Kitchen waste powers street lights

Mamallapuram.17.9.12 111The Mamallapuram  branch of Adyar Ananda Bhavan generates 30 kg. kitchen waste a day.  A seaside resort  across the East Coast Road accounts  for 10 times more of food waste.  There are 700 odd eateries in this tourist town.  Till about five years back,  food waste from  Mamallapuram restaurants and hotels  wound up at  the municipal landfill.

And then,  came a bio-gas plant that converts kitchen waste into electricity.  I don’t know who made the first move,  but Vivekananda Kendra –  a Kanyakumari based NGO –   designed and set up this plant,  on a reclaimed  patch  of the municipal garbage dump yard.  The  waste-to-energy plant  is run by another NGO – Hand-in-Hand.

Mr M Raja of  Hand-in-Hand who conducted us around the plant –  a group of  OMR Greens  members from Padur –  explained at length the waste-to-energy conversion process,  from door-step collection of food waste to transmission of the converted electricity that powered 25 street lights.  Over 40 waste collectors are engaged;  and their remunaration is covered by the collection charges paid by the eating houses.  A minimum levy for kitchen waste collection is Rs.50 a month  and the chrages vary in accordance with the quantum of food waste collection.

The Mamamallapuram  waste-to-energy plant is a collective enterprise,  of several stakeholders. The plant,  designed by an NGO, and located on panchayat land,  is run by another NGO,  with  monthly contributions by eateries.  The 10 kilowatts generator running on bio-gas produced by Kirloskars,   costing Rs.20 lakhs  (at the 2008 price level),  is a donation from Sweden.  Under the renewable energy programme  the town panchayat is eligible to Rs.4 lakh subsidy.

Mr Raja,  so knowledgeable on so many aspects,  couldn’t,  however, tell us  the one thing  we needed to know –  the unit cost for producing power from kitchen waste.  OMR Greens  would  want to sell this waste-t0-energy  proposal  to  Padur  panchayat  and other stakeholders.   Ideally,  there should be a waste-to-energy unit for every panchayat  and in setting it up all stakeholders in the neighbourhood  need to be involved –  residents,  other individuals and institutions  generating waste,  property developers responsible for mushrooming residential high-rises ,  and the panchayat.

A bio-gas plant developed by Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) lends itself to  decentralized waste disposal system. For a plant with capacity to process one tonne waste daily requires  no more than 300 sq.ft.  of land.  And a tonne of bio-degradeable waste can produce 25-30 kg. of methane,  about 150 kg. carbon dioxide and  nearly 60 kg of organic manure.  Besides kitchen and veg. market wastes,  and those generated in abattoirs,  the BARC bio-gas model can take in even hazardous biological sludge.

The plant,  they say can be operated by unskilled workers  such as rag-picker  Ramesh  and his folks at Padur .   All they require is one-month training.

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