Waste to wealth: Opportunities for a sustainable future

Companies are looking for cleaner and greener technologies that will enable them to reach their end goal and ensure they leave behind zero to minimal carbon footprint.
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Annie Marie Leonard, the proponent of sustainability, once said, “There is no such thing as away. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” 


Proving this true is aluminium, the second most used metal in the world after steel. 


According to a 2018 NITI Aayog report, about 2.5 kg per capita of aluminium is consumed daily in various sectors, including auto, transport, and construction. 


It directly translates to five million tonnes of furnace waste each year, including dross, a by-product of the aluminium melting process, now posing a serious threat to the environment. 


Not only is 80,000 tonnes of dross is released into the land, but it is also impacting the ozone layer, along with an increase in carbon footprint. 


To mitigate the damage done, companies around the world are looking for cleaner and greener technologies that would enable them to reach their end goal and ensure they leave behind a zero to minimal carbon footprint.  

Emergence of the circular economy 

According to the World Bank, the annual worldwide garbage creation will increase to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050, a 70% increase from 2018 levels, if urgent action is not taken.


Only 4% of waste in low-income countries is recycled, compared to over a third in high-income countries, including composting their waste. We might make progress toward resolving the climate crisis and the consequent loss of precious habitats if we can solve the recycling issue. 


Our current linear production and consumption model is damaging the delicate ecosystem and depleting natural resources. Therefore, resources' economic worth is the secret to developing truly sustainable closed-loop systems, where resources are reused, recycled, and never thrown away. 


We will have closed the cycle and established a truly circular economy once we begin to view garbage as resources of equal or even greater worth than those used to produce it. 


Additionally, an urge to decrease waste has given rise to creative solutions backed by technology, which also supports the concept of a circular economy.

For example, a Mumbai-based manufacturing company has set up a dross recycling plant at Jharsuguda, Odisha, which provides an end-to-end green solution for the recovery of aluminium and processing of residual waste from adjoining smelters. 

It is also setting up a minor metal recovery complex to recover metals, including cadmium, copper dross, copper matte, etc., found in the mining supply chain of base metals of zinc, copper, and silver. 

Giving leftover metal or used materials a second chance at life will continue to encourage a circular economy. 

In 2012, India's Bureau of Energy Efficiency took a step towards making the industrial sector energy efficient and launched its Perform, Achieve, and Trade (PAT) scheme. Since then, power exchanges have greatly helped to increase efficiency in the generation, transmission, procurement, and distribution of electricity. 

Thus, an effective industry and, eventually, a sustainable energy economy are built through the PAT scheme and energy saving certificate (EScerts).

Similarly, the Prime Minister’s science, technology, and innovation advisory council (PMSTIAC), which aims to identify, develop, and deploy technologies to treat waste to generate energy, recycle materials, and extract resources of value, is an ongoing mission for waste management. 

The mission also works toward identifying and supporting the development of modern technologies that promise to create a clean and green environment. 

However, such initiatives need hufe support and partnership to make them successful on a larger scale. There is also a dire need to identify goals that will best align with the sustainability objective of the county. 

Waste innovation is occurring across the world, but one thing is very clear — we need to think about waste management more holistically. 

Edited by Suman Singh