At the forefront of waste management technology, Suhas Dixit, CMD, Pyrocrat Systems LLP, provides some insights.
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 countries where people segregate their wet waste from dry waste, 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 waste since it is not segregated at the 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 ù 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 is 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 went to landfills 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 are the technologies 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 is operational. Nobody does segregation and nobody does composting. Waste management up till now, was a huge model of corruption. However, with the new government in place and the Smart Cities mission, a lot of these tenders are coming up time and again. The focus is now on implementation.
- Rouhan Sharma