CII’s International Waste to Worth Conference: Session Highlights – Building a Circular Economy By Using Waste as Alternate Fuel

The CII’s International Waste to Worth Conference saw relevant discussions among national and international waste experts on a range of issues. As official media partners for the event, Solid Waste India has been bringing you exhaustive coverage of the event. Today, in our Session Highlights, we focus on the panel discussion ‘Waste as Alternate Fuel and Raw Materials – Building A Circular economy’, chaired by Mr Ulhas Parlikar, Global Consultant, Waste Management, Circular Economy, Policy Advocacy & Co-processing.

During this session, panellists elaborated on their respective organization’s initiatives in producing value for recycled waste in a sustainable manner to transform a linear economy into a circular economy. Here are some of the key discussion points:

  • Mr Ulhas Parlikar, Global Consultant – Waste Management, Circular Economy, Policy Advocacy & Co-processing

Mr Parlikar began the session by introducing the concept of utilising waste as resource. “Fuel or raw material can become an important pillar in building a circular economy. Waste can be treated to extract maximum usage and there is plenty of untapped potential in India.” 

  • Prof DN Singh, Institute Chair Professor, Dept of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai

Prof DN Singh mentioned that the biggest challenge for the industry is to locate waste and convert it into a value-added material while treating the by-product, which in itself is an interesting material to work with. “As a researcher I enjoy matchmaking. Can I create something interesting from waste? Gone are the days when people used to make bricks out of it. Today’s requirements are very different. This is a challenging and interesting prospect,” Singh said. He referred to this match-making as producing “suitable offspring” for better use of waste. 

Laying emphasis on waste characterisation, Prof Singh said more studies are required to understand the traits of the material. Prof Singh rued that there aren’t enough labs in India where such studies are being done. While there is some progress in this aspect, Prof Singh said the ground realties are difficult to handle. “There are tonnes of by-products but no takers,” he felt. 

  • Mr Bijay Kumar, Deputy General Manager, Indian Oil Corporation ltd

Mr Bijay Kumar stressed on the significant work IOC has done in the field of CBG. Under the SATAT scheme, the IOC has set a target of establishing 5000 biogas plants across India with a capacity to produce 15 million metric tonne of biogas. Mr Kumar observed that the total consumption of CNG in India is roughly 45mn metric tonne (MT) out of which 20mn metric tonne is imported. “Only 25mn MT is produced here but if you see the current potential of the country, 20mn MT isn’t a huge target because 60mn MT is acquired through various resources of waste; namely cattle dung, chicken litter, forest residue, agri-residue, sugar industry, municipal solid waste, organic content and many more. If we manage to utilise this waste, a substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuel will be possible.” Mr Kumar said that IOC aims to utilise 15mn MT waste, replacing it with green fuel and has commissioned five plants that have started selling CBG from 10 retail outlets. “The pandemic has slowed our progress as we were hoping to commission 25 plants this year itself. I hope we will be able to commission 20 plants by the end of this financial year.” 

“Another by-product from this biogas plant is organic manure which is a direct replacement to chemical fertilisers. It’s going back to the field and increasing the carbon content of the soil. It will create a huge circular economy,” Mr Kumar reminded the audience. 

  • Moumita Chakraborty, Head, Geocycle India

Ms Moumita Chakraborty shared that a circular economy has become a reality in the waste sector now. “It is also a need of the hour, since the industry is most resource-intensive – both, in terms of extraction and emission. “Geocycle currently works with 20 municipalities and has worked on 63 landfills. We have built processes to manage municipal solid waste so that we are able to extract combustible fractions and repurpose it in the form of waste derived resource to use it at cement kilns.” She emphasised the role of CII and other agencies in helping support the right set of legislations and enforcement. “Regulations exist but they need to be enforced properly. Also, the mindset of the industry needs to change which will help us leap forward,” she said. 

  • Dr Medha Tadpatrikar – Director, Rudra Environmental Solution India LTD. 

Talking about the Thermo Catalytic De-polymerisation technology developed by her company to convert plastic into fuel, Dr Tadpatrikar discussed the challenges the company faced. “People were doing it in labs but nobody was sure if this technology will work in India. We realised that to sort out any kind of waste, especially plastic, more efforts were needed since people don’t segregate properly.” Hence, the company tied up with an NGO to create awareness about plastic collection and conversion to fuel. “Also, we should not stop at fuel production since there are other ways to use it. Unless we take this to the next level, waste management will remain a struggle.” Proposing decentralised plastic waste management solutions, Dr Tadpatrikar said there was little awareness of small-scale technologies that can help generate employment while taking care of the waste. “We can collect the fuel and distil it,” she said, adding that research is lacking in this area.

  • Mr Deepak Agarwal, SR VP, IL&FS
Screenshot of C&D plant taken from IL&FS website

Mr Deepak Agarwal began by pointing out that the massive quantities of C&D waste treated by IL&FS have proved that 100 per cent recycling is possible, with zero discharge. “We have processed over 6mn metric tonnes of C&D waste in Delhi saving 300 acres of precious land. We are processing about 4000 metric tonne of C&D waste daily in Delhi, out of 6000 metric tonnes generated. The products are recycling aggregates, sand, bricks, tiles, and highway furnitures.” Talking about the existing regulatory framework, Agarwal mentioned that the 2016 C&D Waste Management Rules have been successful but further efforts are required to ensure a level playing field. Mr Agarwal said C&D waste has the potential to replace 10% of the natural aggregates’ requirement of the country. 

  • Mr Rahul Poddar, MD, The Shakti Plastic Industries

Expressing his gratitude to the government for various initiatives supporting the plastics and recycling industry, Mr Poddar said the GoI can take a step further and promote better segregation and support the recycling industry in various ways. “The end chain, including rag pickers and scrap collectors, should be incentivized because this can become a self-sustaining model,” said Mr Poddar. Elaborating on Shakti Plastic’s expansion plans, he revealed that new plants are being set up in Indore, Delhi, Noida and Gujarat. Mr Poddar was of the opinion that plastic shouldn’t be completely banned since it has immense value, if handled properly.

  • Mr Faheem Sopariwala, DGM at GEPIL-Gujarat Enviroment Protection & Infrastructure Ltd

Emphasising the importance of waste characterisation studies, Mr Sopariwala pointed out that the industry does not have sufficient infrastructure in place and the perception for using waste as fuel itself remains a stigma. “While a lot has changed and industries are developing suitable infrastructure, there should be national level inventories and a complete tracking mechanism to eliminate illegal waste management happening at the ground level,” Mr Sopariwala felt. 

Look out for SolidWasteIndia’s special Session Highlight reports on each of the four panel discussions held on October 30 during the CII International Waste to Worth conference.

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