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BW Businessworld

Managing Waste: Technology, Media & Telecom Solution

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“About 500g of waste per capita is generated by 70 per cent of the country's urban population every day.” - WTERT
About 1.25 billion people reside in the vastly stretched geography of India. With rapidly increasing population in urban areas, waste management is becoming complex. Analysts predict that on average 32000 people will be added to urban India every day, continuously, until 2021. 
India generates 60 million tons/year of garbage out of which 10 million tonnes is generated by metros and over 8 million tons/year is hazardous waste. Only about 60 per cent of these waste i.e., 4.8 million tons/year is estimated to be recyclable. As per Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council (WTERT), Chennai generates about 0.71 kg of garbage per capita everyday which is the highest in the country followed by Kolkata with 0.66 kg per day and Delhi and Hyderabad with 0.65 kg each. The waste management situation is poor even in top cities of India, thus demanding proper planning and management of waste to keep the environment clean and hygienic. 
There is an increasing presence of the private sector in solid waste management (SWM) particularly for door-to-door collection of solid waste, street sweeping, secondary storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of waste. The cities which have pioneered in public private partnerships (PPPs) in SWM include Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmadabad, Surat, Guwahati, Mumbai, Jaipur and more. Some notable NGOs like Samhita, Vatavaran, Sampurn(e)arth and SWaCH and some start-ups like Eco-Wise, VermigoldEcotech, and Synergy Waste Management are doing well in SWM. They are not only helping in keeping the environment clean but are also creating awareness and employment opportunities. Organisations also include waste management as part of their CSR activities. Despite several efforts to build clean India, the lack of modern infrastructure, technology and poor awareness are deterring efficient management of waste.
Solutions from Technology, Media and Telecom:
Anaerobic digestion: The old method of landfilling is not the right way to dispose the organic waste as harmful toxic gas is released from the waste. Anaerobic digestion is an innovative technology which helps in the process of in-vessel treatment of waste providing both large-scale solution to organic waste and converting gases into energy quickly.The remainder can be used as fertilizer while the biogas produced is converted into energy.
Waste to Energy/Fuel: The traditional process to convert waste into energy involved burning of waste and converting the resultant heat into energy. New technologies such as gasification, pyrolysis, thermal depolymerisation and plasma arc gasification have been developed to convert waste to energy. Also turning waste into fuel is a pragmatic solution in the era of high-oil price and oil crisis. Biofuel is the most common form, which encompasses a range of different fuels derived from organic matter, including bio-waste. e.g. Netherland is able to recycle almost 64 per cent of its waste and most of the remainder is incinerated to generate electricity. The approach is to avoid creating waste as much as possible and to recover the valuable raw materials from the waste, generating energy by incinerating residual waste and then dump the left over in an environmentally friendly way. 
Zero waste: Zero waste is a philosophy which means designing and managing products and processes systematically to avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste so that the wastes can be discharged directly on land, water or air. This needs efficient use of technology to calculate the amount of toxic discharge at every step of the process.The European Union follows a 5 steps waste hierarchy in the Waste Framework Directive to achieve sustainable waste management. It includes Prevention, Reuse, Recycling, Other Recovery (Energy) and Disposal.
Sorting technology: Sorting of waste is important as it can separate the biodegradable waste from non-biodegradable waste and save resources in managing waste. Sorting of waste includes:
Separation of items by weight like separating glasses, metals and use of screens to separate items by size
Magnetic separation of metals
Ultraviolet optical scanners combined with targeted air jets that send items of certain type in separate collection bins e.g. PET and non-PET plastics
Plastic to pavement: In India, a chemistry professor invented a technique called “plastic to pavement” - waste can replace 15% of more expensive bitumen in the mix used to lay roads. It has been tested and more than 5,000 kilometres of plastic roads have been laid in at least 11 states since 2004.
Tracking, Collection and Transport: Accurate waste management information is essential for most organizations operating in regulated industries and the healthcare sector. The sensor based technologies, bar-coded labels or radio frequency identifier (RFID) tags can track waste from the point of creation to the point of shipment and disposal. GPS based technology is used to locate and transport waste efficiently. Tracking technologies make documentation of waste and keep historical data to make cost analysis and minimize waste production. e.g. The AMCS group provides HID’s RFID technology solutions for real-time tracking, provide better read range and high performance to several municipalities and waste collection business customers.
M2M: The use of sensors and M2M devices is revolutionising the waste management process by collecting and communicating real-time waste related data. e.g. Santander in Spain is working with the waste management service provider ASCAN to develop a smart solution. The just-in-time waste collection service uses machine-to-machine (M2M) sensors that record the volume of rubbish in the bins, which is relayed via data collectors, repeaters and the mobile network to the control centre. The waste collection vehicles are also equipped with GPS devices to track dustbin or location of waste. The city's street sweeping team and citizens will also be able to use the Cuida Santander app to report problems regarding illegal dumping of waste. Another example is U-Dump M2M, a wireless sensor installed in waste containers or other types of containers to measure the filling percentage and transfer the data to the main office through communication network. The M2M based waste tracking and management systems can play a significant role in the upcoming smart cities in India.
Media: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: The Government’s cleaner India, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has made significant impact on the public and organisations. The project encourages people to devote 100 hours every year towards the cause of cleanliness. Public figures like Mridula Sinha and Sachin Tendulkar are participating in this project which is increasing the popularity of the project as well as building awareness among the public. 
Digital and print media: Reality shows such as SatyamevJayate and promotional activities are encouraging people for better waste management. Celebrities like VidyaBalan are promoting total sanitation campaign and encouraging people to build toilets. 
Social media: Waste management is active across most of the major social media sites - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Google+. They are not obsessed with the number of their platform followers, but rather on the reach and level of engagement. The government and NGOs are using social media to promote the swachh activities and to increase awareness among the people.
Hemant Joshi is a Partnerwith Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP.