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Processing of Wastes

The Ayurveda industry leaves behind considerable quantities of plant residues. For example, a medium-sized company throws out about one ton of ayurvedic wastes daily in the process of manufacturing different formulations. After the preparation of medicines, the residual material is discarded as waste. These wastes are often dumped into heaps in open areas, resulting in water and soil pollution through their decay and release of leachate containing toxic substances, including metals. Sometimes these wastes are set on fire also. The burning of waste in open spaces also causes air pollution (Ndegwa and Thompson 2000). Therefore, there is a need for safer and eco-friendly technologies to manage these wastes. Several such technologies have been identified, and they can be employed for the effective management of wastes from the Ayurveda industry.


Scientific studies have established the utility of using earthworms as a treatment technique for numerous waste streams (Hand et al. 1988; Harris et al. 1990; Logsdon 1994). The action of earthworms in this process is physical, mechanical and biochemical. The physical and mechanical processes include substrate aeration and mixing, as well as actual grinding. The biochemical action is effected by microbial decomposition of the substrate in the intestines of the earthworms. Vermicomposting, thus, saves on all these unit operations. Hand et al. (1988) define vermicomposting as a low-cost technology for the processing or treatment of organic wastes.

Differing from traditional microbial waste treatment, vermicomposting results in the bioconversion of the waste stream into two useful products viz., the earthworm biomass and the vermi- compost. The earthworm biomass can be processed into proteins (earthworm meal) or high-grade horticultural compost. Vermicompost is also considered an excellent product as it is homogenous, has desirable aesthetics, very low levels of contaminants and tends to hold more nutrients over a longer period without adversely affecting the environment (Ndegwa and Thompson 2000). A detailed account of vermicomposting technology is available (Nancarrow and Taylor 1998; Rajkhowa et al. 2005).

Pant and Yami (2008) carried out a laboratory experiment for the proper management of the solid wastes of Kathmandu valley in Nepal, generated by the Ayurveda industry, sugar mills (bagasse), wood mills, kitchens and vegetable and fruit markets. The experiment dealt with the decomposition of solid wastes through the action of the red earthworm (Eisenia foetida). The vermicomposting of the mixtures was carried out for 12 weeks. The vermicomposting of boiled, non-woody, Ayurveda industry waste was completed in ten weeks. The earthworms grown on Ayurveda industry wastes were found to be healthier than those found in other solid wastes. The study also showed that vermicompost obtained from Ayurveda industry wastes was found to be rich in N, P, К and organic matter. Vermicomposting seems to be an efficient method for the management of solid wastes emanating from the Ayurveda industry.

Briquetting of Solid Wastes

The ayurvedic medicine manufacturing industry gives out many waste products like herbal residues and solid wastes. From an eco-protection point of view it is better to convert these wastes into an ecofriendly and useful product like briquettes. Briquettes are biomass cylinders (50-80 mm diameter and 150 mm length) compressed at a high temperature, with a moisture content ranging between 10% and 20%. Other shapes like rectangular or prismatic are also frequent. In some cases, they have holes to improve their combustion. Briquettes may be composed of crushed and densified wood or composed of crushed, dried and molded charcoal under high pressure (Solano et al. 2016a).

The densification process consists of compaction or reduction of the raw material volume and sealing to ensure that the product remains in a stable, compacted state. Current regulations like ISO

17225 allow the use of specific additives to enhance and maintain compaction of briquettes. These additives contain starches like rice flour, cassava flour, mashed sweet potato, or molasses and gum arabic to give greater consistency to the resulting product (Solano et al. 2016b).

Briquettes are manufactured by compressing and compacting the raw material, Natural compaction of the raw material is achieved by compressing at high pressure, which raises the temperature leading to a Bakelized surface, which gives a glossy appearance and consistency to the briquettes. The typical briquette production process involves milling, drying and pressing or briquetting (Solano et al. 2016c). Machinery with differing specifications and capacities are employed in the manufacture of briquettes (Figures 3.21 and 3.22). Briquetting enables the valorization of waste material generated by the Ayurveda industry.

Stabilization of Black Cotton Soil

Black cotton soil is a black colored soil that covers about 30% of land area in India. It is suitable for growing cotton. The high content of montmorillonite bestows a high degree of expansiveness to black cotton soil. Due to its characteristics of high plasticity, excessive swelling, shrinkage and low strength when wet, this type of soil is regarded as unsuitable for construction (Oza and Gundaliya 2013). Many attempts have been made to stabilize this weak soil using industrial wastes, as black cotton soil is abundantly available. Fly ash, coconut coir fiber, crushed glass, H.D.P.E. waste fibers,

Briquette press used in compaction of powdered raw material

FIGURE 3.21 Briquette press used in compaction of powdered raw material. Figure of Jumbo Brq 9075 briquette press. Reproduced with kind permission of Jay Khodiyar Machine Tools, Rajkot, India (www.jayk-

Briquettes made from feedstocks such as corn stover, switchgrass and prairie cord grass. Reproduced with permission from Karunanithy et al. (2012)

FIGURE 3.22 Briquettes made from feedstocks such as corn stover, switchgrass and prairie cord grass. Reproduced with permission from Karunanithy et al. (2012).

stone dust, lime and cement kiln waste have been used for this purpose (Oza and Gundaliya 2013; Varsha et al. 2017).

