LAHORE: The scientists of Punjab University have established a fully functional Biomass Resource Unit (BRU) with provision of composting of all types of biodegradable wasted biomass, an indigenous project which could provide high quality fertilizers, strengthen agricultural economy, contribute to environment protection, utilize solid waste in a proper way and save billions of rupees.

Punjab University Vice Chancellor Prof Niaz Ahmad has inaugurated the unit which has been set up at Botanical Garden, New Campus. Pro-Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Saleem Mazhar, Former Dean of Life Sciences and Director Institute of Botany Prof Dr Firdaus-e-Bareen, Principal Investigator of the Project Dr Muhammad Shafiq, Dr Aisha Nazir and other researchers were present on the occasion. Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Prof Niaz Ahmad said that the BRU will enable people to be self-sufficient in production of safe vegetables and fruits. He said that the people would also get rid of those elements who sell organic compost on a high price. He said that the installation of BRUs not only can save billions of rupees of the government but also it can contribute to the development of agricultural economy, ensue food security and safety. Through the BRU, he said, biodegradables being 70-100 % of the total MSW can be utilized for production of cheap and organic compost. He said that through the establishment of BRUs, the government could cope with air, earth and water pollution generated by solid waste.  PU was playing its role to solve the problems being faced by the country and society through research. He said that the administration was encouraging and funding all those research projects aimed at solving socio-economic problems.

Giving details of the unit, Prof Dr Firdaus-e-Bareen said that the BRU is capable of developing high-quality compost by utilizing biodegradable components of municipal solid waste (MSW); lawn and yard waste; crop residue; bones of chicken, mutton and beef; offals and carcass arising from animals through mass slaughtering activities. This high-quality compost can be used for production of vegetables, fruits etc with good nutrition values. Dr Barin said that based on dominant composition and its gross & net calorific value of MSW of Pakistan, any WtE or centralized management of MSW would always come up with very poor cost-to-benefit ratio. She said the established BRU is a replicative indigenously adaptable model that can have maximum solution compatibility with the local solid waste management issues of Pakistan. The current budget of MSW management in major cities of Punjab is in billions of rupees mainly being spent as intensive MSW collection cost. For example, around 6-7 thousand tons per day of MSW is currently being generated in Lahore only, out of which more than 70 percent is biodegradable or compostable. Mainly, the MSW collected from various points of the city is being disposed of at Mahmood Booti MSW open dump site and adjoining areas of Lakhodair sanitary landfill site of Lahore for being filled beyond its capacity. Furthermore, it involves huge transportation cost and human resource.

Principal Investigator Dr Muhammad Shafiq said that the BRU facility established at PU ensures waste ownership by its generator. He said that the MSW generated by the source will not be part of the current MSW stream of the city. He said that directly, it will help in minimizing MSW collection cost and associated environmental pollution, shed off burden on land area of open dumps and landfills. He said that indirectly, it will reduce multiple tangible and intangible costs of the current MSW system. He said that through decentralized MSW management system, the government can enhance feedstock utility of MSW for various productive purposes and save billions of rupees annually. He said that the BRU facility at PU has been established by the funding from PU, HEC and other industrial collaborators under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Firdaus-e-Bareen, the team leader of the Environmental Biotechnology Research Group in Institute of Botany comprising him, Dr Aisha Nazir and research mentees.

Giving details of the HEC funded project on “Decentralized Management of MSW through Composting in HEIs and Private Housing Societies”, Dr Shafiq elaborated that achieving 100 % collection efficiency in the major cities of Punjab has been an uphill task for the major MSW management companies. He said that collecting MSW from whole city and fetching it to one point for sorting and effective disposal has been facing several challenges. First, it bears a huge collection cost, he said, adding it also compromises the feedstock suitability of biodegradable, combustible, and recyclable components of MSW for producing compost, drawing energy from waste, and drawing recyclable from the waste stream respectively. He was of the view that sometimes it becomes a big challenge to isolate usable solid waste components and thus a huge quantity of recoverable resources from the MSW goes ‘wasted’. Ultimately, he explained, most of the collected waste goes dumped at open disposal sites in the form of gigantic heaps and poses multiple environmental, economic, and social challenges. He said that the compost produced through decentralized MSW management approach could be linked with the urban agriculture, urban kitchen gardening, and other horticultural activities of the major cities of Pakistan. Giving details about the unit, he said that the BRU installed at PU uses the rapid composting technology that expedites composting process. He said that one of the key prerequisites for achieving rapid composting and high-quality biochar is optimum particle size of the feedstock through comminution. He said that the BRU at PU has been provided with woodchipper with a capacity to transform 2 tones of wood into wood chips in just an hour. He said that overall, the biomass chipping, chopping, and crushing facilities are provided at the BRU. He said that the compost prepared from wasted biomass is much better and cheaper than the compost available in the market in terms of quality. Therefore, he suggested, it was better to set up these types of units at various places of Lahore under controlled environment and with effective health and safety measures.

Dr Aisha Nazir said that another component of the BRU is biomass pyrolysis unit for generation of high-quality biochar, bio-oils and syngas. The established BRU provides an indigenous technology for retaining and managing wasted biomass at source level through production of high-quality compost and biochar. Dr Aisha Nazir highlighted the benefits of pyrolysis unit, one of the components of BRU. She emphasized that converting biomass to biomass through pyrolysis can help in deriving organic soil amendments with maximum possible longevity.

At local level, the adoption of decentralized MSW management system in PU will enable to play its role as Pioneer Green Campus of the Universities of Pakistan striving to achieve zero discharge of MSW. Ultimately, it will help PU to improve its world ranking as Sustainable Campus in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking. The team led by Prof. Dr. Firdaus-e-Bareen shared that PU scientists can easily transfer this technology to the relevant stakeholders from public and private sector.

 

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Arsalan Haider is a reporter at Academia Mag and has worked with leading national dailies and news channels. He tweets @arsalanhaider14

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