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Are We Dumping Our Future?

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India generates more than 50 billion kgs of urban waste every year and most of this ends up in illegal dump yards all around the country. Organic waste accounts close to 40% of this urban waste. The perceived value of organic waste is 0 or even negative. There is a still an unexplored opportunity for converting organic waste into energy.

India is currently grappling with many issues, waste disposal being one of them. With rapid urbanisation, growing population, inefficient management and unplanned cities, the challenge of waste disposal is growing by the day. Landfills of most cities are already overflowing, with no space to accommodate the routinely generated garbage.

Communities and municipal corporations can take charge of the organic waste generated by them by processing it to biogas. With ever evolving technology innovations in current times, it is possible to receive hourly updates from the servers and make changes without being present physically at a plant. Remote monitoring of machines largely reduces human dependency.

In India, metropolitan areas and major financial hubs generate maximum volumes of waste. Currently, over 340 million people live in Indian cities but that number is estimated to double by 2030, which poses a worrisome scenario of garbage buildup in cities.

Bengaluru based ‘Internet of Things’ startup GPS Renewables is solving India’s wet waste problem through their IoT product BioUrja.  BioUrja is conceptualised to enable urban bulk waste generators to have an economically viable waste treatment solution of their own. While such solutions have existed before, they were too huge from a space context, and unviable at a captive scale.

“There are bottlenecks in the sense that in-house waste management is not mandatory, despite the financial advantages, it becomes tough and takes a lot of time to convince bulk waste generators to adopt a solution like the BioUrja. Many corporations are not strict in terms of how bulk waste generators manage and dispose off their waste. Several get away with just handing over the waste to piggeries or contractors who more often than not end up dumping the waste in illegal dump yards. Stricter enforcements by corporations on bulk waste generators for managing their own waste will help not just us but similar players who are working towards coming up with effective in-house waste treatment solutions,” said Mainak Chakraborty, Director and CEO, GPS Renewables.

Biogas generation is a tedious process with limitations like high space footprint (making them unviable in urban areas due to lack of space) and water footprint and low efficiency. With these shortcomings, it is challenging to administer trash in urban settlements.

Over 25% of any city’s waste across the world comes from its bulk waste generators (any establishment generating over 100 kg of wet waste per day). A compact and reliable captive biogas plant for such institutions can make business sense and also solve a big problem for our cities. This is a gap yet to be tapped in an organised way across the world.

Predicaments in the city of dreams

The biggest problem that Mumbai faces is the lack of decentralised waste management models. Due to the real estate costs, one is forced to setup such operations far away from the city, which in turn pushes up the waste logistics costs, deeming such solutions economically unviable.

About 40% is organic waste at source, which if not handled correctly can lead to the emission of Green House Gases (GHGs). The methane gas, which is more harmful than carbon dioxide (CO2), can be used for fuel purposes. High-level emissions of GHGs from the city’s unhygienic landfills and growth of bacteria can cause life-threatening diseases. Individuals can promote a decentralised approach to waste segregation, recycling dry waste and installing biogas plants to transform wet waste into cooking gas and fertilizer in the city.

What we ideally need is every ward or community to manage their own waste within their premises. The first step is to segregate dry and wet waste, even if structured waste treatment is not present. The reason being, segregation needs behavioural change and cannot happen overnight. Corporate houses need to become more serious about the issue, because the day is not far when waste segregation will become mandatory.

Segregation at source is the biggest challenge. In continuation, lack of sensitisation on the part of collection agencies needs a mammoth of change. As individuals, we need to be responsible about food wastage. The tendency to waste with an increase in disposable income is a less-talked about factor. More developed countries have a higher food wastage percentage. Going forward, a common man can promote in-house solutions in their circles, be it their residential communities or individual homes, or their work places.

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Regards,
The CSR Journal Team