Dr. Kurian Joseph
                  Assistant Professor in Environmental Engineering
        Centre for Environmental Studies, Anna University, Chennai –600025
      Phone: 91-44-22301283; Fax: 91-44-22354717; E mail: kuttiani@vsnl.com


The popular concept of waste reduction, reuse and recycle, often referred to as “3R”, is
particularly applicable in the context of production and consumption. It calls for an overall
reduction in resources and energy used, increase in the ratio of recyclable materials and
further reusing of raw materials and manufacturing wastes. Source reduction is generally
perceived as being the highest rung on this ladder with the greatest potential for avoiding
energy and raw material consumption as well as waste production. Waste materials
generated during the production process can be reused or recycled both on-site (either
in the plant or on the plant property) and off-site. "Reuse" means reusing a waste
material directly, either for its original purpose or in a new role, without any major
modification to the material before it is reused. Waste materials that are "recycled"
require some form of significant physical, chemical or biological processing.

 The 3R ideas can be applied to the entire lifecycles of products and services - from
design and extraction of raw materials to transport, manufacture, use, dismantling/reuse
and disposal. At the production stage, the target stakeholder of businesses should look
at 3R oriented designs for resource-saving, long-life; reuse; recycling; and labeling of
materials used. Orienting the consumption/use stage of the life cycle a product can be
focused on national and local authorities to take the lead in purchasing environmentally
friendly products and services. The collection/recycling stage is critical, asking of
consumers to properly discharge the products they use, or participate in product buy-
back programmes; and of businesses to promote product recycling. At the final stage of
disposal, businesses and municipalities have the responsibility to ensure that waste
products are properly collected , processed and disposed.

 The success of a '3R' initiative will largely depend on the right mix of policies and
programmes implemented at the local level. Much of this will also depend on developing
an integrated framework bringing together the above points with other issues, including
(a) Investment policies and practices, such as greener procurement, subsidies and eco-
taxes, etc.; (b) Production policies and practices, such as integrated product policy, life
cycle assessment, extended producer responsibility, precautionary principle, polluter
pays principle, eco-efficiency/ clean production, health and safety standards etc.; (c)
Distribution policies and practices, such as right to know, advertising reform, eco-
labeling, packaging, pricing, transportation etc.; and (d) Consumption policies and
practices, such as consumer values, norms and behaviour, and awareness and
education. This paper is an attempt to review the waste reduction, reuse and recycle
initiatives in India

2.0      3R IN INDIA

India has the world's fifth-largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.
About 62% of the Indian population depends directly on agriculture. Industry,
manufacturing and services sectors are growing in importance and account for 25%,
16% and 46% of GDP, respectively, while agriculture contributes about 28% of GDP.
More than 35% of the population live below the poverty line, but a large and growing
middle class of 150-200 million has disposable income for consumer goods.
Significant liberalization of its investment regime since 1991 has made India an
attractive place for foreign direct and portfolio investment.

 India is the first country, which has provided for the protection and improvement of the
environment, in its constitution. One can look back as early as 1970’s for it’s recognition
of the need for environmental protection. The Department of Environment and several
enforcement agencies like Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) were already given
statutory authorities, by then. Environmental considerations have been integrated into
decision making at all levels and the National Environment Policy of 2006, which
incorporates the concept of the 3Rs, is the latest attempt in this direction. Major
strategies and activities include (1) mandatory requirement of Environmental Statement
(Form V) (2) the Charter on Corporate Responsibility for Environment Protection (CREP),
through which stakeholders commit to participatory action beyond mandatory levels, (3)
a registration scheme in which recyclable waste is channelled only to entities which can
process it in an environmentally sound manner (4) promotion of cleaner technologies
and waste minimisation circle concept and (5) Ecomark Scheme. Other initiatives
taken by the Indian Government in the environment sector includes:
    • Implementation of standards
    • Action plans for 18 categories of major polluting industries
    • Action plans for 24 problem areas
    • Action plans for 141 polluted river stretches
    • Demonstration of clean technologies in 14 categories of small-scale industries
    • Identification of clean technologies for large industries
    • Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP) for of cluster of SSI units
    • Hazardous waste management including biomedical wastes
    • Zoning atlas for siting industries

