical, cement, or paper manufacturing plants ( Onwosi et al., 2017 ). These plastic wastes may also be combined with certain oily sticky binding agents such as sawdust, starch, dolomite, molasses fibrous, etc., in order to form a denser bulk briquette, which further can be used as RDF ( Chiemchaisri et al., 2010 ).

Inert Waste

The term 'inert waste' refers to the type of waste that cannot undergo physical, chemical, and biological transformations ( Sharma et al., 2020 ). Inert waste is generated mainly from construction, excavation, demolition, and glass processing activities ( Menegaki and Damigos, 2018 ; Sharma et al., 2020 ). Such type of wastes also contributes to environmental and health-related issues. Therefore, reusing, recycling, and obtaining value-added products is the best way to handle inert wastes. For example, ash generated from various industrial and mining activities can be recycled to prepare geopolymers with a great polymerization affinity ( Ahmari and Zhang, 2015 ; Capasso et al., 2019 ). The recycled aggregates obtained from concrete and demolition waste can construct roads, landscaping, cementitious materials, and concrete ( Sharma et al., 2020 ). The glass waste materials can also be recycled many times without significant alteration in their chemical characteristics ( Shayan and Xu, 2004 ; Sharma et al., 2020 ). The glass waste has potential application to use as an aggregate in construction ( Mohajerani et al., 2017 ; Mohammadinia et al., 2019 ), as a low-cost adsorbent material four thin layer chromatography techniques ( Ying et al., 2009 ; Sharma et al., 2020 ) and in removal and recovery of phosphate from water ( Jiang et al., 2017 ). The waste metal scrap can be recycled over and over again as its properties are not altered and can also be transformed into new metals, as a coating material and in the production of concrete as a partial replacement of sand ( Andersson et al., 2017 ; Shemi et al., 2018 ; Melugiri-Shankaramurthy et al., 2019 ). Hence, the recovery of various inert waste material can be a promising solution for IHR.

Refuse-Derived Fuel

Refuse-derived fuel is an alternative fuel consisting mainly of combustible components of waste materials such as textiles, non-recyclable plastics, labels, cardboard, paper, and rubber ( Rotter et al., 2011 ). RDF is characterized mainly by its high calorific value, i.e., 11–25 MJ/kg original substance, and homogenous particle size (5–300 mm) ( Sarc and Lorber, 2013 ). RDF production is subjected to a multi-step process of separation technologies such as sieving, sifting, grinding, and can be followed by briquetting or in the generation of RDF-fluff ( Sprenger et al., 2018 ; Rajca et al., 2020 ). The type of fuel generated is generally cheaper, readily available, and comparatively produces less CO 2 than conventional fuels such as coal ( Schwarzböck et al., 2016 ). RDF can be used in energy-intensive industries like chemical, cement, paper manufacturing as a co-combustion in existing modified plants or as a mono-combustion in specially built processing plants ( Rotter et al., 2011 ). In many European countries, annually, 4-5 million tonnes of estimated RDF are produced from MSW ( Gallardo et al., 2014 ). The European countries have adopted MT, or mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plants technologies for the production of a high calorific value fraction (HCVF) that can be utilized in RDF production ( Rajca et al., 2020 ). Poland is one of the countries that are the primary benefactor of RDF and known to use in cement plants for over 15 years ( Berardi et al., 2020 ). It may be suggested that IHR may also adopt such processing facilities to transform waste into RDF and fulfill the growing energy demand.

Landfilling is another MSW disposal method used worldwide ( He et al., 2019 ; Hereher et al., 2019 ). It is known as the most cost-effective method of waste disposal. Poor landfill management contributes to environmental and public health-related problems ( Kumar et al., 2017 ). Therefore, proper sanitary landfill systems are required for MSW treatment ( Hereher et al., 2019 ). A sanitary landfill system’s main objective is to minimize environmental and health-related issues ( Hereher et al., 2019 ). Therefore, site selection for sanitary landfills is the utmost priority to make the landfill site a point source of no pollution ( SWM rules, 2016 ). During this practice, landfill gas (LFG) is generated, which is recognized as the emission of greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide. The LFG can be utilized as a renewable energy source to generate electricity ( Tsai, 2007 ). For example, in China, 3.30 billion Nm 3 of LFG will be produced and utilized in the year 2020, that could generate electricity of 7.39 billion kWh or 1.70 billion Nm 3 ( Fei et al., 2019 ). Also, the liquid portion contacted with the stored landfill waste is generally known as landfill leachate. The landfill leachate is toxic to the environment due to a high concentration of ammonium nitrogen, heavy metals, phosphorus, and organic matter ( Nguyen and Min, 2020 ). It exhibits a potential risk of polluting streams, rivers, groundwater, and soil. There have been reports of processing landfill leachate ammonia that can act as a suitable substrate for generating electricity through an alkaline membrane fuel cell ( Zhang M. et al., 2020 ) and algae-cathode microbial fuel cell system ( Nguyen and Min, 2020 ). However, the primary focus on proper collection and treatment of landfill leachate must be carried out to contain hazardous materials. Nowadays, landfills are instrumented with a leachate collection system and proper liners to eliminate leachate run-off possibilities ( Mandal et al., 2017 ). But, still, rainwater percolation through landfills, weather variation, moisture content of the soil covering the landfilled waste, and also the innate moisture content of buried solid waste are among several reasons that affect the quality and quantity of the leachate ( Mandal et al., 2017 ; Nguyen and Min, 2020 ). The two major pollutants, ammonium nitrogen and organic matter of the landfill leachate, are treated by electrochemical oxidation that effectively reduces the concentration of pollutants in the leachate ( Mandal et al., 2017 ). The bioreactor landfill is another economically beneficial approach that recirculates leachate to control moisture content in the landfills and rapidly stabilizes the solid waste through accelerated microbial activity ( Morello et al., 2017 ; Li et al., 2018 ). This transition from conventional landfill to bioreactor landfill improves the leachate quality, controls the landfill's moisture content, and enhances LFG generation and recovery ( Morello et al., 2017 ; Li et al., 2018 ). Currently, in IHR, six landfills are operational, and till now, no sanitary landfills have been reported ( CPCB, 2019 ; Figure 1 ). The landfills with advanced technologies could probably emerge as a timely solution to the improved SWM practice in the IHR.

Way Forward

Despite the improved SWM policies and regulations, conventional methods of waste management are still prevalent across IHR. Strict implementation of revised SWM rules, civil awareness, community participation, good waste management practices, capacity building, and adoption of new and innovative technologies could be the way forward for improved SWM for achieving sustainable development of the IHR.

Key Solid Waste Management Rules Revised Specifically for Indian Himalayan Region

SWM rules (2016) provides additional criteria and actions for all the hilly states to ensure proper waste management. The SWM rules have stated communities’ involvement at the local level to promote in-house composting, biogas generation and maximize waste processing at the source level to minimize transportation cost and environmental impacts. SWM rules (2016) have also provided directives to collecting waste from the hilly areas otherwise unapproachable by handcarts, tricycles and are only accessible on foot. The door-to-door collection system should collect the segregated waste, and waste collectors must wear personal protective equipment kits and use leakproof backpack containers. The local bodies should facilitate the construction, operation, and maintenance of solid waste processing units such as bio-methanation, microbial composting, vermicomposting, anaerobic digestion, and RDF/palletization, thereby decentralizing the waste processing facilities. The biodegradable organic waste shall be utilized using processing facilities, and the inert waste can also be used for building roads or filling-up of appropriate hill areas. Additionally, in the IHR, the used-tires can be reutilized for the building of retaining walls for the narrow hill roads. SWM rules (2016) have clearly stated to avoid landfill construction on the hills. Suitable land for sanitary landfill should be identified down the hill within 25 km in the plain areas. The dumping of mixed waste should be stopped, and only non-usable, non-combustible, non-recyclable, non-reactive, and non-combustible inert waste, pre-processing rejects, and residues from waste processing facilities should be landfilled. The collection of all residual waste from processing facilities and inert waste shall be stored at different transfer stations across the region in an enclosed area. The collected residual waste from all transfer stations shall be transported and disposed off at the sanitary landfill. Moreover, SWM rules (2016) , have stated that local bodies shall frame bye-laws to prohibit citizens from littering waste on the streets. The local bodies shall charge tourists at entry points to sustain SWM service at tourist destinations. The tourists shall also be given strict direction not to dispose off any kind of waste (water bottles, liquor bottles, tetra packs, soft drink cans, and any other form of plastic or paper waste) on the streets or downhill, and instead deposit waste in litter bins placed by the local bodies.

Information, Education, and Communication for Good Waste Management Practices

Information, education, and communication (IEC) concerning good waste management practices should be a key feature for mass awareness to make people realize that waste management is not the burden of the municipality alone; it is a matter of concern for every individual ( Joshi and Ahmed, 2016 ). People should also realize their role and responsibilities regarding proper source segregation of solid waste, avoid waste littering in the streets, open dumping, and burning of waste. The IEC campaign for mass awareness must reach all the sectors, including education (school, colleges, and universities), offices, the health sector (hospitals and clinics), private sectors (hotels and malls), market places, residential areas, and villages ( Ghosh, 2016 ).

Ban on the Usage of Plastics and Polluters to Pay

PWM rules (2016) , emphasized the ban of manufacturing and selling of <50 microns thickness plastic carry bags, and many IHR states have partially or completely banned the use of plastic carry bags ( Supplementary Table S1 ). Additionally, PWM rules have ensured that open burning of plastic waste, plastic littering in public, and dumping near drains and rivers should be strictly prohibited and have promoted the use of compostable carry bags. In Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, there is also a provision of a fine ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs 5,000 for littering and use of polythene carry bags ( G-SHE, 2018 ). In Himachal Pradesh, the government has drafted a policy to buy-back single-use plastics and non-recyclable plastic wastes from individuals, ragpickers, and ULBs ( The tribune. news, 2019 ). The purchased plastic waste will be utilized in making roads and as a fuel in the cement industries. Other states can also take up such initiatives to prevent plastic waste littering and minimize ecological damage. Aayog (2018) has also endorsed some key action programs in IHR, such as 'green cess' and 'payments for environmental services,' including charging from tourists for the service provided and entrance fees. For sustainable tourism aspects, Aayog (2018) has specified that the state planning commissions must supervise the tourism departments and different associated sectors to genuinely implement these critical agendas in IHR for the environment, tourism, and sustainable development. ‘Pay-as-you-throw’ (PAYT) scheme implemented in Germany follows the polluter to pay principle that charges the residents of municipalities according to the amount of waste they generate and send for the waste management ( Morlok et al., 2017 ). In addition to a well-developed infrastructure for solid waste collection and public awareness, such PAYT schemes may also be replicated in the eco-sensitive IHR for better SWM plans and increasing the rate of recycling.

