It s money, stupid
When is waste not waste? When it can be used to supply a substantial part of the energy needed by a sunshine industry. The Indian cement industry, for instance, can use municipal solid waste for its energy requirements. And at the estimated 36.5 million tonnes of municipal solid waste generated annually, there is no problem of supply. Estimates made by Centre for Science and Environment's green rating project say that 28 per cent of energy requirements can be met by using solid waste.
The problem is that no agency has worked on the huge savings possible in terms of waste disposal or the cement industry's energy budget. What comes in the way are the usual suspects: bureaucratic and regulatory requirements. For instance, no one seems to be quite sure who will pay for transportation. As of now, the onus of transporting the waste material, and the costs of transportation, are borne by the cement industry, which has to go through the gauntlet of our labyrinthine bureaucracy.
Bad experience Take, for instance, the experience of Shree Cement Limited, a cement plant in Rajasthan. It wanted to use Delhi's municipal waste, but could not finalise an agreement with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (mcd) on who would pay for transportation, and whether the waste would be supplied free. The wrangling was typical of how a useful deal could be scuppered. mcd was apparently willing to supply waste free if Shree Cement bore the cost of transportation. On the other hand, the company said since disposal was mcd's problem it wouldn't go further than contributing partly to transportation.
In spite of the problems, some cement companies have taken an initiative to use municipal solid waste as fuel for the kilns. Jaiprakash Associates Ltd plans to set up a Rs 23.28-crore waste-processing plant at Chandigarh. The plant will produce fuel pellets from municipal waste that will then be used for its cement plant. The company has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh.
Other cement manufacturers are also following suit. Grasim is, for instance, setting up a 500 tonnes-per-day waste-processing unit in Jaipur.
Blowing in the wind The roadblocks on the way to using municipal solid waste as a source of energy were prefigured by the problem in using flyash in the production process. The cement industry has been complaining for a long time about having to pay for the transportation of a waste product that it is using in a manner that makes excellent environmental sense.
Waste hazards Apart from municipal waste, cement kilns could also use a variety of other wastes like used tyres, plastics and hazardous industrial waste. The high temperatures inside the kilns