Keywords: municipal solid waste, MSW, environmental health, methane, carbon dioxide, CO2, aerobic composting, landfills, biomethanation, refuse derived fuel, RDF, waste to energy conversion, India, biodegradable waste, vermicomposting, energy recovery, landfill gas
Municipal solid waste - waste to energy conversion in India: an overview
Municipal solid waste (MSW) is generated in enormous quantities, in India, causing environmental problems. It is collected primarily by sweeping in India and dumped on the outskirts of urban areas, which pollute the environment. Such MSWs also release methane and carbon dioxide, which are important greenhouse gases. MSW comprises biodegradable material. The MSW disposal methods in India mainly include land filling, separating waste and composting, biomethanation, incineration, and conversion to refuse derived fuel (RDF). MSW can be converted to non–conventional energy (WtE). Otherwise, the MSW disposal in India open dumping facilitates breeding of ensuing serious environmental health problems. The WtE conversion is going to become important in thickly populated cities. The biodegradable waste can be processed by aerobic composting including vermicomposting and by anaerobically, biomethanation. The non–biodegradable waste such as plastic can be processed for recovering energy. There are 16 such clean development mechanisms projects recovering energy from MSW in India, of which 11 are RDF–based and a few are biomethanation–based. However, landfill gas recovery projects were not successful in India. However, there are successful small projects in Tamil Nadu (India) deriving the CH4 gas from human–waste biomethanation units generating electricity lighting street lights.