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IPCC & TERI Promote Polluting Incineration Technology

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, January 15, 2010 | 5:17 AM

Waste Incineration Techniology Violates Kyoto Protocol & Stockholm Convention

TERI's latest 222 page Report "Looking Back to Change Track" as part of its project titled 'GREEN (Growth with Resource Enhancement of Environment and Nature) India 2047' deals with Municipal Solid Waste in chapter VIII notes that "Incineration plants have largely been unsuccessful in India mainly on account of the feedstock used – high contents of moisture and inert material in the input garbage with the low calorific value. After the initial unsuccessful experience (Timarpur, Delhi), commercial incinerators have not been established in the country."
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It observes that "After initial problems with the RDF plants set in Mumbai and Bangalore which were closed on account of lack of good calorific value stock, two plants were set up – in Hyderabad (200 tonnes per day (TPD) in 1999, that later increased to 700 TPD with generation of 6.6 mega watt (MW) power in 2003) and in Vijaywada (600 TPD with a capacity to generate 6 MW of power). Two plants are under planning in Delhi, where RDF more amenable to bioconversion (for example, forms a major part of the system. More RDF composting and biomethanation) as against plants are on the anvil, boosted by the demand from cement plants aiming at fuel substitution for accessing CDM benefits. The cost of power generation from RDF however remains high–ranging between Rs 10–18 crores/MW mainly due to lack of recyclables in Indian MSW and high moisture content in the waste feed. Such projects therefore essentially require subsidy and favourable power purchase agreement to sustain. Waste to Energy (WTE) Projects should be largely treated as waste management projects rather than energy generation options."

It argues that "MSW generated in India seems best suited for treatment options such as composting (aerobic, windrow or vermicomposting) and biomethanation for bio-degradable waste. Typically, however, processing plants are fed with mixed garbage which also contains 15%–20% of material (soiled paper, plastics, rags, leather, and so on) that can neither be composted nor digested. It is therefore recommended that waste processing facilities (compositing/biomethanation) should be integrated with second treatment options that convert such material into RDF. In the case of small facilities (up to 100 TPD), semi-mechanized RDF processing plants can be installed to reduce capital cost and cater to industries that can replace conventional fuel by RDF. Larger facilities can have dedicated RDF cum power generation facility."

It suggests that RDF be combined "with biomethanation, such facilities can also take advantage of biogas for production of power" to get an eco-friendly tag to hazardous technology.The commercial viability of waste processing technologies will require significant policy changes as far as compost and power generation from wastes is concerned. A study by TERI has demonstrated that closing the viability gap for waste-to-energy plants would require preferential tariffs for power generated from such plants.

The study refers to an ADB funded project on studying the present funding gap in MSW based waste-to-energy projects in India, two potential technological options – biomethanation projects and RDF based power generation were evaluated in detail to arrive at potential viability gap in funding these projects. The study revealed that to ensure proper feed stock for such projects, it is suggested that the waste collection and transportation is done by the project developer and favourable power purchase agreement and benefits from CDM make the projects viable on their own.

Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi has announced an action plan comprising 65 specific actions to address climate change as part of the State's development policy framework by 2012, which is aligned with the country's National Action Plan on Climate Change.

Not surprisingly, the Press Note for the Release of Climate Change Agenda for Delhi 2009-12 notes that Chief Secretary (Rakesh Mehta) has prepared this agenda wherein he refers to waste to energy initiatives taken by the Delhi government. It has been claimed that the agenda is in line with the Prime MInister's National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The fact is that NAPCC is categorically refers to Biomethanation technology, a biological treatment method for waste to energy instead of the Refuse Dervied Fuel (RDF) process which is a incineration technology. Since March 2005 when Mehta was the Commissioner, Municipal Corporation Delhi (MCD) and later as Power Secretary of the Delhi government, he has been promoting this technology despite incontrovertible evidence against the technology and inspite of its explicit exclusion by NAPCC. Unmidful of the environmental and human cost of the same he has sucessfully been bulldozing it as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project of IL&FS Waste Management and Urban Services Limited.

There is a flawed text in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saying, that IPCC recommends it.
http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg3/index.php?idp=120
which reads:"3.7.2.4 Incineration
Incineration is common in the industrialized regions of Europe, Japan and the northeastern USA where space limitations, high land costs, and political opposition to locating landfills in communities limit land disposal. In developing countries, low land and labour costs, the lack of high heat value materials such as paper and plastic in the waste stream, and the high capital cost of incinerators have discouraged waste combustion as an option. Waste-to-energy (WTE) plants create heat and electricity from burning mixed solid waste. Because of high corrosion in the boilers, the steam temperature in WTE plants is less than 400 degrees Celsius. As a result, total system efficiency of WTE plants is only between 12%–24% (Faaij et al., 1998; US EPA, 1998; Swithenbank and Nasserzadeh, 1997). Net GHG emissions from WTE facilities are usually low and comparable to those from biomass energy systems, because electricity and heat are generated largely from photosynthetically produced paper, yard waste, and organic garbage rather than from fossil fuels. Only the combustion of fossil fuel based waste such as plastics and synthetic fabrics contribute to net GHG releases, but recycling of these materials generally produces even lower emissions."

Notably, India is a party to Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which calls for elimination POPs (Dioxins) emitting technologies like incineration. This is despite the fact that Annexure A of the Kyoto Protocol clarly says that waste incineration is a source of green house gases.

