Where does waste go?

Where does waste go?

Of course not. Garbage disposal starts at home and unless we do our bit it's not fair to complain. This article tells us why segregation of garbage at home is important, where our waste goes and how an actual dump yard works and what are it's effects on our eco system. 


Didn’t you ever want to know what happens in a dump yard in India? If you live in an independent house more often than not you would have definitely come across one empty site in your neighborhood which is a dumping ground for everyone in the neighborhood.

Garbage Dump Near Home

Waste disposal in India is very haphazard and no one knows how it is actually done. This integral part of our society and eco system never gets enough attention nor credit.

There are 2 major steps involved in garbage handling and disposal:

Step 1 - How Garbage Is Handled at Home

Segregation Of Waste

The first step for household waste reaching the dump yard is segregation at home. There are mandatory rules set up across India for residential complexes and societies. These rules mandate residents to segregate waste according to wet waste, dry waste, medical waste and reject waste.

Some of the apartments and residential societies have an inhouse composting process to process the wet waste and reuse as compost or manure for their common area gardening purposes.

Now, though this rule applies for residents in independent households / small apartments, it is seldom followed. This leads to vacant plots becoming dumping grounds without the municipal corporation paying heed.

Step 2 - Where Does Waste Go?

Once waste is collected from households it reaches segregation centers.  These segregation centers are set up in each ward or area wise. Here workers segregate the waste into different types of solid waste.

They are segregated into, plastic waste, recyclable plastic waste, metal waste, reject waste, electronic waste etc. This segregation is very important because this helps a great deal in determining which type of waste can be recycled and which will invariably end up in the landfill.

Most cities now recycle biodegradable wet waste into compost and this has reduced a considerable amount of wet waste ending up in the landfill.

Municipal corporation plays a very important role in educating residents on the importance of segregation of waste in the household itself.


After segregation once the garbage reaches the dump yard/ Landfill it is stored in a certain way.

An ideal dump yard is structured in a way where waste is very tightly packed and these mounds of waste are sealed under a rubber and clay barrier, and over a liner that keeps liquids from seeping out. For a household trash landfill the ground is lined first with clay and then with a skin of flexible plastic about half an inch thick. Over this, drains and pipes collect a liquid called leachate, which is the contaminated fluid that trickles out of the body of the landfill. This is very similar to the horrible smelling liquid that drips from our garbage trucks we see on the roads. Drained leachate is gathered in pools, allowed to settle and treated as waste water before being released. When the landfill has reached its capacity, the waste is covered with clay and another plastic shield. Above that, several feet of dirt fill is topped with soil and plants.

Inside the landfill, the trash layer forms a gently sloped hill. This sort of waste being left untreated poses a huge risk of fire breaking out during extremely hot weather and due to the methane gas that is formed.

Landfills are not designed to break down waste, only to store it. But garbage in a landfill decomposes but very slowly and in an oxygen-free environment. Because of the lack of oxygen, bacteria in the waste produce methane gas, which is highly flammable and dangerous if allowed to collect underground. It is also a potent greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming.

This is one of the scientific ways a landfill has to be designed or at least maintained. But we all know there are news of illegal landfills being dug up in the outskirts of almost every major city in India.

This is one of the reasons why segregation of waste is very important in the early stages of waste collection. A landfill requires huge amount of land. With urbanization and development, the governments are facing a huge task in acquiring or even finding such vast land for landfills.

Don’t you think there is something wrong in our process when ragpickers go to dumping yards to collect plastic items that can be recycled? These items should go directly to factories that recycle plastic once collected from our homes. This is where municipal corporations and state governments should ensure a process is put in place and is followed.

Certain cities have been able to plan and execute a “Zero-Landfill Model” and have achieved very good results.

It’s Effect On The Eco System

Because of improper segregation, lot of bio degradable waste joins the dry waste in occupying landfills. This attracts birds, small rodents, insects etc. resulting in spreading diseases to humans occupying areas near the landfills. There is also a huge risk of diseases spreading through the food chains of animals and birds.  

There is also a huge risk of soil pollution and ground water pollution which in turn will affect humans. Whatever goes around comes back around. We need to be mindful of our actions else our future generations will have to live a very unhealthy life.

Since methane gas is highly flammable these huge piles of garbage have a huge risk of catching fire. This results is the fire sometimes spreading uncontrollably causing air pollution and various health risks to people residing in close proximity to the dump yard.

Do you know that there is a garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean that is known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” that covers an estimated area of 1.6 million square kilometers? 1.6 million square kilometers of garbage floating on the ocean ( Just saying - India covers an area of 2.97 million square kilometers ). Imagine the effect on marine life and our eco system on the whole.


Treating of garbage has never been more important and it is really going to shape the future of our planet. The advancements in technology and sustainable practices put in place should definitely lead to better management of waste provided the concerned government and citizens make a conscious effort in making this planet a better place to live for the future generations.

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