What is SWM cess and why is it levied on waste generators

What is SWM cess and why is it levied on waste generators


The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has proposed a Solid Waste Management (SWM) Cess of ₹100 per month for each household, igniting a debate among residents and stakeholders.

  • This proposal is part of a broader strategy to tackle the escalating challenges of solid waste management faced by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) across India.


GS-03 (Environment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is Solid Waste Management (SWM)?
  • Challenges associated

What is Solid Waste Management (SWM)?

Solid Waste Management refers to the systematic administration of activities that provide for the collection, source separation, storage, transportation, transfer, processing, treatment, and disposal of solid waste. Key aspects of SWM in urban contexts include:

  • Collection and Transportation: These are the most resource-intensive components, consuming up to 85-90% of the SWM budget. They involve door-to-door waste collection and transportation to processing or disposal sites. For a city like Bangalore, this requires thousands of collection vehicles and personnel.
  • Processing and Disposal: Processing includes converting waste into compost, biogas, or other usable forms, whereas disposal involves safely depositing the waste that cannot be processed. This part of SWM consumes about 10-15% of the budget but often struggles with financial viability due to low yield from waste conversion processes.
  • Regulations and User Fees: According to the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, ULBs must levy user fees or SWM cess to fund the SWM services. This is typically charged along with property taxes and is crucial for covering the substantial costs incurred by ULBs in waste management.
  • Segregation at Source: This involves separating waste into categories (wet, dry, hazardous) at the point of origin. Segregation is essential for effective processing and reducing the burden on landfills.
  • Financial Aspects: Offering SWM services is a major expenditure for ULBs. For instance, Bangalore spends about ₹1,643 crore annually on SWM, but the revenue generated from user fees is minimal, necessitating the introduction of higher cess rates.
  • Bulk Waste Generators: ULBs are considering imposing higher charges on bulk waste generators (like large housing societies and commercial establishments) to offset the costs of SWM services.
  • Sustainability Initiatives: Efforts such as reducing single-use plastics, promoting decentralized composting, and engaging communities through Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) initiatives are part of a broader strategy to make SWM more sustainable and cost-effective.

Challenges associated:

Solid Waste Management in urban areas faces several significant challenges:

  • High Costs: The collection and transportation of waste are labor and resource-intensive, demanding a significant portion of ULB budgets. For example, Bangalore’s SWM services require vast manpower and logistical resources, making it a costly affair.
  • Waste Composition: Urban waste typically comprises 55-60% wet biodegradable material and 40-45% non-biodegradable material. The recyclable fraction of dry waste is minimal, complicating processing and disposal efforts.
  • Low Revenue from Waste Processing: Despite potential in composting and biogas generation, the financial returns from these processes are low, covering only a fraction of operational costs.
  • Disposal of Non-Recyclable Waste: Handling non-compostable and non-recyclable waste, such as single-use plastics and inert materials, is expensive due to the need for transportation to distant disposal facilities.
  • Operational Challenges: ULBs also deal with additional tasks like clearing open dumping sites, managing seasonal variations in waste generation, and preventing open littering, which add to the complexity and cost of SWM.
  • Limited Revenue: Revenue from SWM services is often negligible compared to the expenditures. For instance, smaller cities may spend up to 50% of their budget on SWM yet generate very little revenue from user fees.
  • Public Resistance: The introduction of higher SWM cess rates often faces opposition from residents, who may not fully understand the necessity of these charges for maintaining effective waste management services.

Suggested Measures

  • Effective Segregation at Source: Promoting and enforcing waste segregation at the household level can significantly enhance the efficiency of waste processing and reduce the burden on landfills.
  • Increased User Fees and Cess: While unpopular, higher user fees for bulk waste generators and a reasonable SWM cess for households can provide ULBs with the necessary funds to manage waste effectively.
  • Decentralized Composting: Encouraging decentralized composting initiatives can reduce the volume of waste transported to central processing facilities, thereby cutting down on transportation costs and emissions.
  • Reducing Single-Use Plastics: Implementing stricter regulations on single-use plastics can decrease the amount of non-recyclable waste, easing the burden on SWM systems.
  • Community Engagement: Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) initiatives can raise awareness about the importance of proper waste management practices, fostering a cooperative approach among residents.
  • Public-Private Partnerships: Leveraging public-private partnerships for waste processing and disposal can bring in technical expertise and additional funding, making SWM operations more efficient and cost-effective.
  • Policy and Regulatory Support: Strengthening policy frameworks and providing regulatory support can help ULBs implement innovative solutions and ensure compliance with SWM rules and guidelines.


The proposal by the BBMP to introduce a ₹100 per month SWM cess highlights the urgent need for sustainable waste management solutions in urban India. By understanding the complexities and challenges of SWM, and implementing strategic measures, ULBs can improve waste management practices, ensure financial sustainability, and foster a cleaner, healthier urban environment.