Toxic Watch slams Assochan study on waste projects

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New Delhi, Jun 18 (UNI) Environment NGO Toxic Watch today expressed concern over the industry bodies arguing for waste maximisation in order to generate more and more electricity unmindful of public health consequences.

''It is a perversion of the waste management. Urban wastes is a growing urban problem, and the industry is eyeing it as a potential money spinner. Garbage is a management problem and merits a management solution not a technological quick fix,'' it said here.

The NGO said waste was wasted natural resources and it is unsustainable to generate more and more waste, hence instead of treating it merely as an economic good, any intervention must be examined in the context of waste minimisation, making waste less toxic and reducing its environmental impact.

In the Indian context, it is a fact that the livelihood of millions of people depends on waste recycling, it added.

Referring to the Assocham study on Mitigating Climate Change: The Indian Perspective? released on June 12, it said the study fails to note that the composition of Indian municipal solid waste (MSW) was quite different from that of the US and Europe; its distinctive features are of the low calorific value, high moisture content, high proportion of organic matter, Earth, sand and grit.

The Toxic Watch said the problem of waste was not only of its quantity but also its nature. There are two main components of Indian urban waste; the biodegradable component consisting mainly of food items, kitchen waste, and so on and the nonbiodegradable component comprising plastics, metals, and others. Intervention in the waste stream, that is, manufacturing, usage, disposal and post disposal, needs careful planning in a holistic way.

''The multibillion-dollar worldwide waste industry sells the promise that waste as a mixed commodity is fine and there is no need for segregation or segmental approaches,'' it said ''Treating energy as the sole focus for waste treatment is not only unsustainable from the point of energy economics, but also distorts waste management, since it does not automatically lead to waste minimisation and sustainable waste behaviour. The issue becomes more complex if high-heat thermal technologies, such as incineration, pyrolysis or gasification are used for waste treatment,'' it said.

Pointing out that the Resource Incineration Projects (referred to as Waste To Energy by financers) was being pushed as a Renewable Energy Technology (RET) under the CDM, it said if that happened, it would be a setback to the anti-incineration campaign worldwide that was aimed at eliminating Persistent Organic Pollutants like Dioxins, heavy metals like Mercury and combating climate change. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is mentioned in the Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol which deals with the climate change.

Assocham study claims that carbon credits can earn from about 1500 megawatt of power that could be generated from urban and municipal wastes by setting up waste to energy projects from 40,000 million tonnes of solid wastes generated every year in the urban areas of the country by 2010, but the fact was that, as per Annexure A waste incineration based waste to energy (WTE) projects are green house emitters and therefore it does not qualify for carbon credits as is being claimed by the study.

''The various subsidies given to these WTE projects without levying any cost on the waste generator bypasses a key reason for waste reduction. Disposal costs, if borne by the waste generators, serve as a disincentive to create more. On the other hand, these WTE schemes imply that waste generation is good, since it means more energy,'' Toxic Watch said.

The NGO said as per its assessment, burn techniques such as gasification, pyrolysis and incineration were technically inappropriate for Indian garbage which has a calorific value of about 800 cal/kg.

Burning the waste would require at least 1,500 cal/kg, else auxiliary fuel was needed. This raises the probability of undesirable materials being used as fuel supplement, such as plastics and other waste oils. The use of backup fuel not only demolishes the rationale for the project, that is garbage disposal, but also makes the process more uneconomical and unprofitable than it already is.

UNI NAZ HS BD1720

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