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Dec 26, 2010

Research Visit to India

Brochure for my Research visit to India is ready and is available here. Share the electronic version.
Avoid printing if possible

Below is a news article on the press meet we organized to raise awareness on MSWM in Hyderabad

Dec 19, 2010

Recycling - Waste Picking

Waste-pickers can be seen at work in the landfills of almost all cities in India. They earn around Rs. 100 – 200 per day ($ 2 – 4) in cities like Mumbai and Delhi; their earnings are much lesser in other parts of the country. Waste-pickers work on tons of heaps of solid waste dumped by trucks every day before the heaps are aligned. The depth of these heaps before aligning (not compaction) can be assumed to be a little less than the average landfill depth of 6 - 10 m [9] [10], to be around 4 – 5 m. They work by foraging the top layers of these heaps of solid waste for paper, plastics, glass and metal. In most parts of the country, the waste which lies deeper in the bed is left untouched as waste-pickers leave after earning enough for the day, thus leaving huge amounts of recyclable waste to be landfilled. Sight of large amounts of paper and plastics in the decomposed material being mined in landfills is common (no experiments were done to analyze this claim). Informal rag-picking thus does not serve the entire cause of sustainable waste management. Open burning practiced by waste pickers to recover recyclable materials like metals leads to burning of rags, textiles, wood, decomposable matter, leather and rubber. 
 The Dharavi Project in the slums of Mumbai identified waste-pickers, educated them and employed them to achieve a high percentage of recycling of about 80% of dry waste

Dec 16, 2010

Waste to Energy in India

Waste to Energy Incineration is a proven mixed waste handling technology world over but with lesser success in countries like the US when compared to Europe and Japan due to different reasons, the most prevalent one being cheaper landfilling in the US due to larger land availability. But in the case of New York, New York pays just $60 per ton as a tipping fee for each of several million tons of trash it generates that are thermally treated at a WTE plant in Newark, NJ, while paying over $100 per ton to haul waste to remote landfills in South Carolina, Ohio, and elsewhere 14. The probability of WTE becoming economically cheaper than landfilling in India is less because of loosely implemented regulations. However, with an increasing middle class and increase in public health awareness, Waste to Energy will become an important part of Integrated Solid Waste Management in India as there always exists a fraction which can neither be composted nor recycled.
            The greatest drawback for WTE in India is its bad track record. 

A conveyor belt for feeding the RDF to boiler

Dec 3, 2010

In case of India

Developed nations in Europe and elsewhere are way ahead in developing sustainable solutions to manage their wastes. These countries are using available resources in the best possible manner to handle wastes. Another developed country, US is following up. It is now time for India and other nations of the developing world to act responsibly towards global waste management. Of course, methods of implementing the solutions in these parts of the world will be different from those in the developed world. This is because the resource availability is different in high income and lower income nations and so are the composition of wastes. The methods however are not going to be very different as all nations are dealing with similar waste materials as a result of globalization. 

At this point, India has a great need for sustainable solid waste management and is still experimenting with various options for urban wastes. 

Nov 5, 2010

Techniques and timelines

A city or town can be envisioned as a thermodynamic system with a continuous input of materials and energy, generating work and wastes as output. Most material chains in today's globalized cities are open loops, starting as raw materials and ending up as wastes in landfills. They are not sustainable as the materials move in a single direction resulting in significant depletion of natural resources and causing environmental degradation over time. The creation of natural resources involves energy inputs which are embodied in the wastes that are generated at the end of material loops. Thus, closed material cycles where materials and energy are recycled or recovered hold a key to sustainable world.


Sustainable waste handling practices should give priority to material recovery over energy recovery. Composting thus precedes waste to energy methods on the waste management hierarchy (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: Solid Waste Management Hierarchy
Composting is a comparatively old technique practiced in a decentralized fashion in individual households with backyards and farms. However, rapid urbanization squeezed houses, as a result pushing wastes onto the streets. Thus, the responsibility of waste management was transferred to public representatives, requiring the system to be centralized. Centralized waste handling requires dedicated infrastructure, which developing nations lacked and composting as a waste management practice declined altogether. Despite this, urban compost has been a steady nutrient supplement to surrounding farms all over India, but it took place in a very small scale with no imperative for waste management <1>. 

Oct 27, 2010

Source Separation - Case Study of a town Suryapet

Solid waste which is source separated can be easily handled as the separated waste streams can be directed to their respective treatment facilities like composting, recycling or waste to energy. However, source separation is not natural in the present day urban lifestyles; it requires effort. Success of source separation depends on education and environmental awareness among public, but these are not the sufficient conditions. Requirements for source separation and the probable causes for its failure in most cases can be understood with case studies, one such is the study of a town called Suryapet. I visited this town in South India as part of research for sustainable solutions to wastes in India; I selected this town because it was cited in numerous government and individual research reports for its successful composting practices. 

Sep 12, 2010

Present situation in India

The latest table of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) handling/processing techniques used in different Indian cities is present at the beginning of the blog, under the blog's header. Scroll down, play around the FILTER keys option for a variety of insights about the present situation of MSW management in India.
Waste management was a house hold responsibility, but got transferred to centralized institutions due to shrinking living space and globalization. The Government of India (GOI) controls policy and regulations through Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), Ministry of Urban Development (MOUD), Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). However, it is the responsibility of city administrations (municipal corporations) to enact these regulations, acting as a link between public and the government. GOI also provides the municipal corporations with tools like guides (National Master Plan for Development of Waste-to-Energy in India) and funding through initiatives like Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) to implement the regulations. Thus, municipalities are totally accountable to both public and the government and hold the most important role when it comes to waste management.


CH4 Methane
Carbon Dioxide
Government of India
INR Indian Rupee
JnNURM Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
LFG Landfill Gas
Mechanical Biological Treatment
MSW Municipal Solid Waste
NEERI National Environmental Engineering Research Institute
Refuse Derived Fuel
SLF Sanitary Landfill
SWM Solid Waste Management
USD United States Dollar
WPs Waste Pickers
WTE Waste-to-Energy
WTERT Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council