Smart Sanitation and Solid Waste Management: A Holistic Approach


  • Background

  • Current Scenario

  • The Opportunity

  • Current Players

  • Our Approach, Collaboration and Solution

  • Technical feasibility

  • The Value Proposition

  • Financial Viability and Environmental Impact

  • Social Impact Assessment

  • Market and its Potential

  • Operational Model

  • Organizational roadmap

  • The Team

  • Pilot Launch


Over the last few decades, growth in the field of science and technology has shot up exponentially. With sufficient spending ability, the standard of living in an urban setup has changed dramatically in various spheres like transportation, infrastructure, communication, entertainment and also in consumption of goods for comfort. But the question, whether this growth is sustainable has started to arise. Strain on available natural resources has been tremendously increasing. One of the most visible problems in this situation is the mishandling of waste.

Current Scenario

Mumbai alone generates an astounding 8000 tonnes of waste every single day. For India, the figure is beyond 100,000 tonnes daily. No Indian policy document examines waste as part of a cycle of production-consumption-recovery, or perceives waste through a prism of overall sustainability. Waste management is still a non-cyclic system of collection and disposal, either in dumping grounds or incineration chambers, consequently creating considerable health and environmental hazards. While the decomposition of biodegradable/wet waste generates huge amounts of methane (a harmful greenhouse gas), only negligible parts of non-biodegradable/dry waste gets recycled. The phenomenon of non-recycling not only puts strain on virgin raw-materials but also results in spending of more resources in the whole process and thus significantly adding to carbon footprints.

The Opportunity

The responsibility of handling the waste lies with the Government bodies like Municipal corporations. In Mumbai, the municipal corporation spends more than 200 Crore annually for collection and transportation of waste. In spite of huge expenditures made by municipal bodies, a city with only 10-15 % waste handling system would be among the better cities leaving 90% of the sector unorganized.

Many of the initiatives taken by external bodies, both private and NGOs have received support from few Municipal Corporations, as it reduces their burden and the pressure of handling waste. Some Municipal corporations are also looking to outsource the operations to outside entities.

The economic potential of the waste management sector has gone unnoticed.  The biodegradable waste which forms about (30-40) % of the municipal waste can be utilized to generate biogas and organic manure. Biogas has market in hotels/canteens/restaurant whereas organic manure is in demand for organic farming. The recycling industries would be active and potential customers for the dry waste, if handled properly.

Current Players

Apart from few, the sector which is largely untapped and unorganised is yet to see involvement of many private players. One such player, A2Z enterprises, operating in 8 cities of North India follows a centralized system to handle about 6000 tonnes everyday. There are hardly any other private players with such scale of operations.

There has been considerable involvement of NGOs and Citizen Groups in many cities, which has been largely limited to activism and awareness campaigns rather than solutions. There have been efforts at various levels with different degrees of effectiveness, but they have not been in a big enough scale. Solutions/ Operations of NGOs like Saahas are restricted to only few institutes in Bangalore, exception being Exnora International, which is prevalent in Tamil Nadu, also well known for the Vellore Model of Zero Waste Management.

Our Approach

Our vision for waste-handling is based on the basic rules of sustainable waste-management.

Be Responsible, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Being responsible can reasonably reduce over-exploitation of resources. The process of reusing and recycling will be able to curtail the strain on virgin materials and stop the accumulation of used materials. The concept of the so called ‘WASTE’ and ‘DUMPING GROUND’ is hereby challenged. We believe waste is one of the elements in the ecological cycle where dumping grounds should not block the chain.

We encourage segregation of waste at source and provide a holistic waste-management solution involving various stake holders in the form of Citizen Groups/communities, Municipal Corporations, NGOs working in the field of waste management and also waste-pickers. Citizen community is essential to relax the entry barrier, to bring in awareness, to get people involved and also to ensure segregated waste from the households. The NGOs/waste-picker associations would be involved in providing employment and a better working condition to waste-pickers/ needy population.

Our focus is on building Socially, Ecologically and Economically Sustainable Decentralized Waste Handling Units targeted for households and other commercial establishments in a locality.

  1. A highly efficient Biogas Plant (Researched and developed by BARC, Mumbai) to handle the entire wet waste (Biodegradable Waste). A 5 tonne plant will output about 400 Cu Metre of Biogas and 400Kgs of manure every day.

