Waste management

Rules Governing Hazardous Waste Disposal in India

calendar13 Feb, 2023
timeReading Time: 6 Minutes
Rules Governing Hazardous Waste Disposal in India

Hazardous waste is any waste that poses a risk to human health or the environment due to physical, chemical, biological, reactive, poisonous, combustible, explosive, or corrosive properties. It includes waste generated during the manufacturing processes of commercial products, such as industries involved in petroleum refining, pharmaceutical production, petroleum, paint, aluminium, and electronic devices, among others. According to data provided by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2015, the total amount of hazardous waste in the country is 7.46 million metric tonnes per year from approximately 44,000 companies. The fundamental goal of a hazardous waste disposal management programme is to alter how hazardous waste disposal is handled so that it may be transported, stored, and disposed of in a way that is safe for the environment.

The focus of handling hazardous waste shifts to possible hazards to the environment and public health. Usually, hazardous garbage that has been dumped outdoors is burned. Open burning and incineration produce particles, nitrogen oxides, potent odours, and other air pollutants. The soil and water are polluted by open dumping. Solid waste leftovers that are disposed of cause water contamination.   As industrialization increases, worry over handling hazardous waste disposal is growing. Commercial products such as cleaning products, pesticides and liquids, solids, gases, sludge, and by-products of manufacturing operations are all considered hazardous wastes. The regulations on Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016, fully explain the hazardous and other waste management procedures.

Definition of Hazardous Waste

Hazardous wastes are defined under Section 3(17) of Regulations on Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement), 2016. In layman’s terms, hazardous waste is any waste that poses a significant risk to human health or the environment. The law defines numerous hazardous waste classes, from explosive to highly toxic. Therefore, learning how to detect and handle such waste is essential. These wastes can be recognized by analyzing their constituent elements. Lab testing is another option, although it can be extremely costly.

Importance of Hazardous Waste Disposal

Hazardous waste, such as used oil, lead acid battery scraps, spent catalysts, waste tyres, paper waste, metal scrap, and so on, are used as raw material by industries involved in waste recycling and as a supplementary resource for material and energy recovery. As a result, it is always better to use such material for recycling or resource recovery rather than dumping or incineration. Around 1080 registered recyclers, 47 cement factories approved for co-processing, and approximately 108 companies permitted for hazardous waste disposal.

Unsafe disposal of hazardous and other waste through burning or incineration emits toxic fumes containing Dioxins and Furans, Mercury, and heavy metals, resulting in air pollution and associated health concerns. Disposal in bodies of water or municipal dumps causes harmful discharges due to land and water leaching, resulting in soil and water quality degradation. Workers that engage in such unethical practices suffer from neurological illnesses, skin diseases, genetic flaws, cancer, and other disorders. As a result, there is a need for environmentally appropriate waste management that includes prevention, minimization, reuse, recycling, recovery, and utilization, as well as co-processing and safe waste disposal.

Hazardous Waste Disposal Problem

Industrial waste generation and disposal concerns for hazardous waste have been increasing nationwide. Despite the existence of some standards and regulations, more needs to be done to address this garbage truly. There needs to be more suitable infrastructure and personnel. India generates around 7.46 million metric tonnes of hazardous garbage, with Gujarat being the main contributor. Several states lack hazardous waste disposal, storage, and treatment capabilities. Therefore it is critical to establish specific guidelines to regulate the industry. The environmentally sound collection, storage, packing, transportation, and treatment of hazardous waste reduces the negative impact on human health and the environment. Individual waste generators can dispose of hazardous waste in captive treatment facilities or at Common Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs).

Objectives of the HWM Rule

Before the disposal step, waste management often supports recycling, reusing, and reducing waste. Hazardous waste can also be reused or used as a material for generating energy in some cases by recovering a component or acting as a raw material for certain recycling operations. Material recovery includes, for example, employing fly ash as an alternative raw material for cement production and recovering copper from cable wastes. On the other hand, energy recovery refers to using these hazardous wastes as fuels, particularly in the cement industry. Furthermore, reducing hazardous waste benefits both human health and the environment. This is why hazardous waste disposal has recently received so much attention. The following are the objective of the HWM Rule.

