Champions of Waste Management

  Tushita Rawat |     November 12, 2021

India has more than 1.5 million schools and 260 million students. Think about a regular day in these schools before the pandemic. Imagine the amount of waste— food waste, plastic, paper, stationery—produced in these schools in a day. Now, add COVID-19 waste to it as schools across the country are reopening. Imagine all of this waste going to landfills. Alarming, isn’t it?

Schools have a crucial role to play as waste generators as well as waste warriors, who manage all the solid waste they generate sustainably. The solid waste generated by schools is very different compared to that of other places such as restaurants. Plastic, paper, and food waste are some of the dominant wastes produced in a school.

Since schools have been clubbed with other bulk waste generators, they are responsible for managing their own waste, as per the New Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. This solid waste is of the following types that must be managed scientifically and effectively.

  • Biodegradable waste or wet waste: This is organic waste that is generated from natural things and can be consumed by animals. It is decomposed by microorganisms when put in the soil. It includes kitchen waste, food waste, dry leaves, garden waste, flowers, etc.
  • Non-biodegradable waste: This is an umbrella category for human-made waste items. They are mainly manufactured in factories. They cannot be consumed by animals and do not decompose easily on their own, though some of this waste can be recycled. These include paper, plastic, metal, glass and rubber, furniture, buckets, metal cans, ceramics, styrofoam, plastic bottles, shoes, cardboard, notebooks, newspapers, etc. 
  • Domestic hazardous waste: This refers to the waste items that are harmful and have an adverse impact on both humans as well as the environment. These include broken glass, paint boxes and varnishes, mosquito repellant sprays and any pressurised cans, toilet cleaners, floor cleaners, etc.
  • Sanitary waste: This refers to any waste item that has body fluids on it and carries pathogens. It includes soiled napkins, diapers, tampons, blood-soaked cotton, condom, used earbuds, and band-aids.
  • Biomedical waste: This refers to the waste generated during the treatment of diseases, medical diagnostic processes, and immunisation. It includes apparatus like needles, syringes; human and animal anatomical waste; gloves, aprons, surgical masks, etc.

  • Electronic waste: This waste category includes electronic and electrical products that are not working or are at the end of their life. For example home appliances, mobile phones, DVDs, smartwatches, tube lights and bulbs, batteries, WiFi dongles, etc.
  • Construction & demolition waste: This refers to the waste generated in construction and demolition activities. It includes concrete, bricks, plaster, stone, rubble, etc.

What should, then, the schools aim for to become model schools and set an example for all the other schools to follow? The answer— ZERO. Aiming to become a zero-waste school with the right practices is what will help most schools tackle this waste menace.

This is exactly what CSE’s Green Schools Programme (GSP) network schools in India have pledged to do! The GSP Forum of Schools that Segregate, an exclusive community of schools that have benchmarked their waste generation and devised action plans to improve solid waste management, took the Waste Transformers Pledge in an online event.

The community has 126 registered member schools as of now. The students and teachers of these Forum Schools aim to become zero-waste generators in the next two years by implementing some action plans. These plans have been devised by the schools themselves by analysing their waste generation and recycling baselines, as well as the problem areas in and around the schools where these interventions are required.

The goal of the Forum is to build schools that are pioneers of waste management and serve as models for other schools to take inspiration from. You can also become a part of this change by adopting the Waste Transformers Pledge and its practices given in the posters. To know more about the GSP Forum of Schools and its initiatives, please visit


About the Author

Programme Manager, Environment Education Unit, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

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