Of the about 62 million tonne (mt) of waste annually generated in the country, 5.6 million is plastic waste and 0.17 million is biomedical waste. In addition, hazardous waste generation is 7.90 mtpa (million tonne per annum) and 15 lakh tonne is e-waste. The per capita waste generation in cities ranges from 200 gm to 600 gm per day (2011); 43 mtpa is collected, 11.9 million is treated and 31 million is dumped in landfill sites.
Only about 75-80 per cent of municipal solid waste (MSW) is collected, of which only 22-28 per cent is processed and treated, and the rest disposed of at dump yards. It is projected that by 2031, MSW generation will increase to 165 mt and to 436 mt by 2050. If cities continue to dump waste at the present rate without treatment, it will need 1,240 hectare per year; with the projected generation by 2031, setting up landfills for 20 years of 10-m-height will require 66,000 hectare.
Cities in focus
Reports reveal that metros are the biggest waste generators. Of the annual waste generation, about 10 mt is from each of the metropolitan cities. Mumbai generates about 7,000 mt of waste per day (MCGM 2014), Bengaluru about 5,000 mt (BBMP 2014) and other large cities like Pune and Ahmedabad generate waste in the range of 1,600-3,500 mt per day (PMC 2014).
Also, among the four geographical regions in India, Swati Singh Sambyal, Programme Officer-Sustainable Industrialisation, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), says, ´Northern India generates the highest amount of MSW (40,500 tpd or 14.8 million tpy), 30 per cent of all MSW generated in India; and Eastern India (23,500 tpd or 8.6 million tpy) generates the least, only 17 per cent of MSW generated.´
So, has the alarm been raised?
One can kick-start an action plan, provided the decision-maker is visionary. ´We need to create value for waste and treat it scientifically - these are the two basic fundamentals,´ opines Ajoy Mehta, Municipal Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), accepting that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has not been disposing Mumbai´s waste in an efficient manner. However, he is confident that this is set to change, especially with the civic body taking up handling of waste in a scientific manner, including shutting down of landfill well within Mumbai. Also, currently, all contracts for waste management awarded by city governments to private concessionaires have a perverse incentive to bring larger quantities of waste to the dumpsite. These contracts are based on the contractor being paid against the volume of waste deposited at the site. This ´tipping fee´ means that the higher the volume brought in, the greater the financial reward. Also, city municipalities find that collection, transport and dumping waste is easier than processing it for reuse. To change this, Sambyal says ´A landfill tax is needed to be imposed; the contracts need to be redesigned so that instead of being paid to bring waste to the landfill, the contractor or city municipality would have to pay a tipping fee to dispose the waste.´
The strategy can be two pronged, adds
Dr Amiya Kumar Sahu, Founder, National Solid Waste Association of India (NSWAI). ´First, prevent fresh waste getting dumped; second, waste mining and reclaiming of land.´ NSWAI runs an Environment Information Service Centre to disseminate information related to SWM.
The SWM Rules by MoEF have been revised after 16 years to come into effect from October 2016. Now applicable beyond municipal areas, these have been extended to urban and industrial areas. As Dr Sahu shares, ´Merely extending the rules to larger areas may not still bring about compliance; it may make things more complicated.´ Prof Rajnikant Patel, Honorary Director, Graduate School of Smart Cities Development, and Advisor (Research and Consultancy Service Cell), Gujarat Technological University, too does not envisage any change, as he believes long-held attitudes towards waste do not change.
Meanwhile, Dr Vivekanand, Assistant Professor, Ramalingaswami Re-Entry Fellow (DBT-Govt of India), Centre for Energy and Environment, Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur, shares, ´The new policy will take its course before we see the change. The current scenario has less impact, at the same time, there is light at the end of the tunnel.´ Sambyal thinks it will take four to five years to see a drastic change in waste management regimes in India, saying, ´The rules are much needed, but the implementation will be a challenge considering the scale.´
Also, the new Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016, notified by the MoEF stipulate that permission for construction will be granted after a complete waste management plan is presented to local authorities.
As per MoEF, EIA directives, developers have to allocate space for SWM at the project approval stage. But when it comes to actual implementation, developers see this as an additional cost that does not lead to additional RoI; so they procure cheap organic waste disposal systems. As Jaideep Saptarshi, Executive Director, Vermigold Ecotech, shares, ´There is no regulatory authority that certifies different products or technologies over their lifecycle and provides recommendations to consumers.
Developers, too, are unable to discriminate between multiple technologies.´ He thinks that there is space for centralised and decentralised waste treatment systems in urban India. ´The key to ensure the success of the new SWM rules is diligent implementation by the government that promotes technologies with the lowest carbon footprint.´
Waste to resource
In Alleppey, where decentralised waste management has worked, people segregate and process their own waste. In Panaji, too, five-point segregation is enforced by the municipality, shares Sambyal.
