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Waste-to-Energy: The Saviour?

  • Published at 05:52 pm April 26th, 2016
  • Last updated at 06:14 pm April 26th, 2016

Bangladesh is facing a serious waste management problem. Unplanned urbanisation and lack of awareness among people have left our country increasingly overburdened with Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). In 2012, waste generation in Bangladesh amounted to around 22.4 million tons per year according to Waste Atlas, which means that an average person in Bangladesh disposed of 150kg of waste in that year.

The waste management system in Bangladesh is far from being efficient as of now. Streets are often seen with over-filled dustbins, which is harmful for the environment as well as for health. Naturally, with a surging population coupled with aggressively expanding and unplanned urbanisation with no efficient waste disposal system, the problem is intensifying with the progression of time.

Sweden, in this case, has come up with an exemplary solution. The country has touched a remarkable landmark by being able to recycle more than 99% of its waste, a significant portion of which is converted into energy. In fact, Sweden has touched such heights of efficiency that the country now has to import waste from its European neighbours such as the UK, Italy, Norway and Ireland to feed the country’s 32 Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plants, according to the Huffington Post. Other developed European countries such as the UK have also shown considerable success in using municipal solid waste to produce energy.

Bangladesh, coupled with the problem of inefficient municipal waste management, is also struggling to keep up with a rising demand for electricity. As of January 2016, 24% of the people in Bangladesh do not have access to electricity according to the Power Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy & Mineral Resources. The method of Waste-to-Energy (WTE) has worked wonders in the field of waste management by using MSW to generate electricity in many countries. It is high time the relevant authorities in Bangladesh gave a significant amount of time and thought to it. It would aid in solving two pressing issues that has been plaguing our country.

Japan is the largest user in thermal treatment of MSW in the world with 40 million tons while in China, there are around 50 Waste-to-Energy plants. Although the incineration process, whereby waste is processed by means of combustion to generate energy is the most widely practised method of WTE, several private and public companies worldwide use thermal and non-thermal processes like gasification, thermal DE polymerisation, anaerobic digestion, etc. to generate valuable electricity from MSW.

Bangladesh has shown impressive economic growth rate in recent years. As if to complement the process, technological advancement in the country has been seeing brighter rays of light every day. Many Bangladeshi companies have initiated projects to efficiently convert MSW to electricity. Success of the projects would mean that the country would enjoy two-fold benefit – reduction of waste and waste-related environmental and health hazards, and greater electricity to meet the rising national demand.

An efficient waste disposal system is essential for the environment and healthy living of citizens. Access to electricity for families and industries is also imperative for economic growth and development. Bangladesh is struggling to bring about an effective solution to both issues individually. However, WTE can provide a solution to both. Therefore, it is time for the responsible authorities to step up and adopt this system. Knowledge and expertise are available both on an international and local level. The opportunity must be taken at the soonest to ensure greater prosperity and development for the people and economy of Bangladesh.