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The subject of solid waste management was never more relevant than it is
now. In fact Delhi alone produces around 8,000 tonne garbage per day, while
the estimate for the country is 27.4 million tonne per year.

Waste management is still a linear system of collection and disposal,

creating health and environmental hazards. In the light of this, Alliance for
Waste Management, a common platform formed by organisations working on
solid waste management issues, has been promoting the concept of
‘Integrated Zero Waste Management’.

“While waste-to-energy technology is posing a serious threat to environment,

the government is paying lip service to the concept of ‘Integrated Zero
Waste Management’ approach,” says Gopal Krishna of Toxic Links, a non-
governmental organisation. Gopal adds that the Planning Commission’s
Tenth Plan document states that India has bio-mass deficit, which essentially
means the soil lacks carbon content. “So why burn the waste and release
carbon in the air, instead of adding it to the soil?” asks Krishna.

“In India, the municipalities are still using the conventional method of either
burning or burying to dispose off garbage,” elaborates Krishna, adding that
the zero waste approach is being promoted and followed the world over.
“Again the landfills are neither well managed nor lined properly to protect
against contamination of soil and groundwater,” he points out.

Adds M B Nirmal, the founder of Exnora International, which is in the

business of waste management, “Waste is wealth, why waste ‘waste’. India
has a large number of urban poor and a lot of employment can be created
through waste management process of composting organic waste and
recycling inorganic waste.”

According to Nirmal, “Around 75% of the garbage in India is organic in

nature. Since 75% of people are employed in the farm sector, it could be
converted into organic manure beneficial to both farmers and to promote
organic farming in the country.”

Exnora has tied up with Technomedia Solutions Pvt Ltd to come up with a
Delhi plan to deal with solid waste management. “Our Delhi plan will be to
start working with resident welfare associations (RWAs). We will first conduct
workshops with these residential colonies or societies and then these RWAs
will come up with their own action plans. We will give our expertise and
guidance to them to manage their own waste,” says Nirmal. “We believe that
the efforts to improve existing conditions can only be successful through
local participation and capacity building of...


1. The economic playing field must be rebalanced. The hierarchy of

profitability must match the environmental hierarchy. This can be done by
revising waste taxes and public benefits in three ways:
➢ introducing a disposal tax that reflects the environmental hierarchy
➢ cutting the subsidies presently given to incineration
➢ introducing a price guarantee scheme for recycled materials to fund
the build-up costs of four stream recycling.
2. The £550 million raised in waste taxes must be re-channelled to a Zero
Waste Fund. This requires:
➢ a change in the landfill tax regulations so that the 20 per cent offsets
are paid into the publicly-run recycling fund
➢ earmarking a further 20 per cent to support employment and
environmental goals through recycling
➢ amending the packaging recovery regulations so that payments by
the 'obligated parties' are channelled to recycling collectors.
3. Establishing a Zero Waste Agency to administer the transitional funds and
'animate' the change.
4. Founding a new type of Green Academy, equivalent to the German
technical schools of the mid-nineteenth century. It would be charged with
developing organisational forms, knowledge and skills relevant to zero
waste, and new ways of generating 'distributed intelligence'. Its curricula
and priorities would be set by the needs thrown up by the new
environmental systems. Hence its research, teaching and skill formation
would be linked closely to ground level projects - following the approach
of the Ulm School of Design - and provide learning resources to those in or
outside employment.
5. Appointing Zero Waste Advisers - some recruited from leading recycling
and reduction projects overseas - to advise on recycling schemes and
projects. The group would be part of an international network, promoting
exchanges and part-time attachments, and linking into practitioners'
6. The launch of a 'Closed Loop Industrialisation' Initiative, promoting the
development of secondary materials industries, ecodesign and hazard
reduction technologies. In addition to material productivity, it would aim
to promote 'de-scaling' technologies suitable for local and regional
economies. It would be organised in conjunction with regional
development agencies.
7. The extension of producer responsibility into new fields, not only electrical
and electronics appliances, end-of-life vehicles and tyres, but other
durable equipment, newspapers, and hazardous products and materials.
The weight of responsibility should be placed at the point of product and
process design, since they have the greatest capacity to develop
alternatives. In each case, the finance contributed by producers should be
re-channelled to develop the alternatives.

8. Devolving responsibility for waste disposal to districts, through direct

payments for the costs of disposal (rather than property-based precepts)
and giving districts responsibility for identifying and negotiating disposal
options within their own boundaries or with neighbouring districts. This
would represent the proximity principle with teeth.
9. Restoring public confidence in wade management and democratising risk
through: planning reform to give financial support and access to
information to civil groups and neighbourhoods affected by waste
proposals; a new culture of openness in regulatory bodies; an
independent waste hazards control advisory body; and an environmental
freedom of information provision.
10. A govemment-led commitment to the zero waste target 'within a
generation', reflected in the above measures and the adoption of tighter
targets to 'reduce with the aim of eliminating' mixed waste disposal by
2010. This would include a phased ban on organic waste in landfills and
on landfilling or incinerating hazard-producing materials, and a
moratorium of new mixed waste incinerators for five years.


WHEN MOHAMMED Arif Noorzai, Afghanistan’s minister for light industries,

came calling a while ago, he made a rather unusual request. He insisted on
visiting Panipat in Haryana.

