Suhas Dixit
Pyrocrat Systems LLP

Tell us what municipal solid waste (MSW) management is all about.

In India municipal corporations are responsible for managing municipal solid waste generated in their territories as per the “Solid Waste Management & Handling Rules, 2000.” Even though these rules are very effective, the implementation of the solid waste management rules and regulations is very poor in India right now because of the loopholes present in the rules. In the proposed municipal solid waste management and handling rules 2015 lot of loopholes are getting covered. We can look forward to much better waste management as soon as “Municipal Solid Waste Management & Handling Rules, 2015” and implemented.

What are the adversities caused due to ineffective MSW management?

Municipal corporations, across India, simply do not have the desired space for dumping waste. Due to ineffective MSW management, we see that landfill sites have tremendous odour that travels in a radius of several kilometers. The continuous emission of methane gas from the landfill sites cause perennial fires. In fact, 5-10 per cent of global warming is caused by methane gas emitted from landfill sites. Also, wastewater from landfill sites contaminates the underground water in neighbouring areas.

When MSW is scientifically segregated, what benefits can accrue?

When waste is managed scientifically, huge benefits can accrue. MSW management can result in recycling of 80 per cent waste. This leads to huge value recovery and generation of jobs in waste management facilities. As only 20 per cent waste goes to the landfill site, it significantly reduces the extent of landfill area.

Urbanisation is growing rapidly in India with the expectation of 50 per cent of our population living in cities by 2030. Given this, how would you assess the criticality of municipal solid waste management?

On an average 0.5 kg of waste is generated per person per day. India generates approximately 230 billion kg of waste every day. Currently all cities across India are facing major waste management crisis. Lack of proper waste management is causing damage even to the tourism industry in rural areas. Across India, villages and residences around landfill sites are suffering from obnoxious odour from the landfill site. The waste management issue is not handled properly in next couple of years, the solid waste pollution in India make up go out of hands and create major social, economical and environmental crisis India future.

Even metropolitan cities in India have poor levels of scientific waste management. What is your view, and what could be the reasons?

The government is spending huge amount of money in metropolitan cities for waste management projects. But if you notice, most of these projects fail. Main reasons for failure of these technologies are:

These technologies are imported from developed countries that have completely different composition of waste. In developed countries waste segregation takes place at source but in India this is not so. This is why India needs completely different technologies for effective waste management.

Biogas-based technologies in India fail because of the chemicals present in the solid waste. Chemicals and detergents present in municipal solid waste kill the bacteria in biogas reactors (digesters) very frequently leading to failure of technology.

Municipal solid waste to electricity projects fail because municipal solid waste does not have high calorific value in India. Municipal solid waste to electricity projects are effective only in case the waste segregation takes place at source and the waste has very high calorific value that is essential for energy production.

The machinery and technology suppliers for the municipal solid waste management plants do not have engineering background. It is also the case that the machinery is sourced from 15-20 different suppliers and there is a no single point of responsibility for ensuring success of the project.

Do you feel deeper engagement of the private sector can help the situation?

Most of the waste management projects will be coming up as public private partnership. Also, as per the corporate social responsibility norms, companies with profit of more than Rs.5 crore have to invest a minimum of 2 per cent of their profit into CSR activities. Waste management projects have been formally recognised by government of India as a CSR activity.

You have set up a 300tpd MSW segregation plant at Navi Mumbai. Who owns and operates the plant? What is the business model?

City & Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO) has the responsibility of managing solid waste generated in the CIDCO-managed of Navi Mumbai, from Belapur to Panvel. This contract has been handed over to Girish Enterprises Pvt Ltd that has purchased the machinery and technology from our company, Pyrocrat Systems LLP. As per the contract document, CIDCO pays Rs.540 per tonne for conducting solid waste management operations and landfill site management as per Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

How do you see the road ahead for MSW segregation and the waste-to-electricity sector in India?

Currently, 95 per cent of solid waste management projects in India fail. This high rate of failure is because of lack of awareness and the absence of sincere thought required in creating sustainable design of waste management projects. The solid waste management industry is controlled by a handful of players. Unless there are policies to ensure sustainability of waste management projects, the government’s investment in solid waste management will not yield results. Indian cities do not need imported machinery and technology for solid waste management. Only when the composition of waste is studied properly and a suitable technology for managing typical Indian municipal solid waste is used, will waste management projects in India be sustainable.

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