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[box type=”shadow” ]India has seen rapid urbanization in the last two decades and it is expected to continue at this pace if not more till 2050. As a consequence of this urbanization in the last two decades, all the planning & infrastructure creation around to meet the solid waste management and sanitation requirement of the citizens has gone berserk. Nearly all the cities are struggling with piles of garbage either on streets or in the landfill areas causing serious environmental and hygiene challenges. NSN Murty, Director & Leader, Smart Cities- Price water house Coopers Pvt Ltd explores technologies administered to meet the existing challenges.[/box]

WHEN THE Government of India announced the Smart Cities Mission in May, 2015, besides it being based upon Strategic Area Development, one of the important aspects has been to develop a “Functional City” with basic infrastructure in place. Solid waste management and city sanitation are definitely the most important components of the core infrastructure. The government also launched AMRUT to push for the upgrade of the Solid Waste Management Infrastructure and in the Smart Cities Mission it is important for the cities to show a convergence of these both these schemes.

The current solid waste management approach in India is extremely inefficient, using old and obsolete processes and technology for storage, collection, processing, treatment and disposal. It is a nightmare forevery City Administrator, Environmental Engineers and Planners. In most of the cities, there is no formal system of segregation of solid waste. Currently the recovery & recycling of waste is done by scavengers and scrap dealers. Besides, that land today is becoming extremely scarce and hence creation vb & maintenance of large landfill sites is also a challenge for the city.

‘Garbage for some but wealth for someone else’, this is the principal around which cities have to start planning in the coming years. Let us look at two different technology solutions that address the collection and processing of garbage in most efficient manner leading to better hygiene, environmental protection and most importantly will also create revenue for the city over a period of time.

Automatic Garbage Collection

In this process, by leveraging technology, the garbage management system uses air to suck the waste into the containers kept at a central collection station located at designated places away from the source of waste. The system process is as follows

  • Waste is disposed off into inlets located inside or outside the buildings
  • Waste is evacuated using a computer controlled program from the central collection station in 30 seconds
  • Waste segregation can be done by allocating different color bins for different type of waste
  • All waste is sucked out through a network of underground pipes to the collection station at high speed
  • Waste is compacted and stored into respective containers at the collection station
  • Truck comes and picks up the container for landfill/further processing

This has been deployed in India in a few areas ,eg, GIFT City, Gujarat by Envac but globally it is deployed at multiple places.

The entire system remains underground. This technology enabled process of garbage collection helps city in three ways.

  • There is no garbage visible in the city as the bins are never full, they automatically get emptied and hence there is no overflows
  • The most inefficient and polluted way of collecting garbage is eliminated by bringing underground air suction based solution. This clearly helps cities in achieving a significant improvement in air quality as well as ease in traffic decongestant (traditionally most of the garbage collection trucks ply 2 times a day and their movement leads to traffic congestion)
  • The city can also collect city garbage collection fee, leading to monetization of this investment over a period of time

Solid Waste Processing using Plasma Gasification Process

Technology has always been helpful to cities in resolving several of its challenges provided that there is a clear intent to adopt the new processes and enforce compliance to the garbage segregation and collection process. A disposal process that can get rid of almost any kind of a waste at a fraction of the cost of today’s disposal techniques, eliminating the need for landfills and generate clean energy is called Plasma Gasification Process (PGP). Through this process, almost any material can be broken down, eliminating the time-consuming and costly process of waste sorting.

Solid waste, is considered as a source of renewable energy and plasma gasification technology is one of the leading-edge technologies to harness this energy. Since the Municipal solid waste is a never ending source and increasing day by day in all the cities, projects like these are financially very viable over a longer period of concession agreement between the Solid Waste Management company and the City authorities. The technology is useful for treating daily collected solid waste as well as dumped garbage in landfill sites, bio medical waste, sewerage treatment plant sludge, discarded tyres and tubes and any other organic waste. The process also makes use of sewerage water. In this technology, all kinds of organic waste is gasified using Plasma Torch Oven and the end products are Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen. While CO2 is liquefied and sold as commercial product, Hydrogen is utilized for running a combined cycle gas turbine. This generates clean and green Electrical Energy.

The process not only helps the city to claim its precious land that is converted into unpleasant, environmentally hazardous and unhygienic landfills but also get an alternate and clean source of energy for its city. Since the energy cost through this process is still higher, the city can always devise a policy to use this energy for commercial supply and fulfill its obligation to provide cheaper residential power.

Both of these technology implementations are not easy requiring great level of planning and surgical level implementation while keeping the citizens completely aware of the calamity like current situation and benefits of the new project. In case of Automatic Garbage Management, it is always better to identify target wards/ sectors and deploy the solution and roll-out across the city in a phased approach whereas in the case of setting up a PGP, it is important to have a robust policy for collection and transportation of waste across the city to feed the processing plant. Otherwise it will be not be financially viable project.

The Smart Cities Challenge gives a perfect opportunity to all the cities to take these challenges to their citizens, discuss solutions and get buy-in to deliver the same in a planned way by converging both the schemes and getting the best outcomes.

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