  2. A secondary segregation unit for handling the dry wastes (Non Biodegradable Wastes) which will be later sold to recycling units.

  3. Based on need, a unit for converting of biogas into electricity.

  4. Optionally, a Dry Waste recycling unit or a Dry ice producing unit or similar profit generating plug-ins to the unit.

We are looking forward to set up these waste handling units in three approaches or three business models,

Model 1:

Set up Waste handling units for handling SWM along with Municipal Corporations in a Public-Private-Partnership model.

Model 2:

Set up Smaller Waste handling units in College Campuses, Townships, and other privately owned colonies where investment is made by the local bodies.

Model 3:

Set up Smaller Waste handling units in College Campuses, Townships, and other privately owned colonies where investment is jointly made by the local bodies and us.

(More to be seen in the Financial Details where each model is explained with financial implications)

Technical Feasibility

The heart of our Waste handling unit is the Biogas Plant and the Secondary Waste handling Unit.

The BIOGAS plant is developed by BARC scientist Dr.Sharad Kale. Currently, there are almost 120 working model of this plant in different parts of India. The details of the plant are as follows,


The material to be processed is brought to the plant site every day. Approximately three workers are needed for the operation of a medium sized plant. The important processes are,


Sorting of waste materials


Processing the waste in a mixer that reduces the volume and odd sizes of the waste


Routine operations for pre-digester and digester tanks


Manure pits

Infrastructure required

The following infrastructures required for set-up a 5 tonne/day capacity Bio gas plant




~ 500 m2




Three unskilled persons


Power supply


3 phase AC


Water Supply


1-2 K Litre of fresh water daily for a 5 tonne plant




~ 45,00,000 rupees for 5 tonne/day plant

Comparison between BARC model of biogas plant and conventional biogas plants


BARC biogas plant

biogas plant

Type of waste processed

Kitchen waste, dry leaves, green grass, abattoir waste, paper etc.

Only cattle dung



Not included

Waste feed

After making a slurry in a mixer


Handling of waste

Needs segregation


Power consumption

Mixer, compressor and water pump.

No power

Use of hot water

Solar heater is used for getting hot water, which is mixed in predigester.

No usage of hot

Type of bacteria

Thermophilic in predigester and Methanogenic bacteria in main tank



Aerobic and anaerobic


Type of manure

High quality, weedless and odourless manure is obtained which can be
used as soil conditioner.

Manure is more fibrous and less consistent and may have bad odour.

Processing time

About 19-20 days

About 30 days

Gas composition

Methane 70-75%

Methane 50-55%


Urban and rural



Suitable for larger community

Small scale


1. Save on transporting of waste
2. Complete digestion of waste is possible
3. More environment friendly

1. Do but lesser extent
2. Incomplete digestion
3. Do

The Secondary handling unit will be involving manual segregation of Dry waste into its different components like Plastic, Paper and Cardboard, Glass. Metal, etc. A shredder or a compressor machine can be installed, depending on the context. Apart from this, minimal technicalities are involved in this part and a team of 5-7 people can handle the waste daily.

The Value Proposition

The following are directly visible benefits of a waste handling unit


  • Reduction of vehicular CO2 emissions, as decentralized units reduces everyday transportation of waste to dumping ground.

  • Reduction of Methane and other hazardous gases generated in the Dumping yards.

  • Reduction of the need for dumping ground by 60-70%.

  • Use of Biogas reduces use of other fossil fuels.

  • Use of organic manure reduces harmful effect of chemical fertilizers on soil.

  • Reduces water table contamination happening due to discharge of harmful toxins, as a result of various chemical reactions at dumping grounds.

  • Reduction of emissions by reusing/recycling dry waste.


  • Provides employment to large number of economically weaker sections like Waste-Pickers or unskilled migrants with better and hygienic working conditions.

  • Brings in increased awareness and environment consciousness in the society.


  • The commercial value of biogas, organic manure and dry waste at each unit which will make the units not only self sustained but also profitable.

  • With reduced expenditure on transportation, Municipal Corporations, can save few Million rupees annually by each decentralized unit.

  • Suitable to obtain considerable Carbon credits on five different grounds.

