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IITB-Monash Research Academy: Two-day symposium on Waste to Wealth 2016

May 23, 2017 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Countries across the globe are increasingly concerned about the finiteness of natural resources and how this impacts their ability to grow in a sustainable manner. ‘Reduce, recycle and reuse’—which forms the basis of sustainability—is a concept now taught in schools. Corporates are gradually realizing that life cycle analysis of products must move beyond ‘Cradle to Grave’ to ‘Cradle to Cradle’. India and Australia are impacted by these global trends and innovative solutions are being developed to tackle resource constraints.

In order to bring together researchers, technologists and entrepreneurs (Academia and Industry) from Australia and India, the IITB-Monash Research Academy organized a two-day symposium on ‘Waste to Wealth’ on 30 and 31 March 2016 at the Victor Menezes Convention Centre at IIT Bombay. The aim was to bring together Indian and Australian scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, social scientists, industry persons and policy makers to present new research findings, exchange novel ideas and technical know-how, discuss new developments and, finally, reflect on the challenges that lie ahead and the way forward to tackle them.

The program was divided into eight sessions, comprising presentations by the invited speakers, followed by questions and discussions. Nine faculty members from Monash University, six from IIT Bombay and 12 industry experts presented their views, followed by brainstorming with participating delegates. The topics spanned core academic areas such as biotechnology, genetics, engineering and processing to application-based research outputs such as biofuels, functional foods, energy (gasification, pyrolysis), municipal solid waste management, fly-ash and farm waste utilization. Apart from pure scientific debates, discussions focused on environmental impacts and socio-economic perspectives on wealth creation from waste. As many as 75 delegates participated actively in the workshop. The sessions were broken up into a plenary lecture, two keynote speeches, 20 invited talks and a group discussion with elite panelists from across disciplines and profiles. The workshop was well received by the delegates; networking and one-on-one interactions continued during the tea and lunch breaks. The symposium came to a close with an open discussion on possible ways forward under the ambit of the IITB-Monash Research Academy for the ‘Waste to Wealth’ grand challenge and beyond.

Detailed Report:

On Day 1, Prof. Murali Sastry, CEO of the IITB-Monash Research Academy, kicked off the proceedings with introductions to the themes of the day. Prof. Patrick Perlmutter (Monash), in his talk titled, ‘From food waste to water and wealth’, discussed solutions for global food waste problems based on a suite of new technologies. Highlights included significant contribution to mitigating land and stream pollution, substantial greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, creating a new industry, new jobs and generating value added products on a large scale. Prof. Santosh Noronha (IITB), provided key results of his work that dealt with using genetic interventions towards making cellulosic ethanol and algal biodiesel processes commercially viable. The focus on improving the commercial feasibility was elaborated by Prof. Noronha through his research outcomes.

Mr. Pramod Chaudhari, Executive President of Praj Industries, delivered a keynote speech on ‘Biomass opportunities in waste to wealth’, discussing the big picture of biomass-based fuels, energy, chemicals and value-added products and their impact on profitability, sustainability and future possibilities in the segment.

Following the keynote speech, Prof. Akshat Tanksale (Monash) discussed his findings on converting waste biomass to intermediate chemicals. Technologies for converting lignocellulosic biomass to platform chemicals were discussed with a focus on green processes. Ramakrishna Singh, a PhD scholar at the Academy, presented preliminary findings of his research work on ‘Agro-residues as source of functional food fiber such as xylooligosaccharides (XOS)’, which are a part of an important class of probiotics.

ost lunch, Prof. Antonio Patti (Monash), delivered the plenary lecture titled ‘Biomass Feedstocks – Challenges for Chemical Industries and Beyond’ wherein some of the broader issues related to lignocellulose supply were discussed and examples from by-product streams from both food production and consumption as well as other related industries were elaborated.

