ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Waste-to-Energy and Recycling

Competing Systems of Waste Management in Urban India

Incineration-based waste-to-energy technologies have recently emerged as the preferred policy option for managing the growing problem of waste in India. These technologies require a continuous supply of waste inputs of sufficient quantity and quality—high calorific value and low moisture content—to be viable. Government and industry proponents suggest that WtE and recycling are compatible systems of managing waste while their critics disagree. This article argues two main points. First, the government’s preference for WtE contradicts the empirical evidence, which suggests that the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of Indian waste render it technically unsuitable for incineration. Second, to be viable, WtE technologies will require end-to-end control over the entire waste management chain, thus displacing those in the informal recycling sector from their means of subsistence. Far from being compatible, the two systems are in fact in competition with each other over the same set of material resources.

Research for this article, which is a part of the author’s dissertation, was funded by the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship, the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, and the Johns Hopkins University’s Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute Fellowship. Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group was the author’s host institution for his dissertation fi eldwork. Manisha Anantharaman, Justin Berry, Beau Bothwell, Shanna Salinas, Erica Schoenberger and Francisco Villegas provided valuable comments on earlier versions of this article.

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Updated On : 31st Mar, 2017
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