Financial Viability and Social Impact

Each decentralized unit of 10MT capacity would need an investment of around Rs. 39 lakh considering the subsidy available for setting up of Bio-Gas plants. Apart from the investment from the founding team, with savings incentive for Municipal Corporation, every unit can be fully/ partially funded by them. As mentioned earlier, revenue would be primarily drawn from biogas, organic manure and dry waste. With breakeven period of less than 2 years, the funding for investment can be sourced from various pro-green-initiative funding agencies. Breakeven could be shorter, with Municipal Corporations additionally compensating for every Kg of waste handled. Carbon credits can additionally supplement investments at a later stage to support expansion.

From the environmental and social perspective, as pointed out earlier, a decentralized unit reduces vehicular emissions; appropriate handling reduces the need and harmful effect of dumping ground; generates additional greener energy; restores live soil; reduces strain on the resource availability and also generates employment opportunities for the needy.  

Financial Breakdown

Model 1:

Set up Waste handling units for handling SWM along with Municipal Corporations in a Public-Private-Partnership model. Expense-breakdown for setting up a waste handling unit of capacity 10 Tonnes is given next. But all the information is provided in the below given tables. Our target is to replicate similar units everywhere in Mumbai and outside.

Initial Investment/Expenses:

  • Land – Municipal Corporation (Municipal corporation about to save Rs.15 Million/year)

Initial Cost


5 MT biogas plant(Considering subsidy provided by Govt.)


Dry Waste Handing Unit


Operating Expenses

Annual Maintenance and Wages







Electricity cost (280 Units @ Rs 4)


300-400 Kgs of Manure(@ Rs 5)


500 Kgs of plastic/1500 Kgs of Paper & Cardboard/150Kgs of Glass & Metal                


Daily Total Revenue


Revenue Yearly


Gross Profit


Pay Back period(excluding 6 months period required for constructions)


Yearly Profit :- Rs. 26,63,300

Break Down for annual Maintenance and wages:

I have detailed calucation for 4 more models

Environmental Impact

The project has the potential to earn carbon credits on different grounds,

    1. Reduction of emissions of harmful Methane. (Greenhouse effect of 20 times CO2)

CO2, S02, N02, SPM, RSPM, carbon monoxide (CO) and methane (CH4) are the main gases emited by the dumping yards.

The average value of methane flux, was estimated from landfill areas, varied from 146–454 mg/m2/h. Methane emission, from landfill, is of serious environmental global concern, as it accounts for approximately, 15 percentage  of the current Greenhouse gas emissions. It has been estimated that methane emission, from the landfill areas in the world, in next two decades, would be the same, as that, what is emitted from paddy fields presently.

In the terms of PPM:
Average concentration of methane in the dumping ground varies from 200-300 PPM (Parts per Million) whereas CO2 concentration varies from 500-650 PPM.

In terms of Volume of Waste:

0.05 metric tons of methane is generated eventually per MT of MSW landfilled.  Considering that Bandra generates 10MT of waste, then it emits 0.05*10=0.5MT of methane in the dumping yard, daily and it is equivalent to the greenhouse effect of 11.5MT of CO2.

    1. Reduction of Fuel and Emissions due to transport of Waste to Dump yards.

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 1 gallon of diesel generates 22.2 lbs of CO2.

Diesel required to transport 10 ton of waste requires one 6 Ton vehicle and two 2.5 Ton vehicles and the total diesel consumption each day is 35 liters or 9.24 gallons a day, which results in nearly 34031.82 Kgs/ 74870lbs of CO2 released in the air.

Going with the normal absorption rate of CO2 by trees, a tree can consume near to 10 Kgs/22 lbs of CO2 a year.

So the CO2 emission saved will be equivalent to CO2 consumption throughout the year of 3500 full grown trees.

    1. Use of Methane as cooking gas and saving LPG.

If used thermally it has the potential to reduce the usage of LPG/other natural fuels by nearly 55,000 Kg/year.

    1. Reduction of environmentally harmful Urea as manure will be the replacement.

The project has the potential to reduce Urea consumption by more than 150,000 Kg/ year.

