Why investing in waste management in India is not a waste of time

///Why investing in waste management in India is not a waste of time

Why investing in waste management in India is not a waste of time

by India Global Business Staff
Why investing in waste management in India is not a waste of time

Rapid urbanisation and consumerism in India have made waste processing and management the need of the hour. This, in turn, offers a wealth of business and investment opportunities for private players.

All that is gold, does not always glitter. And this certainly holds true for India’s bustling metropolises. Densely populated and packed to the brim, these cities sit on a metaphorical gold mine day in and day out. In fact, they produce it. You would be excused for not noticing it and yet this metaphorical gold is hidden in plain sight. Waste.

According to the estimates published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generates approximately 133 760 tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) per day, of which only approximately 91 152 tonnes is collected and approximately 25 884 tonnes is treated. According to research, the average composition of MSW produced by Indian cities is approximately 41 wt. per cent organic, approximately 40 wt. per cent inert, with approximately 19 wt. per cent potentially recyclable materials.

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The rapid urbanisation in India and the rise of Megacities, means that more and more people are now migrating to these urban centres. And where there are people, there is waste. Maharashtra generates the maximum amount of solid waste – 8,238,050 MT, but processes only 44 per cent of the total amount. West Bengal needs to clean up its landfill sites as it produces 2,810,500 MT of trash and processes only 5 per cent of it. Chandigarh is “the model city” as it generates 1,72,280 MT of waste and also processes 85 per cent of the total amount. In comparison, Delhi-NCR creates some 38,32,500 MT but processes just 55 per cent of it.

Why investing in waste management in India is not a waste of time

Bombay Municipal employees clean up garbage with the help of JCB machine from a duct in Mumbai. Maharashtra generates the maximum amount of solid waste – 8,238,050 MT, but processes only 44 per cent of the total amount.

Why it is a problem

The colossal number of waste generation is a problem, one that can be addressed through more conscious purchasing choices on an individual level. But perhaps of more interest is that nearly 15,000 MT of garbage produced remains unprocessed and is disposed in landfills or any open areas to be found each year. In fact, of the total collected waste, only 20 per cent (27,000 MT per day) is processed and the remaining 80 per cent (1,08,000 MT per day) is dumped in landfill sites. Increasing pollution and climate risk, not to mention India’s drive to meet its SDG targets means there is an urgent need for efficient waste management systems in India. And here in lies the metaphorical gold for domestic and international private players to tap into.

Not an opportunity to be wasted

Under the Modi government, India has steadily been taking steps to address its waste management woes. From cleaning its rivers to cleaning and greening its cities and streets – waste management offers a huge opportunity for investment and business in India. According to “Waste to Energy and Waste Management Market in India report published last year waste management in India will be USD 14 billion industry by 2025 and is set to unlock new business avenues in the waste treatment industry. The report also states that municipal solid waste management sector in India is projected to see capital and O&M requirement of close to USD 65 Billion by 2030

Waste to Energy

India has the potential to generate approximately 3 GW of electricity from waste by 2050. In order to generate this energy, India has set up 186 waste-to-energy projects under the Program on Energy from Urban, Industrial, and Agricultural Wastes/ Residues for generation of biogas, bioCNG power with a cumulative capacity of 317.03 MW so far.

Why investing in waste management in India is not a waste of time

A boy collecting plastic water bottles among the garbage washed ashore at Pattinapakkam beach in Chennai. India has the potential to generate approximately 3 GW of electricity from waste by 2050.

In 2017 NTPC Ltd., India’s largest power utility, set up 100 waste-to-energy pollution-free plants under the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat mission. More recently, it joined hands with State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) to sign a tripartite MoU for development of a facility to convert municipal waste into electricity. As per the MoU, SDMC would provide one acre land on lease at the Okhla landfill site in the national capital, while IOC and NTPC will invest 50 per cent each towards setting up and operating the facilities.

There is also a huge opportunity for foreign players to enter this market either directly or via collaborations, as the Indian government allows 100 per cent FDI under the automatic route for urban infrastructure areas including waste management subject to relevant rules and regulation.

A recent example of this the MoU signed between Green Fuels, a UK based biofuel company with India based Aris Bioenergy. The MoU will bolster Aris’ capacity to collect cooking oil in Mumbai, which in turn will turned into biodiesel in Green Fuels biorefinery.

** watch this space for our upcoming interview with James Hygate, Founder, Green Fuels.


Rapid digitalisation in India, especially the sudden spike brought on by the coronavirus have set into motion huge opportunities across the country for businesses of all sizes. However, it has also accelerated E-waste. According to data published by the Global E-waste Monitor, India generated the 3rd highest volume of E-waste in 2019. However, India’s per capita E-waste generation is only a third of the global average while it is 3-times the global average in the USA.

A lot of E-waste contains valuable materials such as precious metals, which if treated correctly can be to effectively, can be recycled or extracted for reuse with minimal environmental impact. However, only 17.4 per cent of the global E-waste is documented to be collected & properly recycled. A report on e-waste presented by the United Nations (UN) in World Economic Forum on January 24, 2019 states that due to poor extraction techniques, the total recovery rate of cobalt (the metal which is in great demand for laptop, smart phone and electric car batteries) from e-waste is only 30 per cent.

In India, according to figures given out by ASSOCHAM, E-waste generation in India was 1.8 MT per annum in 2016 and would reach 5.2 MT per annum by 2020. And though the Indian government has outlined regulations for E-waste disposal, nearly 80 per cent of e-waste continues to be broken down informally and incorrectly. This once again offers a huge opportunity for private players to enter the market.

The road ahead

Apart from the opportunities in business and investment, waste management as a sector also offers various other benefits. Apart from the obvious benefit to the environment and human health, the sector can create a new stream of jobs and employment. Experts estimate 1,50,000 tonnes of municipal waste could generate 6,00,000 to 7,50,000 jobs. The sector also offers huge potential for start-ups to come up with innovative solutions.

The key to managing waste, of course, is not producing as much, and this where education and awareness will play a huge part in helping consumers make conscious purchases that lead to less waste being generated. In the interim, it would do business much good to not waste the opportunities that exist in managing and processing what is already there.

** Watch out for the upcoming instalment of ‘The Small Print’ by Dr Param Shah, Director FICCI UK this Monday that does a deep dive on opportunities for Indian start-ups in the waste management sector.

About the Author: India Global Business Staff