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Waste management involves management of activities associated with generation, storage, collection, transport, processing and disposal of waste which is environmentally compatible, adopting principles of economy, aesthetics and conservation. It encompasses planning, organization, administration, financial, legal and engineering aspects involving inter-disciplinary relationships. The waste management hierarchy presents an order of action to reduce and manage waste.
Figure: Waste Management Hierarchy
Source: UNEP (2011), Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Alleviation.
It is estimated that the amount of waste generated in India will increase at a per capita rate of approximately 1-1.33% annually. Every year, about 55 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) and 38 billion liters of sewage are generated in the urban areas of India. In addition, large quantities of solid and liquid wastes are generated by industries. Waste generation in India is expected to increase rapidly in the future.
Most wastes that are generated, find their way into land and water bodies without proper treatment, causing severe water pollution. They also emit greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide, and add to air pollution. Any organic waste from urban and rural areas and industries is a resource due to its ability to get degraded, resulting in energy generation.
The problems caused by solid and liquid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environment-friendly waste-to-energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before their disposal. These measures would reduce the quantity of wastes, generate a substantial quantity of energy from them, and greatly reduce environmental pollution. India’s growing energy deficit is making the government central and state governments become keen on alternative and renewable energy sources. Waste to energy is one of these, and it is garnering increasing attention from both the central and state governments.
While the Indian Government’s own figures would suggest that the cost of waste to energy is somewhat higher than other renewable sources, it is still an attractive option, as it serves a dual role of waste disposal and energy production.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in their Annual Report (2013-14) have estimated that there exists a potential for generation of about 4000 MW of power from urban and industrial wastes of the country; about 1700 MW from urban waste (1500 from MSW and 225 MW from sewage) and about 1300 MW from industrial waste. The Ministry is promoting all the technology options available for setting up projects for recovery of energy from wastes. While incineration and biomethanation are the most common technologies, pyrolysis and gasification are also emerging as feasible options. Thus energy can be recovered in the form of biogas, heat and or power. The major benefits of recovery of energy from wastes are to bring about reduction in the quantity of waste by 60% to 90% for safe disposal; reduction in demand for land as well as cost for transportation of wastes to faraway landfill sites; and reduction in environmental pollution, besides generation of useful decentralized energy. The Ministry is implementing a ‘Programme on Energy from Urban, Industrial and Agricultural Wastes /Residues’ including Biomass Co-generation (non-bagasse) in industries for exploiting the vast potential of biogas power in the form of thermal energy and power for captive use in industry.
Power Generation/ Production of Bio-CNG:
MNRE has taken new initiative for development of biogas upgradation /enrichment system for converting biogas into natural gas (BIO-CNG) quality fuel for commercial use. MNRE has also announced financial incentive of Rs 2.0 Crores/MW for projects based on biomethanation technology power generation from the mix of cattle dung, vegetable market ,slaughterhouse wastes along with agricultural wastes/residues and from sewage treatment plant. Enriched/ purified biogas can also be utilized in the vehicles as a fuel. In this regard several R&D projects have already initiated.
In the waste sector, a genuine and proven solution to the problem of GHG emissions is the Zero-Waste approach, comprising waste avoidance, reuse, recycling and composting. Achieving Zero Waste is a process that may take years. But a simple program consisting of its downstream components - source separation, reuse, recycling and composting -- can be set up quickly and produce immediate benefits to the climate, the environment, and human health. Under Zero Waste, each element of a source-separated waste stream is subjected to minimal treatment so that it can be reused. Clean, source-separated organics (including kitchen discards) are composted or subjected to anaerobic digestion; usable goods are repaired and re-used; other materials are recycled. The small percentage that cannot be usefully recycled or composted is addressed by going upstream, requiring the redesign of manufactured goods to eliminate this small residual. Zero Waste offers many distinct advantages over other waste management strategies, including:
- It radically reduces GHG emissions.
- For a given investment, Zero Waste results in greater emissions reductions than any other
strategy. It is also inexpensive, so it will not require significant new funds.
- Zero Waste produces more green jobs and enterprises for less investment than any other waste management strategy.
- It conserves and recovers resources.