4R Concept (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Recover)

To solve the waste management challenges, the practice to manage waste must be put in place, starting from the household’s small scale to bigger scales of the city, state, and the country ( Chowdhury et al., 2014 ). 4R concept (Reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover) can play a pivotal role to fulfill the aim of sustainable waste management ( Das et al., 2019 ; Ruslinda et al., 2019 ; Figure 5 .). Reduce; means avoiding the minimum purchase of harmful materials to the environment instead of finding alternative materials for use. Reuse; suggest the reuse of materials for other purposes rather than throwing it out unscientifically. Recycle; emphasizes recycling waste materials (plastic, metal, and e-waste) into value-added products instead of dumping. Recover; means waste materials are rich sources of the substrate to recover efficient materials (nutrient and energy) from it; therefore, using them contributes to sustainability. These practices provide a reliable waste separation system at the source, i.e., a house-to-house solid waste collection service ( Das et al., 2019 ). Among the European countries, Germany has one of the highest recycling rates. It recycles more than 60% of municipal solid waste, and merely 30% of waste is used to produce a significant amount of energy. Only 1% of waste is subjected to landfills ( Mühle et al., 2010 ). The main reason to decrease the amount of waste going to landfills is to minimize the emissions of effluents from landfills into the air, soil, and groundwater ( Mühle et al., 2010 ). Adoption of such 4R concept in the IHR may help in managing MSW in a better way.

FIGURE 5 . 4R’s concept for good waste management. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover are the four good waste management practices sequentially organized in order of importance. The foremost goal is to reduce or avoid the minimum purchase of materials that are harmful to the environment. Reuse suggests the use of materials again for other purposes rather than disposing off unscientifically. Recycle emphasizes reusing waste materials (like plastic, metal, and e-waste) by recycling them into new products. Recover highlights the processing of waste to obtain valuable products. Hence, the adoption of 4R’s concept can contribute to good waste management practices in the IHR.

Capacity Building

The aim of developing the capacity building in the IHR is to meet the increasing demand for skilled workers in terms of training, new skills, knowledge, and entrepreneurial opportunities. Establishing such capacity buildings will require the involvement of both center and state levels, including private sector entities (NGO’s), research/training institutes, educational institutes (schools and colleges), business and technology centers to develop skills that run and strengthen mountain services ( Aayog, 2018 ). In Sweden, institutional capacity building is used to provide necessary guidance with the participation of the public and private sectors ( Lindfors et al., 2020 ). This combination of activities from different sectors and their collaborators facilitated the development of local biogas systems and was used to understand the potential of biogas production ( Lindfors et al., 2020 ). Industrial symbiosis is another way where sectors come together either through by-exchanging products or by utility sharing to address common concern issues ( Boons et al., 2017 ). Thus, the involvement of several different sectors helps in the successful implementation of sustainable techniques. There are also few non-government organizations such as the healing Himalaya foundation ( ), zero waste Himalaya ( ), and waste worriers ( ) who took the initiative to clean the waste generated specifically in the Himalayan region. Such organizations' main motto is to spread waste management awareness and develop programs to protect the environment and human health from the toxic side effects of waste materials.

Modern Collection System and Cluster Approach

The modern underground collection system is one of the effective approaches to tackle MSW in urban areas. The municipal corporation has installed underground waste bins at many Dharmshala and Shimla locations, which offers an advanced method for storing MSW ( Sharma et al., 2018 ). It makes the waste segregation, collection, transportation, and disposal convenient by reducing the surface footprint and allowing more open space and reduced foul odor ( Sharma et al., 2018 ). However, this collection system mode is expensive and cannot be installed in different places across IHR. Since the towns and cities in the hilly regions are small and scattered, a cluster-based approach for waste collection is preferable to club the resources of neighboring ULBs and Gram panchayats. The waste collected by the door-to-door collection system from inaccessible high-altitude regions can be stored at different transfer stations in the lower areas ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ). The cumulative waste can be picked by smaller trucks and transferred to waste processing facilities and then to landfill sites. This economically viable Cluster/Mini-cluster model can be helpful for proper waste management in IHR.

Research and Technology

Research and technologies need to focus on the overall connection between various wastes and their impact on the environment, human and animal health. It is also crucial to understand the public attitude toward waste generation and their involvement in waste management practices ( Alfthan et al., 2016 ).

Compost additives such as biochar and cocopeat for erobic composting can help reduce the overall composting process and results in the production of good quality compost ( Xu et al., 2016 ; Guo et al., 2020 ). One of the additives, biochar, is reported to provide favorable conditions to the microbial population involved in the degradation of organic waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, organic pollutants, and heavy metals ( Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2018 ; Guo et al., 2020 ).

During the anaerobic digestion process, biogas production’s efficiency and sustainability are hampered due to the inaccessibility of anaerobic microorganisms to some of the available organic substrates, leading to insufficient degradation ( Raposo et al., 2012 ). Advanced technologies such as thermal hydrolysis can act as a promising treatment for the AD process to enhance biogas’ performance and production ( Ferrentino et al., 2019 ; Li et al., 2019 ; Lucian et al., 2020 ). Organic matter treatment with thermal hydrolysis disrupts the cell walls, solubilizes the organic matter, and makes the organic matter available for the anaerobic microbial populations ( Lucian et al., 2020 ). Therefore, such an advanced technology system for biogas production can also prove to be proficient in IHR.

Conventional technologies such as incineration and landfills for plastic waste treatment cause ill effects on the environment and human health ( Zhang F. et al., 2020 ). Some advanced technologies, viz. pyrolysis, hydrocracking, gasification, and chemolysis are developed to recover plastic waste resources ( Al-Salem et al., 2017 ; Ragaert et al., 2017 ). Whereas treatments like photodegradation, mechanochemical degradation, and thermo degradation practices have been used for plastic waste degradation ( Yang et al., 2018 ; Zhang F. et al., 2020 ). These approaches can be considered in the recovery of plastic waste produced in the IHR.

The introduction of new MBT plants, a type of waste processing facility in several countries, has increased RDF production ( Rajca et al., 2020 ). MBT plant aims to stabilize the organic fraction of waste and recover recyclable valuable materials ( Montejo et al., 2013 ; Rajca et al., 2020 ). In European countries, the main reason behind the installation of MBT plants is to avoid the direct treatment of biodegradable waste from landfills ( Fei et al., 2018 ; Van Fan et al., 2020 ). Hence, to treat the unsegregated waste produced in IHR, such technology can help prevent the adverse effects on landfills’ environment.

The landfill is yet another approach for SWM; however, the generation of leachate is a significant drawback ( Hereher et al., 2019 ; Mahtab et al., 2020 ). Advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) are an approach to remove bio-refractory and toxic component produced from leachate ( Mahtab et al., 2020 ). AOPs efficiently mineralize the recalcitrant compounds into decomposable mixtures, preventing leachate spillage into the environment ( Mahtab et al., 2020 ; Umamaheswari et al., 2020 ). Therefore, adopting such technology can minimize leachate runoff into the groundwater, streams, and rivers, thereby preventing soil and water pollution.

The government of India recognized the importance of research and technologies in the IHR, and many research institutes were established with focused mandates on sustainable developments. Research institutes like CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology ( ), G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment (NIHE) ( ), ICAR-Vivekananda Parvatiya Krishi Anusandhan Sansthan ( ) and ICAR-National Organic Farming Research Institute (NOFRI), Tadong, Gangtok ( ) were all established to contribute toward the ecologically sensitive IHR. National Mission on Himalayan Studies ( ) is a mission implemented to support innovative research and interventions which can ameliorate the health of the Himalayan ecosystem. Indian Himalayan Central University Consortium (IHCUC) to study the agroecosystem of Himalayan states is another initiative established by the NITI Aayog ( ).

IHR is a unique eco-sensitive zone under continuous threat from the rising amount of waste generated by the inhabitants and the tourists visiting the region. The inadequate waste infrastructure, informal means of waste disposal, lack of proper implementation of SWM rules, and civil awareness have increased the environmental pollution, health risks to people and wildlife of the IHR. The measures planned to curb this threat lack the effective execution to achieve proper waste management and sustainable development goals. Robust implementation of planned facilities for reuse, recycling, maximum resource recovery from various WtE facilities, combined with safe residual waste disposal through sanitary landfills and public participation, is the quintessential requirement. The selection of specific waste technology, capacity building, and initiation of several environmental taxes can provide necessary revenues for the sustenance and development of SWM. IHR state-specific strategies should be implemented, focusing mainly on conservation and socio-economic development. Until these challenges and emerging issues are not met, IHR will continue to be over-burdened by the rapid economic transformation.

Author Contributions

AT: writing- original draft preparation, data curation; SK: writing-original draft preparation, figure generation; SS: writing, figure generation; SP: writing; AK : writing; RK: conceptualization, supervision, finalizing the manuscript, funding acquisition.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


RK acknowledges the financial support from the NMHS project of MoEF&CC sanction no. GBPNI/NMHS-2018–19/SG/178, Science and Engineering Research Board, Start-up research grant nos. SRG/2019/001071 and DST-TDT project no. DST/TDT/WM/2019/43DST, Govt. of India; to work in the aspect of waste management in IHR. RK is thankful to DST INSPIRE faculty award grant number DST/INSPIRE/04/2014/001280. SS is thankful to UGC, Govt. of India for ‘Research Fellowship’ Grant [UGC-Ref.No.:461/(CSIR-UGC NET DEC. 2016)]. The authors acknowledge the financial support by the CSIR in-house project MLP0137 and MLP0201. The authors duly acknowledge Dr. Nishma Dahal for the generation of the IHR map. The authors also acknowledge the reviewers for substantially improving the manuscript. This manuscript represents CSIR-IHBT communication no. 4723.

