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US cities innovate to tackle waste profitably: Diplomat

IANS  |  Mumbai 

Racing to the goal of becoming 'Zero Waste Cities' by 2040, several major US cities have adopted innovative techniques to combat waste generated there with multiple community benefits, US Consul-General Thomas Vajda said here on Monday.

Speaking at the United States-India Conference on Waste Management Innovation, organised jointly by Ohio State University and Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, he said that US currently generates about 260 million tonnes solid waste while India is producing around 960 million tonnes per year.

Considering the waste output of the world's 90-plus countries, its clear that waste management is a global challenge in which the cities and local governments are at the frontlines, since increasing urbanization needs creative and sustainable solutions.

Towards this end, major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and others have become innovators at reducing waste coupled with multiple benefits for their communities, he said.

In California, the Smart Riverside Program collects electronic waste and reuses it for hands-on education, where low-income students learn how to refurbish the discarded computers.

The members of the program receive eight hours of instructions and take home a refurbished computer complete with software. Till date, this program has provided 5,000 computers to poor families and prevented thousands of kilograms of electronic waste out of California landfills.

In 2014, New Orleans bought 250 solar trash compactor and installed them in high-traffic public locations. It saved time and space as compacted trash required fewer trips to the dump and less space for disposal, besides reducing the city's rodent problems.

San Francisco has started recycling entire obsolete buildings to collect sand and limestone which is mined to make concrete, preventing huge amounts of building waste being dumped and reducing need to mine for new construction materials.

Some years ago, New York City carried out one of the largest composting experiments, Vajda said.

Its North River Waste Water Treatment plant treated between 130-350 million gallons of wastewater daily, which was being dumped untreated into the Hudson River.

After 1986, the raw sewage was dried but the sludge continued to be disposed into the ocean some 100 miles away.

Presently, the city reuses these bio-solids to make hundreds of tons of fertilizers which is used in its farms daily.

"As a result, municipal waste was eliminated, farming soil was rebuilt and crop yields increased by one-third," Vajda said.

He said said that technology plays a crucial role in responsible waste management solutions and in US there are more than 70 waste-to-energy plants in 20 states which generate 2.3 GW electricity.

Sustainable waste management efforts provide more than 400,000 jobs in the economy, and with further innovations fuelled by technology, more jobs will come, Vajda said.

Present on the occasion was Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Mukherjee, Director of Smart Cities Council of India Pratap Patode, US Embassy's US Trade and Development Agency's Mehnaz Ansari, Ohio State University's Joseph Fiksel and IIT-B's Sanjeev Chaudhari among others.

On a local level, Vajda said he and his family have joined the Green Ganesh movement since the past couple of years to make eco-friendly idols during Ganeshotsav.

The US Consulate in Mumbai recycles glass, plastic, metal and paper, it has set up a waste-water recycling plant at its premises and will shortly install compost bins for treating food waste.

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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