Waste to Fuel
The Government of India 2008 report on clean cities had ranked Kanpur at 256 out of 400 cities. However, thanks to A2Z Infrastructure Ltd, which took up the Municipal Solid Waste Management contract in 2009, Kanpur’s position moved up to 10. Dr Rajneesh Mehra, Jt Director, A2Z Infrastructure Ltd is optimistic that this success story of the Kanpur Municipal Corporation can be replicated in other corporations across India.
Municipal corporations in general have realised the need for having a concerted Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) programme but are not able to implement it successfully. The major hurdle is the lack of awareness about the systems for handling waste and adequate funds for installing those.
In some cases, the funds allocated for waste management under the finance commission gets utilised in procuring, for example trucks to carry waste to the landfill, without realising that open dumping now is becoming a grave issue.
In spite of these pitfalls, some of the corporations have taken the lead. A small city like Amravati, the renowned religious city of Varanasi and industrial city like Kanpur have all gone ahead in installing proper MSW systems. “In Kanpur 1500 tonnes of municipal waste gets treated. But this model can be replicated in bigger cities as well as smaller places which produce, may be, just 15 tonnes of waste a day. With very large cities we can adapt a cluster approach by collecting waste from neighbouring small cities/towns and treating in a single processing centre,” says Mehra.
The waste generated in Jalandhar is clustered with over 25 smaller cities. If Jalandhar is processing 789 metric tonnes of waste, about 320 metric tonnes waste comes from the adjoining cities. This way, even the smaller corporations can be part of this commercially viable project. One major issue to be considered in cluster waste collection is the diameter within which the collection can be done; 30-40km is good enough, informs Mehra. A cluster will have a common processing place, a disposal site and a cluster transfer station to deposit the garbage collected from each household. In places like Mumbai, the major problem is the lack of sufficient land for a MSW recycling facility.
“In a recent forum, the European Union declared that by 2020 there would be no space for landfill. They have now started working towards proper waste management. What Europe plans to achieve in 2020, Kanpur has done it in 2010. In fact, even though there is a landfill provision made for the dumping the remains after recycling, this landfill is yet to receive its first gram of waste. We have achieved 100% commercial utilisation of the entire waste.”
A2Z has already started work at Ranchi besides Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Muradabad, Aligarh, Varanasi, Patna, Indore, Sambhal and Fatehpur. Work is on in 32 Corporations. When the company took up the MSW project in Ranchi, there were just seven days for the National Games to commence. Around 250 workers were deployed to get the city clean. In Kanpur, it has 2600 people engaged in the MSW project.
A2Z gives importance to training its workers who are often from the lower strata of society. “We employ only those who actually want to be in this profession and have respect for the profession. People have to realise that a person, who willingly climbs down into a gutter to clean, is doing as much a public duty as a soldier at the border. We have started a full fledged training institute for field staff right up to the supervisory level. We call the field staff “safai mitra”. At the field we teach the safai mitra to be in a uniform and personal protective gear – helmet, goggles, mask, gloves and gumboots. We motivate our boys by telling them that there is absolutely no stigma attached to this business. If Mahatma Gandhi can clean his own toilet then we are no bigger than him. So they are doing something which is socially relevant and an essential service to the society.”
A2Z is running programmes for ragpickers as well, as most of them are deprived of their rightful place in the process of waste management which is a serious business. In MSW, A2Z would be operating the entire chain of activities from collection to generation of electricity. “From the garbage we are able to produce an extremely good quality organic fertilizer. We also produce fuel RDA, a direct replacement of coal with an added benefit of having much lesser ash content. This could be looked at as an alternative fuel.” Mehra explains that there is no new technology involved in making this fuel. This is a successive segregation where all organic decomposing components are separated from waste, treated, shredded and made into small blocks. This product is free flowing dense fuel with very low ash content and has lesser emissions.
Converting waste to fuel is the only way garbage can get the value associated with it and the day garbage is identified with the money it will fetch, we will not find a gram of it anywhere. That’s what A2Z is trying to do. “We are converting garbage into something useful and the day our model gets popular, there will be many companies following suit.”
Nevertheless, there is a paucity of people who have been able to find an opportunity in the waste business. Even if a few are able to identify the business potential, sustainability has become an issue. This is a business not so much of new technology but of putting the existing technology into a better and judicious use as available today. It is all about execution which means working with a totally insecure workforce.