Adding to this, Dr Vivekanand advises a sustainable waste management system for societies to take care of their own waste. ´Further, a system of awarding zero waste societies should be in place to encourage RWAs,´ he suggests. ´Poly bags must be banned and societies should be encouraged to install small-scale biogas plants based on generated organic waste. The generated biogas should be utilised for lighting in common areas; slurry or digestate should be used as soil conditioner or organic fertiliser to keep the park green.´
Prof Patel adds, ´After segregation of solid waste, the organic matter can be burned through plasma technology to produce gases that can be used to generate electricity locally.´
Further, Dr Vivekanand says, ´Segregation at source should be linked with the SWM master plan and public health. Waste collectors should be outsourced and nominal tax should be levied on inhabitants. There should be provision for door-to-door collection, transportation and decentralised waste processing service, and a decentralised facility for dumping waste.´
On electrical and electronic solid waste, BK Soni, Chairman & Managing Director, Eco Recycling Ltd, shares, ´India has the technologies available and it is merely a job of ´back to basic´ with ´reverse engineering´.´ Ecoreco´s USP comprises e-waste to plastic, glass and metals. Soni´s five-point approach: Invest to deploying collection and drop points to facilitate seamless collection; second, increase the population that handled waste in India through awareness - it´s only 3 per cent right now; third, we need skilled manpower, educated professionals with knowledge of health, safety and environment, and engineers with reverse engineering knowledge to handle this issue; fourth, set up a complete chain of reverse logistic or collection system; fifth, the government must support waste management industries in the form of land allocation, subsidies, tax exemption, etc.
Incineration technologies, incorporating latest emission controls and equipped with electricity generation from mixed waste, do exist. ´These must be adopted to reduce the waste to ash, which is hardly about 10 per cent of the original quantity of waste,´ says Dr Sahu. He adds, ´Recyclable metal or glass can be extracted and the balance residual ash can be utilised for making roads or ready-mix concrete (RMC). This will bring about complete destruction of waste.´ Further, 70 mt per day of mixed waste can generate about 1 MW per hour of electricity, which means about 20 MW per day of power can be generated, assuming losses, efficiencies, etc. If we calculate 50 W of electricity per house, this is sufficient to light up about 400,000 houses a day.
´Second, decision-makers can resort to gainfully disposing waste by using the above technology through systematically mining waste, automatically segregating it into various fractions and reclaiming the underlying land. The reclaimed land can again be biologically reclaimed by sanitising to make it suitable for use,´ adds Dr Sahu. If the right technology with optimal processes and all components of waste are used to derive value, waste to energy could be a profitable business. Government incentives could make the business more attractive; although there are significant incentives for these projects in the form of capital subsidies and feed in tariffs. Scientific disposal of solid waste through segregation, collection and treatment and disposal in an environmentally sound manner is ideal. According to the report of the Task Force of the Planning Commission, untapped waste has the potential of generating 439 MW of power from 32,890 tpd of combustible wastes including refused derived fuel (RDF), 1.3 million cu m of biogas per day, or 72 MW of electricity from biogas and 5.4 million mt of compost annually to support agriculture. And, as of 2013-14, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), municipal authorities have only set up 553 compost and vermi-compost plants, 56 bio-methanation plants, 22 RDF plants and 13 waste-to-energy plants in the country. As per realistic estimates, India can produce 32,890 tonne of RDF each day, which can currently support 88 power plants of 5 MW each in the next five to seven years, based on incineration, gasification or pyrolysis technologies. The number of power plants can increase to 215 plants by 2031 and 556 power plants by 2050, thus generating 2,780 MW. In fact, the Maharashtra Chief Minister too has announced work on a ´waste to energy´ project at the Deonar dumping ground. And, Mehta of MCGM assures a system in place for the same. For him, people need to realise that waste has some value. Hence, the corporation is now setting up a debris to construction material plant, where waste can be recycled and reused. ´While it will take us some time to get these projects off the ground, we are committed to doing it,´ avers Mehta.
The way forward
Success in MSW management could lead to opportunities in sewage, industrial and hazardous waste. Depending on the technology or route used for energy recovery, eco-friendly and green co-products such as charcoal, compost, nutrient rich digestate or bio-oil can be obtained. This will enable enterprises to expand. Opportunities also exist for companies offering turnkey solutions.
With the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission and concerted efforts to set up waste management projects across India, the future looks brighter for SWM.
