Cash for trash

Cash for trash

Due to the high temperature in the cement kiln, different types of wastes can be effectively disposed off without harmful emissions, according to the Central Pollution Control Board

India faces major environmental challenges associated with waste generation and inadequate waste collection, transport, treatment and disposal. Current systems in India cannot cope with the volumes of waste generated by an increasing urban population.

It is estimated that the Mumbai region alone generates one-third of the total waste generated in Maharashtra and it also tops the list of metros in terms of solid waste generated every day. The municipal solid waste generated by the Mumbai region includes all kinds of waste including biodegradable, non-biodegradable, construction, metal, plastic and other kinds of waste.


Stalin Dayanand, a conservationist and activist with Mumbai-based environmental NGO Vanashakti, said issues like waste management have been overlooked by governments deliberately because there is so much money involved in waste management budgets. “The budget gets bigger and bigger when more waste is generated. There is no incentive to reduce it. Instead, the municipal corporations hand out contracts. So, why will someone stop it? Whether it is Delhi or Mumbai, there is no ward-wise estimation of waste. A waste audit has to be done in every ward to understand what are the problems of that ward. There needs to be an incentive for less waste. There needs to be a carrot and stick policy,” Stalin said.

“The landfill sites as per the rules should have been kilometres away from the nearest human habitation but there they are next to housing colonies. The entire area is enveloped in the stench. People are being treated like pigs and made to live in horrible conditions. The money involved in waste management in Mumbai itself is in the range of Rs 80-100 billion and that kind of money has its own power play,” Dayanand added.

In September 2019, a group of citizens of Pune had released an environment manifesto that was submitted to all political parties and their candidates seeking votes. Apart from other environmental issues, the citizen manifesto demanded a push for ensuring the segregation of waste at the user level and a clear policy regarding the responsibility of waste on its generator.

Stalin explained that people are aware of the problem of waste and know about the importance of segregating it but the problem is when the segregated waste is collected and they see the garbage truck taking all of it together to a dumping ground, where it is mixed again, they feel their effort is futile.

Waste management infrastructure has an important role in delivering sustainable development. Rapid population growth in India has led to depletion of natural resources. Wastes are potential resources and effective waste management with resource extraction is fundamental to effective SWM (Solid WasteManagement). Value extraction from waste can be materials, energy or nutrients, and this can provide a livelihood for many people. The transition from wastes to resources can only be achieved through investment in SWM as this depends on a coordinated set of actions to develop markets and maximize recovery of reusable/recyclable materials.


Estimating the quantity and characteristics of municipal solid waste (MSW) in India and forecasting future waste generation is fundamental to successful waste management planning. The quantity of MSW generated depends on living standards, the extent and type of commercial activity, eating habits and season. The local economy impacts on waste composition, as high-income groups use more packaged products, resulting in higher volumes of plastics, paper, glass, metals and textiles. Changes in waste composition can have a significant impact on waste management practices.

The average composition of MSW produced by Indian cities is approximately 41 wt.% organic, approximately 40 wt.% inert, with approximately 19 wt.% potentially recyclable materials. Most organic waste is generated from households, and inert waste is generated from construction, demolition and road sweeping. Waste samples collected from Delhi, Ahmadabad and Bangalore indicate that MSW composition varies between cities.


World waste production is expected to be approximately 27 billion tonnes per year by 2050, one-third of which will come from Asia, with major contributions from China and India. Waste generation in urban areas of India will be 0.7 kg per person per day in 2025, approximately four to six times higher than in 1999. The problems associated with waste become more acute as the size of communities increase. Urban India generated 31.6 million tonnes of waste in 2001 and is currently generating 47.3 million tonnes. By 2041, waste generation is predicted to be 161 million tonnes, a fivefold increase in four decades.


Waste collection, storage and transport are essential elements of any SWM system and can be major challenges in cities. Waste collection is the responsibility of the municipal corporations in India. Improvements to waste collection and transport infrastructure in India will create jobs, improve public health and increase tourism . Local bodies spend around Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 per tonne on SWM with 70 per cent of this amount spent on collection and 20 per cent spent on transport. It is to be noted by the waste generators that in order to have successful model of waste utilisation the waste user would like to have a seamless supply and his consumption point. Any unreliable supply will jeopardise the success.


Source separation of inert and high moisture content fractions would maximise the potential for thermal recovery and other treatment options in India. The waste processed in thermal recovery is residual waste. The most widely used waste-to-energy technology for residual waste uses combustion to provide combined heat and power. Adopting maximum recycling with waste-to-energy in an integrated waste management system would significantly reduce dumping in India. Waste-to-energy technologies are available that can process unsegregated low-calorific value waste, and industry is keen to exploit these technologies in India. Several waste-to-energy projects using combustion of un-segregated low-calorific value waste are currently being developed. Alternative thermal treatment processes to combustion include gasification, pyrolysis, production of refuse derived fuel and gas-plasma technology.


Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is working on an initiative to facilitate use of urban and industrial waste as alternate fuel and raw materials (AFR) in Indian cement Industry, the main objective of the initiative is to facilitate waste exchange and promote sustainable waste management practices and circular economy concepts in India. This initiative will support the nation in reducing its overall carbon emissions.

