How Norway converts its solid waste into bus fuel
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How Norway converts its solid waste into bus fuel

Lessons all nations could take from the Nordic country

How Norway converts its solid waste into bus fuel

Bhalswa, Ghazipur and Okhla in Delhi and Deonar landfills in Mumbai are overflowing with solid waste and clearly insufficient for the burgeoning population of the Indian metro. The situation transported me to the Norway study trip that I had undertaken as a journalist four years back. 

Norway is a country of barely 7 million people. The population is even less than Delhi-NCR's half population. However, one lesson that is worth emulating from the Nordic country was the way they efficiently managed their solid waste.

The trip involved going to Stavanger city. This city is known more for its petroleum industry and contributes greatly to the country’s prosperity. I was amazed to learn that seven municipalities in and around the city have come together to form a company that converts solid waste into fuel.

Ivar is jointly owned by eleven municipalities Finnøy, Gjesdal, Hå, Klepp, Kvitsøy, Randaberg, Rennesøy, Sandnes, Sola, Stavanger and Time with a population of 2.5 lakh inhabitants. The possibility of solid waste management leading to water pollution is averted by using sludge to fuel management technology.

Separation and segregation of sewage, sludge and plastic and metal at source is therefore crucial. The project works with wet waste, toilet and kitchen waste. While the bio-fuel generated at the end of it can be put to use, the by-products can be used as fertilisers too. The project has been successful and has generated enough bio-fuel to run the public bus transport system in all eleven municipalities.

A total of 84 IVAR employees together raised a turnover of approximately NOK 280 million in 2003. IVAR receives and processes solid waste from waste disposal services in the municipalities. IVAR works with a number of private and public organisations with the objective of ensuring improved exploitation of solid waste. Their motto is clear, less waste to landfills, more to recycling.

For many years, the Sele landfill was the largest facility of its kind in Norway. It received nearly 1, 40,000 tons of waste at the landfill in 1997.

Now residual waste ending up at the landfill has reduced to about 30,000 tons. This means, the recycling rate for household refuse in the IVAR region is above 90 per cent. The rest is converted into gas for automobiles.

'Landfill gas' is formed when organic waste decomposes. The main components of this gas are methane and carbon dioxide. Methane is about 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide with respect to global warming or the greenhouse effect. Hence, it must be ensured that landfill gas is incinerated by converting methane to carbon dioxide. 

Incinerating the gas from Sele landfill benefits the environment to an extent that is equivalent to avoiding emissions from 20,000 cars. Hence, besides conversion to fuel the damaging effects of methane are also reduced greatly.

A personal visit to the facility in the city a few years back gave me an opportunity to see the ingenuity of the workers working there. While fuel prices are touching the skies, Delhi and Mumbai with population 100 times the combined population of these seven local bodies can emulate this sustainable project and conserve the environment wisely.