Waste to Wealth: Focus on cost-effective solid waste management

Focus on cost-effective solid waste management

In recent years, the volume of municipal solid waste (MSW) in Bengaluru has increased at an alarming pace. Factors such as an increasing urban population, rising disposable incomes, and accelerated industrialisation are driving waste generation in the city. The high rate of growth in waste is also posing a challenge to the city government in terms of the available capacity to cope with the waste generated.

At present, multiple stakeholders play crucial roles in managing MSW in Bengaluru. These include waste producers, waste pickers, regulators, contractors, non-governmental organisations, the media and the public. However, most city areas lack proper segregation, transport and storage facilities to effectively manage solid waste.

As per the latest industry estimates, Bengaluru generates over 4,000 tonnes of waste every day. This waste has the potential to generate over 21 MW of power. Over 60 per cent of the total MSW is household waste, followed by waste from commercial establishments and institutions (20 per cent). The remaining 20 per cent comes from markets, function halls and other areas. The high share of household waste is also reflected in the nature and characteristics of the waste generated. The organic waste component is found to be over 60 per cent, and this can easily be converted into biomass.

To serve the twin goals of waste management and efficient biomass utilisation, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which is the nodal agency for waste management, is undertaking a number of initiatives including the development of policies, regulations and standards, and waste-to-energy (WtE) projects. In fact, in mid-2015, The Energy and Resources Institute carried out a study for BBMP to assess the feasibility of power generation from MSW. It recommended that the civic agency set up more WtE facilities across the city and use residue from compost units as the input for WtE plants. Even though these recommendations are yet to be fully adopted, some encouraging activities have been initiated.

The civic agency has started work on an ambitious project to construct 16 biomethanation plants at various locations. Pune-based Ashoka Biogreen Private Limited has been engaged for the construction of these plants on a build-own-operate-transfer basis. The company will also maintain the plants at an estimated cost of Rs 2.3 million each for a period of three years. These plants will use wet waste effectively to generate power that will be utilised locally for lighting and other purposes.

So far, Ashoka Biogreen has constructed three plants, at Yelahanka, Mathikere and K.R. Market. Each plant, constructed at a cost of about Rs 8 million, has the capacity to process 5 metric tonnes of wet waste per day, and can generate around 50 kW of power per day.

Recently, in November 2015, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Department of Urban Development and Waste2Value, a consortium of eight Dutch firms, to set up a WtE plant on 25 acres of land on the outskirts of the city. The plant will have an installed capacity to process about 600 metric tonnes of solid waste and produce about 7 MW of electricity per day. Apart from setting up the plant, the consortium will assess the existing output level of MSW and formulate strategies to effectively manage it.

Overall, the project involves an investment of Rs 4.7 billion. As per the agreement, the Dutch government will provide 70 per cent of the project cost as a soft loan, as well as the technology for setting up the plant. The remaining 30 per cent of funding will be raised by the consortium by inducting a local partner, who is yet to be identified.

To begin with, the project will be taken up on a pilot basis. If successful, it will be replicated in other parts of the city and then in other parts of the state. Waste2Value is currently awaiting the necessary clearances to take up the pilot project. It is scheduled to be commissioned within a period of six months from the date of commencement of the work. The bulk of the revenue for the private operator will come from the sale of electricity to the state government at a rate fixed by the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission.

There is no doubt that the city government has become conscious of the need to solve long-pending issues affecting the management of solid waste, and has come up with new plans and projects to do so. However, these initiatives are fairly recent, and are yet to make a significant impact.