A PRPOSAL FOR
SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT
Dwarka sub-city is a well planned modern township in the making. The township has been planned for approximately one million population. Over the last few years people have started settling down in this sub-city. The inhabitants, by and large are the retired people. About 40% of the dwelling units are already occupied, and with the flyover under construction more and more people are settling here by the day. The town planning is of modern concept.It needs to be maintained as such. There are a lot of green areas in form of parks etc, which is very pleasant. The residents generally are retired people from the Govt Service or the private sector. By and large the citizens are educated and aware lot where it will be easier to apply apt interventions for proper solid waste disposal.
Wherever there will be population there will be generation of waste. Waste is defined as something which has no further use. Human and animal activities in many forms generate waste. The natural course of waste treatment by the nature is limited in scope and quantity, since the environment is finite and so are its instruments of cleansing. The ecological balance is cyclic and aberration caused by activities of the living species gets automatically corrected. That is how the life thrives on the planet. But with the population explosion ecological balance is likely to trip. Just imagine what may happen if the plants cannot absorb carbon dioxide or fix energy by chlorophyll action of the primary producers. Overload on the environment and on the ecological balance, caused mainly by the population overload, rapid urbanization, and heightened activity of the humans tend to lead to such a situation.
Solid wastes are the household (HH) or domestic waste, street and market waste and the industrial waste. Green waste may be referred to the waste generated out of the parks, gardens, cultivation etc. At Dwarka, there being no industry there is no industrial waste except some construction waste (which is temporary). Though all these waste has no further need it is not totally useless. Any organic waste has stored chemical energy which can be brought to further use. Burning reduces the waste to gaseous form, and to get back the lost energy again, the long chain of fixation of energy by chlorophyll action will be required. Hence burning of any waste should not be the choice at all.
Methods of Solid Waste Disposal
There are many methods of disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW). Age-old methods, of course are the composting by landfill, apart from burning. Then there are many other methods developed in the recent past decades based on ‘waste to energy’ or ‘waste to wealth’ concept such as production of gas for domestic purposes, or production of electricity. Composting is aimed at retaining the stored chemical energy for further use. Production of gas or electricity from waste, requires elaborate costly mechanical systems, and is labor oriented hence likely to suffer from ‘human failure’.
The choice is limited to composting or any other modern system of MSW disposal. Dwarka does not have any earmarked dumping ground, or any laid down collection and disposal system of MSW. This is something which tends to make Dwarka a dirty township in the coming days if care is not taken now. The advantage that the population consists of retired and educated and enlightened people should not be lost sight of. The other advantage is that people have not got used to wrong practices, and therefore it will be easier to inculcate correct habits amongst the population. It is far easier to introduce good or correct habit than to correct entrenched wrong practices. The composting system of disposal requires an elaborate transportation network, labor force, and large land area for secured landfill. If the waste is not properly disposed off in the landfill then it would be a pernicious source of atmospheric pollution, besides being a source of disease and infection amongst the population.
The waste being generated is mainly domestic waste and market waste. Common interventions can be easily applied which can take care of the domestic as well as the market waste. While it may not be possible at this point of time to predict or roughly estimate the market waste, it is possible to estimate the domestic waste. Quantum of solid waste generated differs widely depending upon the economic standard and the living habits. People in the higher economic bracket tend to use more of disposables thus increasing the quantity of waste. In higher income group such as the population at Dwarka, a figure of about 2 Kg per household (HH) can be taken as estimate. Out of this about 60% is the biodegradable part and the rest is non-degradable. Thus considering the present population at 4 Lakhs, the total domestic waste will be about 800 MT per day. Out of this about 480 MT would be bio-degradable component, and the rest plastic waste metal waste etc, which can be recycled.
Currently the waste is thrown and can be seen strewn allover the place- by the side of roads, parks, low lying areas etc. Bushes are the natural toilet for the migrant population. Thus the whole area remains unplanned dumping ground, and at places stinks.
The method employed by the NDMC is collection, transportation and disposal in few designated dumping grounds. As per the latest news all these dumping grounds are full and overflowing, forming a collective source of environmental pollution. Performance is also far from satisfactory. The waste is not collected regularly on the appointed day or time, carried in open trucks (whereas as per rules it should be carried in closed vans), and dumped in non-secured dumping grounds (it should be in a secured landfill and covered with a layer of soil or mud, which is never done). Therefore the system poses health hazard to the population at large. The dumped waste is scattered allover by scavengers, birds and wind.
The sub-city presently is under control and responsibility of the DDA. The DDA does not have any MSW disposal system with it as one of its designated responsibility or task. The NDMC displays its inability since the township has not been handed over to it as yet. The waste in the meantime continues to putrefy, and the population continues to suffer. In Bangalore, the BDA in similar situation has gone in for separate contracts to ensure solid waste is taken care of. Thus it is possible to undertake MSW management by the DDA, pending handing over to the NDMC.
