Vreeland, H., Norris, C., Shum, L., Pokuri, J., Shannon, E., Raina, A., Tripathi, A., Borse, D., Patel, A., Dixit, P., Bergin, M. H., & Stoner, B. R. (2018). Collaborative efforts to investigate emissions from residential and municipal trash burning in India. RTI Press. RTI Press Research Brief No. RB-0019-1809 https://doi.org/10.3768/rtipress.2018.rb.0019.1809
Research can benefit from collaborations that engage the combined efforts of students in the United States and internationally.
Commercial drones can potentially be used to measure air quality over industrial areas or municipal dump sites.
Plastic waste makes up a majority of residential and roadside refuse in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.
Emissions from trash burning represent an important component of regional air quality, especially in countries such as India where the practice of roadside, residential, and municipal trash burning is highly prevalent. However, research on trash emissions is limited due to difficulties associated with measuring a source that varies widely in composition and burning characteristics. To investigate trash burning in India, a collaborative program was formed among RTI, Duke University, and the India Institute of Technology (IIT) in Gandhinagar, involving both senior researchers and students. In addition to researching emission measurement techniques, this program aimed to foster international partnerships and provide students with a hands-on educational experience, culminating in a pilot study in India. Before traveling, students from Duke and IIT met virtually to design experiments. IIT students were able to visit proposed sites and offer specified knowledge on burning practices prior to the pilot study, allowing potential experiments to be iteratively improved. The results demonstrated a proof of concept of using a low-cost sensor attached to a commercial drone to measure emissions from a municipal dump site. In addition, for small-scale residential and roadside trash burning, a combustor was designed to burn trash in a consistent way. Results suggested that thermocouples and low-cost sensors may offer an affordable way for combustor designers to assess particulate emissions during prototype iterations. More experiences like this should be made available so that future research can benefit from the unique insights that come from having veteran researchers work with students and from forming international partnerships.