Waste management has a profound impact on all sections of the society, and military is no exception. With increasing militarization, more wars and frequent armed conflicts, protection of the environment has assumed greater significance for military in armed conflicts as well as peacetime operations. Tremendous amount of waste is generated by military bases and deployed forces in the form of food waste, papers, plastics, metals, tires, batteries, chemicals, e-waste, packaging etc.
War on Waste
Sustainable management of waste is a good opportunity for armed forces to promote environmental stewardship, foster sustainable development and generate goodwill among the local population and beyond. Infact, top military bases in the Western world, like Fort Hood and Fort Meade, have an effective strategy to counter the huge amount of solid waste, hazardous waste and other wastes generated at these facilities.
Waste management at military bases demands an integrated framework based on the conventional waste management hierarchy of 4Rs – reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery (of energy). Waste reduction (or waste minimization) is the top-most solution to reduce waste generation at military bases which demands close cooperation among different departments, including procurement, technical services, housing, food service, personnel. Typical waste reduction strategies for armed forces includes
making training manuals and personnel information available electronically
reducing all forms of packaging waste
purchasing products, such as food items, in bulk
purchasing repairable, long-lasting and reusable items
Due to large fraction of recyclables in the waste stream, recycling is an attractive proposition for the armed forces. However, environmental awareness, waste collection infrastructure, and modern equipment are essential for the success of any waste management strategy in a military installation.
Food waste and yard waste (or green waste) can be subjected to anaerobic digestion or composting to increase landfill diversion rates and obtain energy-rich biogas (for cooking/heating) and nutrient-rich fertilizer (for landscaping and gardening). For deployed forces, small-scale waste-to-energy systems, based on thermal technologies, can be an effective solution for disposal of combustible wastes, and for harnessing energy potential of wastes. In case of electronic wastes, it can be sent to a Certified Electronics Recycling and Disposal firm.
Management options for military installations is dependent on size of the population, location, local regulations, budgetary constraints and many other factors. It is imperative on base commanders to evaluate all possible options and develop a cost-effective and efficient waste management plan. The key factors in the success of waste management plan in military bases are development of new technologies/practices, infrastructure building, participation of all departments, basic environmental education for personnel and development of a quality recycling program.
Military installations are unique due to more than one factor including strict discipline, high degree of motivation, good financial resources and skilled personnel. Usually military installations are one of the largest employers in and around the region where they are based and have a very good influence of the surrounding community, which is bound to have a positive impact on overall waste management strategies in the concerned region.
Solid waste management situation in Pakistan is a matter of grave concern as more than 5 million people to die each year due to waste-related diseases. In Pakistan roughly 20 million tons of solid waste is generated annually, with annual growth rate of about 2.4 percent. Karachi, largest city in the country, generates more than 9,000 tons of municipal waste daily. All major cities, be it Islamabad, Lahore or Peshawar, are facing enormous challenges in tackling the problem of urban waste. The root factors for the worsening garbage problem in Pakistan are lack of urban planning, outdated infrastructure, lack of public awareness and endemic corruption.
Being the 6th most populated country in the world; there is a lot of consumerism and with it a great deal of waste being produced. Like other developing countries, waste management sector in Pakistan is plagued by a wide variety of social, cultural, legislative and economic issues. In the country, more waste is being produced than the number of facilities available to manage it. Some of the major problems are:
There is no proper waste collection system
Waste is dumped on the streets
Different types of waste are not collected separately
There are no controlled sanitary landfill sites. Opening burning is common.
Citizens are not aware of the relationship between reckless waste disposal and resulting environmental and public health problems
As a result of these problems, waste is accumulating and building up on roadsides, canals, and other common areas and burning trash is common, causing hazardous toxins to be exposed thereby threatening human and environmental health. Among the already few landfill sites that are present, even fewer are in operation. Even within Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, there are no permanent landfills to be found.
The waste on the roads allows for an ideal environment for various flies to thrive which effects both human health and the health of the environment for other species. The poor solid waste management in Pakistan has caused numerous diseases and environmental problems to rise.
