When you think of waste, think of wealth. Yes, waste can be productively used to generate wealth in form of energy while addressing the issues of environment.
Various components of waste have an economic value and can be recovered, reused or recycled cost effectively. Currently, the informal sector picks up part of the resources from the streets and bins to earn their living. However, a sizeable portion of organic waste as well as recyclable material goes to landfills untreated.
As a strategy, it would be prudent to make efforts to motivate the waste generators to reduce generation in the first place and reuse the waste to the extent possible, guide and enable industry and commerce to enhance recovery of materials and intermediates during manufacturing, promote segregation of recyclables at source and re-use the material in remanufacturing of products and intermediates, transitioning towards achieving the goal of optimum utilisation of recyclable material.
According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), there exists a power potential of about 1,700 MW from urban waste (1,500 from solid waste and 225 MW from sewage) and about 1,300 MW from industrial waste. The ministry is also actively promoting the generation of energy from waste, by providing subsidies and incentives for the projects.
Biodegradable waste has a good potential for generating biogas, which can serve as fuel, can also be converted to energy as well as to compost which can improve soil health and lead to increased agriculture production. This wet waste must therefore be processed either through biomethanation or composting technology for generating biogas, electricity or compost for use as nutrient and prevent such wastes reaching the landfill.
Considering that reusable and recyclable wastes form 20-25 per cent of the actual waste generated (which does not include the wastes collected by the kabadiwalas from source of generation). Plastics, paper and glass constitute 17 per cent of the recyclable wastes. Plastic wastes including composites are high calorific value material and crucial ingredient for waste to energy plants. This material also needs to be fully recovered and profitably utilised.
The next step should be to strengthen segregation of the non-recyclable dry combustible waste at secondary storage depots/transfer stations and optimally utilise this material which can be fed to waste to energy power plants and as auxiliary fuel in cement and metallurgical industry. Setting up of small to large plastic waste to liquid fuel plants, thereby utilising the plastic not picked up by kabadiwalas and rag pickers, also needs to be encouraged.
MNRE has designed schemes to promote waste to energy projects.
The MNRE Scheme dated 12th September, 2013 promotes all technology options for setting up projects for recovery of energy from urban, industrial and agricultural wastes. Under the scheme the amount of capital subsidy is calculated on the basis of power generation from solid waste. A minimum amount of Rs 2 crore and a maximum of Rs 10 crore per project are available as capital subsidy. The entire capital subsidy amount is released to the beneficiary’s loan account.
Some State Governments — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Rajasthan—have announced policy measures pertaining to allotment of land; supply of garbage; and facilities for evacuation, sale, and purchase of power to encourage the setting up of waste-to-energy projects. Land for the facilities is provided by the urban local bodies at a nominal rent. The tariff for power purchase generally agreed upon according to the general guidelines issued by the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources is left to regulatory authority. However, in the wake of de-regulation of the power sector and in the absence of clear policy directions, delays often occur in finalisation of actual contract terms with the entrepreneur, especially with regard to the power tariff.
Rapid growth of industries and commerce in India necessitates uninterrupted power supply. Therefore, all options need to be explored to generate power from conventional and non-conventional sources.