    1. Recycling of Dry waste will reduce strain on virgin materials

Social Impact Assessmemt

Theory of Change

    1. If waste is handled properly then emission of greenhouse gases at dumping grounds will decrease.

    2. If decentralized approach is adopted it will reduce the transportation cost of waste and CO2 emissions due to it.

    3. If materials are reused and recycled then the emissions due to the processing of virgin resources will reduce.

    4. If bio fuels are used, it will supplement the demand for domestic fuel and reduce the strain on fossil fuels.

    5. If organic manure is used it will supplement the demand in fertilizer industry and improve the soil condition as well as the quality of crops.

    6. Involving waste pickers in the system will result their improved economic and health conditions.

    7. Handling the waste properly will also result in realization of its commercial value.

Impact Value Chain

Bio fuel for heating/cooking  or electricity generation
Organic Manure for urban green cover and organic farming.
Reuse and Recycling of Non biodegradable waste.
Regular income and organized working conditions for waste pickers

Biogas and Manure utilization
Secondary Segregation
Linkage to reuse and recycling industries
Involve waste pickers in the system
Decentralized waste handling

Segregated Waste
Electricity and water

Long term Impact
Contribution towards ecological sustainability
Contribution towards opportunities at bottom of the pyramid
Contribution towards economic growth

Eventual elimination of dumping ground
Cyclic process of resource-waste-resource leading to Zero Waste scenario
Reduced strain on available resources including fuel
Reduction in various emissions reducing the threat of climate change
Economic Empowerment of waste pickers
Improved living and health conditions of waste picker community
Increased savings and revenue generation from waste

Reduction in emission of greenhouse gases at dumping ground
Reduction in emissions due to reuse and recycling
Reduction of CO2 emission by transport vehicles
Saving of transportation cost
Supplements fuel demand
Supplements organic manure demand
Secured and increased income for waste pickers
Healthier working conditions for waste pickers
Increased realization of waste’s commercial value

Environment – Dumping ground
Natural Resources
Emissions from Transportation
Carbon in Soil
Wastepickers – Secured Job and Income
Increased health conditions
Increased life expectancy
Municipal Corporation – Cost of transportation
Residents – Fuel consumption
Farmers – Organic manure

Social Return On Investment


Amount of waste generated per day in Mumbai: 8000MT
Amount of waste handled in each decentralized unit: 10MT
Amount of methane generated per MT of MSW landfilled: 0.05MT
Methane’s  greenhouse effect in comparison to CO2: 18.25 times
Price of Carbon Credit(per MT): 11 to 12 euros
1 euro = Rs.63
Price of Carbon Credit (per MT): Rs.700
No. of units in Year 1: 2
The entire solution is modular and scalable. The SROI of one module and many such modules will be the same.

SROI calculations for : Market and the potential

With 8000MT getting generated everyday in Mumbai alone, there is a theoretical potential for 800 decentralized units. With revenues to the tune of Rs.48 lakh per unit, the entire sector can be estimated to be worth nearly Rs.400 crores. The idea of putting up decentralized waste handling units and giving a holistic solution of both dry and wet waste is unique. We see a great market potential for this sort of complete solution not only for Mumbai but for other cities as well.


Operational Model

To start with we are looking forward for a model where we would take the responsibility of setting up the unit and roll out the operations as well. The annual operating charges and revenue structure mentioned in financials remain unaltered. During the period of 12 to 18 months, the revenue coming out of the unit will cover our charges.

Organizational Roadmap

With a potential for 800 units, we intent to start with setting up of Waste Handling Units for localities in Mumbai and hope to multiply these sorts of units in the first few years in Mumbai and if possible in other cities as well. The first few units will be targeted in university campuses and/or townships to demonstrate the proof of concept with minimum intervention from municipal authorities. The solution can also be extended to newly built up colonies where they can save on municipality taxes and also be capable of handling their own waste independently. Over years to come as we gain more experience in the field we plan to provide solutions in E-Waste and Bio Medical waste arena as well. We are also looking forward to work in other renewable energy field and position ourselves as the one stop Green solution providers and more importantly implementers.

Pilot launch

Though the different modules of the model are functional in different parts of Mumbai, during March to May 2011, we have launched a pilot to validate the entire model. We are working in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai campus and trying to form the Zero waste campus in Mumbai. The investments have been made by TISS.

The authorities of Tata Institute of Social Sciences have shown positive response and Tuljapur (Rural) campus will soon be taken over as well.

(This document is prepared as per best of our knowledge. The data presented here are mainly primary data collected from our field visits)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s