Dr. Sudhir Dapurkar provided an overview of the activities at the Innovation Centre of Tata Chemicals Ltd., focusing on, ‘Outcomes related to gainful utilization of waste’. This was followed by Mr. Anand Gurav’s (Tata Power) talk on utilization of fly ash generated from coal combustion. Fly ash generated in India in the year 2015 was about 184 million tons and as per Mr. Gurav, is a big opportunity in disguise as it can be directed towards applications such as cement-making, ready mix concrete-making, concrete blocks, fly ash bricks, ceramic tiles, embankments for road construction, artificial soil, and artificial plywood, to name a few.

Continuing on similar lines, Prof. Vanessa Wong (Monash) turned the focus towards waste generated from mine sites and how exposure of such waste could lead to environmental and ecological hazards. Prof. Wong discussed innovative solutions of making soil from a combination of solid wastes sourced from mines which are frequently nutrient poor and acidic, with nutrient-rich composted material produced from sewage treatment and alkaline wood chip waste. This would have the potential to lead to a soil suitable for mine rehabilitation, and, a soil fertile enough for seed germination and plant growth.

The Vice Provost of Research, Monash University, Prof. Ian Smith, gave an overview on integrated research platforms being developed at Monash University that would help industry deliver translational outcomes. Prof. Smith elaborated on approaches to Academia-Industry partnerships and how the integrated network of Monash technology research platforms have been a game-changer for university collaborations with industry. He showed that bringing together leading researchers from different fields across the university to engage with local, national, and global academic as well as, commercial research sectors could lead to better and optimal utilization of resources.

After brief opening remarks by Prof. Sastry on Day Two, the session began with the second keynote talk of the symposium by Dr. Prasad Modak (Adjunct Professor and Executive President, Environmental Management Centre, India) titled ‘A Global Waste management outlook.’ Dr. Modak highlighted the major findings and outcomes of the Global Waste Management Outlook report, undertaken by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), of which he was one of the four authors. In this humorous and animated talk, Dr. Modak shared his experiences of dealing with an international team on a subject like “waste” and the gravity of our ignorance on environmental implications of waste.

Following the keynote talk, Mr. Salman Zafar, CEO of BioConsult, discussed the socio-economic perspective of municipal waste management and challenges in waste collection, waste transfer stations, material recovery facilities, recycling centers and decentralized waste-to-energy systems. Prof. Andrew Hoadley (Monash) discussed the utilization of multi-objective optimization to assess waste-to-wealth projects.

Prof. Sanjay Mahajani (IITB) presented his research on the management of garden waste. He presented his research group’s work that considered IIT Bombay campus as a test bed. The pilot study involved conversion of biomass waste into cooking gas, a survey of campus trees, pelletization processes and gasification of the bio-waste in down-draft reactors. Similarly, use of bio-waste such as wood chips and grape marc could be converted to jet fuel, as discussed by Prof. Alan Chaffee (Monash), who is currently investigating catalytic routes and process engineering for generating fuels with a high degree of purity and efficiency. Prof. Amit Arora of CTARA, IITB gave insights into his research on utilization of kitchen and horticultural waste such as fruit peels and vegetable stalks into value added bio-active products such as pectin, polyphenols and lipids which have applications in food, pharmaceuticals and the cosmetic industry. Prof. Arora demonstrated a unique bio-refinery based approach to recover bioactive compounds from kitchen and horticultural waste, which would also address the ever-growing municipal solid waste generation issue. Prof. Victoria Haritos (Monash), spoke on the utilization of kitchen and horticultural waste to obtain sugars and fermentable carbohydrates from lignocellulic biomass using enzymatic processes. These processes release sugars from fruit and vegetable waste that are greener and less capital-intensive than acid catalyzed steam processes, making them economically viable and sustainable. The sessions on gasification of farm waste by Prof. Mahajani, wood chips and grape marc to jet fuels by Prof. Chaffee, value-added chemicals from horticultural waste by Prof. Arora and sugar and fuel derived from kitchen waste by Prof. Haritos gave an exciting picture of the wealth that can be derived from waste, which otherwise causes negative environmental impact and significant cost for disposal.