  • In recent decades, there have been multiple incidents of chemical and hazardous waste being deposited in bodies of water or in considerable quantities in landfills, damaging the land and leading to toxic emissions into bodies of water. This is hazardous to the ecosystem, including air, water, land, and any living things that consume them. Inhaling or eating such pollutants in any form causes various health problems.
  • The regulations on Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016, demand proper training to be offered to workers throughout their job training as well as otherwise, and these are listed in the rules as strict criteria. However, training to personnel must be offered in the hands of the facility’s operators and those who perform hazardous waste disposal jobs.
  • The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences offers a Hazardous Waste Worker Training Program in the United States. Suppose the relevant authorities offer such training and programmes. In that case, the training delivered in Indian facilities may become more regularised and easier to alter in response to guidelines and technological advances.

Hazardous Waste Import and Export problem

An essential issue to note on the import and export of Hazardous waste according to the 2016 guidelines, no country can export hazardous Waste to India for final disposal. Therefore, India exclusively imports hazardous wastes only for recycling or reuse, as the dumping of hazardous waste or disposal is prohibited.

Several approvals from the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change are necessary for certain instances, such as the import of second-hand electrical and electronic parts. Importing hazardous wastes may necessitate a permit from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade. Following the application, authorization may be granted only if the importer has environmentally sound facilities and suitable waste treatment plans. The 2016 standards specify how the treatment, storage, and disposal facility will be created. The technique for doing so is outlined below.

The Central Pollution Control Board[1] has issued instructions for the establishment of the plant. In this case, permission from the State Pollution Control Board is required for the layout. The State Pollution Control Board is also expected to monitor both the facility’s construction and functioning regularly.

Reforms and Suggestions 

The 2016 standards specify how the treatment, storage, and disposal facility will be created. The Central Pollution Control Board has issued instructions for the establishment of the plant. In this case, permission from the State Pollution Control Board is required for the layout. The State Pollution Control Board is also expected to regularly monitor the facility’s construction and functioning.

E-Portals for Form Submissions

The 2016 guidelines are crucial for ensuring proper hazardous waste disposal. However, the issue of the Rules being unduly stringent is rather obvious. The preceding proposals, such as the construction of an online portal, could be tremendously helpful in making access to these forms easier. Training personnel will also help to ensure that the necessary requirements are met.

Due to the consequences of not dealing with hazardous waste properly, it is evident that strict laws are an imperative must when it comes to hazardous waste management. Interactions between critical authorities and facility operators could be channelled through faster portals, such as e-portals, making life easier for the business.

Case Laws

  1. The Commissioner of Customs vs M/S City Office Equipment Writ Appeal Nos.1215 of 2019 and 938, 941, 943, 984, 1022, 1023, 1025, 1026 and 1027 of 2019
    In this case, on April 25, 2019 (Madras High Court), the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016, were implemented because one of the steps needed to be followed a difficulty with the import. This is why it is critical to understand and closely adhere to the protocols.
  • M.C. Mehta v. Union of India and Others
    Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3727 of 1985
    In this case, apart from industries, more than 250 towns and cities had been ordered to put sewage treatment plants. Six hundred tanneries located in Kolkata’s densely populated residential areas have been relocated to a planned Leather Complex in the state of West Bengal. The Court shut down a huge number of enterprises and only allowed them to reopen after they installed effluent treatment units and reduced pollution. As a result of these directives, millions of people have been spared the effects of air and water pollution in the Ganga basin, which spans eight Indian states.

Conclusion

Waste management and Hazardous Waste Disposal is a developing concern and significantly impacts environmental conditions. Furthermore, hazardous waste affects the people in its area and must be handled cautiously. It is critical to have well-informed workers who are aware of the rules and their rights to protect themselves and receive government support in case of any differences. Waste management legislation must be updated regularly to reflect technological advances in the industry. It is also critical to review training programmes connected to technology changes and keeps employees informed about them.

Read Our Article: Hazardous Waste Management Authorization Norms: An Overview

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