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Tech to convert tonnes of garbage into fuel

Waste is wonderful, it’s a resource, says TR Rao who claims to have the technology to transform tonnes of Mumbai’s daily waste into fuel or gas, an innovation which has won rave reviews globally. A report by Reshma Patil.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2008 04:01 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times

T Raghavendra Rao, director, Sustainable Technologies and Environmental Projects (STEPS) filed for a global patent last year for his technique of converting waste — think plastic, sewage, slaughterhouse waste, hospital waste, petroleum byproducts — into liquid fuel and gas. And it’s easy on the environment, for the process does not emit heat-trapping gases that contribute to global warming.

Rao, a former oil industry expert, thinks ‘waste is wonderful, it’s a resource.’

“Mumbai’s waste generated daily should be recycled daily too,’’ Rao emphasised. “We aim to come to the market with a globally acceptable system to recycle plastic, electronic and organic waste in 24 hours.’’

The technology is winning rave reviews.

“We would like to see this powerful innovation commercialised around the world, not just Texas,’’ James Vance, business development manager of the global commercialisation group, IC2 Institute, told HT from the University of Texas. “We believe it should be able to convert most, and perhaps all types of hydrocarbon-based waste to fuel.”

Vance added that IC2, which provides innovators from emerging economies commercialisation expertise, has received more interest in this technology than any innovation it has examined.

The technology yields 1.1 litres of fuel from one kilo of plastic bags, and 1.2 litres fuel from one kilo of polyethylene sacks used for packaging, all at a cost of Rs 11-12 per litre. One kilo of plastic coating on wires yields 600 ml of fuel.

Mumbai’s municipal corporation does aim to earn carbon credits from capping the Gorai dump and generating electricity from its methane emissions. But at Rao’s plant in Vasai, on Mumbai’s northern fringe, his staff is testing a quicker method.

Plastic is converted into vapour and passed through cartridges containing a catalyst or a chemical to breakdown the molecules into liquid fuel and gas. The plant is self-energised, on gas generated from the waste conversion process.