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Solid Waste Management (SWM) Cess

  • Context (TH): The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike (BBMP) has proposed a Solid Waste Management (SWM) Cess for each household. Bengaluru generates about 5,000 tonnes of solid waste per day.
  • Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) levy user fees or SWM cess according to the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
  • According to these guidelines, ULBs must collect user fees/cess for SWM services provisions provided.
  • While there is no specified rate, ULBs typically charge about ₹30-50 per month as SWM cess, which is collected along with property tax.

Financial strain of solid waste management

  • ULBs typically deploy about 80% of their manpower and up to 50% of their annual budgets to provide SWM services to city residents.
  • Significant operational costs go towards salaries for waste collectors, drivers & processing plants.
  • Collection and transportation are resource—and labour-intensive and consume up to 85-90% of the SWM budget. Only about 10-15% is spent on processing and disposal of waste.

Operational and revenue challenges

  • Solid waste generated in Indian cities consists of about 55-60% wet biodegradable material and 40-45% non-biodegradable material.
  • Although 55% of the wet waste can be converted into organic compost or biogas, the yield is as low as 10-12%, making both composting and biogas generation from solid waste financially unviable.
  • Typically, operational revenue from waste processing facilities covers only about 35-40% of operational expenses, with the rest subsidised by the ULB.
  • Additionally, disposing of non-compostable and non-recyclable dry waste is expensive because the material needs to be shipped to cement factories or waste-to-energy projects.

Way forward

  • Segregation of waste at source: It can increase yields from composting operations by up to 20%.
  • Reducing single-use plastic: The increase in non-recyclable single-use plastics has posed significant challenges for ULBs.
  • Decentralised composting initiatives: Residents in urban areas often oppose large-scale composting facilities due to odour and leachate issues.
    • Cities in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have successfully implemented Micro Composting Centers (MCCs) at the ward level, processing wet waste locally and reducing transportation costs.
  • Bulk waste generators to process their own waste: Large institutions with adequate space can set up in-house waste processing facilities.
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