Industry experts offer solutions:
Waste to energy is new to India. Dr Amiya Kumar Sahu, Founder, NSWAI, identifies some of the challenges: ´Most of the proven and commercial technologies with respect to urban wastes are required to be imported. Costs of projects, especially based on biomethanation technology, are high as critical equipment for a project is required to be imported. Segregated municipal solid waste is generally not available at the plant site, which may lead to non-availability of waste-to-energy plants. There is a lack of financial resources with municipal corporations or urban local bodies, and lack of conducive policy guidelines from state governments with respect to allotment of land, supply of garbage and power purchase or evacuation facilities.
Vermigold Ecotech has won awards for many of their solutions. Their organic waste digester system for decentralised waste management won the Energy Globe award from India. This system offers an automated eco-friendly solution for the organic waste disposal requirements of new construction projects and has been installed at residential buildings and corporate offices. The company has also recently developed an intelligent remote monitoring system for the waste and recycling sector, using sensors and cloud computing, for which Vermigold won the second prize among 10 countries at a worldwide hackathon contest.
Jaideep Saptarshi, Executive Director, Vermigold Ecotech, shares the unique features of the organic digester system procured by developers for new constructions:
Case Study: CREDAI Clean City Movement
CREDAI´s Clean City Movement (CCCM) has its largest operation successfully running at Technopark in Trivendrum. The IT SEZ, spread over 180 acre, generates about 3,000 kg of solid waste each day. Additionally, CCCM is managing solid waste from about 10 million houses in Kerala. CREDAI is replicating this initiative nationally. Jose Joseph, Executive Director, CREDAI Clean City Movement, shares more:
Technology: The technology used for biodegradable rejections is ´Aerobic Microbial Composting´ using bio bins and bio-methanisation using biogas plants.
Non-biodegradable rejections are transferred to the recycling units.
Target: For a pilot project in Mumbai, about 5,000 kg of waste is being managed at four to five sites on a monthly basis. This initiative aims to cross a target of 100 tonne per day in one year.
Bio-degradable waste management: Bio-degradable waste is recycled using scientific and aerobic microbial composting systems. A green bucket is used to store biodegradable and organic kitchen waste, which is removed and deposited in specially designed bio-beans, already partially filled with processed bio-manure that acts as a catalyst in processing new waste. A bio-culture is spread on the new waste deposited in the beans. The fresh waste is mixed with the earlier deposited waste to ensure complete and uniform conversion. It takes about 15-20 days of complete and hygienic conversion. The processed bio-manure product is then powdered and sold commercially. This bio-manure is used in apartment complexes to grow terrace gardens and lawns.
Non-biodegradable waste management: Used plastics are washed and stored in a yellow bucket, which is then collected and taken to the shredding unit. The waste is then segregated and shredded into tiny granules, which are then packed. When required, these are heated to 170oC to be used in road tarring.
Prevention is better than cure
CW spoke to experts on measures to avoid situations such as the Deonar fire elsewhere.
Dr Amiya Kumar Sahu, Founder, NSWAI: Immediate steps, where a dump exists, should be taken to execute projects of waste mining, waste processing through incineration and reclaiming of land for development.
Prof Rajnikant Patel, Honorary Director, Graduate School of Smart Cities Development, and Advisor (Research and Consultancy Service Cell), Gujarat Technological University: Create awareness and train villagers and semi urban population and have simple segregation and local vermin-composting.
Dr Vivekanand, Assistant Professor, Ramalingaswami Re-Entry Fellow (DBT-Govt of India), Centre for Energy and Environment, Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur: Prohibiting all forms of burning, preventing hot spots of fire-sensitive material´s heap formation, stopping smoking on site and maintaining high-level security. Provision for methane gas detection (on monthly basis) and collection with interconnected pipe network at site. Gas collection followed by flaring (strongly discouraged) or converting or compressing the gas into an energy source. Less GHG emission and odour to nearby population and vegetation. Less technically and poorly managed site operations to be shut down before they cause any damage. ´Soil berm´ as fire guards to be created around landfills as they may be effective in containing fires. And, landfill site must be scientifically tailored and engineered.
Jaideep Saptarshi, Executive Director, Vermigold Ecotech: Have centralised waste processing facilities that include a judicious mix of waste-to-energy plants, resource-driven fuel plants and sanitary landfills. Encourage on-site waste management in new constructions by offering discounts in property tax. Create a US EPA-like authority that evaluates multiple technologies and provides guidelines to ULBs for selection of centralised waste management technologies and consumers such as developers, corporates and others for smaller decentralised systems. Have intelligent truck routing systems with smart bins that reduce the journey of trucks and maximise waste collection. Increase the transparency in the waste collection process by displaying various metrics on the Web. Create awareness about waste reduction and reuse at source of generation through the Swacch Bharat Mission.
- seraphina d´souza
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