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Turning Bulk Waste Into Cooking Gas

According to reports,  Bengaluru generates about 5,000 tonnes of waste every day, most of which is wet waste. There is no single solution to tackling such a complex issue that’s only growing by the day. But two IIM-B graduates got right into the middle of the waste industry to carve a niche for themselves, as well as create a significant environmental impact.

Mainak Chakraborty and Sreekrishna Sankar have developed a waste to energy system, now called BioUrja; a biogas system that takes in wet waste from bulk waste generators like hotels, hostels, and schools, and converts them into cooking gas. Every 1,000 kg of waste can be converted to energy that will fill four commercial cylinders of LPG, which means every kilogram converted will give fuel worth `5.

“We wanted to take up a project that would yield profit, but at the same time create an environmental impact. The whole idea was that it should make economic sense, both for us and the clients,” says Mainak, director, Green Power Systems. Mainak has been recognized as one of the top innovators of India under the age of 35 by the MIT Technology Review, for his work in the waste management space.

BioUrja was born out of two findings by the young team. One, for bulk waste generators like restaurants and corporate houses, converting waste into compost was not a viable solution. They would not have any practical use for the compost. Secondly, most of these spaces did not have the space to install a biogas unit.

“Especially in the city, people face terrible space crunch. Hence, we needed to build something compact that would fit into the basement, terrace or parking lots,” says Mainak.

The biogas unit is made of efficient bacterial cultures, chemicals, latest biotechnology and a remote-sensing technology that helps Mainak and his team monitor the progress of each and every unit from their office. “We have sold units across the country by now and using our cloud-based monitoring system, we keep a tab on what’s happening with each one of them. We’ve basically brought the Internet of things into the biogas space,” says Mainak. The remote-sensing capacity also helps users monitor the temperatures of the unit and detect gas leakages if any.

The units mostly work unmanned, except for when the waste needs to be fed into the machine, which will need an operator. The unit will take care of everything else.

One of their first clients was Akshaya Patra Bangalore. “They’ve managed to reduce their LPG dependence considerably over time,” says Mainak.

A unit can cost anywhere upwards of `10 lakhs, depending on the size of the unit. “Suppose you install a unit that costs `45 lakhs, you can, within less than two years, save fuel costs of an equivalent amount,” says Mainak.

He also says that the basic consciousness of the people in India is shifting regarding waste.

“We reach out to many people to push the idea of waste to energy management, and most people are quite open to the idea. With ideas like Swachh Bharat and what people like The Ugly Indians are doing in the city, it’s only a matter of time before people start managing waste sensibly,” he says.

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