The connection between solid waste and polluted groundwater is ominous. Suhas Dixit, CMD, Pyrocrat Systems LLP, analyses some trends in solid waste management.
What is the scope of your work in India?
We are a company that manages 300,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. Unlike in developed where people segregate their wet waste from dry waste and put it into separate bins, in India, we put it all together. If you separate this waste, it can be recycled. Therefore, in India, the first step required is segregation and we are a specialist at segregating the waste since it is not segregated at source. We then convert this into energy. We convert waste plastic and waste tyres into diesel. So, we are present in a big way in two sectors of waste management, recycling and energy recovery. We see huge gaps in these areas as this energy recovery segment doesn´t exist in India right now. What people do is in case they cannot recycle the waste, they put it in landfills. However, for a waste management project to be sustainable, it is not enough to think of the social aspects. Since not enough importance is given to economic viability, most waste management projects end up as failures. When you want to come up with a sustainable project for waste management you have to think about three things, social appeal, environment compliance and economic viability. This is where organisations like us have specialisation.
How big is the problem?
In developed countries, they recycle 80 per cent of the waste and not a great deal of wasteland gets generated. If you consider developing economies like India, Africa and China, huge quantities of wastelands are created like ulcer patches on earth. These patches release methane gas which is 10 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It´s also the cause of the foul odour you associate with dumping yards. Around 5-10 per cent of global warming is happening because of methane coming out from dumping yards. Specific to India, across the country, the number of oil barrels that will go to landfills in the next year is 57 million barrels of oil, compost equal to 9 million tonne and recycles of 6 million tonne. This data is for 2012. In case you consider waste generation per year, in India around, 1.3 per cent of land is getting converted into wasteland every year. Around four-five years ago, we didn´t have the problem of finding space for landfills. Now, there is a shortage. Now, what people are doing is they have started stacking up the waste above each other. The height of landfill has now gone up to a height equivalent to the fourth and fifth floors of buildings.
What technologies do you use to deal with this?
The key technologies for managing waste include composting where you covert a major part of the waste into compost. This compost can further be converted into fertilisers or can be used as compost, as it is. The second technology is refuse-derived fuel (RDF). We have this technology operational in Chandigarh.
In Navi Mumbai, we use composting technology and in Chandigarh we use RDF. The third technology available is bio-methanation but this technology is risky.
How many companies are there in the country that do what you do?
We are Asian leaders and in the world we are the third or fourth. Nobody is near us. For instance, in the first technology, we are the only people who have established a plant as an engineering company, and which are operational. Across India, what happens is that the government pays around Rs 500-600 per metric tonne for managing the waste but people pocket the money and send all the waste to landfill. Nobody does segregation and nobody does composting. Waste management up till now, was a huge model of corruption. Moreover, nobody pays attention to it is because it is not visible and nobody wants to pay attention to waste. However, with the new government in place, a lot of these tenders are coming up again and again. The focus is now on implementation. This is good news for a serious player like us who have the technologies to handle this problem on a large scale.
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After the fire at the Deonar dump yard in Mumbai, we came to know that waste management is a necessary aspect of our lives and what can happen if we neglect it. In India, proper waste management is hardly taken into consideration. It's great to see such an efficient technology being implemented in India. Plastic has created enormous hazards to our environment. Suhas Dixit is doing a great job with his patented technology. Pyrocrat Systems is helping out a lot to the society by doing a sustainable business with a great financial value.