More than ten years and a few false starts after the Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2000 came into effect, the Tamil Nadu government will likely unveil a Solid Waste Management policy next week.

Soon after the Rules came into force in 2000, major local bodies initiated steps to implement them. For instance, the Chennai Corporation announced that it would collect only segregated garbage from city households, starting with three zones – Ice House (Triplicane), Kodambakkam and Adyar. In Madurai, red and green baskets were placed in select wards. The Coimbatore Corporation claims segregation of waste takes place at the Vellalore dumping yard, though people in the vicinity contest the claims. But source segregation did not take off in a major way anywhere in the State.

The new policy will make good on a promise made by the government to the Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal. Its cornerstones would be the reduction of waste generation through reusing and recycling, use of regional mega landfills, and making stakeholders, including residents, take responsibility for the generation of waste. The proposed policy will deal with the imposition of a fine on defaulters, according to an official. Stakeholders should realise that “my waste is my responsibility,” he said. The policy will mandate that residents segregate at the collection level. The new policy will also spell out strategies for implementation, said the official.

The policy would be made mandatory for all local bodies including the Corporations, who would be expected to come up with their own strategies.

While the finer details of the policy are not yet known, activists are hoping it will not be a reactive measure to appease the Green Tribunal. It is not clear if the policy would come with a timeframe for implementation.

Wet waste challenge

Segregating and recycling wet waste — no easy process — may only be one of the challenges. One important aspect that the policy cannot ignore is Extended Producer Responsibility, said Dharmesh Shah of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

“Given the numerous unsustainable materials in the market, especially for packaging, a big responsibility falls upon the manufacturers who need to alter production practices and initiate take-back systems,” he said.

The policy hopes to achieve 100 per cent door-to-door collection of waste, a goal that may need a well thought-out system to involve waste workers.

“The policy will hopefully recognise the role of waste workers and make an honest attempt to include them into the formal systems,” added Mr. Shah.