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Keywords: indian himalaya region, solid waste management, resource recovery, sustainable development, waste to energy

Citation: Thakur A, Kumari S, Sinai Borker S, Prashant SP, Kumar A and Kumar R (2021) Solid Waste Management in Indian Himalayan Region: Current Scenario, Resource Recovery, and Way Forward for Sustainable Development. Front. Energy Res. 9:609229. doi: 10.3389/fenrg.2021.609229

Received: 22 September 2020; Accepted: 08 February 2021; Published: 23 March 2021.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2021 Thakur, Kumari, Sinai Borker, Prashant, Kumar and Kumar. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Rakshak Kumar, [email protected]

† These authors have contributed equally to this work

This article is part of the Research Topic

Emerging Technologies for Waste Biomass to Energy: Innovations and Research Challenges



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Testing the role of waste management and environmental quality on health indicators using structural equation modeling in pakistan.

hypothesis on solid waste management in india

1. Introduction

2. theoretical model, inter-relationships between constructs, 3. research methods, 3.1. data collection, 3.2. measurement model (mm), 5. discussion, 6. conclusions and policy implications, author contributions, institutional review board statement, informed consent statement, data availability statement, acknowledgments, conflicts of interest.

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Akmal, T.; Jamil, F. Testing the Role of Waste Management and Environmental Quality on Health Indicators Using Structural Equation Modeling in Pakistan. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021 , 18 , 4193.

Akmal T, Jamil F. Testing the Role of Waste Management and Environmental Quality on Health Indicators Using Structural Equation Modeling in Pakistan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health . 2021; 18(8):4193.

Akmal, Tanzila, and Faisal Jamil. 2021. "Testing the Role of Waste Management and Environmental Quality on Health Indicators Using Structural Equation Modeling in Pakistan" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 8: 4193.

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Analysis of informal waste management using system dynamic modelling

Kaveri kala.

a Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Hauz Khas, New Delhi, 110016, India

Nomesh B. Bolia

b Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Hauz Khas, New Delhi, 110016, India

Associated Data

Data will be made available on request.

The informal sector is the backbone for sustainable waste management in a high population density country such as India. Moreover, the operations of the value chain of informal waste management provide direct or indirect benefits for the environment and human resource development. Unfortunately this sector has always been regarded as a fraudulent activity that sustains without paying taxes, creates unjust competition, and weakens unions and the regulatory structure of the government. These perceptions often lead India to pursue a policy that intentionally or inadvertently amounts to retributive measures. However, the alarming increase in the rate of waste generation has coerced the governments of several countries to incorporate the indispensable informal sector in their policy initiatives. Accordingly, this paper presents a pioneering system dynamics based model (using STELLA Architect software) to analyse the impact of the recent policies and decision strategies on the effectiveness of the informal waste management sector. The paper explores the case of Delhi, India to illustrate the model and provides valuable insights into the urban waste management process. The results of the model demonstrate that significant economic and environmental benefits can be realized by leveraging the natural strengths of the informal sector. Further, it is shown that efficient implementation of policies related to informal waste management can reduce the recyclable waste in the landfills dumped by municipal corporations or otherwise to zero. Also, waste recycling capacity can be increased from 39 percent to 100 percent by strengthening IRC (informal recycling coefficient, introduced in this paper) in a span of 30 years. This increase will have positive impact on land usage, environment degradation and operation cost used in the formal waste collection.

1. Introduction

Solid waste management (SWM) is one of the most immediate and grave problems confronting the world. The criticality of this problem can be judged from the fact that twelve out of seventeen UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) can be directly linked to solid waste ( Rodić and Wilson, 2017 ). The growing urbanisation and population makes this problem even worse in developing and transitional economies such as India ( Ahsan et al., 2014 ). Fortunately, developing countries, especially urban areas, have an environmental brigade in the form of informal workers that saves the country from drowning in its own waste. Exemplified by low cost for technologies and processes, high labour, low standardization in the processes ( Wilson et al., 2006 ), this informal sector helps to achieve the SDGs by strengthening the goals of the circular economy. For instance, it reduces the need to depend on virgin raw materials by aiding recycling, it generates employment for poor people and diverts recyclable waste from the landfills and oceans.

To elaborate further, a major portion of total solid waste is municipal or household waste generated from several human activities. In developing countries such as India, most of the municipal solid waste (MSW) is generated in households followed by commercial set ups and market areas ( Miezah et al., 2015 ). Mismanaged municipal waste can become a breeding ground for diseases and spoils environment ( Ray et al., 2005 ). While this is a critical issue that requires day-to-day attention, government agencies have, given their capacity limitations and the large scale of operations, for the most part, been able to address only the collection of the MSW. Waste processing post collection is an area badly in need of attention and overhaul since a sizeable proportion of the waste collected by them effectively ends up in landfills without any significant processing ( Lahiry, 2018 ). The informal sector, on the other hand, is much better at this and has come to assume responsibility for the overall recyclable solid waste. Thus, the informal sector extends a significant support to the circular economy (CE) whose transversal nature, in turn, helps in achieving many diverse goals such as responsible production and consumption, cleaner water bodies and lesser toxic gases from disposal sites.

However, due to a variety of factors, this ecosystem has considerably weakened. These factors include: i) the propensity of state to completely take over MSWM in a bid to buttress its governance and welfare credentials, ii) sheer lack of capacity of the state to deliver at the required scale on one hand and become aware of, engage or appreciate non-governmental stakeholders effectively on the other, iii) exclusion of the informal sectors in policy making, and iv) the inability of the traditional kabadivalas to keep up with times and the scale of activities for an end-to-end solid waste management. As a result of this weakening and the expected concurrent inability of the state (through municipal governance) to implement segregation-at-source, a lot of waste generated in India these days does not find its way into the recycling stream and gets blended with different types of municipal solid waste. In this scenario, to leverage the inherent sustainability and strength of the informal ecosystem, including the kabadis , it becomes important to strengthen informal waste management through various interventions in policy making.

While some policies and programmes of the government do recognise its efforts, a solution for one often does not work for the other due to the glaring differences between the working of the formal and informal set ups. This is precisely the reason why the urban centres of India need a well thought comprehensive policy framework that not only recognizes the importance of the informal waste management sector but also analyses the nature of relationships between formal and informal sectors. However, the heterogeneity in the value chain of informal sector makes this task an uphill battle. Therefore, in this article, we set out to explore how the effective implementation (with minor changes) of the present policies that are mainly focussed on formal sector, can also be beneficial for informal sector specifically and solid waste management at large. Moreover, to study the informal management system it is important to understand the scope of their activities. However, in the absence of extensive data, this complex system is not easy to capture in any conventional simulation or optimization based model ( Miezah et al., 2015 ). Accordingly, in this paper we use the system dynamics approach to model the informal waste management sector as well as the policies and benefits associated with it, as developing an appropriate policy framework is crucial to facilitate the necessary change in the waste management system. The system dynamics (SD) models are developed using STELLA Architect software. The rest of this paper is structured as follows: Sections 2 & 3 detail the methodology and tests for model validation, section 4 presents the results and section 5 elaborates the corresponding discussion and section 6 concludes the paper with a summary of key findings and possible future extensions.

2. Materials and methods

As indicated in section 1 , in the absence of reliable data especially concerning informal waste management operations, the system dynamics approach is used to evaluate the impact of certain policies on the informal waste management system (IWMS) with a focus on the case of Delhi, India's capital and among its largest urban agglomerations, and the region for which we could collect some basic data used in the SD approach of this paper. The same methodology can be applied to study any other city as well if the relevant data is available. The methodology is presented in Figure 1 .

Figure 1

Methodological framework.

2.1. Case background

As mentioned earlier Delhi is the capital city of India. It covers an area of 1484 square kilometers. It is one of the most populous cities in the world with a population size of 30 million and density of 29, 259 people per square kilometer in 2020. According to some official estimates, the amount of municipal solid waste generated is about 10500 metric tons per day (MTD) ( IANS, 2019 ), out of which 83 percent is collected ( Singh Sambyal, 2017 ). Around 29 percent of the collected waste is treated in processing plants and rest is dumped in the landfills. There are three landfills in Delhi, namely, Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur. Like other urban areas of India, Delhi also has two systems for waste collection: formal waste management sector and informal waste management sector. The figures mentioned above account only for the formal sector while there is a significant amount beyond it that is handled by the informal sector ( Joshi and Ahmed, 2016 ). The formal waste management system is driven by five municipal bodies namely, New Delhi Municipal Council, South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), North Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi Cantonment Board.

More than 50 percent of the waste produced in Delhi is bio-degradable, 20 percent is recyclable and the rest is inert ( Kala et al., 2020a , Kala et al., 2020b ). All of the biodegradable waste is handled by the formal sector: while the segregated part is transported to composting plants, unsegregated is dumped into the landfills. Most of the recyclable waste, particularly, electronic and plastic is collected and recycled by the informal waste sector ( Lahiry, 2019 ). The larger part of the recyclable waste that is collected by formal sector either goes to waste to energy (WTE) plants or ends up in the landfills.

As indicated in the methodological framework, the waste management chain in Delhi is identified with the help of two surveys, namely household survey and survey from the informal sectors. The corresponding areas are highlighted using google my maps ( Figure 2 ). The pink portion highlights the SDMC area considered for the household survey and blue points represent informal setups.

Figure 2

Map of the survey area.

2.1.1. Data collection

Household Survey : The first survey is conducted in the households of the socio-economically diverse SDMC area and the other one among the informal waste management actors residing in Delhi. For the household survey, 1000 households are randomly selected, out of which 800 responded. This survey helped in understanding the overall situation of segregation and recycling from the view point of the citizens. Thus, it aided in designing the parameters related to segregation and recycling. The summary of the key results are presented in Table 1 .

Table 1

Summary of key results from the survey 1.

Informal Sector Survey : The second survey is conducted among 35 waste dealers in areas (marked as blue points in Figure 2 ) to incorporate the major hubs of IWMS as well keep the respondent profile diverse. This survey helped in establishing the structure of the waste management chain in Delhi ( Figure 3 ) and identifying the policies affecting the informal waste management. These policies are related to the major challenges faced by the informal sector and further elaborated in section 2.1.2 . The survey results are summarized in Table 2 .

Figure 3

Waste management system in Delhi.

Table 2

Results from the survey 2.