CII in partnership with European Union - Resource Efficiency Initiative for India (EU-REI) developed a unique website, which acts as a platform to facilitate material exchange and enable network between buyers and sellers, thereby promoting resource efficiency among the stakeholders of waste management in the country. This website will offer a platform for waste generator (non-hazardous and hazardous waste) to register and share the details of waste generated with quantity and quality. Also, offers waste users to access the information on waste generation and policy framework for managing the waste in the country. This website will facilitate significant synergies among large industries, Government, ULB's and SMEs, where the waste/by-product of one may be used as a resource in other, thereby reducing the use of natural resources and overall carbon emissions.

CII will make the documents on waste inventory in various states and list of co-processing units approved by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Procedures to be followed for co-processing approvals in cement plants and transportation of Hazardous waste were listed in this section.

Moreover, official estimates report that out of the 26,000 tpd of plastic waste generated across India, only 60 per cent of it is recyclable. “The association of cement manufacturers has assured us that they will take necessary steps to ensure that all cement plants use plastic waste fuel,” said Durga Shankar Mishra, Urban Affairs Secretary, Government of India. “That will help us in a big way to get rid of the garbage that can't be processed." The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has approached the cement industry to see how it can increase the dispatches of processed waste to cement plants. The current estimates are that plastic waste needs to be transported up to 200 km before reaching a cement plant for co-processing. The MoHUA and CMA collectively conducted the plastic waste initiative across five cities in India, including Delhi, Noida, Lucknow, Raipur and Ahmedabad.

Jharkhand cement plant in West Singhbhoum district is one of the first cement plants in India to adopt plastic waste co-processing. The cement producers in Gujarat are among the leaders for co-processing plastic waste, which makes up five per cent of their total fuels, and it could soon be made mandatory for producers in the state to increase this to 10 per cent of their fuel use. “A few plants have already started setting up some infrastructure so that they can dispose of plastic waste,” added Mahendra Singhi, MD and CEO of Dalmia Bharat.


Meanwhile, there are several issues up for discussion. These will include who will bear the cost of any investments required and how soon the country can make the switch to burning plastic waste. It is estimated that the capital expenditure required to install the necessary equipment to burn the waste will be between Rs 150 to Rs 300 million per plant.

“The model implemented in Europe and worldwide is for the polluter to pay,” added Singhi. “If India implements this scheme, then the producers of single-use plastics will pay to dispose their waste. The cement industry should either get paid or the plastic should at least be free for us.”

Another issue to be addressed is about the continuous supply of waste as the industry is expected to invest in capital expenditure.


However, initial projects have not always been free for the cement plants. In Meghalaya, where around 10 per cent of the country’s limestone reserves are found and home to many cement plants, cement companies pay for the plastic waste. One initiative has ragpickers and volunteers collecting plastic waste to be used as fuel in cement plants. To benefit from this service, cement producers have to pay the scrap dealers Rs 30/kg of plastic as part of the government’s “Plastic Challenge” initiative. The scheme enables tribal bodies and local organisations in Meghalaya to play their part in reducing plastic waste in the province, which has had a plastic ban on many items since 2018. (Source:

The fuel mix of cement manufacturers is going through a churn. The last decade saw cement companies partially substitute coal with pet coke. However, the fuel mix now includes plastics and tyres, as companies look to rejig their sourcing. “Our fuel mix currently comprises alternative fuels at 7 per cent. According to Geocycle (a waste management solution), the estimated amount in the long-term will be 13 per cent as disclosed by Ambuja Cements. The company has adopted Geocycle as a co-processing technique for industrial and other wastes at its kilns.

Co-processing refers to the use of waste materials in industrial processes as alternative fuel or raw material. Due to the high temperature in the cement kiln, different types of wastes can be effectively disposed of without harmful emissions, according to CPCB. Others like UltraTech, Nirma’s Nuvoco, JK Lakshmi and Madras Cement are among companies that are burning waste ranging from tyre chips, rubber dust to rice husk and cashew nut shells in their kilns to generate heat. At Dalmia Cement’s Responsible Industrialisation initiative, around 18.9 tonnes of plastic waste was collected from residential areas, the plant and neighbouring villages and used in the kiln to save a good 56 million kilo calories of energy.

For the country’s largest cement maker UltraTech, alternative fuels contribute eight to 18 per cent to the total fuel mix. In an investor presentation in February, the company said it is targeting 10 per cent contribution from alternative fuels by the end of the current financial year.

Companies like Shree Cements have also extended the fuel mix to sources like automobile sludge, waste water with high ammonia levels as well as medical waste. “Alternative fuel now contributes four to five per cent to our total fuel mix,” said HM Bangur, managing director of Shree Cements.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director at Centre for Science and Environment or CSE, said, “To ensure such processes do not cause environmental hazards, there is a need for stringent monitoring of stack and process emissions as well as profiling of emissions.” She added, “Cement companies will have to invest in effective emission control systems to stay within the permissible limit and reduce toxic emissions. Adequacy of emission standards will have to be reviewed from time to time.”


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