TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Nov 30 - Dec 06, 2009

Waste to energy is a concept of producing electricity and gas through combusting wastes produced in form of household wastes or other reduces as well as making combustible fuel commodity.

Electricity and heat production through waste-to-energy plants or waste-fuels minimise the use of fossil fuels for power generation. Many developed countries are generating power through wastes incineration process. Europe is the largest market of waste to energy technology with its only Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants representing 380 plants across Europe and electricity generation capacity of 26 billion KWh of electricity.

Wastes-run power plants are the best source of alternative energy, reducing dependency on traditional fuel resources such as oil, gas, and coal and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Pakistan being energy deficient country and one that has to spend substantial foreign exchange on furnace oil purchase can bring down oil bill significantly and overcome power crisis by reusing wastes for energy generation. The reuse of household wastes and other similar wastes for energy generation is not apparent at national level despite that immense garbage including bones, glass, plastic, paper, metal, tin, waste oil, etc. is produced daily nationwide. The disposal of such garbage through burning at open places is common, which poses serious health hazards to human and risks to environment.

Wastes disposal at landfill sites have also become a discarded method in many countries, as landfill wastes do not stop carbon dioxide emissions completely. Even so, there is an emerging realization of economic importance of waste to produce electricity.

Over a period, local civil service organizations in Pakistan came up with proposals and models of recycling of household wastes. However, there appeared issues of funds, which are required in sizeable chunk to install plants and technology that convert wastes in to energy. Unavailability of funds and apparent unwillingness has perhaps stopped the project to come out of the paperwork.

Some foreign investors have shown their interest in this alternative energy project, but they are not ready to go in to implementation phase owing to economic uncertainty and worsening law and order situation in Pakistan.

However, the reluctance of investors must not make government lethargic towards attracting foreign investments. Government should seek foreign investment in the project since the waste-to-energy has an attraction for investors worldwide because of its one-time investment character.

It is worthwhile to recall that a Chinese company was all prepared to launch garbage collection system in Karachi this August, but it did not start operation for various reasons.

When asked, Executive District Officer Masood Alam said there was a difference on working costs between district government and Shanghai Shengong Environmental Protection Co Ltd. He said when the contract was signed with the company a dollar was equivalent to Rs55, diesel cost was not what it is today and since then economic realities have been changed altogether.

"Right now, we are in negotiation with some companies that are interested in starting waste to energy projects in the city," he said. "A potential investor is from Malaysia and we think we will reach an agreement with it."

He said the Malaysian company was interested to manage only 1,000 tons wastes. The city generates 9,000 tons wastes daily, which are dumped in two landfill sites in suburban areas of the city without recycling. From one thousand ton, around 50 KV electricity can be generated. Based on this simple calculation, 9000 tons may produce over 400 KV. Remaining wastes after wastes prevention are useful for the purpose; hence, not all wastes are for electricity making.

The city government is engaged in studies regarding wastes management. He said the project cost was calculated at $120 million. According to Masood Alam, the cost incurred on reusing wastes for energy generation is not high when compared to commercial benefits investor could get after selling electricity.

There is electricity shortfall and such project is need of the day, he believed. "Waste-to-energy is viable and has an attraction for investors."

He did not reveal about how long would it take when citizens of Karachi have urbane garbage collection system that will get rid them of traditional garbage collectors, who are not equipped with modern equipments to turn away effects of litters on health.

The efforts of city government are appreciable as it is doing some concrete works to make waste-to-energy a reality. No other administrative bodies in Pakistan have stridden to get this far despite there is heap of household wastes generated across the country and that have practical energy value.

Municipal wastes may be not in volume that industries let off, but the energy value of municipal wastes is much high. Sheri, a non-government organization working for environment protection, has conducted and introduced various studies and foreign models on recycling of wastes. According to a study, bio-gradable wastes such as vegetable, fruits and organic wastes that make about half of wastes produced daily, if composted in composting plants can be enough to meet demand of manure for horticulture of the city and peri-urban areas.

Waste treatment is of immense economic importance. It can also reduce health complications triggered because of disposing of garbage in open or burning it without using incineration technology.