Apart from these surveys, a few in-depth interviews are also conducted with officials from SDMC and EDMC. These primary sources combined with secondary sources such as reports and journal publications helped in identifying the course of recyclable material in informal and formal waste management chain in Delhi. Moreover, these surveys helped in estimating the parameters and making better assumptions for our System Dynamics model.

2.1.2. Challenges faced by informal sector

The survey among the waste dealers provides insights on the challenges faced by informal sector. There were questions specifically designed to understand the problems related to the current policy framework. The informal sector primarily faces the following three challenges in carrying out their remarkable role for a financially and environmentally sustainable SWM:

The above-mentioned challenges are connected to the recent policy initiatives namely, Solid Waste Management Rules (SWMR), Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Waste to Energy (WTE) schemes. After carefully evaluating the impact of the policies on the informal waste management sector and brainstorming the possible connections, we have developed the hypothesis presented in section 2.2 .

2.2. Model development

A causal loop diagram (CLD) exhibits a cause-and-effect relationship among variables. It is a dynamic hypothesis that presents important variables and their relationships ( Popli et al., 2017 ). We have formulated the CLD with the help of information from the literature and primary data collection through surveys. Several logical connections are made to understand the behavior of the real-world system. We have tried to replicate the real informal waste management system through the following hypotheses:

Effectively, through recycling, the informal sector conserves collective wealth because it avoids the alternative cost of sending and processing/disposing the waste material to a landfill. As highlighted in the literature, we hypothesize that if the recyclable waste goes to the informal sector, it will result in saving land, the environment, and generate employment opportunities ( Chintan, 2018 ). This cost saving brought about the informal sector should be recognized and ploughed back into the IWMS to further facilitate and support the sector. Moreover, increase in employment will motivate people to work. The waste recycled can be consumed again, thus reducing the burden on natural resources. We have incorporated this in our CLD presented in Figure 4 (a). Based on the causal loop formulated, the informal waste scenario of Delhi is modeled using system dynamics. A typical SD model comprises stocks (rectangular blocks), flows (arrows), feedback loops and constraints ( Mallick et al., 2014 ). Figure 4 (b) presents the system dynamics model diagrammatically where as the primary elements involved are explained in Table 3 .

Figure 4

a) Causal Loop Diagram, b) Stock and Flow Diagram.

Table 3

Parameters values for the system dynamics model.

Although the measurement of the waste quantity at the final disposal sites is the commonly used approach, this method neither accounts for the sizable amount of recyclable waste managed by the informal sector before the ultimate disposal, nor the absence of municipal services in slums and rural areas where the waste is thrown away illegally at open-sites. Therefore, the basis of this stock and flow diagram is the amount of recyclables consumed by the people. Figure 4 (b) presents the Stock and Flow Diagram (SFD) for the IWMS in Delhi.

3. Model tests and validation

Once a model is developed, it needs to be verified to build a certain level of confidence. To build such confidence, a model's structure and behavior should be in accordance with the real-world structure and behavior of the system ( Bala et al., 2017 ).

3.1. Tests for model structures

The following tests are performed for the model structure:

3.2. Tests for model behavior

Any model that represents an actual operation should not only look but also behave like one. After confirming the structure, the following tests are performed to verify the behavior replication ability of the model:

Figure 5

Validation graph.

Figure 6

Sensitivity Analysis a) Increase in Population b) Informal Recycling Coefficient.

The following conclusions can be drawn from the above:

Based on the analysis of the model validation tests, five scenarios are considered, namely, business as usual (BAU) scenario, SWMR scenario, GST scenario, WTE scenario and comprehensive management policy (CMP) scenario.

Table 4

Pivotal policy parameters.

Figure 7

Comparative Intervention Graphs a) Informal Recycling Coefficient, b) Amount of Recycled Waste, c) Landfill Flow of Municipal Waste, d) Illegal Flow.

5. Discussions

Thus, it is clear from section 4 that an effective implementation of SWMR, more stringent guidelines for WTE plants and an improved tax regime with respect to recycling can significantly waste management in Delhi. However, to ensure this proper systems are required to be put in place for effective compliance, something that has remained elusive for the government in India. The pivotal policy parameters mentioned in the results section can be improved through the following measures:

Segregation Coefficient (SC) : Segregation coefficient is associated with the percentage segregation and is affected by the implementation of SWMR. While the rules are noteworthy for their acknowledgment to integrate informal sector with formal waste management system, there is little guidance on the course of action. There are no bye-laws, or even recommendations, that state how the informal sector can be mainstreamed and integrated with the formal waste management ecosystem. Therefore, detailed bye-laws should be provided by the state governments according to the condition of their cities. Moreover, the municipal corporations should, to the extent possible, work with collectives in the informal sector for arranging door-to-door collection and segregation of household waste and providing material recovery facilities (MRFs) and personal protective equipment (PPE) for secondary segregation. Since citizens also play a major role in source segregation, they should be made aware about the importance of segregation through relevant communication channels ( Kala et al., 2020a , Kala et al., 2020b ). More stringent penalties should be imposed on households for non-segregation of waste.

Ease of recycling coefficient (ERC): This coefficient is directly connected to the tax regime. Clearly, the ERC will tend to decrease due to taxes on recycling activities. To improve this coefficient, taxes that reflect environmental cost should be imposed on virgin plastic and tax rebates provided to recycling activities in recognition of the benefits they bring to the environment. Although a detailed policy prescription can only be based on a detailed analysis beyond the scope of this paper, higher taxes (increased GST rate and/or cess) on virgin plastic, along with a zero or bare minimum GST rate on recycled plastic should be considered. The money collected from taxes imposed on waste management can go towards supporting the informal sector. The recycling policy should also be based on the polluter-pays principle, burdening waste generators to pay for its removal. The industries whose products are difficult to reuse or recycle should be levied higher tax ( Walani, 2017 ). Moreover, recycling constitutes just one but important part of the loop of the circular economy. Clearly, the more the transactions in this part, the higher is the sustainability of the economy. However, the demand for recycled material competes with that of virgin materials, where the latter has an unfair upper hand. Therefore, to successfully apply principles of circular economy and gain from its sustainability benefits, India needs to evolve appropriate structures for the recycling ecosystem, particularly with regard to its taxation, corresponding adaptation of the GST framework, and including a complete exemption where needed and possible.

Motivation Coefficient (MC): This coefficient is dependent, among other factors, on the job opportunities and salary of the informal workers. Thus, this coefficient is associated with corporatisation of waste for WTE plants. The corporatisation of waste processing may seem to be administratively convenient on the face of it, but is hardly sustainable (explained in section 3 ). For one, it leads to the informal sector losing access to waste material and, of course, losing employment opportunities. Complete corporatisation could also financially be less rewarding: while the informal sector may actually pay for access to the waste, corporate responses to tenders floated by ULBs often seek remuneration for collecting waste. Further, given the decentralized nature of its operations, and the financial incentive it offers, which the corporate collection does not, the informal sector is better placed than the corporate sector to effect behavioural changes associated with segregation at source. While the concept of generating energy from waste seems to be a quick fix solution, the government should empower the, locally designed, culturally apt and cost-effective solutions through research and development.

It is already known that actors of the informal value chain recognised and supported by government agencies and organised into strong cooperatives, appear to have higher incomes than other informal workers. In fact, many cities such as Pune have done remarkably well in this context. The SWaCH model helps Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in door-to-door collection and segregation while integrating informal waste workers ( PMC, 2016 ). This model is not only cost effective but also recovers resources in a sustainable manner. Thus, government support to informal waste management system can help realize significant environmental and economic benefits (logistic and land costs). Figure 8 compares the benefits provided by the informal sectors under the ideal values of pivotal policy parameters.

Figure 8

Comparative Graphs a) Net Environmental Benefit, b) Net Land Saved, c) Net Money Saved, d) Employability.

6. Conclusion

The informal sector is extremely important to manage waste, particularly in a high population density country such as India. Any country with a similar population size and infrastructural facilities can be crushed under the weight of its own waste without the support of the informal sector. Due to their unrecognized efforts, the informal sector players have managed to delay the externalities of poor waste management. However, in the past few years waste has increased at an unsustainable rate while the support to informal sector has remained the same if not decreased. The mounds of waste at the landfills clearly call for fundamental changes in the waste management system.

Many existing environmental policies and laws acknowledge waste management directly or indirectly. However, these policies in their current form are not comprehensive enough since they tend to ignore the informal sector almost completely. The few that do acknowledge the informal sector are poorly implemented and often weaken the informal sector instead of strengthening it. These policy instruments predominantly fall short in terms of defining mandatory rules or precise descriptions, the specific measures to be implemented and the targets to be achieved. Clearly, India needs fundamental changes in its current policy and regulations framework that leverage its potentially strong informal sector. Through this paper, we have identified the recent policies, and pivotal factors associated with them, that have a potential to improve the condition of informal waste management in Delhi. The System Dynamics model of the paper is validated and clearly demonstrates that strong performance improvement is possible by strengthening and leveraging the promise of the informal sector.

Future extension of this work includes a more elaborate integration model using system dynamics that can analyse the potential of informal and formal sector working together to expand recycling capabilities for achieving goals of circular economy.


Author contribution statement.

Kaveri Kala: Conceived and designed the experiments; Performed the experiments; Analyzed and interpreted the data; Wrote the paper.

Nomesh B. Bolia, Sushil: Contributed reagents, materials, analysis tools or data.

Funding statement

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Declaration of interests statement.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Additional information

No additional information is available for this paper.

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Household solid waste management practices and perceptions among residents in the East Coast of Malaysia

BMC Public Health volume  22 , Article number:  1 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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Poor waste disposal practices hamper the progress towards an integrated solid waste management in households. Knowledge of current practices and perception of household solid waste management is necessary for accurate decision making in the move towards a more sustainable approach. This study investigates the household waste practices and perceptions about waste management in Panji, one of the sub-districts in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia.

A stratified random sampling technique using a cross-sectional survey questionnaire was used to collect data. A total of 338 households were interviewed in the survey and data were analyzed using SPSS. Chi-square goodness of fit test was used to determine the relationships between categorical variables, whereas Chi-square bivariate correlation test was performed to observe the correlation between the perceptions of waste segregation with socio-demographic background of the respondents. The correlation between perception of respondents with the locality, house type and waste type were also conducted. Principal component analysis was used to identify grouping of variables and to establish which factors were interrelated in any given construct.

