Waste-to-Energy in India: An Interview with Salman Zafar

India’s waste-to-energy sector, which kicked off in 1987, is still searching for a successful role model, even after tens of millions of dollars of investment. In recent years, many ambitious waste-to-energy projects have been established or are being planned in different parts of the country, and it is hoped that things will brighten up in the coming years. Salman Zafar, CEO of BioEnergy Consult, talks to Power Today magazine on India’s tryst with waste-to-energy and highlights major challenges and obstacles in making waste-to-energy a success story in India.


Power Today: What are the challenges that the Waste to Energy sector faces in the current scenario where there is a rejuvenated interest in clean energy? Do you think the buzz around solar and wind power has relegated the Waste to Energy sector to the back benches?

Salman Zafar: India’s experience with waste-to-energy has been lackluster until now. The progress of waste-to-energy sector in India is hampered by multiples issues including

  1. poor quality of municipal waste,
  2. high capital and O&M costs of waste-to-energy systems,
  3. lack of indigenous technology,
  4. lack of successful projects and failure of several ambitious projects,
  5. lack of coordination between municipalities, state and central governments,
  6. heavy reliance on government subsidies,
  7. difficulties in obtaining long-term Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with state electricity boards (SEBs)
  8. lukewarm response of banks and financial institutions and (9) weak supply chain.

Waste-to-energy is different from solar (or wind) as it essentially aims to reduce the colossal amount of solid wastes accumulating in cities and towns all over India. In addition to managing wastes, waste-to-energy has the added advantage of producing power which can be used to meet rapidly increasing energy requirements of urban India.

In my opinion, waste-to-energy sector has attracted renewed interest in the last couple of years due to Swachch Bharat Mission, though government’s heavy focus on solar power has impacted the development of waste-to-energy as well as biomass energy sectors.

Power Today: India has a Waste to Energy potential of 17,000 MW, of which only around 1,365 MW has been realised so far. How much growth do you expect in the sector?

Salman Zafar: As per Energy Statistics 2015 (refer to http://mospi.nic.in/Mospi_New/upload/Energy_stats_2015_26mar15.pdf), waste-to-energy potential in India is estimated to be 2,556 MW, of which approximately 150 MW (around 6%) has been harnessed till March 2016.

The progress of waste-to-energy sector in India is dependent on resolution of MSW supply chain issues, better understanding of waste management practices, lowering of technology costs and flexible financial model. For the next two years, I am anticipating an increase of around 75-100 MW of installed capacity across India.

Power Today: On the technological front, what kinds of advancements are happening in the sector?

Salman Zafar: Nowadays, advanced thermal technologies like MBT, thermal depolymerisation, gasification, pyrolysis and plasma gasification are hogging limelight, mainly due to better energy efficiency, high conversion rates and less emissions. Incineration is still the most popular waste-to-energy technology, though there are serious emission concerns in developing countries as many project developers try to cut down costs by going for less efficient air pollution control system.

Power Today: What according to you, is the general sentiment towards setting up of Waste to Energy plants? Do you get enough cooperation from municipal bodies, since setting up of plants involves land acquisition and capital expenditure?

Salman Zafar: MSW-to-energy projects, be it in India or any other developing country, is plagued by NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) effect. The general attitude towards waste-to-energy is that of indifference resulting in lukewarm public participation and community engagement in such projects.

Government should setup dedicated waste-to-energy research centres to develop lost-cost and low-tech waste to energy solutions

Government should setup dedicated waste-to-energy research centres to develop lost-cost and low-tech waste to energy solutions

Lack of cooperation from municipalities is a major factor in sluggish growth of waste-to-energy sector in India. It has been observed that sometimes municipal officials connive with local politicians and ‘garbage mafia’ to create hurdles in waste collection and waste transport.

Supply of poor quality feedstock to waste-to-energy plants by municipal bodies has led to failure of several high-profile projects, such as 6 MW MSW-to-biogas project in Lucknow, which was shut down within a year of commissioning due to waste quality issues.

Power Today: Do you think that government policies are in tandem when it comes to enabling this segment? What policies need to be changed, evolved or adopted to boost this sector?

Salman Zafar: A successful waste management strategy demands an integrated approach where recycling and waste-to-energy are given due importance in government policies. Government should strive to setup a dedicated waste-to-energy research centre to develop a lost-cost and low-tech solution to harness clean energy from millions of tons of waste generated in India.

The government is planning many waste-to-energy projects in different cities in the coming years which may help in easing the waste situation to a certain extent. However, government policies should be inclined towards inclusive waste management, whereby the informal recycling community is not robbed of its livelihood due to waste-to-energy projects.

Government should also try to create favourable policies for establishment of decentralized waste-to-energy plants as big projects are a logistical nightmare and more prone to failure than small-to-medium scale venture.

