Saturday, February 13, 2010

solid waste management

Save our planet. Sustainable development. Green technology....we hear these phrases and terms more often than Tiger Wood changes his girlfriend. And yet we take them at their face value and not think over them. For example, how many of you have heard about the use of jute bag instead of plastic? I congratulate you if you haven't. Why? Simply because using jute instead of plastic is just not sustainable. How, you may ask. It's simple math. Jute bags are made out of jute. Which is a crop, which like other crops needs land for cultivation and, if not organically grown, fertilisers, insecticides etc. So far so good. Problem is, we are a nation of over a billion people. Growing jute to meet the demands of such a large population is simply not sustainable. Jute needs certain specific geographical conditions to grow, the most suited of which is the Ganges delta. The Ganges delta is also most suited for another living thing – tigers. It is either them or jute bags.

A more sustainable approach would be to use artificial materials (plasitc?) and then recycle or reuse them. Waste management is what we should be looking at instead of lobbying for something that only looks good on paper, pleases a few environmentalists and fools people into thinking that they are going green (ethanol, anyone?). Alomst everything that we manufacture can be recycled – metal, paper, glass, building materials and even plastic. And when i say recycle, i am not talking rocket science. The technology exists today to seggragate materials from a heap of junk, collect them together and recycle them. Plastic bottles can be made into high strength bridges. Your discarded cd player can yeild gold and mercury – some very precious metal. The waste news paper can be turned into dazzling white photo print paper. All we need is a will to do this. That and political support.

And if you think recylcing is too much of a trouble then how about creating electricity from your waste? And for doing so you don't even need to seperate materials into different stacks. All you need is a chamber where you introduce high voltage eletctricity that can heat up the waste to disintigrate it into its elemental form, and in the process produce electricity. It does not discriminate between different types of waste – hospital waste, baby diapers, toxic metallic wates, radial tyres...they are all same. The process i am talking about is “plasmagassification” and it works on a simple principle. You create in a close chamber an artificial lightening by introducing high voltage electricity between two electrodes. The heat would instantly transform any material that is in the viscinity into plasma – the fourth state of matter (you heat up solid and you get liquid. You heat up liquid you get gas. You heat up gas and you get plasma – the same material that is in the sun, and all the stars). And in doing so releases emmense ammount of electricity that not only helps the incinirating plant to be self-sustaining but also produce excess that can provide electricity to the second party. Whats more! The end product of this process is miniscule ammount of slag – a material that can be used in buildning, roads and even jwellery. A ton of waste leaves a little more than a kilo of slag. Thats 0.1% residue.

Think about the acres of arable land we can save from unsustainable land fills. The precious ground water we can protect from contamination due to toxic metals and greenhouse effect we can abate by checking the release of methane and CFC into the atmosphere...


Ruchira Sen said...

Great! I think you should write this in to the editorial pages of Hindu or Times or even Eco times.

About jute, well, no use growing jute and replacing tigers really. If everybody was ready to shove her shopping into her backpack or jhola, we'd really be saved polythene. That way, you don't even need paperbags. Just go shopping with your own roomy handbag or backpack. Easy!

Ruchira Sen said...

if everyone were ready... (sorry)

puneet said...

i am thinking of writing a series of essays on ecology and environment. once i do that i will try sending them in to the media, after necessary editing of course :)