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Make Wealth from Waste

 Delhi is notorious for its stinking heaps of garbage, choked drains and an army of ragpickers who make a living out of this waste. With a population of over 17.4 million, the capital churns out 8,000 tonnes per day (TPD) of garbage every day. So after the recent announcement of “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the real question is: will citizens do their bit to keep their city clean?

Experts say Delhi’s garbage problem can be substantially reduced if residential societies locally process their biodegradable waste, which include kitchen and horticultural waste. What’s more, communities can make money out of biodegradable waste. Here is how: 40 percent of Delhi’s waste is biodegradable which, if processed properly, can be turned into high- quality manure. The trick, however, is to ensure that biodegradable waste is not mixed with ordinary waste, which can be checked if the processing happens locally. The practice can substantially reduce the current dependency on land to dispose of waste. It will even take care of the stench that emanates from landfills when biodegradable waste decomposed and releases methane, a greenhouse gas.

Delhi’s potential

Kitchen waste accounts for 50 percent o household waste in the country. Shyamala Mani, a professor at the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi, estimates that an average Delhiite produces at least 50 grams of kitchen waste in a day. Thus, the city produces at least about 870 TPD of kitchen waste.

          Green areas such as parks also produce biodegradable waste, which can be used to produce  rich compost” Conservatively, every hectare of urban green produces about 100 kg of horticultural waste every day” says Saurav  Bardan , o-founder and technical head of Green Bandhu Environmental Solutions & Services , a company that runs a decentralized  composting plant at Delhi University. Thus, Delhi produces about 1,100 TPD of horticultural waste that is usually set on fire by street sweeper. “Ideally, three portions of kitchen waste are used with one portion of horticultural waste to make the best mix for composting” says Bardhan.

According to Mani, at least 40 percent of the waste going to landfills is easily compostable.” This will included the huge amount of kitchen waste discarded from hotels in addition to regular household and horticultural waste, she adds.

Delhi has three centralized composting plants at Narela, Okhla and Bhaswa which collectively process about 500 TPD of compostable waste. “It is quite a challenge to sell the compost that is produced because the waste we get from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is mixed with debris,” says Subash, manager of Nature and Waste Management Pvt Ltd, the composting plant at Bhalswa.

Money down the Drain

Let alone make profit, Delhi is spending a fortune to dispose of its waste. As per the latest draft manual on municipal solid waste management prepared by the ministry of urban development, three million tonne of waste can be accommodated on 40 hectares of land, considering the life of the landfill to be 20 years. But for Delhi that generates 8,000TPD of garbage, some 8000 hectares of land is needed and that would cost 800 billion at the present circle rate. But Delhi does not have the land. In addition, municipalities ar required to incur recurrent operating expanses on labour and machinery at the landfill and on transportation of waste which is nearly 1200 per tonne, says Tufail Ahmed, who has been managing landfill cost the Municipal Corporation of Delhi about 14,500. Bardhan says a smart solution to the problem is decentralized plants.

          He, however, warns the plants will only be successful if the right technology is used that is cheap and easy to operate. In fact, some communities are already benefiting through local waste management plants in Delhi(see to popularise it further , experts say, the muncipality should provide incentive to communities for waste management.” It can fund these plants out of a cess on total muncipal expenditure on waste management , Suggests Subir Paul, a visiting professor at the School of Planning and Architecture , Delhi

Sunil Mehra, chief town planner, East Delhi Municipal Cooperation says, “The municipality is willing to provide rebate on property tax to the owners who manage solid waste locally, but a policy needs to be worked out.


Small steps towards a cleaner locality

Three places in Delhi where people are successfully managing their biodegradable waste using different technologies


TCHNOLOGY: Rapid composting

RAW MATERIAL: 1: 3 mix of horticultural and kitchen waste

FINAL PRODUCT: Organic compost



LAND REQUIRED: 60 square metre (sq m)


How THEY DID IT: “We wanted effective solid waste management within the campus”, says Pratibha Jolly, principal, Miranda House. In 2013, the college invested 4 lakh in a plant to make organic compost out of its biodegradable waste. It tied up with Green Bandhu Environmental Solutions & Services for this. Today, the college produces 60 kg of compost every day from its waste and use a bulk of its compost in its gardens. The college earns 4,000 a month by selling the surplus compost and saves 12,000 on transportation of waste.

TECHNOLOGY: Excel composting

RAW Material: Kitchen and horticultural waste

FINAL PRODUCT: Organic compost

Composting PERIOD: 15-20 days




HOW THEY DID IT: General Pool Residential Accommodation Complex at New Moti Bagh is a 110-acre campus housing 1,100 families. In 2013, Green Planet Waste Management PVT Ltd started a waste management plant in the complex. The company invested 8 million to set up the plant, which receives around 900kg of horticultural waste and 700 kg of kitchen waste every day. Being so expansive, the plant’s operators are struggling to recover losses. Rajesh Mittal, CEO of the plant, says the municipality should pay back the communities that are taking care of the garbage themselves.

TECHNOLOGY: EMI microbial solution- based pit composting

RAW MATERIAL: Kitchen waste

FINAL PRODUCT: Organic composting





HOW THEY DID IT: What distinguishes this plant from the others is that the residents themselves manage it. It was conceptualized by the RWA with the help of non-profit Toxics Link. The facility was set up at a cost of just 70,000 a decade ago. The compost facility was set up in a small unused corner of the neighborhood.” Our Priority was to get rid of the sell from the colony bins, “says Shammi Talwar, joint secretary, RWA, Defence colony. The RWA has trained two rag pickers to run it and their salaries come from the plant itself.



Source: Down to Earth Magazine