Kerala government recently announced the State’s first waste-to-energy project in Kozhikode.
What is a waste to energy project?
- Waste-to-energy projects– Waste-to-energy projects use non-recyclable dry waste to generate electricity. The waste is combusted to generate heat, which is converted into electricity.
- The waste to energy projects is also called a trash-to-energy, municipal waste incineration, energy recovery, or resource recovery plant.
- Status of for waste to energy – The first waste-to-energy plant was set up in Timarpur in Delhi in 1987.
- A total of 14 waste-to-energy plants have been installed in India, out of which seven plants were closed.
- Total quantity of solid waste generated in the country was 1,50,761 tonnes per day in 2019-’20.
What are the technologies available for waste to energy?
- Biomethanation – It is anaerobic digestion of organic materials which is converted into biogas.
- Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a bacterial fermentation process that operates without free oxygen and results in a biogas
- Incineration– Incineration technology is complete combustion of waste with the recovery of heat to produce steam that in turn produces power through steam turbines.
- Gasification– Gasification is a process that uses high temperatures (500-1800o C) in the presence of limited amounts of oxygen to decompose materials to produce synthetic gas.
- Pyrolysis– Pyrolysis uses heat to break down combustible materials in the absence of oxygen, producing a mixture of combustible gases, liquids and solid residues.
What is the significance of waste to energy projects?
- Effective disposal of waste
- Landfill and dump yards can be reduced
- The petroleum import can be reused leading to increased economic growth
- It can be the alternate source of energy to promote circular economy
What are the reasons for the failure of waste-to-energy projects?
- Huge gap – The huge gap between the quantity and quality of waste being generated, and the capacity of the municipality to manage that waste.
- Low inert content – The waste has inert content which is not suitable for burning in Waste-To-Energy Project
- Requirement of fuel – which makes the Waste-To-Energy Project unviable.
- Low calorific value – The municipal waste has low calorific value and high moisture content which is not suitable for electricity generation.
- High costs of energy production – The cost of generating power from waste is around Rs 7-8/unit.
- While the cost at which the States’ electricity boards buy power from coal, hydroelectric, and solar power plants is around Rs 3-4/unit.
- Environmental damage – Most of the projects are built in ecologically sensitive areas which also damage the environment.
What is the way forward?
- People should follow strict segregation practices and also process biodegradable waste.
- Municipality must ensure that only non-biodegradable dry waste is sent to the plant and separately manage the other kinds of waste.
- Municipality or the department responsible for Solid Waste Management should be practical about the high cost of power generation, and include the State electricity department.
A tripartite agreement between the municipality, the plant operator, and the power distribution agency.