Incineration is a source of POPs like dioxins, furans, PCBs, toxic metals and other toxic particles besides greenhouse gases.

Waste incineration systems including Refuse Dervied Fuel (RDF) or waste pelletisation, pyrolysis and gasification systems) produce pollutants that are detrimental to both human health and the environment. They are expensive and do not eliminate or even adequately control toxic emissions from today's chemically complex waste. Even new incinerators release toxic metals, dioxins and acid gases. Far from eliminating the problem of landfills, waste incinerator systems produce toxic ash and other residues. They release incinerator ash into the environment, which subsequently enters the foodchain.

Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)'s waste-to-energy programme to maximise energy recovery is technologically incompatible with reducing dioxin emissions that cause irreparable environmental and health damage.

Incinerator technology intervention in the waste stream distorts waste management. Such systems rely on minimum guaranteed waste flows. They indirectly promote waste generation, whilst hindering waste prevention, reuse, composting, recycling and recycling-based community economic development. Such systems cost cities and municipalities more, and provide fewer jobs than do comprehensive recycling and composting schemes. They prohibit the development of local recycling-based industry.

Waste-to-energy projects are being promoted in manifest violation of international environmental norms. Incineration of waste also violates the Stockholm Convention on POPs which calls for improvements in waste management with the aim of stopping the open and uncontrolled burning of waste. It violates the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP's) Global Assessment on Mercury which includes measures aimed at reducing or eliminating mercury emissions from waste incineration, because, unlike other heavy metals, mercury has special properties that make it difficult to capture in many control devices. It violates the Dhaka Declaration on Waste Management adopted by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in October 2004. According to this declaration, SAARC countries cannot opt for incineration and other unproven technologies.

It also goes against Indian legislation and norms such as the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, according to which it is illegal to incinerate chlorinated plastics (like PVC) and waste that's been chemically treated with a chlorinated disinfectant.

According to the 'White Paper on Pollution in Delhi with an Action Plan', prepared by the MoEF: "The experiences of the incineration plant at Timarpur, Delhi, and the briquette plant at Bombay support the fact that thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is not feasible in situations where the waste has a low calorific value. A critical analysis of biological treatment as an option was undertaken for processing of municipal solid waste in Delhi and it has been recommended that composting will be a viable option. Considering the large quantities of waste requiring to be processed, a mechanical composting plant will be needed."

Based on the science and the global experience with this technology, policymakers must act in right earnest to exclude practices that includes cumbustion of waste resources, waste pelletisation, waste incineration, pyrolysis and gasification technologies which are non-renewable energy/fuel sources and to stop offering subsidies/loans for burn-technology-based waste-to-energy programmes and policies. The high-cost routes must be avoided. Instead, appropriate methods such as small-scale bio-methanation, composting and proper recycling should be propagated.

Waste incineration poses serious risks to human health and the environment. It also violates international environmental norms. But the government continues to experiment with burn-technologies and waste-to-energy programmes, ignoring cheaper and safer alternatives
My simple contention is that both Stockholm Convention and Kyoto Protocol say categorically that waste incineration is a Dioxins and GHGs emitter respectively. If we can say that consistently enough we would perhaps be able to drive home the point.

Besides Indian and Brazilian cases of incinerator being pushed as a 'IPCC/The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) solution", we may include the goings on in the US, Europe, Africa, Middle East and China.

Notably, how IPCC Chairman and his organisation The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) is promoting waste incineration is merits full probe.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri as chairman since 2002 of the Inter­governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and is Director-General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) based in New Delhi. Notably,Tata Group, India's largest privately-owned business house set up TERI in 1974. Besides Dow Chemicals, Tata group of companies remain among TERI's corporate sponsors, several directors of Tata serve on TERi's Business Council for Sustainable Development (related to UN Global Compact), and one senior director of Tata Group also serves on TERI's Advisory Board. Dr Pachauri and Ratan Tata, the head of the group, both serve on the Indian Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change, advising on all aspects of national climate policy.

Dr Pachauri's salary as chairman of the IPCC remains confidential. TERI & IPCC should be made to open its accounts, including details of all payments it has received from Dr Pachauri's work for other organisations & companies – particularly those that stand to benefit from policies arising directly or indirectly from the recommendations of the IPCC.

It is noteworthy that TERI did a study for government of India on the CDM potential of Municipal solid wastes, TERI served on the Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy, TERI's ‘Green India 2047’ Report released by India' Environment MInister and the IPCC chaired by TERI Director General all recommends incinerators and support incinerators. Incidentally, incinerators companies like Thermax are sponsors of TERI.

As of October 2009, there are 119 worldwide CDM projects, including 16 from India that are based on municipal solid waste and these include Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), composting and landfill gas recovery methods. Brazil has the highest number of 25 CDM projects of municipal solid waste origin, followed by China and India which have 16 each, Chile and Mexico has 10 each and Argentina has 8 such projects. Remaining projects include that of the non-Annex-1 countries which have one, two or three projects each. Out of the 119 projects, 88 projects are using ACM0001 methodology where electricity is being produced and supplied to a grid.

Out of the 16 Indian projects, only one of the projects has electricity being supplied to the grid. Nine out of the sixteen projects are based on AMS.III.E. methodology that is RDF.
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