How much municipal waste is biodegradable? (7 sources) 

The article will explain the composition of biodegradable waste in municipal solid waste while also shedding light on the sources. The article will also explain what happens to the biodegradable waste that includes open dumps, landfills, and incineration, 

Also, the article will shed light on ways to reduce and better utilise biodegradable waste from municipal solid waste that include composing, resource recovery, recycling, and conversion of biogas and biofuels. 

How much municipal waste is biodegradable?

While the exact composition will vary, the average composition of biodegradable waste in municipal solid waste in India is around 50%.  

Biodegradable waste can be defined as waste that can degrade and break down by the action of microbes such as bacteria into simpler material which then can become a part of nature again. 

What are the sources? (7 sources) 

As a rule of thumb, only natural materials can return to nature; this is exactly what we see in the case of waste accumulation and waste generation. 

Non-biodegradable waste, in most cases, is not sourced from nature. Rather, it is made in the labs at the expense of chemicals and synthetic materials. Also, there is the consumption of non-renewable resources be it fossil fuels and petrochemicals. 

The major sources of MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) in India include household waste and waste from commercial sectors and domains such as schools, shops, markets et cetera. 

Common examples of biodegradable waste include:

  • Food waste
  • Plant waste
  • Animal waste
  • Natural fibres 
  • Bioplastics 
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard boxes 

What happens to biodegradable waste?

There are certain options that are usually pursued when it comes to biodegradable waste. The exact happening will vary based on the area/location. 

For example, developed regions will tend to deal with biodegradable waste in a more sustainable manner as compared to developing countries or areas. Here are a few possibilities. 

  • Open dumps
  • Landfills
  • Incineration
  • Recycling 
  • Composting 

Open dumps

This is an unfortunate and unsustainable reality that in many areas, especially under-developed or developing, the waste (both biodegradable and non-biodegradable) is discarded in open dumps. 

There is no segregation, filtration, protection measures, or treatments whatsoever. This not only leads to environmental problems such as GHG emissions but also several health-related complications. 

In most cases, such as in India or Pakistan, waste is thrown in open dumps. Although biodegradable waste will degrade in some time, it will still cause environmental and health-related problems. 


In more developed societies, there are landfills where the waste is dumped. While this is much better than open dumps, it is not the best option available. 

The primary reason is that biodegradable waste has a lot of potential. It can be made into biofuels, it can be recycled, it can be repurposed, and it can also be composted, 

When biodegradable waste is put in landfills, we steal its potential and that is one indirect way to harm the environment. 


Another possible fate of biodegradable waste is its incineration. While this may also be better than open dumping, it is not the best option available. The main reason is that when biodegradable waste is incinerated, it can not be better utilised (such as recycling or composting). 

Another negative aspect of incineration is that it leads to the release of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which causes environmental problems such as pollution, climate change, and global warming – to name a few. 

How can biodegradable waste be better utilised?

When it comes to better utilisation, there are certain measures that can be taken at both personal and professional levels to ensure that waste generation is alleviated. 

It is said that waste generation is already off the charts in India and is contributing to environmental and health-related problems. 

Developing countries such as India do not have the perfect system to tackle the enormous amounts of waste that are generated every year. This, verged by the lack of awareness regarding disposal and treatment, makes matters worse. 

Therefore, there is a burgeoning demand, more than ever, that the waste generation in developing countries such as India must be alleviated. This can be achieved from certain options that include:

  • Composting 
  • Recycling 
  • Resource recovery 


Composting can be explained as a process in which waste is converted to compost which can be used as a natural fertiliser. 

There are certain conditions necessary for composting such as the material should be natural and organic and should not emit hazardous by-products or fumes in any way. 

This is because the main purpose of composting is to increase the organic content of the soil so that the quality of plants may be improved. 

Therefore, while this may be a possibility, it is not necessary that biodegradable waste can be composted as well. In order to make sure that your biodegradable waste can be composted, you need to check on websites such as the Environmental Protection Agency

Once you have ensured that your biodegradable waste can be composted, you may opt for either:

  • Composting facilities
  • Composting at home

You may have the biodegradable waste composted at the composting sites. For this, you do not really need to do much. All you have to do is to pile up all the compostable waste and drop it at the nearest composting facility. 

Another option that can be pursued is composting done at home. This is a fun way and can serve as a great hobby and aid to the environment as well because the compost can be used to improve the organic content of the soil. 

Composting at home can be done through the following steps:

  • Select a suitable place for composting 
  • The place should be a bit distant from your home but should also be accessible
  • Shred compostable material into smaller pieces (if required) 
  • Make a heap of compostable material 
  • You may either do it openly or prefer a composting bin (which is usually preferred in the case of hot composting) 
  • While making the heap, be careful of the green-to-brown ratio. Green material means nitrogen-rich material such as leaves whereas brown material means carbon-rich material such as cardboard boxes
  • Make alternate layers of green and brown. After each duo, add a thin layer of soil. Keep up until you have 4 feet of the heap. 
  • Continuously mix (every 4-5 days) the heap and be sure to provide the right external conditions which include aeration, shade and appropriate temperature
  • Once the compost is ready, use it resourcefully and wisely 


When biodegradable waste is recycled, it is modified to be reused as if it were new material. This is considered green because when biodegradable waste is recycled, there is no need to extract the raw materials which basically means the cutting of trees. 

Therefore, let us discuss what you can do to have your biodegradable waste recycled. 

  • Disposing of in recycling bins
  • Transporting biodegradable waste in recycling facilities
  • Having the nearby recycling centres pick up your biodegradable waste and other recyclable material via appointment 

Resource Recovery 

When it comes to resource recovery, it is a broad term because it includes many activities such as

  • Reusing 
  • Repurposing 
  • Refurbishing
  • Reselling 
  • Donating
  • Gifting

The basic aim here is to properly utilise any product before its disposal so that two main objectives may be achieved:

  • The raw materials are saved
  • The production costs/energy are conserved
  • Less waste is generated 

When these objectives are meant, there is an automated benefit to the people, health, economy, and above all, the environment. 

Production of biofuels 

Another great way to utilise biodegradable waste is to convert it into biofuels. When biodegradable waste is degraded by microbes, there is the release of gases which can be converted to biogas. 

These biofuels can substitute fossil-based fuels and are known to cause less environmental pollution as compared to their conventional counterparts. 


The article shed light on the amount of biodegradable waste present in municipal waste. The article also explained the ways in which biodegradable waste from municipal waste is treated. 

Also, the article shed light on the ways to better deal with biodegradable waste which included reusing it, repurposing it, recycling it, and composting it. 


  • (November 01, 2022). Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable. Retrieved from:
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Retrieved from:
  • Eleazer, W. E., Odle, W. S., Wang, Y. S., & Barlaz, M. A. (1997). Biodegradability of municipal solid waste components in laboratory-scale landfills. Environmental Science & Technology, 31(3), 911-917.
  • Garcıa, A. J., Esteban, M. B., Marquez, M. C., & Ramos, P. (2005). Biodegradable municipal solid waste: Characterization and potential use as animal feedstuffs. Waste Management, 25(8), 780-787.
  • Soni, A., Patil, D., & Argade, K. (2016). Municipal solid waste management. Procedia Environmental Sciences, 35, 119-126.

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