‘Waste-to-energy plants not necessary’

Expert says Kerala has already so much in place in decentralised waste management

Even as the State government is moving ahead with its plans to set up waste-to-energy (WTE) plants in various districts, waste management experts say that the history of the operation of such plants in the country prove that they will turn into white elephants sooner than later.

Swati Singh Sambyal, solid waste management expert, who is in the city as part of the three-day National Conference of Cities for Zero Waste being organised by the city Corporation, has found waste-to-energy plants to be ineffective in finding a lasting solution to the problem of waste.

Calorific value

“The waste-to-energy plants, dependent on incineration-incentive technology, requires high-calorific-value waste as feed. But the energy produced from this is priced high at ₹7-₹8 per Kilowatt, compared to ₹3-₹4 through other sources. The plants will not run properly if the waste is not of high calorific value of 2,100 kcal per kg and above. Most of our waste being biodegradable the calorific value is low, around 1,400 to 1,800 Kcal per kg. For Kerala, it is a big ‘no’ because you are already segregating the biodegradable waste, treating it at home or community composting centres. Then, what will you burn is the big question,” says Ms. Sambyal, who had formerly worked with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

According to her, the country’s first such plant was set up at Timarpur in Delhi in 1987. It had to be shut down owing to the low quality of waste supplied.

Till now, 14 more waste-to-energy plants have been opened across the country, out of which seven have already been closed down.

“Currently, they are running in Delhi, Jabalpur, and Shimla. Though the Jabalpur one was touted to be a state-of-the-art plant, it asked for waste from towns located in the 250-km radius because the waste that the city had was not enough for the plant’s capacity. Most of these companies take in all the waste without segregation. We are making these giants that are eating up waste that could be converted into more useful products, with more communities benefiting from it. The ash that is generated is another problem, as it will have to be disposed of in a hazardous landfill site,” she says.

State policy

She says that Kerala has already so much in place in decentralised waste management, and has the opportunity to become a zero-waste State.

“I don’t think in any other State so much work has been done at the policy level and on the ground. At no cost should it let WTE be the foundation for waste management. The foundation has been laid in decentralised waste management. You have built and cemented everything. Now, only the painting needs to be done and now you seem to be saying ‘let’s construct another building’. It makes no sense at a time when the decentralised model from Kerala is being replicated in towns such as Muzaffarpur and Balaghat,” says Ms. Sambyal.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 9:21:45 PM |

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