Waste Management Situation in Lahore
In Lahore, the capital of Punjab and the second largest city in Pakistan, there are currently no controlled waste disposal facilities are formal recycling systems, though roughly 27% of waste (by weight) is recycled through the informal sector, Lahore does not have very high performing governmental management in the waste management situation. Instead, the City District Government Lahore established the Lahore Waste Management Company and left the responsibility of the Solid Waste Management in Lahore to them. Beginning in 2011, Lahore Waste Management Company strives to develop a system of SWM that ensures productive collection, recovery, transportation, treatment and disposal of the waste in Lahore.
Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) has over 10,000 field workers involved in waste collection and disposal. Though the LWMC is working in phases, 100% collection rates are not seen yet. Lahore currently only has three disposal sites which are no more than dumps, where illegal dumping and trash burning is common. However, there is some resource recovery taking place. It is estimated that 27% of dry recyclables are informally recycled within the city. Additionally a composting plant converts 8% of waste into compost.
In general, the governance over the Waste Management in Lahore is hardly present. Though there are current projects and plans taking place, by the Lahore Waste Management Company for example, in order to achieve a productive and sustainable system in the city it is necessary for all service providers (formal, private, and informal) to take part in decisions and actions.
Current Activities and Projects
According to the United Nations Environment Program, there are six current activities and plans taking place towards an efficient waste management system. These current activities are as follows:
Solid Waste Management Guidelines (draft) prepared with the support of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan.
Converting waste agricultural biomass into energy/ material source – project by UNEP, IETC Japan.
North Sindh Urban Services Corporation Limited (NSUSC) – Assisting the district government in design and treatment of water supply, sanitation and solid waste management
The URBAN UNIT, Urban Sector Policy & Management Unit P & D Department, Punjab. Conducting different seminars on awareness of waste water, sanitation & solid waste management etc.
Lahore Compost (Pvt.) Ltd. only dealing with the organic waste with the cooperation of city district government Lahore, Pakistan. The company is registered as a CDM project with UNFCCC.
Different NGOs are involved at small scale for solid waste collection, and recycling.
Additionally, in November 2013 a German company, agreed to invest in the installation of a 100 megawatt power plant which generates energy from waste from Lahore. Progress is being made on the country’s first scientific waste disposal site in Lakhodair. With this in mind, the Lahore Waste Management Company considered other possible technologies for their Waste-to-Energy project. They opened up applications for international companies to hire as the official consultant for LWMC and their project. The results of the feasibility study results showed that the power plant has the potential to process 1035 tons of municipal waste daily, and generate 5.50 megawatt electricity daily.
The Way Forward
Although SWM policies do exist, the levels at which they are implemented and enforced lack as a result of the governmental institutions lacking resources and equipment. These institutions are primarily led by public sector workers and politicians who are not necessarily the most informed on waste management. For improvements in municipal solid waste management, it is necessary for experts to become involved and assist in the environmental governance.
Due to the multiple factors contributing to the solid waste accumulation, the problem has become so large it is beyond the capacity of municipalities. The former director of the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Dr. Mirza Arshad Ali Beg, stated, “The highly mismanaged municipal solid waste disposal system in Pakistan cannot be attributed to the absence of an appropriate technology for disposal but to the fact that the system has a lot of responsibility but no authority.” Laws and enforcement need to be revised and implemented. The responsibility for future change is in the hands of both the government, and the citizens.
Waste practices in the Pakistan need to be improved. This can start with awareness to the public of the health and environment impacts that dumped and exposed waste causes. It is imperative for the greater public to become environmentally educated, have a change in attitude and take action.
Waste-to-energy has been evolving over the years and there are many new developments in this technology, moving in mainly one direction – to be able to applied to smaller size waste streams. Not only is it a strategy that has real importance for the current public policy, it is a strategy that will definitely present itself to additional areas.
More than 50% of waste that is burnt in waste-to-energy facilities is already part of the short carbon cycle. In which case, it has an organic derivative and it doesn’t add to climate change, to begin with. The long form carbon that is burned, things like plastics that have come out of the ground in the form of oil do add to climate change. But, they have already been used once. They have already been extracted once and what we are doing is taking the energy out of them after that physical use, capturing some of that (energy), thereby offsetting more carbon from natural gas or oil or coal. So, the net effect is a reduction in carbon emissions.