 Government of India has undertaken several initiatives at the state and national level to
promote recycling of waste in the country. In addition to the Solid Waste (Management &
Handling) Rules, 2000 specific legislation viz. the Plastic Manufacture and Use Rules,
1999 amended 2003 and the Batteries (management and Handling) Rules, 2001 to
enable environment friendly recycling in the country have been notified. In addition to
specific legislation with the following provisions strict enforcement is being ensured
through the state authorities :- (i) A manifest system to track the waste from the point of
generation to disposal. (ii) A need for seeking authorization for handling of waste(iii)
Registration of recyclers (iv) Involvement and participation of the public in schemes such
as the Battery disposal scheme etc. The import and export of both hazardous waste and
non industrial waste stipulated for recycling are regulated and require licenses granted
by the Ministry of Commerce. Composition of the waste permitted for imports have been
laid down to ensure that non recyclable materials are not imported into the country of
specific non ferrous metallic waste which have been permitted without a license.

 A set of rules to promote classification, labeling and collection and recycling of
containers and packaging has been drafted and is under discussion. As per the Indian
Council for Plastics in the Environment (ICPE) the 1.2 million tones of plastics are
recycled. In respect of recyclables like paper, glass, tin etc. which are sorted at homes,
13 to 20% of recyclables are again sorted from municipal solid waste collected by the
concerned authorities.This paper presents the salient aspects of these initiatives and
discusses the opportunities in this direction.


The Government of India and the industry recently entered into a partnership, breaking
new ground for environmental protection. The charter is a mutually agreed document
between the Government and industrial houses, incorporating voluntary initiatives by 17
identified categories of industries to ensure total compliance with pollution control norms.
The charter is the outcome of long discussions among the Central and State
Governments, Pollution Control Boards and 17 major polluting industries. This is the first
public-private partnership of its kind in the country without any compromises by the
Government, for environmental protection.

The charter is a road map for progressive improvement in environmental management
systems. In several industrial sectors, the targets set in the charter are ahead of notified
effluent and emission standards. It was finalized at a national seminar of more than 300
representatives of the Central and State Governments, pollution control boards and 17
major polluting categories of industries held in New Delhi on March13, 2003.

The 17 major polluting industries identified for participatory approach towards pollution
control are : cement, aluminium, thermal power plants, oil refineries, pesticides, iron and
steel, pulp and paper, copper and zinc, distilleries, sugar, petrochemicals, dye and dye
intermediates, caustic soda (Chlore alkali), pharmaceuticals, tanneries and fertilizer
industry. The measures to be taken by the industry include modernisation and
technological upgradation of production processes, changing over to new technologies,
waste minimization through reduced use of resources and re-cycling waste. Other steps
includes installation of pollution control and monitoring equipment, improving house-
keeping practices and furnishing bank guarantees by the defaulting industries till
compliance is ensured.


The policy statement for abatement of pollution released in 1992 categorically refers to
pollution prevention. Constraints for domestic industries in this direction include
shortage of capital, limited access to technology, underdeveloped infrastructure,
inadequate technology research and development and lack of awareness of the
options for pollution control and prevention. Smaller industries have the added
burden of using obsolete, inefficient production processes, which are typically more

        In this background, a scheme on adoption of clean technology and promotion
and establishment of waste minimization circles in small and medium scale industries is
being implemented at the initiative of MoEF. A “Waste Minimization Circle (WMC)” is a
small group (5 to 7 units) of entrepreneurs in the small scale sector, whose units
manufacture similar products and employ the same processes voluntarily meeting
periodically and regularly in the premises of each member unit, one after another, to
analyze the current operations of the host unit, to identify sources of waste generation,
and implement waste minimization options leading to an increase in individual
profitability and reduction in the growth of pollution in all the units. The possible benefits
of the waste minimization will include reduction in consumption of resources viz., raw
material, water and energy, improvement in work environment, environment cost
reduced due to decrease in pollution load, improvement in quality of processed products,
improvement in overall image of the company and opening of new opportunities for
marketing green products. An Indian centre for promotion of cleaner technology has also
been established for waste reduction treatment and disposal and to identify and
exchange potential recyclable waste.


