Indirect costs of Improper Plastic Waste Disposal

Indirect costs of Improper Plastic Waste Disposal
close up photo of plastic bottle
| 4 Min read

Plastic waste disposal has various direct and indirect impacts on the social, economic, and environmental aspects. With widely spoken direct effects of improper disposal widely being spoken, very little attention is given to the ‘indirect costs’. These costs have further cascading and roll-over effects on many other systems and individuals in them.

Injuries to workers in the field

In India, the majority of the waste sorting/separation is carried out manually. With the waste collectors having little to no knowledge on Operational Health and Safety (OH&S), they are exposed to various injuries.

A study by a local group identified various injuries related to poor waste management in India:

  • Injury from sharp objects in the waste
  • Falls while sorting through the waste in yards
  • Inhalation of harmful gasses and emissions from the dump yard
Waste collectors walking through the dump yard without any safety precautions
Waste collectors walking through the dump yard without any safety precautions

Contamination of food chain

Improper Plastic Waste Disposal has an indirect effect on the food chain. Littered plastic waste ends up in water bodies, environments, and sometimes in the air. Many studies have identified seafood and red meat samples with traces of meat. This is a circular life of waste – from our homes/offices back onto our plates. It is time for us to break this circularity.

Repairs and damage caused by litter

Economic damages from marine litter are said to cost more than 1.2 billion USD only in the Asia-Pacific region. On the other hand, improper plastic waste disposal has often led to clogged drains and sewage lines which has multiple cascading effects on the entire system. Additionally, lack of source separation leads to bottlenecks in the recycling industry. Only 40% of the plastic waste generated in India is efficiently recycled. Wonder why?

Clogged municipal drain by improperly manages plastic waste
Clogged municipal drain by improperly manages plastic waste

Waste related diseases

Improper waste disposal leads to uncollected waste or waste disposed of in a local dump yard. Subsequently, this creates a health hazard for places around, especially if the plastic waste is burnt.

Air pollution from burning plastic waste along with other sources of air pollution significantly increases the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the locality, causing threatening diseases. In Maharashtra alone, 1.4 Lakh pollution-related deaths were reported by ICMR.

Apart from air-related diseases, rodents & viral infections is a common problem across the municipal staff or people living close to contaminated sites.


Waste burning and the effects of the emissions are detrimental to those living in and around the dump yard.

Burning Plastic has been used by many around the world as an easy way to reduce the large piles of waste in open fields. The Hazards of burning plastic are not limited to just air pollution, but it affects everything in the surrounding areas and underground.

40% of the world’s litter is burnt in open air

Texas Disposal System

What is being done? Authorities and organisations like Recykal are working towards creating a channel of waste using digital platforms and an on-field network of recyclers, which will help direct the waste from your bin to a recycler rather than to a landfill where it will be burnt!

Affects tourism

Tourism brings in lots of plastic waste, but the same industry is affected by poor waste management systems. Can you imagine a serene waster fall or a historic monument have stray litter around?

Cleanliness is key to stimulating tourism in India  

Times of India

The Swacch Sarvekshan survey carried out a rating across major tourist hotspots on their cleanliness rating. Unfortunately, places like Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, and others were rated ‘poor’. Additionally, more than half of the world’s 50 most polluted cities are in India. Improper plastic waste disposal has a significant indirect effect on the tourism industry.

Mental well being of citizens

Finally, one of the most important effects of poor waste disposal is on the Mental Health of people living in the surroundings. Eco-anxiety, a constant worry or fear of the state of the environment we live in. A recent study has found this to be increasing with changing environmental conditions.
Mental health receives very little attention in India, however, the impact is undeniable. Many members of the waste ecosystem suffer from unaddressed mental health issues owing to their profession – unfortunately very little is done towards it.

What is the solution?

It is simple, the introduction of an effective and efficient waste management system right from a household level to a national level. Waste sorting at source, Robust channeling of waste, the introduction of new waste management techniques, awareness creating, and more are examples of systemic changes which can help reduce the indirect costs of improper plastic waste disposal.

Recykal has actively worked with more than 400,000 consumers, 47 municipalities, 67 ULBs, 100+ brands, and more than 500 aggregators across 25 states in India. We strongly believe using technology the waste ecosystem can be transformed!

Wondering how you can make a difference as an individual or a business establishment? Head over to our training programs that you can introduce into your organisations or housing societies or head over to our Recykal Marketplace where you can easily sell your plastic waste.

Share this article

Get regular updates
in your inbox