Waste-to-energy and recycling are complementary depending on the results of analyses of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, which are absolutely valid. One can decide in specific situations whether WTE or whether some type of recycling technology would be more appropriate. It is not an either/or option.
Waste-to-Energy is now widely accepted as a part of sustainable waste management strategy.
In Austria, it was possible to have an absolute ban on landfilling wastes exceeding 5% organic carbon. This is written in law since 1996. There were some exceptions for some period of time, but landfills of organic wastes are just banned, not just in Austria but also in other cultures similar to Austria – like Switzerland, Sweden and Germany.
Note: This excerpt is being published with the permission of our collaborative partner Be Waste Wise. The original excerpt and its video recording can be found at this link
Bahrain has the distinction of being one of the highest per capita municipal solid waste generators worldwide estimated to be more than 1.80 kg per person per day. Infact, Bahrain produces largest amount of waste per person among GCC countries despite being the smallest nation in the region. Rising population, high waste generation growth rate, limited land availability and scarcity of waste disposal sites has made solid waste management a highly challenging task for Bahrain’s policy-makers, urban planners and municipalities.
Municipal Solid Wastes in Bahrain
Bahrain generates more than 1.2 million tons of solid wastes every year. Daily garbage production across the tiny Gulf nation exceeds 4,500 tons. Municipal solid waste is characterized by high percentage of organic material (around 60 percent) which is mainly composed of food wastes.
Presence of high percent of recyclables in the form of paper (13 percent), plastics (7 percent) and glass (4 percent) makes Bahrain’s MSW a good recycling feedstock, though informal sectors are currently responsible for collection of collection of recyclables and recycling activities
The Kingdom of Bahrain is divided into five governorates namely Manama, Muharraq, Middle, Southern and Northern. Waste collection and disposal operation in Bahrain is managed by a couple of private contractors. The prevalent solid waste management scenario is to collect solid waste and dump it at the municipal landfill site at Askar.
Askar, the only existing landfill/dumpsite in Bahrain, caters to municipal wastes, agricultural wastes and non-hazardous industrial wastes. Spread over an area of more than 700 acres, the landfill is expected to reach its capacity within the next few years. The proximity of Askar landfill to urban habitats has been a cause of major environmental concern. Waste accumulation is increasing at a rapid pace which is bound to have serious impacts on air, soil and groundwater quality in the surrounding areas.
The Kingdom of Bahrain is grappling with waste management problems arising out of high population growth rate, rapid industrialization, high per capita waste generation, unorganized SWM sector, limited land resources and poor public awareness.
The government is trying hard to improve waste management scenario by launching recycling initiatives, waste-to-energy project and public awareness campaign. However more efforts, in the form of effective legislation, large-scale investments, modern SWM technology deployment and environmental awareness, are required from all stake holders to implement a sustainable waste management system in Bahrain.
The world is running out of fossil fuels, and we need to find new ways to generate energy. Converting waste into energy is a clean and efficient way to generate power. It doesn’t produce the same level of pollution as traditional fuel sources, and it helps reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
We need to find ways to convert waste into energy today in order to address the issue of climate change. By converting our waste into energy, we can reduce our reliance on polluting fuels and help preserve our environment for future generations.
What is waste to energy?
Waste to energy is a process of turning waste into electricity. This is a clean and efficient way to generate power, and it doesn’t produce the same level of pollution as traditional fuel sources. Converting our waste into energy can help reduce our reliance on polluting fuels and preserve our environment for future generations.
Can all types of waste be used?
The different types of waste that can be used in waste to energy are municipal solid waste, agricultural waste, and industrial waste. Municipal solid waste is the most common type of waste that is used in this process. It includes everyday items like paper, plastic, and metal. Agricultural waste includes things like manure, straw, and wood chips. Industrial waste includes things like slag, ash, and boiler dust. Municipal solid waste is the most common type of waste that is used in waste to energy.
Is Waste to Energy the same as Biomass?
