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Circular economy: Turning waste into energy

The circular economy principle is slowly becoming an integral part of India Inc’s business model. An increasing number of Indian companies are working on to meet its fuel requirement through alternate fuels- as much as possible, at least by 5 per cent, to start with.

Circular economy: Turning waste into energy
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Circular economy: Turning waste into energy

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The circular economy principle is slowly becoming an integral part of India Inc's business model. An increasing number of Indian companies are working on to meet its fuel requirement through alternate fuels- as much as possible, at least by 5 per cent, to start with. The recent MoU between JSW Cement and Punjab Renbewable Energy Systems (PRESPL) for using agricultural waste as biomass energy in its cement-manufacturing operations is a case in point. The cement arm of the $13 billion JSW Group would now let PRESPL, which is India's largest biomass aggregation and densification company, to build a sustainable supply chain of agricultural waste to be utilized as biomass energy in the clinkerization and grinding process of JSW Cement at its manufacturing units. The move has to be seen in the wake of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development's report submitted on March 17, 2021, which clearly admitted that waste management has become a major issue. The committee had made 37 recommendations, out of which 14 were accepted by the Union government. Action taken for 21 were not accepted by the committee and response for two was awaited. The report stressed that a roadmap be charted and funds be arranged to address the challenge. To deal with the disposal of solid waste, the committee urged the Central and State government as well as urban local bodies (ULB) to come up with a conjunct initiative.

By definition, 'waste' means materials, that are not products or by-products, for which the generator has no further use for the purposes of production, transformation consumption. Wastes are the materials that may be generated during, the extraction of raw materials, the processing of raw materials into intermediates and final products, the consumption of final products, and through other human activities and excludes residuals recycled or reused at the place of generation. By-product means a material that is not intended to be produced but gets produced in the production process of intended product and is used as such. There are four major categories of waste: municipal solid waste, industrial waste, agricultural waste and hazardous waste.

Now talking about the JSW Cement move, in particular, agri-waste is usually burnt in open fields which impacts the surrounding air quality. JSW Cement will use agri-waste as fuel to help reduce its business dependency on coal and cut its carbon emissions. This fuel model will also improve the ambient air quality of the local environment while helping farmers generate additional income. The company, mind you, is committed to 'Climate Ambition 2050' to deliver carbon neutral concrete by 2050.

When responsible corporates are coming forward to move towards this goal, the government – be it at the State level or at the Centre must remember that most urban areas in the country are plagued by acute problems related to solid waste. It is estimated that the total solid waste generated by 300 million people living in urban areas is around 40 million tonnes per year. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is a heterogeneous mixture of different constituents out of which around 50 per cent is organic. Municipal Solid Waste management (MSWM) is perhaps the most essential service required by urban population to combat the severe implications that MSW may have on their health and to the overall environment. Population growth, increasing urbanization and industrialisation and rising standards of living have all contributed to an increase in both the amount and variety of waste generated in most countries. Let government bodies make best use of these solid wastes following the circular economy principle as well.

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