There has been a lot of talk recently of Municipalities and Urban Local Bodies in the country opting for incineration Waste-to-Energy as a method to deal with Municipal Solid Waste. And not for the first time.
WTEs have been hailed as the saviours for India’s waste problem time and again. But existing logic and evidence suggests that it might not be what it is hyped up to be.
In this article, we go over some of the most common issues with WTE and why it proposed as a catch-all solution to India’s waste management woes is perplexing.
1. Quality of Waste
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in India has large organic content with moisture and high volumes of low calorific inorganic waste. This feedstock is hence unsuitable for combustion. Thereby, decreasing the efficiency & effectiveness of the plant.
If the technology is not carefully selected and operations closely monitored, WTE releases pollutants that contaminate air, soil & water. In 2016, the NGT fined Okhla WTE plant in Delhi Rs. 25 lakh for pollution violations.
3. High Tariff
High capital, high operating costs, cost of additional burning fuel etc. increases the unit cost of electricity produced (Rs. 7 compared to Rs. 3-5) in WTE plants rendering it difficult to find buyers for this electricity.
4. Failing Model
Out of the 15 WTE plants setup in our country since 1987, 7 have shut down. This brings into question why this method is brought up time and again as a solution for our waste management issues.
All of these factors clearly indicate incineration WTE cannot be the first choice to manage MSW in India. They do have a role to play but only as a solution to manage the residual waste which forms about 10% of the waste in India.