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Towards ‘Swachh Hotels’ Crafting a new vision

Finding a holistic waste management solution for the Indian hospitality sector

 Today we are staring at challenges which require asking heretical questions:

What if…

  • Water supplies are cut by half
  • Water tankers are not available
  • The government announces that in the next two years all landfill sites will be shut for industry
  • Companies need to handle its waste in house

 The hotel industry is known for excellence in the ‘front of the house’ (FOTH), but it is the ‘back of the house’ that needs to acquire the mirror image of the FOTH. This seems radical but it is possible with existing technologies.

The focus is on the waste management practices currently followed by the Indian hotels and restaurants industry. With Prime Minister Modi’s much publicised Swachh Bharat campaign taking off last year, the industry, as a generator of tonnes of waste every year, needs to take responsibility for a larger canvas by converting its waste into resources. This could help India to reduce its $180 billion fossil fuel imports.

Hotels have been content with giving up the waste to segregators down the chain, but there is no accountability after that. Even if a responsible waste collector were to take the waste, the waste transport logistics process ends up leaving a significant carbon footprint. While most hotels do tie up with waste contractors, due to the lack of sound waste transportation practices and scientific landfills, most of this waste ends up in illegal dump yards.

I broadly support two approaches to in-house waste treatment – composting and biogas. Incineration must be avoided because it releases carcinogenic dioxins when plastic is mixed with waste.

Biogas plants have been in existence for a long time but sophistication in the technology has been absent in the past. The scenario is changing rapidly as the new versions have addressed the issue of odour. Biogas plant can generate both fuel (for cooking or power generation) and manure (like composters).

However, there were many gaps in the existing biogas solutions from the hotelier’s point of view. Through my years of experience I understand the hesitancy of leading hotels to establish in-house waste management systems. First, because of the quantum of waste, and second, the problem of odour.

A bio waste management solution that satisfactorily address the above challenges may well be a new product that is the brainchild of a young upcoming company in Bengaluru that I have been mentoring over the last few years in my quest to strengthen the entire value chain. The small company is called Green Power Systems (GPS Renewables).

A few years ago, I was intrigued by the possibilities although there was some way to go to operationalise and take it to the market. However, the prototype had the makings of a promising product. The solution was a compact and modern biogas plant that could fit in the place of two car parks and generate four commercial LPG cylinders worth of fuel from every tonne of food waste.

Today, the patent pending Biourja System is two to three times faster (in terms of digestion time) and twice efficient (in terms of gas output) compared to every other available BioCNG system in the market, according to the company. The solution comes pre-fitted with all the components such as shredders, a gas storage system, sludge de-watering system and gas piping to the kitchen along with burners. This ensures that there is zero disruption to the kitchen operations as the installation is smooth and quick.

GPS was founded by two young IIM Bengaluru graduates – Sreekrishna Sankar and Mainak Chakraborty – with a vision of creating a viable waste-to-energy solution for urban establishments. In the past two years that I have been observing them, not only have they been able to build a state-of-the-art solution, winning accolades from various international platforms, such as the Tech Awards and the MIT Technology Review, but have also bagged orders from Infosys, Akshaya Patra, Manipal University and Art of Living. Their repeat orders are a sign of the effectiveness of their solution, and today they cover almost all of Infosys’ campuses.

The company has expanded to Bangladesh and is setting up base in Qatar. In the hospitality sector, they have recently commissioned their first project for a hotel called Green Park in Hyderabad. The picture shows how space efficient the solution is. The units painted in green are part of their solution. They are placed based on the patches of area available and are expected to substitute over 40% of the hotel’s cooking needs using the fuel that is generated from waste.

With a payback period of two to three years, it makes a good business case for hotels to explore not only the above technology but compare with other companies in this space. I am certain that there are many other suppliers of bio gas plants in the country; hence, each organisation needs to assess the different players before arriving at any decision. In sum, it is time for ‘Swachh Hotels’ to become a reality by converting wet garbage into useful gas, reducing operating costs and minimizing emission footprints.

I am certain new entrepreneurs will find more innovative solutions for restaurants, or ancillary businesses can be started by waste aggregators to collect wet waste from standalone restaurants and set up mini refineries in the cities to bottle gas from waste in the near future.

Niranjan Khatri

Niranjan Khatri, Founder, iSambhav


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