As per the notification issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of
India on March 13, 1992 (amended vide notification no. GSR 386(E), dated April 22,
1993) under the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 all those carrying on an industry,
operation or process requiring consent to operate under Section 25 of the Water
(Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 ( 6 of 1974) and/or under section 21 of the
Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (14 of 1981) and/or authorisation under
the Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989 issued under the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986), are required to submit the
Environmental Statement for every financial year ending 31st March in prescribed form
to the concerned State Pollution Control Boards / Pollution Control Committees in the
Union Territories on or before 30th day of September every year, beginning 1993.
Environmental Audit, has become a step to comply with the requirement to furnish the
Environmental Statement, though the importance of EA lies in achieving increased
productivity and reduced waste generation.

Environmental Statement is to be submitted in the prescribed proforma called "Form -
V" which has 9 parts (Part A to Part I) and seeks information on production, water and
raw material consumption, pollutants discharged, solid and hazardous wastes generated
and their disposal practices. The industries are also required to state the impact of the
pollution control measures on the conservation of resources and particulars of additional
investment proposals for environmental protection.


Waste recovery and reuse is traditionally 'informal' and long-standing through a self
organized chain of self employed individuals commonly known as Kabariwala with
established a system of collection, segregation and recycling of papers, plastics, tin,
glass etc. A registration scheme with an aim to establish environmentally sound facilities
for recycling of wastes has been established. The scheme is designed to register
installations with environmental sound technology for recycling of waste oil, non ferrous
metallic wastes lead batteries etc. and ensure that industries generating these as waste
auction them only to registered units in the country. Recycling/reuse options adopted by
the industrial sector in India is summarized in Table 1.
Table 1         Reuse and Recycling Options adopted by Indian industrial sectors

Sl.No     Industrial solid waste   Source                  Recycling/reuse Practices
1         Fly Ash                  Coal based thermal      • Fly ash bricks
                                   power stations          • Cellular Concrete
                                                           • Portland Pozalana Cement
                                                           • Road Construction
                                                           • Land Reclamation
2         Steel and blast          Iron and Steel          • Blast furnace Slag Cement
          Furnace Slag             Industries              • Road aggregate

3         Lime sludge              Fertiliser, Sugar       • Lime Pozzolina mixture
                                   and Paper               • Cement manufacture
4         Phospho gypsum           Phosphatic fertilizer   •   Cement manufacture
                                   industries              •   Gypsum Board
                                                           •   Partition Pannels
                                                           •   Ceiling tiles

5         Red mud                  Aluminium               •   Cement manufacture
                                   Industries              •   Brick manufacture
                                                           •   Light weight structural blocks
6         Press mud                Sugar industries        •   Composting
                                                           •   Biogas Production
                                                           •   Manure

7         Bagasse                  Sugar industries        • Cellulose for Pulp and Paper
                                                           • Cattle feed
                                                           • Coal substitute in boilers

8         Fleshings and            Tanneries               • Biomethanation
          Shavings                                         • Animal feed
                                                           • Glue making

7.0     DIVERSION         OF   RECYCLABLES          AND    BIODEGRADABLES             FROM

Organic wastes represent a great challenge solid waste management because of their
decomposability, their seasonal variation in nature and quantity, their admixture with non-
biodegradable wastes, and the practical difficulties of marketing compost products.
Urban administrations nowadays are seeking ways to divert organic wastes from
municipal solid waste streams for a variety of reasons. Recommendations are made for
separation at source so that safe composting can be carried out. Private companies are
being encouraged to undertake composting, often via forms of public-private
partnerships. More attention is being paid to the role of non-governmental organisations
in promoting citizen awareness of organic waste issues, and co-operation with
separation at source. Schemes are also being augmented to support waste to energy
projects, and establishment of bio-gas projects from organic wastes. The ministry on non
conventional energy sources is promoting energy recovery from wastes.