The results of the study revealed that 74.3 % of households disposed of food debris as waste and 18.3% disposed of plastic materials as waste. The study also showed that 50.3% of the households segregate their waste while 49.7% did not. About 95.9% of the respondents were aware that improper waste management leads to disease; such as diarrhea and malaria. There were associations between locality, age and house type with waste segregation practices among respondents (Chi-square test, p<0.05). Associations were also found between locality with the perception of improper waste management which lead to disease (Chi-square test, p<0.05). Principal Component Analysis showed that 17.94% of the variance has high positive loading (positive relationship) with age, marital status and, type of house.

This study highlights the importance to design waste separation programs that suit the needs of targeted population as a boost towards sustainable solid waste management practices.

Peer Review reports

Solid waste management (SWM) in the majority of developing countries including Malaysia is dominated by open dumping due to lower capital, operational and maintenance cost in comparison with another disposal method [ 47 ]. This non-sanitary and non-engineered approach are without appropriate liners, gas collection and leachate collection and treatment, thereby exposing the surrounding environment with multiple air, water and soil pollution issues [ 15 , 23 ]. The effects of the ineffective management of household solid waste on public health (Fig. 1 ) can be separated into physical, biological, non-communicable diseases, psychosocial and ergonomics health risks [ 6 , 51 , 77 ]. Contaminated soil, air and water provide breeding ground to biological vectors such as flies, rodents and insects pests. Many diseases are sequentially caused by these biological vectors, such as diarrhoea, dysentery, gastrointestinal problems, worm infection, food poisoning, dengue fever, cholera, leptospirosis and bacterial infection; irritation of the skin, nose and eyes; as well as respiratory symptoms [ 25 , 41 , 42 , 52 ]. Exposure to gases generated by landfill waste such as methane, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide can produce inflammation and bronchoconstriction and can affect the immune cell. Hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride released from the waste if deposited in the respiratory system, may cause cough, chest tightness and breathlessness [ 21 ].

figure 1

Effect of ineffective household solid waste management on public health

Another category of health effects that can be closely related to household solid waste management is non-communicable diseases. Some studies estimated that the pollutions from the dumpsite might cause cancers (e.g. liver, pancreas, kidney, larynx) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma [ 8 , 31 , 51 ]. Other health effects under this category worth mentioning are birth defects, preterm babies, congenital disorders and Down’s syndrome [ 51 , 52 ]. Apart from physical and biological effects, inefficient household waste management can lead to psychosocial effects such as disturbing odour, unsightly waste, and thinking, cognitive and stress-related problems [ 6 , 51 , 52 , 74 , 77 ]. Ergonomics is the final category of related health effects that is worth mentioning specifically for the working community of household waste management (Fig. 1 ). The risk of ergonomic issues is related to body posture, repetitive movement and excessive force movement [ 6 ].

Majority of the solid waste generated in Malaysia composed of organic waste with high moisture content [ 43 ], hence, the handling and waste separation at source is the most critical step in waste management [ 62 ]. The increasing amount of waste generated annually is also intensified by lack of land for disposing waste, questioning the sustainability of the current municipal solid waste (MSW) practices of using landfills [ 46 ]. Nevertheless, the lack of success in public participation to manage the solid waste is primarily rooted by the NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude and the public perception that solid waste is a local municipal problem is highly prevalent among Malaysians [ 3 ]. Thus, most of the existing waste segregation practices by waste-pickers are mostly done in the informal sector as means of livelihood for the poor and additional source of income. On the other hand, this practice causes serious health problems, aggravating the socio-economic situation [ 10 ].

In Kelantan, the common practice of waste disposal in rural and remote areas is by burying and burning of waste (Kamaruddin et al. 2016) while in urban or semi-urban areas, stationary waste storage containers are provided mainly at the sides of the main road. Kota Bharu Municipal Council (KBMC) is the local authority responsible in providing stationary waste storage container at collection site of waste within Kota Bharu district, collecting the solid waste approximately 3 times a week by compactor vehicles and transporting waste to the dumpsite located in Beris Lalang, Bachok [ 27 ]. However, the flaws of SWM in Kelantan lies primarily in inadequate bin and waste collection provided by local authorities, KBMC mainly constrained by financial issues (Rahim et al 2012). House to house waste collection is also hard to be implemented owing to narrow lanes and alleys which are mostly inaccessible [ 61 ] due to the development practice and geographical area in the state. Therefore, the locals’ resort to burying and burning their wastes within their house compound which has always been the practice since decades ago.

Household waste is one of the primary sources of MSW comprising of food wastes, paper, plastic, rags, metal and glasses from residential areas. Household waste is among the solid wastes managed by KBMC in Kota Bharu covering 15 sub-districts including Panji. Panji has the highest population compared to the other sub-district; therefore, assessment of household SWM among the residents is important to address their awareness and practices for planning an effective form of SWM. Some of the key factors influencing the effectiveness of SWM is by considering the size of the family, their income [ 67 ], level of education [ 19 ] and the location of household [ 1 ]. This factor is also supported by Shigeru [ 66 ] that the characteristics of households determine their recycling behavior and that sociodemographic conditions vary across municipalities. Socio-economic status and housing characteristics also affect the amount of municipal waste and how they manage it [ 20 ]. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the characteristics and needs of various households in designing a suitable waste management program.

Efficient SWM system is now a global concern which requires a sustainable SWM primarily in the developing countries. This study is another effort in gearing towards sustainable waste management practices in Malaysia which is also in line with the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals encompassing SDG3 Good Health and Wellbeing and SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production. So far, limited studies were reported in the East Coast of Malaysia, particularly in Kelantan on waste management practices at the household level [ 61 ] which is highly required to improve the current practices including finding the prospect of whether proper at source-sorting in households is feasible to be implemented. This study provides a case study in Panji, Kota Bharu concerning the current household characteristics and awareness of managing household solid waste in Kelantan. The findings are crucial for the waste authorities in the process of designing and providing an effective and specific action plan in the area.

Figure 2 shows the percentage of households by garbage collection facilities and median monthly household income (MYR) for the districts in Kelantan. Kota Bharu is the district with the highest median monthly household gross income and percentage of garbage collection facilities. Apart from Lojing, which is located in the highlands, Bachok, Tumpat and Pasir Puteh are the districts with the lowest percentage of garbage collection facilities within 100m of the households. Meanwhile, Bachok (34.9%), Pasir Mas (36.6%), and Pasir Puteh (38%) households are without garbage collection facilities. The figure described the problem with household solid waste management in Kelantan. The major issues contributing to the problem are due to insufficient financial resources, lack of human labor, and transportation [ 61 ]. In one of the rural area in Kelantan, it was found that the solid waste management is considered inefficient due to a lack of knowledge in proper waste handling and the importance of segregating waste properly as proper waste handling start at home (Abas et al. 2020).

figure 2

Percentage of households by garbage collection facilities and median monthly household income (MYR) for the districts in Kelantan

Household SWM is not a new issue, thus, published studies were found using survey and questionnaires and fieldwork studies. Waste characterization process was carried out by Kamaruddin et al. (2016) in 4 landfills in Kelantan. Nevertheless, they did not cover household waste knowledge, attitude and practices. Abdullah et al. [ 1 ] surveyed the household’s awareness on privatization of solid waste management and their satisfaction of the services offered but did not cover the health implications. Saat et al. [ 61 ] surveyed the practices and attitude on household waste management with a small sample size of less than 30 which limits its applicability to other region. Our study aimed to improve these previous studies by covering a wider sample size from the largest sub-district in Kelantan, Malaysia. The objective of this study is to assess the household SWM practices and perceptions among the residents of Panji vicinity in Kota Bharu district, Kelantan. Specifically, the objectives are to assess household SWM practices and perceptions in the Panji sub-district, to determine the association between socio-demographic characteristics or other factors and practices in SWM at the household level and to determine the association between socio-demographic characteristics or other factors and perceptions in SWM at household level.

This study was conducted in Panji, Kota Bharu district, Kelantan, Malaysia (Fig. 3 ), located at the east cost of Peninsular Malaysia and has the highest population among the 15 sub-districts of Kota Bharu, the capital state of Kelantan. A total of 338 respondents were recruited in this study. The population of interest in this study involved residents in Kota Bharu district and considered only residents who have attained 18 years old and above. Sample unit is residents living in Kota Bharu district of more than a year and aged more than 18 years. The target population comprised all the households in Kota Bharu District (491,237); however, it is impossible to conduct a study with such a large number within a limited time period and inadequate financial budget. Therefore, a multi- stage random sampling technique was used in selecting the appropriate sample in order to evaluate the objectives of this study and to ensure that households in the districts had the same possibility of being included in the study (Dlamini et al., 2017). Initially, one district of Kelantan state (Kota Bharu) was selected out of 10 total districts. In the second stage, one sub-district of Kota Bharu District (Panji) was selected out of 15 total sub-districts. Eventually, 338 households were randomly selected as sample size. Convenient sampling was also used to select respondents due to time constraint and response obtained from target population. The localities involved were Kampung Tapang, Kampung Chempaka, Kampung Belukar, Kampung Panji, Taman Sri Iman, Taman Desa Kujid and Taman Bendahara.

figure 3

Location of the study area in Panji, Kota Bharu district, Kelantan, Malaysia (Source:ArcGis Software version 10.2; source of shape file: Department of Drainage and Irrigation, obtained with consent)

Data collection

A survey was conducted from January to May 2018. The questionnaire was translated from English to Malay language and the translation was done back to back and validated by experts in environmental science and public health field. A pilot test was conducted with a small sample size of ~30 to determine the suitability of the items in the questionnaire and the time taken by respondents to complete the questionnaires (Dlamini et al. 2017). Respondents were interviewed based on a questionnaire adopted and modified from Asante et al. [ 9 ]. The questionnaire involved two phases; the first one was to determine the socio-demographic of the respondents, including gender, age, types of housing, religion, educational level, occupation and the number of occupants in the household. Part two was an assessment to determine the status of household management of solid waste. The questionnaire included both open and closed questions (Dlamini et al. 2017). The closed questions were designed for ease of answering by the respondents with the aim of collecting the maximum appropriate responses, whereas the open questions are intended to encourage respondents to provide further elaboration on certain questions. The reliability of Cronbach’s alpha test of this questionnaire was found to be acceptable (α=0.71). Ethical approval for this study was obtained from the Ethic Committee of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM/JEPeM/17100560).