Common Brands Of Washers And Dryers

We’ve discovered a few excellent washing machines to suit various budgets and methods of washing clothes after washing hundreds of dollars worth of fabric stained with pig blood and body oils of unknown origin, visiting some washer brands’ quality-testing labs (and one factory), looking into the state of appliance reliability, and trying to debunk some laundry-related urban legends (and the best dryers to match).

Best Brands Of Washers And Dryers

On our list’s top spot is the LG WM4000H front-loader.

How did we test?

Cleaning effectiveness

To evaluate how successfully each washer cleared stains during the Normal cycle, we utilized industry-recognized stain test strips.

Textile handling

We used industry-standard fabric samples for our test loads in order to demonstrate how kind (or not) washers are to the fabric.

Use of water

In order to analyze water usage and measure water temperature throughout several cycles, we set up washers to drain into garbage cans.

Smart elements

Wi-Fi-enabled models were linked to test how user-friendly their apps were, as well as how useful the notifications and remote control were.

First place: LG WM4000H

The LG WM4000H is a top-notch machine. It was among the finest washers we tried at getting rid of all kinds of stains, and it also treated materials with more care than most of the others. The WM4000H boasts one of the broadest selections of wash settings, including a stain-loosening prewash option, extremely high temperatures, and additional rinses. It can wash a load far faster than a conventional high-efficiency washer.

The WM4000H is a front-load washer with a large capacity, quiet operation, and exceptional water and energy efficiency. Even the door prop has a special design to help avoid the unpleasant mildew odor. In addition to being more user-friendly and feature-rich than those of our other recommendations, we found the Wi-Fi-connected features to be helpful, including the end-of-cycle notifications, maintenance alerts, remote start, and extra downloaded wash programs.

Although reliability is difficult to forecast, according to a number of sources, LG front-loaders have recently had some of the lowest repair rates among major washers. (They won’t, however, survive as long as the old Maytag your parents had.) In comparison to most of the other dryers we tested, the matching LG DLEX4000 dryer dried loads more quickly.

In the odd event that you need a warranty repair, it may be a problem because the LG washer and dryer’s control panels are difficult to operate in low light, and LG’s customer service is terrible.

The WM4000H and the complementary dryer (which is available in electric or gas) may be stacked; in fact, any 27-inch LG dryer, regardless of age, can be stacked on top of the WM4000H. The WM3600H from LG is a comparable washer that is less expensive but skips a few helpful functions.

Second place: GE GFW650

In our tests, the GE GFW650 cleaned identically to the LG WM4000H and was as kind to textiles. Additionally, compared to the other washers we evaluated, it takes extra steps to lessen possible mildew and mold issues: The washer offers a venting option that you may use after a cycle has been done to dry the drum with the door closed.

The gasket, detergent tray, and drain hose are manufactured with antibacterial Microban. The GFW650 is not our top selection since, according to our tests, it took the WM4000H roughly 20 minutes longer to wash a load on Normal. In addition, we discovered that LG full-size washers are more reliable than GE’s.

The GFW650 offers a variety of wash programs, as well as choices for presoaking and extra-hot water, like the WM4000H. Although LG’s ThinQ app is superior at providing performance reports and diagnostics, GE’s SmartHQ app offers many of the same features as LG’s ThinQ if you connect your washer and dryer to Wi-Fi and are successful in doing so.

These features include cycle-end notifications, downloadable wash programs, and remote start. The GE GFW650 includes a reversible door, an inside light, and a detergent auto-dispensing option. While drying a load on Normal, the GE GFD65 dryer took around 10 more minutes than the LG DLEX4000. Both gas and electric versions are available.

Upgrade Option

Nowadays, just a few manufacturers provide reliable washers, and some of those powerful models are practically laundromat washers—often noisy, harsh on fabrics, inefficient, and not the best at cleaning. The Miele WXD160 is the exact antithesis of everything said above, yet it was nevertheless designed to survive for 20 years.

In our tests, it removed stains exactly as well as the LG WM4000H; however, it should last twice as long and only costs a few hundred extras. The disadvantage is that it’s a little washer. Its capacity is almost half that of a regular 27-inch model. In some US regions, it might also be challenging to locate Miele models and experts.

Another oddity is that the Miele TXD160, the dryer that matches it, is a ventless heat-pump type. The TXD160 is far more energy efficient as a consequence, but it takes roughly twice as long to dry clothing as a typical vented dryer. You can connect it—and the washer—anywhere you have a typical 120-volt outlet.

Budget Option

We advise thinking about whatever top-loader with an agitator you can get on sale from Whirlpool or Maytag (they’re the identical basic machines, with slightly different features) that is somewhere in the area of $600 if you can’t or won’t spend much on a washer. The Maytag MVWC465HW passed our tests and proved to be a reliable cleaner.