The similarities between waste to energy and biomass are that they are both renewable resources, and they can both be used to create energy. The main difference between them is that waste to energy uses organic material that would otherwise be thrown away (like food waste), while biomass uses plants specifically grown for the purpose of creating fuel.
Waste to Energy – Frequently Asked Questions
Is waste to energy effective?
Yes, waste to energy is an effective way to generate power. It doesn’t produce the same level of pollution as traditional fuel sources, and it helps reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Converting our waste into energy can help preserve our environment for future generations.
There are many reasons to believe that waste to energy is a more efficient renewable energy source than other types of renewables. First, waste to energy facilities can be located near population centers, which reduces the amount of energy lost in transmission. Second, waste to energy plants tend to have higher capacity factors than other types of renewable energy sources, meaning that they produce more electricity per unit of capacity.
Finally, waste to energy plants can use a variety of feedstocks, including municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris, and sewage sludge. This flexibility gives waste-to-energy plants a significant advantage over other renewable energy sources that are limited to a single feedstock.
Is waste to energy sustainable?
The short answer is yes – waste to energy (WtE) is a sustainable solution for managing municipal solid waste (MSW). But it’s important to consider the whole picture when making decisions about sustainability. That means taking into account factors like greenhouse gas emissions, financial costs, and other renewable energy options like solar and wind.
When it comes to conserving energy, there are many things that people can do to help out, both big and small. Saving energy at home can help reduce the amount of waste going to energy plants, and it can also save homeowners money on their monthly energy bills.
WtE plants use MSW to generate electricity, and they can actually help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because when MSW is incinerated, it doesn’t release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s produced when MSW breaks down in landfills. In fact, WtE plants are so efficient at reducing methane emissions that they’re actually considered carbon-neutral.
WtE plants are also cost-effective, and the technology is constantly improving. In the past, WtE plants were criticized for being too expensive to build and operate. But new plants are much more efficient, and the costs have come down significantly.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of waste to energy?
The advantages of waste to energy are that it is a sustainable solution for managing MSW, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and it is cost-effective. The disadvantages of waste to energy are that it requires high initial investment, and it produces some air pollution. Overall, waste to energy is a good option for communities looking for a sustainable and cost-effective solution for managing MSW.
What are the alternatives to waste to energy?
The main alternative to waste to energy is landfill gas-to-energy, which captures methane gas produced by decomposing MSW in landfills and uses it to generate electricity. Landfill gas-to-energy is less expensive than waste to energy, but it has a higher greenhouse gas emissions footprint.
Other renewable energy options include solar and wind power. Solar and wind power are both carbon-neutral, but they are more expensive than waste to energy. Waste to energy is a good option for communities looking for a sustainable and cost-effective solution for managing MSW. It has some disadvantages, but overall it is a good option for communities looking to reduce their environmental impact.
Why are we converting Waste to Energy?
We need to convert waste to energy today because the world is running out of fossil fuels. The use of coal, oil, and natural gas has created an unprecedented level of pollution, which is damaging our environment and contributing to climate change. In order to reduce our dependence on these polluting fuels and address the issue of climate change, we need to find ways to convert waste into energy.
Sweden is one of the best proponents of waste-to-energy in the world
In recent years, waste to energy (WtE) has become increasingly popular as a means of generating electricity. However, not everyone is convinced that WtE is the best option for the environment. Some critics argue that WtE actually damages the environment and is not worth the investment.
One of the major criticisms of WtE is that it emits pollutants into the air. When waste is burned, it releases harmful chemicals and particulates into the atmosphere. These pollutants can have a negative impact on human health, as well as the environment. In addition, WtE plants are often located in close proximity to populated areas, which means that the pollution they emit can affect a large number of people.
Food waste and waste to energy are two important topics that we should be thinking about more. With the right infrastructure in place, food waste can be used to create energy, which can help to power our homes and businesses. In addition, by reducing food waste, we can also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Another criticism of WtE is that it is actually less efficient than other means of generating electricity. WtE plants typically have lower efficiency rates than coal-fired power plants, for example. This means that more waste needs to be burned in order to generate the same amount of electricity. This can lead to more pollution and more damage to the environment.
