Cities in developing nations have to deal with two significant sustainability challenges amidst rampant urbanization. First, consumer-generated food waste is increasing monumentally since open dumping is still followed as a predominant practice, the negative environmental externalities associated with food waste disposal are growing beyond manageable proportions. Second, the dependency on conventional fuels like diesel to operate transit buses, which is one of the major causes for deteriorating urban air quality. A nexus established between food waste management and operation of transit buses can improve the sustainable performance of cities in developing nations. In this study, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) supported Social Cost-Benefit Analysis (SCBA) is performed by considering a hypothetical scenario of establishing a large food waste treating biomethanation plant in Mumbai, India. The food waste from the city is transported to a biomethanation plant where it is subjected to an anaerobic digestion (AD) process. The biogas produced as a byproduct is upgraded to compressed biomethane (CBM) and used as a vehicle fuel to operate transit buses within the city. The LCA results suggest that CBM buses can reduce greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions by 60% compared to diesel or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. Fossil depletion potential of CBM buses is 98% lower than diesel, suggesting CBM’s importance in decoupling developing nations dependency on imported crude oil. The SCBA considers: (a) costs to stakeholders, i.e., fees for open dumping of food waste and cost of fuel for operating transit buses; and (b) social costs incurred by negative environmental externalities (obtained by monetizing LCA results) resulting from both, open dumping as well as fuel combustion. SCBA results indicate that the food waste-based CBM model can save 6.86 billion Indian rupees (USD 99.4 million) annually for Mumbai. The savings are made due to a reduction in stakeholder’s costs (fuel) coupled with societal, i.e., environmental externality costs if entire transit bus fleet operates on CBM fuel instead of conventional fuel mix (33:67 diesel to CNG) currently used. Although the study is performed for Mumbai, the results will be replicable to any city of developing nations facing similar issues.
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