Facebook Twitter Linkedin Youtube Instagram
Home > Professional > The Potential for Waste to Energy in India

The Potential for Waste to Energy in India

A growing number of Indians are enjoying a new found ability to consume a vast number of goods and services that were previously either unavailable or unaffordable. From small electronic items, such as cell phones, to large consumer goods like refrigerators and cars, Indian consumption has been steadily increasing and shows no signs of abating anytime soon. Inevitably this has led to a rapid growth in the quantity and variety of MSW. In most cities and towns in India, MSW is disposed off in an unregulated and unscientific manner in low-lying, open dumps on the outskirts of cities. Most dump lack systems for leachate collection, landfill gas collection or monitoring, nor do they use inert materials to cover the waste. This result in ground and surface water contamination from runoff and lack of covering, air pollution caused by fires, toxic gases, and odour, and public health problems due to mosquitoes and scavenging animals.

In its 2009-10 Annual Report the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) estimated that approximately 55 million tonnes of MSW are generated in urban areas of India annually. It is estimated that the amount of waste generated in India will increase at a rate of approximately 1-1.33% annually.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) promulgated the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules in 2000 requiring municipalities across India adopt sustainable and environmentally sound ways of processing MSW, including incineration. In this regard, Waste to Energy (WtoE) provides a solution towards complying with government regulations, and achieving integrated solid waste management. The Indian Government considers WtE to be a renewable technology, and the MNRE has developed the National Master Plan for Development of WtE in India.

The MNRE lists a number of technologies for energy recovery from urban and industrial wastes that “not only reduce the quantity but also improve the quality of waste to meet the required pollution control standards, besides generating a substantial quantity of energy”. The MNRE estimates that the potential to generate power from MSW will more than double in the next ten years, while the potential from industrial waste is likely to increase by more than 50%.

While the Indian Government’s own figures would suggest that the cost of WtE is somewhat higher than other renewable sources, it should be kept in mind that WtE facilities serve a dual role of waste disposal and energy production. Although the cost per MW of capacity may be greater than other renewable sources, the benefits of waste management, energy and metals recovery, and reduction of GHG emissions need to be considered.

Considering WtE for Mumbai City

Mumbai has been facing a solid waste management crisis for years. The infrastructure has been unable to keep pace with economic development and population growth. In order to move towards a sustainable future and achieve its goal of becoming a world-class city, Mumbai needs to adopt an integrated solid waste management approach.

The agency responsible for solid waste management in Mumbai is the Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD) of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and its private contractors.

The municipal corporation spends roughly `1160 per tonne ($25/tonne) on collection, transport, and disposal of MSW. Collection and transport together constitute roughly 80% of the cost. In India, the average municipal expenditure on solid waste management is `500 to `1500 per tonne ($10 to $32 per tonne).

Suitability of WtE in Mumbai

The MSW collected in Mumbai consists of wet organics (primarily food waste), dry organics (straw and wood, etc.), inert materials (sand and soil), and recyclables (plastics, metal, glass and paper). Based on the composition of MSW, processing the waste in a WtE facility would reduce its volume by 96.74%, thus freeing up land that would otherwise have been used for landfills.

The chemical characteristics of MSW in Mumbai have been measured by two different studies, one by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in 2005-06, and the other by MCGM around the same time.

The reported moisture content and heating value differs significantly between the two studies, however, the CPCB-NEERI study found that the heating value of MSW in Mumbai is sufficient for a WtE plant to operate without additional fuel. From an environmental standpoint, a WtE facility would be beneficial because it would prevent the formation of leachate that contaminates groundwater, reduce emissions of toxic pollutants from the burning of garbage, and prevent the production of two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane.

Additionally, with space in urban areas at a premium WtE provides an effective way to reduce the volume of waste by approximately 90% and thereby lower the space needed for landfills.


More research is needed to quantify various aspects of the solid waste management sector. A number of key statistics, such as the value of recyclables, the amount of environmental pollution from waste sources, and the quantity of industrial waste generated, need to be computed to gain a better understanding of this sector. In terms of research related to WtE, detailed analysis of costs and available funding is needed. In addition, investigating the suitability and quantifying the costs and benefits of combined heat and power for Mumbai would be useful. Independent researchers or consultants should carry out such research in order to prevent any biases that may otherwise occur.

Outreach to both environmental groups as well as the public at large is important in order to demonstrate the benefits of WtE technology to the community, city, and local government. This can be achieved by educating the public through campaigns, workshops, town hall meetings, university lectures, and so on. Creating an open dialogue with environmental groups is an essential first step to sharing information and collaborating to create better environmental conditions.

Perinaz Bhada-Tata
Source: Waste Management World

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Enter Captcha Here :

Related Articles
Delhi is preparing a winter action plan for preventing air pollution
Delhi is preparing a winter action plan for preventing air pollution
Study reveals state of urban solid waste management
Study reveals state of urban solid waste management
To fight the increasing air pollution, 19-year-old Krrish Chawla has developed an eco-friendly and affordable air purifier. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant recently appreciated Krrish for developing the air purifier called ‘Breathify.’ Krrish said that the purifier solves four problems: effectiveness, eco-friendliness, increased quality of HEPA filter and price. Sharing his story, Krrish said that he suffered from respiratory issues as a kid and had to use nebulizers and cortisone. He revealed that as he was surrounded by air purifiers his interest in them eventually grew. His curiosity to open up machines led to his encounter with the fact that a simple machine was used in purifiers, but the overall cost was Rs 35,000 to 40,000. The 19-year-old claimed that the purifier was made with “98 per cent of the component being plastic-free.” He further added that no components used in the machine have been imported and are completely made in India. Krrish explained the functioning of the purifier too. Based on a simple plug-in-play operation, the purifier consumes 25-65 watts of electricity. The only maintenance required is to change the HEPA filter. So far, Krrish has sold more than 4,700 air purifiers. He has also donated 500 units to institutions like old age homes, hospitals, and orphanages. Krrish further aims to donate another 2,000 for similar social causes.
19-year-old Delhi boy develops affordable air purifier
ITC to progress beyond plastic waste neutrality

Newsletter Image

Get all latest news and articles straight to your inbox