Data analysis

Data were analyzed using IBM Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 24.0. Descriptive analyses were used to report the frequency and percentage of socio-demographic patterns, method of household waste disposal and perceptions of household toward waste management. Chi-square goodness of fit test was used to determine the relationships between categorical variables, which allow us to test whether the observed proportions for a categorical variable differ from the hypothesized proportions [ 24 ]. The null hypothesis of the Chi-Square test is that no relationship exists on the categorical variables in the population; they are independent. Chi-square bivariate correlation test was performed to observe the correlation between the perceptions of waste segregation with socio-demographic background of the respondents [ 29 ]. The correlation between perception of respondents with the locality, house type and waste type were also conducted. Principal component analysis (PCA) was conducted to identify grouping of variables and to establish which factors were interrelated in any given construct, where a set of highly inter-correlated measured variables were grouped into distinct factors [ 24 ]. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkim (KMO) Measure of Sampling Adequacy and Bartlett's Test of Sphericity was performed to evaluate the data's suitability for exploratory factor analysis [ 69 ].

Socio-demographic Characteristics and Respondents Background in Panji sub-district

We first report descriptive statistics for all variables before discussing results from correlation analysis of socio-demographic factors and respondent’s background with household solid waste management (SWM) practices and perceptions. We then present the Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Table 1 represents the socio-demographic background and characteristics of the respondents in this study. Most of the respondents are from Kg. Belukar (N=125, 37%), followed by Kg. Panji (N=61, 18%), the rest are from Kg. Tapang (N=33), Kg. Chempaka, Taman Desa Kujid, Taman Sri Iman (N=30, respectively) and from Taman Bendahara (N=29). Majority of the respondents are female (N=182, 53.8%) and age between 35 to 49 years old (N=91, 26.9%). Most of the respondents have completed secondary education (N=194, 57.4%) and 31.1% have completed their degree or diploma (N=105). Majority of the respondents are married (75.7%), Muslim (97%) and earned between MYR 1000 to 2000 per month. About 32% of the respondents are self-employed and lived in a bungalow house type (30.5%). Most of the household consist of 4 to 6 occupants (53.6%). Majority of them cook at home (91.4%) on daily basis (68.6%). The Chi-square test shows that there is a significant difference among all categorical variables except for gender (χ 2 = 2.000, p = 0.157).

Proportion of Household Solid Waste Disposed by respondents in Panji Sub-District

Figure 4 represents the type of waste disposed of by respondents in the study. More than half (74.38%) of the waste disposed by household is food debris, followed by plastic waste (19.01%) and bottles (5.79%) while the rest accounts for 0.83%.

figure 4

Types of waste disposed by household in Panji district

Household SWM practices and perceptions among respondents in Panji sub-district

Table 2 shows the household waste management practices and perceptions among respondents in Panji district. In terms of the household SWM practices, about 170 of the respondents (50.3%) segregate their waste at home while the remaining 168 respondents (49.7%) did not practice waste segregation at home. There is no significant difference between those who segregate waste at home and those who don’t (χ 2 =0.12, p=0.91). As shown in Fig. 1 and Table 2 , the major type of waste disposed by respondents are food (N=251, 74.3%). A significant difference was found among the different type of waste disposed (χ 2 =656.56, p<0.001). Out of the 338 respondents interviewed, 75.4% of the respondent themselves normally carries their household waste to the allocated bin or waste collection point provided by the local authority. Majority of the respondents (323 respondents) agree that the waste disposal site provided by the local authorities were appropriate (95.6%) relative to 15 respondents who disagree (4.4%). A significant difference was found between those who responded that appropriate waste disposal site was provided and those who do not (χ2=280.66, p<0.001).

Most of them also have the perception that proper waste management is important (99.7%). More than half (62.4%) of the respondent agrees that it is their responsibility to clean the waste in their residential area while 24.3% suggested that it is the responsibility of the district council. Another 3.3% suggested it is the responsibility of the community members followed by private waste operators (1.5%). The majority (95.9%) of the respondents suggested poor waste management can contribute to disease occurrence, whereas 2.7% suggested it does not cause diseases and another 1.5% were unsure if it causes any diseases.

In terms of the household SWM perceptions, 40.8% of the respondents have responded that other diseases than diarrhea, malaria and typhoid are related to improper waste management. This is followed by diarrhea (30.5%) and malaria (21.9%). Majority of the participants responded that they have awareness on proper waste management (92.9%) and 81.4% responded that cleanliness is the main factor which motivates them to dispose the waste properly. The chi-square test shows that all variables under respondents’ perception differ significantly from the hypothesized values (Table 2 ).

Relationship between socio-demographic characteristics, respondent’s background and household SWM practices (waste segregation practices)

Chi square analysis was performed to find out what factors contribute to waste segregation practices among the respondents (Table 3 ). Results indicate that waste segregation practice was correlated with the locality (χ 2 = 43.35, p<0.001). For instance, out of 29 respondents in Taman Bendahara, all of them segregate their waste (100%). This trend was also observed for Taman Desa Kujid where most of the respondents segregate their waste (22 out of 30, 73.3%). In contrast, most of respondents from the village, did not segregate their waste. For example, out of 125 total number of respondents in Kg Belukar, 53 of them segregates their waste (42.4%) while 72 of them did not (57.6%).

A significant correlation was found between waste segregation practice and age (χ 2 =11.62, p<0.001). Based on the age range of the total number of respondents, respondents at the age of 50-65 years old are those who segregated more than the rest (N=43) and those at the age of 35-49 are those who did not segregate their waste the most (N=52 in Table 3 ). The type of house was significantly correlated with waste segregation practice (χ 2 =12.73, p=0.03). The respondents who live in bungalow houses are those who segregate the most (N=58). Those who live in semi-detached houses also have more respondents (N=24) segregating their waste than those who did not (N=13). Meanwhile those who live in other type of houses, terrace, village and others have more respondents who did not segregate their waste (Table 3 ). Other variables, gender, education level, marital status, monthly income, occupation, the number of persons per household and the practice of cooking at home did not show any significant correlation with waste segregation practice (p>0.05, Table 3 ).

Relationship between respondent’s background and household SWM practices (the type of waste disposed) from the household in Panji sub-district

The chi-square test was also conducted to determine the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics, respondent’s background and the type of waste disposed. There is a significant correlation between locality with the waste type disposed in Panji district (Table 4 ). All localities showed that food waste was the major type of waste being disposed of from the households. A significant correlation was also found between respondents living in different house types with type of waste disposed. Most of the respondents who live in bungalows (N = 81) and other type of house (N = 78) disposed of food as the main waste from their households. Other characteristics were not significantly correlated with type of waste.

Correlation between respondents’ background (locality and/ or house type) and the perception in household SWM (appropriate site of household waste disposal provided by the local council and improper waste management contribute to disease occurrence)

Correlation analysis was also performed to determine what factors contribute towards the perception of household SWM in Panji district. No significant correlation was found between different locality with the appropriate waste disposal site provided (p = 0.152) as most of the locality has an appropriate disposal site (Table 5 ). There was also no significant relationship between type of house with appropriate disposal site provided by the local council (p=0.131). On the other hand, significant correlation was found between locality and the respondent’s perceptions on improper waste management which contribute to disease occurrence (p=0.042). Out of all localities, majority of the respondents from Kg Belukar has the perception that improper waste management contributes to disease occurrence (Table 5 ).

Principal component analysis (PCA)

Principal Component Analysis (PCA) is a dimension-reduction tool that can be used to reduce a large set of variables to a small set that still contains most of the information in the original large set [ 24 ]. It converts a set of observations of possibly correlated variables (entities each of which takes on various numerical values) into a set of values of linearly uncorrelated variables called principal components [ 37 ]. This transformation is defined in such a way that the first principal component has the largest possible variance (that is, accounts for as much of the variability in the data as possible), and each succeeding component in turn has the highest variance possible under the constraint that it is orthogonal to the preceding components.

PCA in this study was performed to determine the variables that influence or related to waste segregation behavior among respondents. Table 6 highlight the PCA analysis to illustrate the component factors that influence waste segregation behavior among respondents in this study. Only 13 significant variables were highlighted in the table with the factor loading of more than 0.5. Only factor loadings value >0.5 are considered for selection and interpretation due to having significant factor loadings influence the acceptable KMO value that represent a significant correlation for the PCA model in the study. The PCA generates four principal components that represent 48.26% of the total variance in the variables dataset and produced an acceptable KMO value of 0.603 (more than 0.5). Bartlett’s test of sphericity showed that PCA could be applied to the data at the p< 0.001 level. This approved that the data met the requirements for factor analysis [ 24 , 69 ].

The component matrix produced in PCA showed that PC1 represents 17.94% of the variance with high positive loading (positive relationship) on age, marital status and, type of house (Table 6 ). This pattern indicates that age, married and type of house were the group that segregates their waste the most. This group of community can be proposed as the target to actively participate in waste management practices within the district. In contrast, locality and education have negative loading or negative relationship with the segregation activity. As a result, policy makers should increase educational activities on proper household waste practices and management related issues to minimize both the environmental and health impacts of household waste practices among the population.

PC2 represents 10.93% of the variance with high loadings on cooking at home and cooking frequency. This pattern implies that those who cook at home and frequently cook were among the most respondents who practice waste segregation. However, no consequences can be drawn about individual factors as these may have the opposite relationship to the observed factor in other components. Similar trend was observed for PC3 whereby 9.96% of the data variance has high loading on the perception of the respondents towards waste management. High loading was observed on perception that improper waste management contributes to disease occurrence and the cleanliness is the main element that motivates them to segregate. PC3 has high negative loading with monthly income. This result suggests that respondents with low income are those who segregate more.

Meanwhile, PC4 represents 9.42% of the data variance. Variables that have high positive loadings were the respondents who brought the waste to the communal bin themselves, indicating that this group of respondents are those who segregate more. High positive loading was also found on the perception that residents are among those responsible for cleaning the residential area. The number of persons living in a household has negative loading in PC4, indicating that the higher the number of people lives in the household, the lesser chances of them to segregate the waste.

Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis.

a 4 components extracted.

b Only cases for which Practice of waste segregation = Yes are used in the analysis phase.