The landfill system eventually aims to produce manure. But given the awareness and commitment of the waste handlers this system never works satisfactorily, success is totally dependant on the waste handlers who are non-skilled work force, and chance of ‘human failure’ is very high. Similarly the efforts to produce methane gas from the landfill fails when there are unskilled and not so committed work force. In any case methane adds to the green house gases (GHG), and is not recommended considering the issue of Global Warming. Other methods such as producing slurry etc and then electricity suffer from the same fear of failure because of complexity of the equipment, lack of skilled labor, and the day to day supervision.
The principle of the waste handling is that it does not pose a health hazard for the handlers or for the public at large, the environment, and at the same time can be brought to use. The intention should be to use this stored energy. Burning may also cause atmospheric pollution.
Therefore there is requirement of thinking and applying some other modern method of waste disposal which is not labor oriented, is not polluting to the environment, does not pose health hazard, and is easy to run and maintain. It has been seen on experimentation that once the waste is treated with regulated and controlled heat energy, it loses attraction for the flies, rodents, cats, dogs, birds, or any other scavenger while retaining its stored chemical energy. Moreover the system not being so heavily dependant on the skill of a large work force, nor requiring land- mass for composting, and produces manure in a matter of about an hour, is bound to succeed. This is not a hypothesis, but a proven fact based on scientific study which was undertaken during a WHO project for hospital waste management at Bangalore. The treated solid waste (including food waste) has been tested for protein, carbohydrate, and fat content, and hardly any change was noticed after the treatment. When the treated waste was left in different corners in the hospital in the open, it was found that flies, cats dogs, birds etc were not attracted towards it for a few days (till fungus growth started). The treated waste has been used as manure with satisfactory result.
Such programs would only succeed with community participation (which is true for any disposal method). Therefore a committed awareness program for the HH, the shop owners, and others generating waste will have to be undertaken. The unauthorized vendors of food items will have to brought within the purview of the municipal rules so as to discourage open vending of food items, and so that they collect their waste in the scientific manner, and become part of the system.
The mainstay of the system is a machine known as Bioclave, Hydroclave, and Vapoclave etc. All these names mean the same except that these are produced by different companies. The capacity of the machine or the number of units can be customized as per the quantity of waste it is intended to treat, and the cluster of houses or market waste to be taken care of. Each cycle lasts for about an hour. The end product can be used as manure or as a source of energy to cook food etc, in a bricket form by adding a compacting and a bricketting machine. The bricks or the manure can be sold to offset the running cost.
The system can be installed in an area of 20 ft x 20 ft. It runs on electricity. A water inlet is required. The area needs to be covered to make it safe from rain etc. The engineering details of the system is placed at appendix. Only one person is required to handle it, and he may be just semi-skilled. The system is rugged and can be operated 18 to 20 hours in a day without failure. There are fail safe attributes in the system, which takes care of the worker’s safety.
(a) A demonstration unit can be installed, with commitment of 2000 Kg of waste, at least. The system can be planned on turnkey basis, or otherwise. On turnkey the HH will be provided with two colored bags – one for bio-degradable, and the other for non-bio-degradable waste. The cost in such a case would be about Rs 2 to 2.50 per KG of waste.
(b) The equipment can be bought and installed. For running, training can be imparted. The project can be run as a pilot project. The cost would be less in this case, about Rs 1.50 per Kg.
(c) The total project be authorized on a turnkey basis, with capital investment to cover the cost of installation. Running can be the responsibility of the vendor at a mutually accepted terms and conditions.
(d) Training cost will have to be separate, in case so desired.
The feeling that landfill system is cheaper to run is a misplaced notion. It can be cheaper only when it is not run with due scientific consideration. That is when the transportation is by open rickety trucks dropping the waste on its way, when the lifting of the waste is not as per the laid down schedule, when door to door collection is not insisted, when the storage bins are the assembly point of the vagabond cattle to rummage in, when the cost of the land is not taken in reckoning, and the designated area is used as a dumping ground, and not as a secured landfill. The waste so dumped gets scattered allover by scavengers, birds and wind; and becomes source of spread of infection and pollutants. There is always the danger of polluting the underground water (aquifer) by leaching. Land is not available, or even if available it may become a problem in the future in a crowded country like India. Therefore alternates must be considered. What has been suggested above is one of the alternatives-well tried and tested.
It must be remembered that nothing comes free except misery, disease, pestilence, and infirmity. Therefore the societies must be prepared to spend money to clean the pollution brought about by its inhabitants, and thus help the environment to maintain its balance on which our survival depends.
Success comes by doing things differently rather than by doing different things
Lalji K Verma
Dec 20, 2002