What is the average composition of biodegradable waste in municipal solid waste in India? 

The article will explain the composition of biodegradable waste in MSW in India. It will also explain ways to reduce waste at both personal and government levels. The waste management systems of India will also be scrutinised. 

What is the average composition of biodegradable waste in municipal solid waste in India?

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. 

As a rule of thumb, biodegradable waste is better than non-biodegradable waste because it requires less time to decompose. If we take the case of non-biodegradable waste, the time required may surge up to many hundred years. 

For example, let us take the case of plastics. Plastics are non-biodegradable polymers that may require up to a thousand years to degrade. 

What are the sources of biodegradable waste?

Biodegradable waste is the type of waste which is usually sourced from natural materials such as animal or plant sources. 

As a rule of thumb, only natural material can return back to nature and 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 
  • Natural textiles 
  • Bioplastics 

How can waste generation be reduced?

When it comes to waste generation reduction, 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. 

Is it okay if biodegradable waste from MSW ends up in landfills?

If we assess the question from a superlative frame, then it can be said that biodegradable waste would not cause that much havoc if they end up in landfills because the waste will not last long and will degrade shortly. 

Also, the probability of environmental anomalies caused by biodegradable waste is much less as compared to non-biodegradable waste. 

However, the case of India may beg to differ. The main reason is that there are very few sanitary landfills (controlled landfills) in India and most of the waste is dumped in open dumps. For example, in some cases, the open dumps’ limits have exceeded more than 2 decades but are still used to dump waste (rather ignorantly). 

This creates health complications for nearby populations and also causes many environmental reservations. 

For example, biodegradable waste will produce harmful gases (greenhouse gases) that need to be collected but the gas collection system is not there in the case of open dumps. Also, the problem of waste leaching is ignored if there is no sanitary landfill. This can cause soil and groundwater pollution. 

As it turns out, there are two options available to get away with this not-so-optimistic situation: 

  • To have more sanitary & controlled landfills in India 
  • To reduce the amount of waste generated by adhering to composting, recycling, and resource recovery mindsets and practicalities. These theatrics can be adopted at both individual, state, and national levels. 


It is concluded that 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. 

The article also discussed ways to reduce the amount of waste generated which included recycling, composting, and resource recovery. Also, a comment was made on the current waste disposal systems in India.