This study explores the behavioral perspective in view that the way people manage waste is associated with their attitude and perception. Individual perception is governed by their background and present situation, shaped by values, moods, socials circumstances and individual expectation (Kaoje et al 2017). The results of this study are discussed from three aspects: (1) characterization of household solid waste management practices and perceptions among respondents (2) correlation between socioeconomic and respondent’s background with waste segregation practices and (3) correlation between socioeconomic and respondent’s background with household waste management perceptions. One of the primary intentions of acquiring the respondent’s characteristics was to understand the correlation between level of involvement in household SWM practices and the characteristics of the respondents.

Food waste was found as the major type of waste disposed by the communities in Panji sub-district (Fig. 1 and Table 2 ). Food waste has high moisture content and causes smell, which subsequently attracts disease vectors, such as flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches, and the proliferation of rodents, such as rats and mice, which pose threats to public health [ 68 , 75 ]. Majority of the respondents were found to cook at home (N=309, 91.4%) and cook on a daily basis (N=232, 68.6%; Table 1 ) which suggests that composting should be incorporated as one of the main approaches for proper waste management practices in the community. Individual compost bin should be provided in each household coupled with adequate training on simple compost technique can be organized within the locality as a stage by stage process. Alternatively, community scale composting can be proposed to focus solely on food waste management which is currently a growing practice among Malaysians [ 38 , 56 ]. This approach is gaining attention because of their lower energy footprint, ease of operation, need for lesser resources, lower operation and maintenance costs which have higher chances of public acceptance [ 32 ]. Food waste is organic waste which can decomposed and degraded into organic matter [ 33 ], which in turn can be used by the public to fertilize their garden soil. Most importantly, the training should emphasize on the practicality and feasible option of composting which is otherwise seen as a time-consuming and burdensome process [ 33 ].

Composting is beneficial to the environment by reducing greenhouse gases emissions and improvement of soil quality when applied to land. Furthermore, it is also in line with the circular economy concept by closing the loop of the system [ 14 ]. On the other hand, there are issues pertaining to its quality such as the nutrient and trace metal content. So, sorting the waste at source play a crucial role in minimising these impurities and collection systems play a fundamental role in removing some pollutants from wastes, especially organic fraction of municipal solid wastes, and improving compost quality [ 13 ]. One way to overcome this is by accommodating the waste collection and composting facilities with easy and convenient measurement of these contents which may be accessible by the community. Community composting programs should incorporate not only the step-by-step procedure of how to do composting but at the same time introducing easy to use kit or techniques applicable to the public and community such as test strip to measure the nutrients and trace metal [ 11 ]. In addition, by adding composting accelerators, the nutritional quality of the compost can be overcome. This factor can be done by developing a manual for public use.

The case of local composting at homes reduces transportation and collection cost by decreasing the amount of domestic waste carried to centralized composting facilities [ 76 ]. At the same time, household waste contains impurities and are widely distributed which hinders the efficiency of centralized composting facilities in disposing them. Centralized composting facilities in Asia suffer from low compost quality and poor sales [ 32 ]. As a result, community composting system at a smaller scale is more convenient within this region.

Composting is linked to diseases such as Aspergillosis, Legionnaire’s disease, histoplasmosis, paronychia and tetanus. In the case of Aspergillosis and Legionnaire’s disease, it may cause higher potential risk in large scale composting facilities compared to the smaller scale composting at home due to massive handling and agitating process in the former [ 26 , 59 ]. Histoplasmosis have been associated with chicken manure used in composting, however it is not able to survive in a well-done composting process [ 39 ]. Therefore, disease spread can be minimised by having local composting at homes and community composting system at a smaller scale than centralized composting facility. The most important thing in minimising disease spread would be the practise of wearing gloves and face mask during this composting activity.

In this study, there was not much difference between the respondents who separated their waste and who did not (Table 2 ), which implies there is room for increasing the practice of waste segregation. Waste segregation practice is lacking in developing countries, most prominently in Asia ( [ 15 , 48 ]; Vassanadumrongdee and Kittipongvises 2018) and African continents (Dlamini et al. 2017; Yoada et al. 2014). Since respondents lack adequate knowledge on the critical importance of waste separation at source in general, the volume of municipal solid waste dumped in landfill sites are progressively increasing, thus jeopardizing the remaining landfill space at a faster rate than initially planned. Therefore, to alleviate this environmental problem in the developing countries in general and in Panji sub-districts, specifically, more focused and sustained public awareness programs, integrated with an enabling infrastructure, are required to change residents’ perceptions toward improved waste separation at source rates [ 49 ]. Additionally, the outcome of the waste segregation activities should be similarly emphasized and how waste minimization in the first instance, and waste segregation at source, will benefit and enhance the standard of living or life quality of households ([ 44 ]; Yoada et al. 2014 [ 49 ];).

The perceptions of the respondents towards waste management were generally good. About 99.7% reported that waste management is important, 62.4% report that it is the responsibility of them to manage waste (Table 2 ). Resident’s participation in waste management activities is one of the ways in maximizing the capture of source-segregated materials which can be facilitated by providing an associated infrastructure [ 58 ]. Nevertheless, there are still some respondents who felt that waste management is not their responsibility, but instead lies mainly on the district council, which highlights the general perception of some Malaysians that waste is a local municipal issue [ 46 ]. About 95.9% of the respondents were aware that improper waste management leads to sicknesses or diseases, which implies that most of the households were aware of the health implication of waste. The management of MSW in developing Asian countries is driven by a public health perspective: the collection and disposal of waste in order to avoid the spread of disease vectors from uncollected waste [ 5 ]. The perception of the remaining 2.7% that waste management does not cause disease and 1.5% who were unsure need to be changed by targeting this group as a follow up program focusing on waste management and health issues. The respondents also have adequate level of awareness and knowledge about proper waste management (92.9%). This high level of awareness is because of several reasons for properly disposing of waste, including cleanliness as the major factor (81.4%), followed by fear of illnesses (12.4%), and odor (6.2%).

Most of the respondents thought that improper waste management could lead to diarrhea and malaria (Table 2 ). Diarrhea and waste management is associated with environmental factors such as waste disposal mechanism. House-to-house waste collection has been shown to decrease the incidence of malaria compared to other waste collection method [ 7 ]. Hence, this implies the possibility of malaria incidence in areas which burn their waste and areas which are inaccessible by any waste collection. Other diseases could be related to typhoid, dysentery, cholera, respiratory infections and injury [ 42 ]. Proper waste management can lead to improvement in the quality of the environment and public health while, mismanagement of waste can be implicated with water, soil and air pollutions [ 1 ], breeding of mosquitos, which in turn, causes disease [ 15 , 68 ]. Although knowledge and awareness are acceptable among the respondents, this perception did not inculcate into waste segregation practices. In order to bridge the gap between awareness and behavior change, it is necessary for individuals to understand the importance of their role in how to do it and why it is important to do so [ 34 ]. More focused, detailed and continuous awareness and knowledge should be emphasized on this aspect specifically in the topics of environmental cleanliness, drainage systems, the recycling process in theory and practice, and a proper way to dispose of wastes [ 61 ].

Our findings have reported that socio-demographic factors (age, marital status) and respondents’ background (locality and house types) have influenced the household waste practices and perceptions in Panji sub-district (Tables 3 , 4 , 5 and 6 ). Age is associated with the maturity of the person which plays a significant factor in impacting their level of awareness on environmental health and sanitation ([ 12 , 17 ]; Meneses and [ 40 , 45 ]). The result of our study is consistent with the findings by Fan et al. [ 22 ] that older individuals prefer to engage more in waste sorting activities than young people in Singapore.

On the other hand, the number of children in the household may be a significant factor that influence waste separation. This for instance has been mentioned in Xu et al., (2017), where the intention of middle-aged adults towards behaving a more eco-friendly system was affected by critical social reference groups around them, such as the interaction with family or the motivation, especially children, and/or the consideration of the health situation of the whole family.

However, in other studies such as in Ittiravivongs [ 28 ] and Vassanadumrongdee & Kittipongvises (2018), socio-demographic variables became insignificant factors that influenced waste segregation participation. Knussen et al., [ 36 ] & White & Hyde [ 73 ] also indicate that the strongest variable influence participation in waste segregation program was past behaviour on regular source separation at home or recycling habit. Having waste separation in the office also could have positive influence on source separation intention, which is consistent with the study of Saphores et al. [ 64 ].

Considering number of children in the analysis is beyond the scope of this paper. Our result indicates that there is no significant difference in the waste segregation practice by the number of occupants in the household (χ 2 = 2.36, p = 0.31). For instance, the results show 54.2% of household with more than 6 occupants practice waste segregation, as compared to those who are not at 45.8%. This would suggest that the number of children in the house could be less influence on the waste segregation practice or vice versa. Future study may consider number of children in the family as one of the variables to be tested to confirm the hypothesis.

It was interesting to note that the types of housing in the case study were found to contribute heavily to the practices and perceptions of household waste management. Respondents who lived in bungalows (30.5%) and other type of houses than semi-detached, terrace and village (28.4%) are most likely to segregate their waste. Bungalows are associated with high income areas in Malaysia [ 53 ], which could be related to waste collection services are provided from these areas and possibly these households subscribe to this service. Potentially, these types of houses also have more space to be allocated for waste sorting than the other type of houses.

Other socio-demographic characteristics such as gender, education level and monthly income did not influence the practices and perceptions of the respondents. There were no significant associations between gender and waste segregation practices (χ 2 =0.596, p=0.440). Our finding is contrasting to the study by Ehrampoush and Moghadam [ 18 ] which reported that gender is likely to have an influence on the perceptions of household SWM. This view is supported by Mukherji et al. [ 48 ] who found that women, because of traditional gender roles associated with their household activities, have a closer engagement with waste management at household level.

The level of education has been reported as an important factor that could influence people’s perception of household waste management [ 40 ]. In this study, most of the respondents received their education until secondary school (57.4%), followed by diploma or degree (31.1%) but this did not influence their household SWM practices and perception (χ 2 =6.188, p=0.19), in particular waste segregation practice (Table 3 ). The poor average income of respondents is considered a very important variable that could influence people’s perception and attitudes negatively on solid waste management system (Parfitt et al. 1994 [ 40 ];). But, this is not the case in our study as economic consideration appears not to play a major role in the respondent’s perception as well as attitude to solid waste management practices (χ 2 =4.55, p=0.47).

