Turning household waste into electricity
Until four years ago, garbage disposal meant one thing to Savitri Bai Patil - stinking, putrefied heaps of trash spread around her neighbourhood in Pune, in western India.
But now the streets of the Ashok Meadows housing complex where she lives are clear, with workers picking up garbage from residents' doorsteps each day and turning some of it into electricity.
Since 2017, the complex has fed its food waste into a digester that converts it into biogas used to light the area's streetlights, park, social club and gym.
"Clean energy from our rancid food leftovers, vegetable peels and other such throwaways? It is unbelievable how the concept of waste management has changed in the past few years," Bai Patil, 62, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Biogas generators like the one used in Ashok Meadows are now installed in more than 75 locations across India.
Developed by Xeon Waste Managers (XWM), based in Pune, the EnergyBin systems let communities turn waste into free, renewable energy, said company president Jalaj Kumar Chaturvedi.
"It is a common sight to find overburdened landfills with garbage that grows by the day. But since these EnergyBins dispose of the waste at the source itself, the landfills are spared," he said.
According to Ashok Meadows resident Rishika Mahalley, the complex's system - operated and maintained by residents - has helped solve the problem of how to dispose of the nearly a tonne of garbage produced each day by the complex's 550 homes and common areas.
Before the community bought the generator, which produces 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day, at the cost of 2.3 million Indian rupees ($31,000), it struggled with unreliable municipal garbage collection, which often left waste piling up, Mahalley noted.
Mahalley said before the plant was installed the complex spend about 550 rupees ($7.50) a day on electricity for streetlights and other common facilities - a cost that has now virtually disappeared.
It also saves the residents up to 6,000 rupees ($82) every month on municipal garbage disposal costs, she said.