Why Panipat? Not because it’s the site of ancient battles, but because it has
an unusual industry: scores of the city’s inhabitants make a living spinning
blankets from woollen rags. Known as shoddies, these coarse, low-cost
blankets are made on looms set up in backyards, and everyday consume
over four containers of cut rags imported from the US and Canada.
Both raw material and finished product are cheap, and it generates
employment. It is this vibrant community industry that Noorzai wanted to
take back to his war-ravaged country.

Scavenging angels. And it’s not blankets alone. The town boasts of a huge
subsidiary market that runs on discards. "Zippers, buttons and cloth lining
are salvaged from the tonnes of woollen garments everyday," says Puneet
Agarwal, S.K. (India) Marketing, in the business for 15 years.

Agarwal and his ilk are only now being recognised for their gutsy
entrepreneurship. Over the years, they have battled reluctant bankers, poor
product acceptance and the lack of coherent policies.

Waste management, in fact, did not start off as a business opportunity.

Environment-conscious people across the country took the initiative to clean
up their world and, in the process, more often than not, found that their
initiatives could help someone somewhere make money as well (See
sideshow: Citizen clean).

Now, we have waste entrepreneurs all over the country–people who have
tinkered with technology and come up with the best way to not just dispose
of garbage but to convert it into solid, money-making proposals. Which
should not really be such a surprise. After all, Indians are no strangers to
recycling and its merits. Every little thing is salvaged and reused in several
incarnations over several generations. Add a profit angle to this, and there
you have your waste entrepreneur. As N.B. Mazumdar, chief of waste
management at Hudco, says: "Conservation and thrift are integral to our

Initiatives in this field are wide-ranging. On one end of the spectrum, you
have housewives like Delhi-based Asha Pandey who converts milk bags,
thread and paper to teaching aids and rugs. On the other end are giant
waste-to-energy (WtE) units like the Rs 78 crore power unit in western
Maharashtra driven by bagasse from sugar mills. Ranging from the usual
suspects like plastic, metal, glass or paper, right down to human hair, dog
fur, animal and human excreta–there seems to be little that cannot be
reconverted and sold.

Gold from dross. Much of the action can be attributed to judicial activism and
the subsequent stipulations of the Municipal Solid Wastes (management and
handling) Rules, 2000 and Biomedical Wastes (management and handling)
Rules, 1998. This makes it mandatory for municipal bodies to set up waste-
processing/disposal units before December 2003.

The municipal dumping grounds are virtual gold mines, as cash-strapped

municipal bodies invite private enterprise to help them get rid of garbage
and take the profits. Says Mazumdar: "This area holds tremendous potential,
not only for small business but also for large corporates."

In the US, the solid waste industry generates $43 billion in annual revenue
and contributes $14 billion as direct and indirect taxes. Over 27,000
companies, employing 3,67,800 people, are engaged in this business, which
accounts for 0.5 per cent of the GDP.

The potential here is tremendous: India generates around 48 million tonnes

of municipal solid waste (MSW), with an organic, biodegradable content of
over 40 per cent, ideal for composting. Municipal bodies spend between Rs
500 and Rs 1,500 per tonne on collection, transportation, treatment and
disposal; only 5 per cent of this is spent on final disposal.

Private players are now being enticed to take on the task. The
announcement in Budget 2002 of a Rs 500 crore Urban Reform Incentive
Fund and a City Challenge Fund, which seeks to rope in the private sector in
the provision of civic services, may trigger activity here. The Mumbai-based
Excel Industries has set up aerobic (microbial treatment) composting plants
in 12 cities. The municipal bodies supply free MSW, the entrepreneur runs
the plants, and Excel provides the know-how. "Over 500 tonnes of MSW are
turned into 200 tonnes of compost in a 45-day cycle," says Excel’s Ramesh

In 20 Class 1 towns of Rajasthan, including Jaipur and Jodhpur, the state has
offered 30-year land leases for MSW projects at a mere Re 1/sq.m/year.
Hyderabad and Pune have given private parties the task of collecting and
disposing hazardous waste from hospitals and small clinics.

Money from MSW, hospital waste, ash... the possibilities are endless.
Intelligent Investor looks at six areas where entrepreneurs have made money
from muck.


Building bricks from oil field effluent treatment plant sludge

Waste water produced in petroleum production contains hydrocarbons and

many trace metals such as Cr, Cd, As, Hg. It is treated in effluent treatment
plant (ETP) before discharging into the environment.
In the process, a voluminous sludge containing oil / hydrocarbon is
generated, disposal of which is a problem.

The sludge contains oil, water and inorganic materials. In an attempt to

utilize all these components, investigations on partial replacement of the raw
materials used in making masonry bricks by the sludge were carried out.
Bricks prepared by replacing about 30% of the raw materials (clay, sand and
water) by the sludge were found to conform to Indian standard specification
for common burnt clay building bricks. In the process, the water in the
sludge serve as the process water, the hydrocarbons burn and provide about
5% of the fuel requirement for brick making and the inorganic materials are
fixed as constituents of the bricks. Standard size bricks prepared using the
sludge and firing in a commercial coal fired kiln show high compressive
strength (163 kgf/cm2) and low water absorption capacity (10.4%).

The sludge was mixed with soil and then pelletized in a disk type pelletizer.
The pellets were dried and then fired in a laboratory scale electrical furnace.
The bulk density, crushing strength and water absorption capacities of the
pellets were determined. The pellets can be used as light weight

The process for making common masonry brick, lightweight aggregate and
blended cement utilizing the sludge werecompared. Considering the local
condition of industrialization, the process for making common masonry
bricks using the sludge seems to be the most promising one for eliminating
the problem associated with disposal of the sludge.