        Despite several initiatives to promote 3R, firms still opt for end of pipe solutions
due to several institutional, systemic, attitudinal, economic, technical and governmental
barriers/constraints like,

        ∗   non involvement of employees
        ∗   turnover of technical staff
        ∗   lack of recognition and motivation
        ∗   poor record keeping and reporting practices
        ∗   inadequate and ineffective management systems
        ∗   adhoc production planning
        ∗   lack of infrastructural facilities
        ∗   limited or non-availability of trained man power
        ∗   limited access to technical information
        ∗   lack of local data and information
        ∗   poor housekeeping and operation and maintenance culture
        ∗   resistance to change
        ∗   lack of leadership
        ∗   fear of lowering quality
        ∗   poor pricing policies for raw materials and subsidies
        ∗   regulatory emphasis on end of pipe approach
        ∗   lack of public pressure for environmental protection

Information barriers can include lack of awareness about waste minimization incentive
programs, technologies, markets, and the amount and type of waste generated by a
company. A technological barrier may exist if technologies for recycling a specific waste
stream do not exist or if product specifications are too stringent to allow the use of
recycled or reused products and materials. Finally, lack of pollution control regulations
and their enforcement can also act as a barrier to waste minimization initiatives.

There are several ways in which government can attempt to overcome the above-
mentioned barriers and actively encourage industrial waste minimization activities.
These include the provision of technical assistance programs, the creation and
enforcement of pollution control regulations, the dissemination of information about
waste minimization programs and opportunities, the establishment of financial incentives,
and the foundation of award programs recognizing significant achievements in waste
minimization. A wide range of activities could be supported in an information
dissemination program, including education and training activities, the creation of a
waste exchange, and the distribution of technical information bulletins. Financial support
for capital expenditures on waste minimization equipment can include matching grants,
subsidies, low or no-interest loans, tax deductions, or tax credits.

Efforts shall also be done to transfer/ replicate good practices on the 3Rs from other
countries including (a) an electronic waste manifest system that was developed in the
Republic of Korea, which provides real-time information on the monitoring of waste
generation up to the final disposal stage, (b) market mechanisms for recyclables, (c)
public awareness raising, (d) legislation on the 3Rs and recycling, (e) promotion of
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), (f) promoting public-private partnerships, (g)
enhancing recycle rates in partnership with waste pickers associations and NGOs, (h)
information sharing systems, (i) product design standards, (j) establishing clear targets
for waste reduction and recycling, (k) a step-by-step approach for banning the disposal
of untreated wastes into landfills, (l) schemes for the registration of recycling units
possessing capacity for environmentally sound management. The strategies for their
promotion may include the following.

   •   Capacity building - Trainings / 3R facilities (e.g., Knowledge Centre/Clearing
       House )
   •   Promotion of source separation of wastes by introducing legal systems and
       economic incentives/subsidies
   •   Public awareness raising / exchange of information
   •   Legal measures and controls for international flows of recyclable (waste)
       resources (in compliance with Basel Convention)
   •   Partnership among key stakeholders (public, private, NGO, research institutions,
   •   Pilot/demonstration projects (e.g., ecolabelling, green purchasing, EPR )
   •   Promotion of Technology and Management Tools (Cleaner Production,
       ISO14000, LCA)
   •   Involvement of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The growing focus on 3R as strategy for sustainability calls upon new attitudes, new
knowledge and new skills for all professions, academic as well as non-academic,
because 3R concept implies that environmental considerations are integrated in
planning and development activities. Training should be directed towards companies
and their employees, public authorities, technological and academic institutions and
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The implications of the typical characteristic
features of the Indian industries (Table 2) shall be duly considered while developing
schemes to promote waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
Table 2       Characteristics of Indian industries and their implications for waste
reduction, reuse and recycling

Characteristic Features                       Implication

A higher proportion of small and very small   More difficult to control waste movements
quantity generators                           arising from such generators and more
                                              difficult for such generators to initiate waste
                                              reduction measures

Lower waste disposal costs                    Less incentive to reduce wastes

A higher level of waste reuse and recycling   Less waste requires disposal

Little or no information available on waste   Difficult to identify the types and number of
quantities and types generated                disposal facilities needed

Waste streams are frequently combined         More difficult to manage mixed wastes

Few or no award schemes in existence for      Less incentive to reduce wastes or seek
encouraging waste reduction                   public recognition as "clean industries"

Less awareness by the general public about    General public puts less pressure           on
the health impacts of improper waste          government and industry to take action

Limited technical resources                   Hinders the implementation of technological

Limited financial resources                   Industry cannot afford to invest in waste
                                              minimization    or    treatment    facilities;
                                              government cannot afford to provide
                                              industry with economic assistance for such
                                              investments or provide secure disposal sites

Poor enforcement of regulations               Less incentive to reduce or treat the wastes
                                              or transport to proper disposal sites

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