It’s reasonably effective and gentle with its usual Normal cycle. Additionally, it includes a few options that allow it to behave more traditionally, as some people prefer top-loaders to front-loaders. These settings include a Deep Water Wash option for more water and a Powerwash setting for more vigorous agitation.

The LG DLEX4000 dried our test load on Normal in around 15 minutes less time than the same Maytag MEDC465HW dryer, which has a speed-dry setting. However, it does the job, and some individuals might like the simple controls and lack of frills.

Because this isn’t the Maytag of yesteryear and Whirlpool’s reputation has changed, we can’t say with certainty if the Maytag set is particularly dependable or long-lasting. (Although we weren’t using the washer as it was meant to be used, we actually broke one portion of the washer during testing.)

Additionally, you could find yourself paying more on utilities and new clothing than you would if you were using a front-loader, which is a kinder and more effective machine. However, if saving money on the purchase is your top goal, we believe a product like this Maytag offering is your best option.

Waste Management in Iraq

Iraq is one of the most populous Arab countries with population exceeding 32 million. Rapid economic growth, high population growth, increasing individual income and sectarian conflicts have led to worsening problem of solid waste management problem in Iraq. Iraq generates around 31,000 tons of solid waste every day with per capita waste generation exceeding 1.4 kg per day. Baghdad alone produces more than 1.5 million tons of solid wastes each year.


Rapid increase in waste generation is putting tremendous strain on Iraqi waste handling infrastructure which have heavily damaged after decades of conflict and mismanagement. In the absence of modern and efficient waste handling and waste disposal infrastructure most of the wastes are disposed in unregulated landfills across Iraq, with little or no concern for both human health and environment. Spontaneous fires, groundwater contamination, surface water pollution and large-scale greenhouse gas emissions have been the hallmarks of Iraqi landfills.

The National Solid Waste Management Plan (NSWMP) for Iraq was developed in 2007 by collaboration of international waste management specialist. The plan contains the recommendations for development and which explains the background for decisions.

The plan states that Iraq will build 33 engineered landfills with the capacity of 600 million m3 in all of the 18 governorates in Iraq by 2027. In addition to constructing landfills the plan also focuses on the collection and transportation, disposable, recycling and reuses systems. Environment education was also taken into consideration to ensure provision of educational system which supports the participation of both communities and individuals in waste management in Iraq.

Besides Iraqi national waste management plan, the Iraqi ministry of environment started in 2008 its own comprehensive development program which is part of the ministry of environment efforts to improve environmental situation in Iraq. Ministry of Municipalities and Public Work, in collaboration with international agencies like UN Habitat, USAID, UNICEF and EU, are developing and implementing solid waste management master plans in several Iraqi governorates including Kirkuk, Anbar, Basra, Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Thi Qar.

Recent Progress

Kirkuk was the first city in Iraq to benefit from solid waste management program when foreign forces initiated a solid waste management program for the city in 2005 to find an environmentally safe solution to the city’s garbage collection and disposal dilemma. As a result the first environmentally engineered and constructed landfill in Iraq was introduced in Kirkuk In February 2007. The 48-acre site is located 10 miles south of Kirkuk, with an expected lifespan of 10–12 years and meets both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and European Union Landfill Directive standards.

The Iraqi city of Basra also benefited from international aid with the completion of the first landfill that is compliant with international environmental standards has been completed. Basra solid waste management program developed by UNICEF will not only restore efficient waste collection systems in the city but will also create informal “recycling schools” that will help in spreading environmental awareness in in the city’s society by launching a campaign to educate the public about effective waste disposal practices.

In addition, Basra city program plans to establish a regional treatment and disposal facility and initiate street sweeping crews. Basrah city waste management program is part of the UNICEF program supported by the European Union to develop Iraq’s water and sanitation sector.

Erbil’s solid waste management master plan has also been developed by UNICEF with funding from the European Union. Recently a contract was signed by the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism and a Canadian company to recycle the city’s garbage which will involve the construction of two recycling plants in the eastern and western outskirts of Erbil.

UNICEF has also developed a master plan to improve the management of solid waste in Dohuk Governorate which has been finalized in June 2011. Solid waste management master plans for Anbar, Sulaimaniya and Thi Qar governorates are also a part of UNICEF and EU efforts to attaining Iraq’s Millennium Development Goal targets of ensuring environmental sustainability by 2015.

Even though all of the effort by the international organizations are at local level and still not enough to solve solid waste management problem in Iraq, however these initiatives have been able to provide a much needed information regarding the size of the issue and valuable lessened learned used later by the Iraqi government to develop the Iraqi national waste management plan with the support of organizations such as UN Habitat, UNDG Iraq Trust Fund and USAID. The Iraqi national waste management plan is expected to ease the solid waste management problem in Iraq in the near future.