The outcome from the PCA analysis showed that age, marital status and type of housing are the factors which contributed the most to waste segregation practices at home. Our finding agrees with the study by Vassanadumrongdee and Kittipongvises (2018) which found that age and family with children have a positive influence on respondent's source separation. Age was also a determinant factor in waste management practices in other studies [ 2 , 15 ]. With aging and married respondents, this could be highly related to the increasing sense of responsibility towards the environment and the importance of increasing the quality of life among household members. Types of housing could be related to either waste collection services were provided in these areas or that limited number of households subscribe to their service. Other studies in the literature have reported on the positive relationship between residence types and waste separation practices ([ 15 ]; Vassanadumrongdee and Kittipongvises 2018).

The high loadings on cooking at home and cooking frequency towards waste segregation practices indicate that these groups of respondents can be chosen for further interventions in terms of adopting proper waste management practices such as small-scale composting, recycling and waste minimization practices. The lifestyle of the respondents plays a significant role in the daily waste disposal practices in households (Yoada et al. 2014 [ 15 ];). The link between improper waste management practice and disease occurrence was also reported in studies in Ghana (Yoada et al. 2014 [ 2 ];). Their studies also reported that cleanliness was the main factor which motivates them to segregate the waste which is concurrent with the findings in this study.

Education is negatively related to waste segregation activity (Table 6 ), indicating that people with lower education are more willing to segregate their waste as compared to those with higher education. The likely reasons could be related to different lifestyle and time constraint to allocate purposely for waste sorting activities [ 15 ]. People with higher education level may be spending most of their time at the workplace, and not at home. However, more educational campaign should be promoted by emphasizing on the benefits of waste segregation activities. Sufficient knowledge, such as clear instructions provided in a communication and collection campaign, can increase the probability of waste separation behavior (Vassanadumrongdee and Kittipongvises S 2018).

The higher number of occupants living in the household is associated with a less likely chance of segregating the waste (Table 6 ). The result of our study is consistent with the study by Addo et al. [ 2 ] which reported that household sizes of 4 to 6 and above 7 were less likely to engage in the practice of waste management as compared to household size below 4 people. This is probably due to the household size tends to reduce the quantity of household waste and the practice of waste management. In contrast, studies by Osbjer et al. [ 54 ], indicate that waste management practice is associated with a higher number of people in the households, which could possibly be due to the need to handle waste generated by larger populations within the household.

One of the objectives of this study was to determine variables that influence waste segregation behavior among respondents. The PCA was adapted for this objective rather than correlation analysis for several reason. The correlation coefficient assumes a linear association where any linear transformation of variables will not affect the correlation. However, variables X and Y may also have a non-linear association, which could still yield a low correlation coefficient [ 30 ]. In addition, the correlation coefficient cannot be interpreted as causal.

It is possible that there is a causal effect of one variable on the other, but there may also be other possible explanations that the correlation coefficient does not take into account. Since several variables may influence respondent’s behavior on waste segregation activity at one time, the correlation coefficient analysis may not adequate to identify the significant variables and the connectivity between them accurately. Therefore, PCA was used to help us understand the connection between these variables as it can identify the correlation among the features efficiently.

There are thousands of features in the dataset that possible to highlight some trend or the influence of one factor to another. There are challenges to visualize the algorithm on all features efficiently especially when the performance of the algorithm may reduce with the bigger dataset. The PCA improve the algorithm performance by getting rid of correlated variables which don't contribute to the model and the analysis of the algorithms reduces significantly with less number of features. The Principal Components are also independent of one another. There is no correlation among them. It also reduces overfitting by reducing the number of features where it mainly occurs when there are too many variables in the dataset.

The scenario of the covid-19 pandemic contributes to a significant challenge in managing household waste management globally and specifically in developing countries. Waste management in the pandemic scenario requires consideration in SARS-CoV-2 transmission through MSW handling that includes survival time of the virus on the surfaces: population density and socioeconomic conditions [ 35 ]. In general, waste management phases (waste packing and delivering by the users; waste withdrawal; waste transport; and waste treatment) exposed the community and workers to direct contact with contaminated objects and surfaces; as well as contact with airborne droplets at a distance that may lead to the covid-19 [ 16 ]. Due to these reasons, waste management practices are designed to respond to the pandemic through changes in the collection system, allocation of treatment options, safety measure and priority separation, and functionality of circular economy strategies [ 72 ].

As a developing country, it is predicted that the effect of covid-19 on the waste management practices are more crucial due to the increase in disposable personal protective equipment at the household level and changes in eating habits, as a consequence of lifestyle disruptions and psychological stress due to lockdowns [ 4 , 55 ]. Developing countries have a higher risk of waste and wastewater contamination, leading to significant public health issues [ 71 ]. Inefficient waste management practices such as insecure landfills, lack of technical knowledge, scientific and economic resources, and lack of waste emergency policies produce severe consequences to the community and workers [ 63 , 65 , 71 ].

In order to improve the level of household solid waste management in the study area and Malaysia in general, it is important to empower the key drivers. The key drivers can be categorized as institutional-administrative, technological, economical, and social drivers [ 70 ]. A strong policy that implements direct regulation and enforcement; provide economic incentives or disincentives; and inform, interact and engage with the community are required [ 60 ].

Household solid waste management technologies that are being practised globally are landfilling, incineration, pyrolysis, Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), gasification, and anaerobic digestion [ 57 ]. As a developing country that focuses on solid waste management through landfilling, it is important to put extra attention on: i. decentralization of household solid waste management; ii. segregation at the source; iii. hygienic and safe handling; iv. flammable landfilll gasses handling; v. soil salinity from compost application; vi. Sustainable landfill management; vii. alternative markets for energy products; and viii. Implementation of the “pay as you throw” system [ 50 ].

Practical Implications, Study Limitations and Future Perspectives

This study highlights that waste segregation practice among respondents are still low and food waste are mixed with other household waste. This study provides as a baseline data in the region where less study was emphasized.

Quantitative and qualitative approach were used in this study by adopting descriptive and statistical analysis to improve the significance of the issue. Despite the significance of some aspects of this study, further studies should be done to incorporate children and teenagers as the participants and a more detailed questionnaire incorporating detailed health implications. Apart from that, a cross-sectional survey using random sampling technique was used to assess the household SWM practices and perceptions among the residents. This study is also limited to only Panji sub-districts which requires a wider region to generalize the findings of the study. The survey questionnaires depend on self-reporting manner, which may be subject to bias. Further study is recommended to engage observation at houses or at the waste collecting points to complement the survey. Moreover, the association between household socio-economic factors and health implications were limited. Future study should address this factor for a more focused and sustained public awareness programs.


The study found that the waste segregation practice among respondents can be considered as low, where the number of respondents who segregate their waste was equivalent to those who did not, which implies there is room for improvement. The main component of solid waste generated at home was largely food debris that has the potential to be composted and plastics that can be recycled, which were mainly disposed without separation. The local solid waste management authority should focus on utilizing this organic waste through a larger scale and wider involvement of the locals in composting program. The growth of small-scale community-based waste composting can act as a potential start up venue in accelerating this program, without the necessity of extensive investment by the local authority. The authority in the study area has provided appropriate waste disposal sites, but there are also some that were disposed in inappropriate sites. Majority of the respondents were also aware that improper waste management can lead to diseases. Age, marital status and, type of house was found to be the group that segregate their waste the most, indicating that respondents which fall under this category can be the target for further intervention programs. This study suggests the local authorities to design waste separation programs that suit the needs of targeted population, to ensure high participation rate among the community. Marketing and campaigns should emphasize the positive perception and attitude towards waste separation at home and also negative perception of non-participants. This study may provide authorities in Malaysia with baseline information to set the future implementations of waste segregation activities in households. This study also suggests focusing on inculcating community involvement in doing waste separation at source, waste reduction and recycling as a habit and way of life. The local authority may facilitate this activity by providing bins to segregate wastes, establishing waste banks and recycling facilities at a wider scale than the scattered existing ones. Both a top-down and bottom-up approach should work hand in-hand to realize the sustainable solid waste management as a success.

Nevertheless, acknowledging the limitations of the current study, a more detailed and thorough study should incorporate a wider region, in-depth association of waste separation programs and health implications. Combining survey questionnaire with statistical analysis act as a stepping stone to expand the study by engaging the community in actual waste separation activities. This can be done by initiating a collaboration between the local authority, the leader in a community and the residents itself as a pilot study. In addition, the findings of this study will serve as baseline evidence and pave the way for other researchers and policymakers to conduct more rigorous studies on this arena.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets supporting the conclusions of this article are included within the supplementary material section.


Statistical Package for Social Science

Solid Waste Management

municipal solid waste

not in my backyard

Kota Bharu Municipal Council

Sustainable Development Goals

Malaysian Ringgit

Principal component analysis


Refuse Derived Fuel

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We are grateful to everybody who completed the questionnaires and to Miss Aisyah Ariff, Miss Zetty Hiddayah binti Zuharizam and Mr Wan Izulfikri bin Wan Mohd Roslan for assisting in data collection.

This study was financially supported by Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (Postdoctoral Fellowship SLAB) and Universiti Sains Malaysia. None of the funders were involved in the design of the study, in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in the writing of the manuscript.

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Environmental and Occupational Health Program, School of Health Sciences, Health Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 16150, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia

Widad Fadhullah, Nor Iffah Najwa Imran & Hasmah Abdullah

School of Industrial Technology, Universiti Sains Malaysia, USM, 11800, Penang, Malaysia

Widad Fadhullah & Mohd Hafiidz Jaafar

Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Sharifah Norkhadijah Syed Ismail

Biomedicine Program, School of Health Sciences, Health Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 16150, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia

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WF contributed in conceptualization and writing the manuscript. NINI collected the data, contributed to the literature review and execute the project. SNSI contributed in the formal analysis, methodology, data curation and the tables and figures. MHJ contributed to editing of the manuscript. HA contributed in supervision, project administration and planning. All authors have read and approved the final version of this manuscript.

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Fadhullah, W., Imran, N.I.N., Ismail, S.N.S. et al. Household solid waste management practices and perceptions among residents in the East Coast of Malaysia. BMC Public Health 22 , 1 (2022).

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