Waste-to-energy incinerators create landfill in the sky, study of Singapore University against it
Life cycle assessment study recommends recycling of waste instead of incineration
CPCB Report reveals Okhla incinerator technology is untested, unapproved and experimental, violates all rules
New Delhi, July 11, 2012: Amidst rising pollution levels in the capital city, debunking claims about the appropriateness of waste-to-energy incinerators of Singapore as solution for the capital, a study of application of life cycle assessment (LCA) for evaluating various waste management options in Singapore by Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore recommends, “Out of all the waste strategies, the recycling of wastes offers the best solution for environmental protection and improved human health for the nation. Significant emission savings can be realized through recycling.”
Environmental groups, residents and waste recycling workers are bitterly opposed to these Dioxins emitting hazardous waste to energy incinerators which have been set up in Delhi’s Okhla (Sukhdev Vihar) and are under construction in Narela-Bawana and Ghazipur. It is also a fact that the composition of Singapore’s municipal waste and that of Indian waste is quite different.
According to this study titled ‘Impact assessment of waste management options in Singapore’ of Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore published in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association. This study acknowledges the support of National Environment Agency, Singapore. This paper has been authored by Prof. Reginald B.H. Tan i and Hsien H. Khoo.
“The impact assessment results for climate change, acidification, and ecotoxicity show that the incineration of materials imposes considerable harm to both human health and the environment, especially for the burning of plastics, paper/cardboard, and ferrous metals. The results also show that, although some amount of energy can be derived from the incineration of wastes, these benefits are outweighed by the air pollution (heavy metals and dioxins/furans) that incinerators produce.”
In summary, the LCA results for the waste management strategy in Singapore concluded the following:
(1) the incineration of plastics and paper/cardboard both contribute significantly to climate change and acidification;
(2) the incineration of materials generates large amounts of heavy metals and dioxin/furans,(especially from ferrous metals, plastics, textiles, and paperboard), which contribute significantly to ecotoxicity;
(3) the energy gained from the incineration of waste materials is outweighed by the air pollution generated from the incinerators;
(4) recycling proves to be the best solution to “get rid” of wastes, especially for ferrous metals, construction materials, and slag (containing Cu and steel) when recycled, all three materials exhibit huge amounts of potential emission savings, which mitigate climate change, acidification, and ecotoxicity;
(5) in the overall waste management scenario, the transportation of trucks to incinerators and recycling centers causes minimal damage to environment.
The study reveals that unlike what is being argued in favour of waste to energy incinerators SGP 2012 (Singapore Plan 2012) aims to “strive for the Pollutant Standards Index to be within the ‘good’ range for 85% of the year, and within the ‘moderate’ range for the remaining 15%,” since Singapore’s quest to maximize recycling while minimizing waste has become even more important.
Singapore solutions which are being presented must be seen in the backdrop of the 31 page report of report of the Technical Experts Evaluation Committee, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant. The report was communicated on March 22, 2012 reveals that in the second meeting of the committee non-cooperative approach of the senior officials of Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant was “condemned”. Representatives of GTZ underlined that there was lack of transparency with regard to environmental and health impact on the neighborhood residents. It was also noted that the fugitive emissions and the expected emission of Dioxins and Furans has not been quantified. The characteristic of ash and required standards was not mentioned. Prof. T R Sreekrishnan, Department of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology stated that disposal option for incineration instead of bio-methanation proposed for green waste is in violation of what was mentioned in the Environment Impact Assessment report.
Dr A B Akolkar, Director, CPCB has emphasized that green waste refers to ‘biodegrdable waste’ and as per Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2000 such wastes requires to be treated by composting/anaerobic digestion/vermin composting/other biological processing for stabilization rather than deriving RDF or by incineration. This clearly demonstrates that the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant violates the Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules.
At the third meeting of the committee, the project proponent apprehended that the information that is submitted to the experts committee of CPCB might be used in the on-going case in the Delhi High Court. The matter came up for hearing before the Court on June 28, 2012.
At the third meeting of CPCB committee, in a shocking instance of ad hoc manner in which the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant has been pursued, the project proponent introduced the representatives of Chinese technology providers from Hangzhou New Century Company Ltd of Hangzhou Boiler Group namely, Bian Jun, Zhang Xing Qun, Sun Diting and Zhou Yue and stated in his technical presentation that “ Ash generation shall be 10-15 % of the feed to the boiler and as per the agreement with the MCD the ash shall be disposed in Okhla MSW dumpsite.”
There is reference on page 28 of the report that project proponent presented point wise clarification to the issues raised by the expert committee. This clarification does not respond to several issues raised at the earlier meetings of the expert committee such as a disaster management plan, the reason for change of technology after environmental clearance.
The report on the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant of Prithivraj Jindal’s JITF Urban Infrastructure Limited (Jindal Ecopolis) is based on three meetings of the Technical Experts Evaluation Committee held on April 26, 2011, August 11, 2011 and September 22, 2011 under the chairmanship of Prof. S P Gautam, Chairman, CPCB. It is clear from the report that the incineration technology deployed by Jindal Ecopolis is untested, unapproved and is treating Delhi residents in general and Okhla residents in particular as guinea pigs foe experiment.
Waste burning of 2050 tons per day at Jindal’s Okhla waste to energy incinerator plant has turned Okhla residential area into a slow but toxic gas chamber. They are sourcing waste from Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). Delhi’s Waste generation per day is 22526.265 tons per day as per a 2008 CPCB study.
While bulldozing such manifestly hazardous technologies down the throat of residents of Delhi, MCD’s Feasibility Study and Master Plan for Optimal Waste Treatment and Disposal for the Entire State of Delhi is ignored. The Master Plan says, “Incineration of RDF is considered waste incineration.” (Page 25, Appendix D, Technology Catalogue). It also says the costs of RDF are often high for societies with low calorific value because energy is used to dry the waste before it becomes feasible to burn it. Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is a tried, tested and failed technology. In fact the Master Plan Report (2020) of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) itself says, “RDF is often an option when emission standards are lax and RDF is burned in conventional boilers with no special precautions for emissions.” MCD’s Waste Master Plan Report 2020 reveals the polluting nature of incinerator technology.
The fact is that waste-to-energy incinerators are responsible for distortion of waste management. It is hazardous to public health. The need for landfill remains because of the disposal of fly ash, bottom ash and debris which constitutes a huge part of the waste. Waste-to-energy incinerators create landfill in the sky. Visible waste can be managed through sane waste management practices but when toxins from waste incineration become airborne it becomes unmanageable.
The myopic idea volume reduction of municipal waste on the land overlooks the fact that in the atmosphere it occupies a greater area and pollutants like persistent organic pollutant and heavy metal travel long distances. This endangers the public health of the entire national capital region.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), 9818089660,
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As fantastic as recycling is as a whole (and that everyone and their Mother should be doing it) the truth is of the matter is that we can't watch where people put their garbage, nor can we ever enforce it to make someone recycle. Perhaps in the future, if we don't all go green now, it'll become a forced habit in the bleak future. Go green, and god bless. Pollution is death, and unfair to this green planet.
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