The Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) serves 59 wards spread across a total area of 61.88 square km. It provides sanitation, water supply, public transport, sewerage, stormwater drainage and other civic services to a population of around 1.04 million. With the steady increase in residential societies, apartments and unauthorised colonies, the need for waste management has increased significantly in the city.
Of the total waste generation in the city, food waste (fruit and vegetable waste/other food waste) accounts for the highest share, at 43 per cent. It is followed by paper and plastic waste, and other organic waste (rubber/synthetic/ leather waste, textile waste) at 14 per cent each.
Over the years, the task of monitoring garbage collection in VMC’s service areas has become cumbersome. The lack of latest population census not only hampers efficient planning by the agency but also puts tremendous pressure on the already stressed infrastructure facilities. The city corporation has been collecting 500 tonnes of garbage every day and shifting it to the dumping yards located in Ajit Singh Nagar and Patapadu, Nunna. As a result, tonnes of garbage, including waste plastic material, has piled up at the Ajith Singh Nagar dumping yard causing serious environmental damage to the area. It has become a Herculean task for the city corporation to acquire land for scientific dumping of waste.
Moreover, construction workers dump debris on the roadside, causing inconvenience to commuters. With construction works increasing, the quantum of debris has increased manyfold, making it impossible for sanitary workers to handle the waste in a proper manner.
Steps for recycling waste
In order to tackle the menace of plastic waste, the solid waste generated by households and commercial establishments, and the construction and demolition (C&D) waste across the city’s 59 divisions, VMC has established five plants in the Ajit Singh Nagar locality in Krishna district. Commissioned in December 2018, the plastic waste collection and recycling unit in Ajith Singh Nagar has been set up by Hyderabad-based E Sree Foundation. It was set up with financial support from the United Nations Development Programme and Coca-Cola Company. The unit, set up at a cost of Rs 5 million, has the capacity to handle 5 tonnes of plastic waste daily.
For recycling, the plastic waste is first divided into six categories on the basis of quality, thickness and other chemical parameters. The segregated plastic waste is then kept in a grinding machine to produce crushed plastic waste. In the next step, plastic bags are kept in “gatta” machines to produce a crushed paste. The end product (crushed paste) is then utilised to manufacture pipelines and other plastic materials for sale. The machinery in the plant performs various functions such as segregating hard and soft plastic, grinding the hard plastic into small pieces and producing hard pieces from waste plastic.
Additionally, VMC has asked Chennai-based Arumugam Arivu Bio Energy and Sundaram Fab Private Limited to maintain a biomethanation plant for handling 16 tonnes of vegetable waste and 4 tonnes of slaughter waste. At the plant, the crushed waste is stored in two digesters to produce methane gas. Currently, a 140 kW generator is being operated from the methane gas produced in the plant, which has been developed at a cost of Rs 21.5 million.
For tackling the problem of construction waste, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016, specifying the guidelines on the environmental management of C&D waste. Following this, in 2017, VMC mooted a C&D waste treatment plant project with a capacity to process 200 tonnes of C&D waste per day. The contract for the project was awarded to Pro Enviro C&D Waste Management Private Limited. Other than reducing the construction waste menace in the city, the project was conceived with a view to improving VMC’s ranking in the Swachh Survekshan 2019 survey by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. Being developed at a cost of Rs 60 million, it was commissioned in November 2018. According to the project contract, the plant will run for a period of 20 years. As of February 2019, the plant has been receiving 70 tonnes of waste per day, compared to its capacity to process 200 tonnes of C&D waste per day. Pro Enviro C&D Waste Management Private Limited charges Rs 438 per tonne from VMC, including processing charges. So far, 220 tonnes of different types of aggregates generated from the waste has been handed over to VMC at a cost of Rs 100 per tonne. Further, bricks, manufactured from the waste can be sold in the market for a price of Rs 15 per brick.
Earlier, in March 2018, VMC had set up plants at APIIC Colony, Urmila Nagar, Kabela, and Rajiv Gandhi Wholesale Market for on-site window composting or aerobic composting. These plants were set up at a cumulative cost of Rs 16 million. Guntur-based Smart Waste Management Solution is responsible for the maintenance of these compositing plants. At present, the plants handle 40-50 tonnes of wet waste per day.
Challenges and the way forward
Despite the push from the ongoing programmes such as the Swachh Bharat Mission, the segment is facing a number of challenges to its growth. These are waste recycling, the collection, treatment and scientific disposal of the collected waste through a digital network, the absence of last-mile connectivity to collect waste through a digital network, and the lack of adequate space for dumping the collected waste. In fact, increasing urbanisation and the lack of space for dumping waste have increased littering on the streets.
Developing a strategy for cleaning and sorting waste economically to ensure the creation of an end product that is comparable to primary plastic also remains a significant bottleneck. While the upcoming waste recycling plants are a step in the right direction, a lot needs to be done to make significant contributions to the Swachh Bharat Mission. Going forward, project implementation could lose momentum unless issues such as slow adoption of technologies, involvement of multiple agencies, lack of credible data systems and scientific waste disposal are addressed in a time-bound manner.