Critics also argue that WtE plants are expensive to build and operate. The initial investment can be significant, and the operating costs can be high. This means that WtE may not be the most cost-effective option for generating electricity.
Despite these criticisms, some experts believe that WtE can be a valuable tool for generating electricity. WtE plants can help to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfill, and they can provide a source of renewable energy. In addition, WtE plants can create jobs and boost the economy.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use WtE should be based on a careful consideration of all the pros and cons. WtE may not be right for everyone, but it could be the best option for some.
Waste management crisis in India should be approached holistically; while planning for long term solutions, focus on addressing the immediate problems should be maintained. National and local governments should work with their partners to promote source separation, achieve higher percentages of recycling and produce high quality compost from organics. While this is being achieved and recycling is increased, provisions should be made to handle the non-recyclable wastes that are being generated and will continue to be generated in the future.
Recycling, composting and waste-to-energy are all integral parts of the waste disposal solution and they are complementary to each other; none of them can solve India’s waste crisis alone. Any technology should be considered as a means to address public priorities, but not as an end goal in itself. Finally, discussion on waste management should consider what technology can be used, to whatextent in solving the bigger problem and within what timeframe.
Experts believe India will have more than nine waste-to-energy projects in different cities across India in the next three years, which will help alleviate the situation to a great extent. However, since waste-to-energy projects are designed to replace landfills, they also tend to displace informal settlements on the landfills. Here, governments should welcome discussions with local communities and harbor the informal recycling community by integrating it into the overall waste management system to make sure they do not lose their rights for the rest of the city’s residents.
This is important from a utilitarian perspective too, because in case of emergency situations like those in Bengaluru, Kerala, and elsewhere, the informal recycling community might be the only existing tool to mitigate damage due to improper waste management as opposed to infrastructure projects which take more than one year for completion and public awareness programs which take decades to show significant results.
Involvement of informal recycling community is vital for the success of any SWM program in India
Indian policy makers and municipal officials should utilize this opportunity, created by improper waste management examples across India, to make adjustments to the existing MSW Rules 2000, and design a concrete national policy based on public needs and backed by science. If this chance passes without a strong national framework to improve waste management, the conditions in today’s New Delhi, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Coimbatore and Srinagar will arise in many more cities as various forcing factors converge. This is what will lead to a solid waste management crisis affecting large populations of urban Indians.
The Indian Judiciary proved to be the most effective platform for the public to influence government action. The majority of local and national government activity towards improving municipal solid waste management is the result of direct public action, funneled through High Courts in each state, and the Supreme Court. In a recent case (Nov 2012), a slew of PILs led the High Court of Karnataka to threaten to supersede its state capital Bengaluru’s elected municipal council, and its dissolution, if it hinders efforts to improve waste management in the city.
In another case in the state of Haryana, two senior officials in its urban development board faced prosecution in its High Court for dumping waste illegally near suburbs. India’s strong and independent judiciary is expected to play an increasing role in waste management in the future, but it cannot bring about the required change without the aid of a comprehensive national policy.
Animal manure is a valuable source of nutrients and renewable energy. However, most of the manure is collected in lagoons or left to decompose in the open which pose a significant environmental hazard. The air pollutants emitted from manure include methane, nitrous oxide, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter, which can cause serious environmental concerns and health problems.
In the past, livestock waste was recovered and sold as a fertilizer or simply spread onto agricultural land. The introduction of tighter environmental controls on odour and water pollution means that some form of waste management is necessary, which provides further incentives for biomass-to-energy conversion.
Anaerobic digestion is a unique treatment solution for animal manure management as it can deliver positive benefits, including renewable energy, water pollution, and air emissions. Anaerobic digestion of animal manure is gaining popularity as a means to protect the environment and to recycle materials efficiently into the farming systems.
Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plants, based on anaerobic digestion of cow manure, are highly efficient in harnessing the untapped renewable energy potential of organic waste by converting the biodegradable fraction of the waste into high calorific value gases.
