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Solid waste management is fast turning out to be one of the biggest headaches for urban centers worldwide, as well as in India.

I thought I’d provide some insights on what efforts are being put in India to tackle this problem, and started doing some research on the topic, which was when I came across an interesting piece of news on how the Chennai Municipality is trying to tackle the solid waste that’s being dumped in the landfills.

Before going on to the innovative idea being explored by the Chennai Municipality, let me give you some stats on the solid waste generation in Chennai. Though I am taking data from Chennai as a sample, I guess this would be fairly representative for most of the metros…

Highlights of solid waste (most data are based on statistics for Chennai)

  • Per capita generation per day: 500gms
  • Estimated Total Generation of Solid Waste Per day: Garbage 3200 MTs
  • Amount of building debris generated per day: 500 MTs
  • Number of waste disposal sites: 2 (Perungudi and Kodungaiyur); both are within 1 km from large residential populations
  • Total waste disposed together to both sites: 3200 T per day
  • The total quantity of waste generated by 23 metro cities in India is about 60,000 T per day.

Types of waste

Type of Waste %
Food waste 8
Green waste 32
Timber (wood) 7
Consumable plastic 6
Industrial Plastic 1
Steel and Material Negligible
Rags and Textiles 3
Paper 7
Rubber and Leather 2
Inerts 35

If I take food waste and timber to be “organic”, then the % of organic waste in MSW is about 50%. That is not a bad number at all.

Waste generation by category

Residential 68
Commercial 16
Halls, Schools, Institutions 14
Industrial 2
Hospitals and clinics Separately disposed by hospitals

I am surprised that industrial waste at these landfills is only 2%. I have little doubt that this takes care only of a fraction of industrial waste; will be interesting to find out where the rest of the industrial waste is going.

Anyways, there you have it. About 50% organic stuff in waste, and about 20 million T of such waste every year. To some, it could be 20 million Tons of treasure. Read more and you will know why.

Let me now turn to the interesting idea being explored by the Chennai Municipality. I came across an interesting report (The Hindu, 15 Jul 2010). This was about the Tamilnadu pollution control board giving the nod for the proposal on Perungudi dumping yard, one of the two landfills in Chennai (the other being in Kodungaiyur).

The report said that the TN govt had given its consent for the Chennai Corporation proposal to set up an integrated solid waste management facility in the Perungudi dump yard, and work on the facility would be launched soon. This yard receives 1400 T of garbage every day, and a company, Hydro Air Techtronics Pvt Ltd. ( http://www.hydroair.com/ ), would set up the facility to make compost, recycle plastics, to make refuse derived fuel pellets and eco bricks, on 30 acres of the 125 acre dumping yard. The other 95 acres, which presumably will in future become vacant, would be developed into a park.

I understand that the company plans to derived bricks from the refuse; these bricks would be made from the glass pieces, card board boxes and other such waste material. The “eco bricks” could be used for various purposes including laying of pavements and in construction of medians. It is not clear what they plan to do with the purely organic waste (no compost?), assuming there’s some segregation happening at the landfill or elsewhere. Whatever be the final product/s, the results of this experiment will be keenly awaited by all of us.

I understand that the civic body has a similar proposal for the Kodungaiyur garbage dumping yard. Interesting! They are talking about reusing waste and reclaiming land that was earlier a junkyard for something far more eco-friendly. This is really wonderful stuff, assuming of course that the whole thing works as planned.

Here’s me hoping for the best.

References

More about the solid waste dumping at Chennai – http://www.chennaicorporation.gov.in/departments/solid-waste-management/index.htm

Municipal Solid Waste Management in Chennai City, India – http://www.swlf.ait.ac.th/UpdData/International/NRIs/MSW%20management%20in%20Chennai.pdf

Solid Waste Management in Chennai – http://www.cmdachennai.gov.in/Volume1_English_PDF/Vol1_Chapter08_Solid%20Waste%20Management.pdf