Decentralised Waste Management

Why do we need to process our waste and adopt decentralised waste management? Why doesn’t the Government put up plants to do the job?

The elegance of Decentralised waste management may be grasped by considering that the largest portion of waste is biodegradable (~60-70%). Biodegradable waste is commonly referred to as “wet” waste. This in our urban centres is primarily vegetable peels and food scraps that can be best processed by Anaerobic Digestion.

The Challenges of Centralised Anaerobic Digestion

Plant for processing waste
A centralised anaerobic digester facility in Goa, India

There have been and are multiple efforts to process urban waste (often referred to as Municipal Solid Waste) in centralised plants in Pune, Mumbai, Goa, Indore, etc. The typical challenges in implementing these are:

Sr Factor Challenge
1 Implementation Time Most often delayed due to the public procurement process and limited knowledge and experience of implementation among Urban Bodies. Implementation time is often in years.
2 Space Many urban centers lack the necessary space, especially with city limits. Rural areas also resist having waste facilities. Remote plants also increase transportation costs.
3 Sustainable operation Waste processing plants have sustained operating expenses due to the nature of the substrate. As investors aim to recover costs based on the outputs generated, the numbers haven’t added up due to a number of factors including downtime, biogas potential and distribution costs of the outputs.


The Elegance of Decentralised Waste Management

Decentralised Waste Processing Facility
A decentralized waste processing plant in Goa

Decentralised Anaerobic Digestion addresses many of the challenges by shifting the responsibility to the waste generator. This shift ensures that waste is segregated and processed at the point of generation. The overall impact is that not only are all members of the community protected, but are also actively contributing.

Sr Factor Challenge
1 Implementation Time Quick as the waste generator is free to choose based on market economics. Projects are implemented as quickly as 1-2 months!
2 Space The required space is equivalent to that of one car. A majority of facilities have this available.
3 Sustainable operation We have found that the costs of plants can most often be recovered in a couple of years. This allows the waste generator to take responsibility and also benefit from the investment.


Decentralized waste processing addresses major challenges faced in executing and operating centralized facilities. These aspects have been considered by authorities and implemented in the form of Solid Waste Management Rules. These rules mandate that all bulk waste generators must process wet waste within their premises.

Although often resisted, this is currently the only sustainable way forward to address the challenge of waste management.