The establishment of anaerobic digestion systems for livestock manure stabilization and energy production has accelerated substantially in the past several years. There are thousands of digesters operating at commercial livestock facilities in Europe, United States, Asia and elsewhere. which are generating clean energy and fuel. Many of the projects that generate electricity also capture waste heat for various in-house requirements.
The main factors that influence biogas production from livestock manure are pH and temperature of the feedstock. It is well established that a biogas plant works optimally at neutral pH level and mesophilic temperature of around 35o C. Carbon-nitrogen ratio of the feed material is also an important factor and should be in the range of 20:1 to 30:1. Animal manure has a carbon – nitrogen ratio of 25:1 and is considered ideal for maximum gas production.
Solid concentration in the feed material is also crucial to ensure sufficient gas production, as well as easy mixing and handling. Hydraulic retention time (HRT) is the most important factor in determining the volume of the digester which in turn determines the cost of the plant; the larger the retention period, higher the construction cost.
Description of Biogas Plant Working on Animal Manure
The fresh animal manure is stored in a collection tank before its processing to the homogenization tank which is equipped with a mixer to facilitate homogenization of the waste stream. The uniformly mixed waste is passed through a macerator to obtain uniform particle size of 5-10 mm and pumped into suitable-capacity anaerobic digesters where stabilization of organic waste takes place.
In anaerobic digestion, organic material is converted to biogas by a series of bacteria groups into methane and carbon dioxide. The majority of commercially operating digesters are plug flow and complete-mix reactors operating at mesophilic temperatures. The type of digester used varies with the consistency and solids content of the feedstock, with capital investment factors and with the primary purpose of digestion.
Biogas contain significant amount of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas which needs to be stripped off due to its highly corrosive nature. The removal of H2S takes place in a biological desulphurization unit in which a limited quantity of air is added to biogas in the presence of specialized aerobic bacteria which oxidizes H2S into elemental sulfur.
Biogas can be used as domestic cooking, industrial heating, combined heat and power (CHP) generation as well as a vehicle fuel. The digested substrate is passed through screw presses for dewatering and then subjected to solar drying and conditioning to give high-quality organic fertilizer.
Saudi Arabia has been witnessing rapid industrialization, high population growth rate and fast urbanization which have resulted in increased levels of pollution and waste. Solid waste management is becoming a big challenge for the government and local bodies with each passing day. With population of around 35 million, Saudi Arabia generates more than 15 million tons of solid waste per year. The per capita waste generation is estimated at 1.5 to 1.8 kg per person per day.
Solid waste generation in the three largest cities – Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam – exceeds 6 million tons per annum which gives an indication of the magnitude of the problem faced by civic bodies. More than 75 percent of the population is concentrated in urban areas which make it necessary for the government to initiate measures to improve recycling and waste management scenario in the country.
In Saudi Arabia, municipal solid waste is collected from individual or community bins and disposed of in landfills or dumpsites. Saudi waste management system is characterized by lack of waste disposal and tipping fees. Recycling, reuse and energy recovery is still at an early stage, although they are getting increased attention. Waste sorting and recycling are driven by an active informal sector. Recycling rate ranges from 10-15%, mainly due to the presence of the informal sector which extracts paper, metals and plastics from municipal waste.
Recycling activities are mostly manual and labor intensive. Composting is also gaining increased interest in Saudi Arabia due to the high organic content of MSW (around 40%). Efforts are also underway to deploy waste-to-energy technologies in the Kingdom. All activities related to waste management are coordinated and financed by the government.
The Saudi government is aware of the critical demand for waste management solutions, and is investing heavily in solving this problem. The 2017 national budget allocated SR 54 billion for the municipal services sector, which includes water drainage and waste disposal. The Saudi government is making concerted efforts to improve recycling and waste disposal activities. Saudi visa for qualified waste management professionals will also go a long way in improving waste management situation in the country.
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
poor quality of municipal waste,
high capital and O&M costs of waste-to-energy systems,
lack of indigenous technology,
lack of successful projects and failure of several ambitious projects,
lack of coordination between municipalities, state and central governments,
heavy reliance on government subsidies,
difficulties in obtaining long-term Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with state electricity boards (SEBs)
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?
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
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.
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