WTERT-India is co-founded by the National Environmental Engineering Research
Institute (NEERI) and the Earth Engineering Center of Columbia University.
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Open burning of MSW: Health and environmental issues and sustainable solutions for MSW management

Open burning is the purposeful burning of household materials in outside areas and very common in our community. Household wastes or residential wastes is a term for non hazardous refuse such as paper, plastic, metals, wood, rubber, textiles, food wastes etc which become hazardous when open burned as it releases hazardous mixture of cancer causing compounds and other toxic substances. Dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, ash etc are among the most toxic and hazardous compounds which come out from open burning. Open burning has many negative effects on both human health and environment. These chemicals cause various respiratory problems including persistent coughs, wheezing and physical discomfort, nervous system, kidney and liver damage, and reproductive or developmental disorders. Dioxins, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and hexachlorobenzene are also considered to be carcinogenic. The acidic gases released during open burning such as oxides of nitrogen and carbon generated by halo-hydrides may contribute to acid rain, ozone depletion, smog and global warming. The particulate matter creates smoke and haze contributing to air pollution. Therefore, there is an urgent need to control open burning and dispose the MSW in an environmentally sound manner. Management of solid waste shall not only reduce or eliminate adverse impacts on the environment and human health but also support economic development and improved quality of life. New and innovative practical measures have to be implemented to avoid using landfill or incinerator options as the final and only solution, taking into account that land is limited within many urban areas. Therefore issues have to be dealt with in an integrated perspective, one that is in line with the vision of sustainable development. In this line, one method could be using organic part of MSW as an amendment for improving the soil quality as all components of an ecosystem are dependent on healthy soil to function optimally. It could be used to revitalize the soil health following drastic disturbances of site through mining or other industrial activities by increasing water holding capacity, re-establishing microbial communities and alleviating compaction. The degraded lands can be reclaimed with least possible investment of energy and money associated with cascaded benefits. This alone represents a major breakthrough in reducing transportation and traditional landfill-disposal costs. This approach was successfully used and demonstrated by CSIR-NEERI in reclamation and restoration of degraded lands. Therefore, the approach of using MSW as an organic amendment for contaminated sites rejuvenation should be promoted as a win-win option for integrating waste management with sustainable development.

Key words: MSW, open burning, reclamation, health, environment, soil

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1. Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy (Volume I) (In the context of Integrated MSW Management) Click Here
2. Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy (Volume II) Click Here

3. Energy from Waste – Clean, efficient, renewable: Transitions in combustion efficiency and NOx controlClick Here