The next theme focused on utilization of municipal solid waste (MSW), one of the foremost challenges faced by cities and the countryside alike across the world. Mr. Pankaj Patel, head of Abellon Clean Energy Ltd. showcased his model for the city of Ahmedabad in Western India for the management of solid waste. Mr. Patel’s facility aims to process a thousand tons of municipal solid waste every dayto generate energy. Along with the technical details and know-how of the functioning of the waste processing and power generation plant, Mr. Patel also discussed issues such as land occupation by waste, ground and surface water pollution, health and environmental hazards and correlated them to social issues such as those of human scavengers and the human development index.

Mr. Irfan Furniturewala, promoter of Hanjer Biotech Energies Pvt. Ltd., a company in the Municipal Solid Waste recycling business for the last 10 years, gave an overview of their activities and technologies that are used to handle about 80 million tons of solid waste across 18 units spread across nine states of India.

Mr. Furniturewala also highlighted anaerobic biomethanation of the wet fraction from mixed municipal solid waste and fuel oil and gas production from mixed multilayered waste plastics. Mr. Rajiv Agarwal of Praj Industries Ltd. showcased the efforts of his organization on utilization of non-food (non-fodder) farm waste to biofuels as well as biogas. Mr. Agarwal drew attention to the ethanol blending program across the world and the current shortfalls to achieve targets. He went on to highlight how utilization of farm waste for production of bi-ethanol can be used to realize targets of gasoline blending which are as high as 20 percent for India by the year 2020. He also discussed efforts on conversion of cellulosic and hemicellulosic biomass into biogas by anaerobic biomethanation. Interestingly, the residue after the biomethanation process can be utilized as a green fertilizer for farms, truly adhering to the “cradle to cradle” approach for the theme of waste to wealth. On the academic side, Prof. Yogendra Shastri (IITB) nudged the discussion to the key issue of mixed nature of nonsegregated municipal waste, composed of organics, plastics, metal, sand and ash. Prof. Shastri presented key findings of his work on thermodynamics and kinetics of pyrolysis reactions and how this understanding is being used to design and optimize pyrolysis reactors for the treatment and utilization of mixed municipal waste. Prof. Shastri further discussed preliminary studies on performing environmental impact assessment of biogas production from the MSW produced in the IIT Bombay campus and their direct and indirect economic, environmental and social benefits.

The concluding session of the symposium was a panel discussion chaired by Prof. Rangan Banerjee, Head of Energy Science and Engineering Department, IIT Bombay. The panelists consisted of academics, from both IIT Bombay and Monash University, as well as the industry, including Prof. Tony Patti, Prof. Victoria Haritos, Prof. Bart Follink, Prof. Yogendra Shastri and Dr. Ezhil Subbian.

Prof. Rangan Banerjee set the ball rolling–making introductions to the themes and the panelists-following which each panelist was asked to make opening remarks on their perspectives and opinions on various aspects of waste to wealth. The discussion was thrown open to the delegates in the audience and an hour was devoted to brainstorming about the progress, challenges and opportunities in various waste to wealth scenarios. Multiple illustrations and case studies were cited by the panelists and delegates to highlight the key aspects of the future of waste to wealth, such as state of the art technology, commercialization strategies, scale-up and deployment challenges, policy interventions required as well as the socio-economic and environmental impact assessment. The necessity for increased collaborations between the academia, industry, NGOs and the government for the success of waste-to-wealth projects was a common opinion amongst those present. Prof. Patrick Perlmutter made a proposal to set up a consortium on waste to wealth to drive projects and initiate new programs. In response, Prof. Rangan Banerjee shared his opinion on the necessity to identify one or two specific target areas and setting up key goals and action points for successful initialization of such a consortium. The panel discussion summed up the key takeaways from the symposium for all those present. The symposium ended with closing remarks by Prof. Rangan Banerjee and Prof. Murali Sastry.


May 23, 2017
8:00 am - 5:00 pm