P.Sivasankara Pillai has been promoting zero waste concept

Domestic waste disposal has now become a nightmare for the residents of the capital city. Left with few options to cleanse our homes, many among us quietly go about dumping household waste at unsuspecting alleys in the middle of the night. But what if the very waste could significantly curb our financial burden by doubling up as an energy source? Such a technology is being developed by P. Sivasankara Pillai, a doyen in waste management.

“The very word ‘waste’ is a misnomer,” says Dr. Pillai, former head of Department of Chemical Engineering, Government Engineering College, Thrissur. “Polluting the environment by dumping the so-called waste is not a solution. In fact, it is proven that bi-products from industries and households alike could be recycled and used to develop useful materials, thus resulting in a zero waste ecosystem,” he explains.

With eight patents to his name and over 12 papers published in international journals, Dr. Pillai is one of the leading pollution consultants in India. He has been instrumental in crafting industrial effluent management solutions for a plethora of national and international companies. He is a recipient of the National Award for Excellence in Process Development by the Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Indian Merchant Chamber Award for Pollution Control. Through the NGO ‘Indian Society for Industrial Symbiosis’ he promotes his zero waste concept amongst industries.

Sewage treatment

Dr. Pillai is currently working on a mass sewage treatment project along with the LBS Centre for Science and Technology and the Suchitwa Mission, Kerala. “Through the process of biomass gasification, which is essentially an incomplete combustion of sewage, large volumes of gaseous bi-products can be generated. Ergo, gas engines can be used to generate up to 1.5 megawatt of electricity from the Corporation’s current daily sewage output of 35 metric tonne,” he claims.

Dr. Pillai also says that the solid bi-product from the process could be used as an efficient fertiliser. Presently, sewage from the city is being treated at the Corporation’s Valiyathura plant, which often leads untreated sewage to water bodies like the Parvathi Puthanar and the Akkulam lake, thus causing severe environmental and health hazards. Dr. Pillai says that all this can be avoided at a fraction of the cost, utilising merely 25 per cent of the area involved for the current process. “Housing colonies and flats, where large amounts of sewage are generated, can also replicate the same process. Even organic household wastes can be treated the same way,” he adds. However, he notes that people are resistant to change.

“When we come up with innovative solutions to tackle the burgeoning waste disposal problems, some people would go to the extent of even physically attacking us in an attempt to prove us wrong,” he reminisces.

What is it that drives the septuagenarian forward, despite his ailing health? “I am a teacher first and a chemical engineer next. I would like to pass on my knowledge and do my best to equip the world for the environmental challenges of tomorrow,” he signs off.

For more information, contact him at isis.ssp33@hotmail.com.

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