Waste-Energy Plants: A backgrounder

Waste-Energy Plants: A backgrounder

What are Waste-Energy plants?

  • Waste-To-Energy (WTE) plants are innovative ways of converting non-recyclable wastes, organic and inorganic, into usable forms of energy including heat, electricity and fuel.
  • Different types of WTE processes include:
    • Incinerators which are used to produce usable form of heat by complete combustion of waste
    • Pyrolysis – thermal degradation of organic materials through use of indirect, external source of heat – used to convert wastes into liquid fuels
    • Anaerobic digestors – with moderate heating in the absence of oxygen – used to convert organic waste into biogas and sometimes compost
    • In-situ landfill gas recovery to produce biogas


Waste-Energy Plants in India

  • Waste-Energy sector is still at a nascent stage in India.
  • According to CPCB data of 2014-15, India generates about 1.5 lakh tones of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) every day.
  • However, the processing and treatment of MSW is very low, with only about 24% of the total waste generated is being treated.
  • The remaining waste is significantly adding to pollution as it is left untreated in dump sites or landfill sites.

Challenges to Waste-Energy Plants in India

  • Low level of collection and segregation of waste
  • High moisture content of the waste, making it expensive to segregate and treat
  • Low calorific value of the waste (about 1200 kcal/kg)
  • Inefficient management of MSW by urban local bodies
  • Lack of acceptance level of W-E plants among people due to perceived pollution woes
  • High cost of electricity generated from W-E plants, nearly Rs. 7 per unit compared to Rs. 3-5 offered by thermal and solar sources.


Way Forward

  • With growing urbanization, the MSW is expected to be 4.5 lakh tonnes per day by 2031, waste-energy plants are seen as an effective alternative to manage municipal solid waste.
  • As a result, NITI Aayog has proposed capacity upgradation of waste-energy plants by 10 fold.
  • NITI Aayog also proposed setting up of a Waste-to-Energy Corporation of India responsible for setting up incineration plants to treat MSW.
Section : Environment & Ecology