A woman at an anti-gutkha rally in Delhi
Mumbai, Jan. 10: Money, they say, is power. So it seems is tobacco.
Powerful enough to light up, maybe, 10,000 homes one day.
Come tomorrow, truckloads of gutkha packets seized in Mumbai since July after the Maharashtra government banned the tobacco product will make their way to Pune to an electricity generating plant.
Over the next few weeks, the product, banned in 18 states, will be heated in an oxygen-free vessel before being turned into gas as part of the power generation process.
Of course, the amount of electricity generated would depend on the weight of the raw material.
The Food and Drug Administration, the authority in charge of enforcing the ban because of the health hazards associated with chewing tobacco, has seized almost Rs 2 crore worth of packets of gutkha and other similar products.
FDA authorities, who had stored the seized products at railway stations and its office in Bandra, had been thinking of how to dispose them of. Some of the manufacturing companies had approached Bombay High Court for permission to take the products to states where they are not banned.
But the high court had dismissed their plea in September.
About a month back, some FDA officials had taken some of the seized products to dispose them of at a dumping ground in the city. But they realised that residents of adjoining slums could pick them up.
Another way to destroy them was by burning the packets, for which municipal authorities were charging Rs 26.50 per kg. “In some cases where the owners of the products were known, they could be charged for the disposal. But we also had to factor in unclaimed products for which we would have to incur the cost of disposal,” FDA joint commissioner (food) Suresh Deshmukh said.
Deshmukh then sent a request to a waste disposal plant in Pune. The power generating plant then came into the picture.
RochemGreen Energy aims to produce 10MW of electricity, enough to light 10,000 homes, by processing 700 tonnes of waste. The plant, which has been leased land by Pune’s civic authorities for 30 years, is in its first phase and has been processing solid waste of around 250 tonnes. For the past one month, it has been generating around 2.5MW every day.
Avinash Gawade, plant manager at Rochem, explained the generation process. “The products that will be brought here by the FDA will be first segregated and dried before being put through the first stage of thermolysing the waste,” he said.
He said the waste would be heated in an oxygen-free vessel, reducing the material to char and gas. After the char is removed, the gas will be moved to a steam reformer, where it will be cracked to reform them into another gas, consisting mainly of hydrogen and methane. “At the end of the gasification process, the reformers generate electricity which is supplied to an engine connected to a generator,” he said.
Gawade said the amount of electricity produced would depend on the weight of the gutkha products.
FDA officials are happy. “We are happy that instead of destroying the products, they can be used to generate electricity,” Deshmukh said.