Varsha et al. (2017) carried out an interesting study on the suitability of waste material from the Ayurveda industry for improving the engineering properties of black cotton soil. They added 5%, 10% and 15% of sediment left from manufacture of KsTrabala taila to black cotton soil and studied the engineering properties of the modified soil, like unconfined compression, standard proctor compaction, the Atterberg limit and so on. The addition of the waste in varying percentages resulted in the decrease of maximum dry density and lowering of degree of expansiveness from 73.33% to 36.36%, thereby increasing the strength of the soil. The liquid limit of the soil also increased from 64.75% to 82.57%. The results of this study showed that black cotton soil can be stabilized using the inexpensive waste from Ayurveda industry.

Recycling of Wastewater

A large quantity of water is used in various operations in ayurvedic medicine manufacturing companies. Such units generate huge volumes of biodegradable wastewater during the processing of raw materials and the production of medicines. This wastewater is moderately rich in chemical oxygen demand (C.O.D.) and biochemical oxygen demand (B.O.D.) concentrations. It can be discharged only after proper treatment. Condenser waste from evaporators, chemical waste, spent liquors from fermentation operations, sewage, laboratory and floor washing waste contribute to the organic and inorganic matter in ayurvedic wastewater (Vanerkar et al. 2015). The impact of the wastewater on the environment needs to be reduced considerably by adopting efficient and eco-friendly water recycling methods.

Vermifiltration or lumbrifiltration is one such method, first advocated by the late Professor Jose Toha, at the University of Chile in 1992 (Li et al. 2008). Vermifiltration is a low-cost sustainable technology over conventional systems w'ith immense potential for decentralization in rural areas (Taylor et al. 2003; Sinha et al. 2008). It was initially used to process organically polluted water using earthworms (Li et al. 2008). Introduction of earthworms into the system was an innovation to the conventional biofilter of wastewater treatment, and it created a new method of biological reaction through extending food chains, converting energy and transferring mass from the biofilm to the earthworms. Vermifiltration is found to be generally good for the treatment of swine wastewater (Li et al. 2008), municipal wastewater (Godefroid and Yang 2005), domestic wastewater (Taylor et al. 2003; Sinha et al. 2008) and wastewater from daily industry (Telang and Patel 2013).

Das et al. (2015) developed a treatment method for ayurvedic liquid effluents by integrating microbial pre-treatment and vermifiltration. The ayurvedic effluent was at first pre-treated with a microbial consortium and later fed to a vermifiltration unit. Organic wastes and solids were ingested and absorbed by the earthworm’s body wall and degraded. The process removed B.O.D., C.O.D., total dissolved solids (T.D.S.) and the total suspended solids (T.S.S.) from wastewater. There was no sludge formation during the process, and the resultant water was odor-free. The vermifiltered water exhibited a significant reduction in C.O.D. by 98.03%, B.O.D. by 98.43%, T.S.S. by 95.8%, T.D.S. by 78.66% and oil and grease by 92.58%. The vermifiltered water was clean and clean enough to be reused for irrigation. Vermifiltration is an eco-friendly method that can be applied to the ayurvedic medicine manufacturing industry.


Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing companies are mostly family-owned businesses. The origin of most of these companies can be traced back to a vaidya who used to prepare some medicines for dispensing to his patients. With the gradual acceptance of the medicines, these small units grew into fully-fledged companies. Many of them are now being run by third-generation owner-managers. The ownership pattern has helped the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the other, thereby enriching the knowledge base of these companies.

The production facilities of the ayurvedic manufacturers differ widely. They range from manual to semi-automated to fully manual modes of production. There are ultramodern factories where production is fully automated, and no hands touch the products until the machine-packed medicines are collected by personnel. Other manufacturers depend highly upon manual labor. In their work- shop-like establishments herbs are ground by hand or with the help of simple machinery. In more traditional settings, vessels which can hold a few kilograms and wooden barrels having a capacity of 50 or 100 liters are used for making kvatha and arista. Here workers stir liquids in bronze cauldrons placed over gas stoves and perform traditional boiling and cooking techniques. Large traditional manufacturing units employ workmen who skillfully process raw materials and half-finished preparations in what looks like a giant kitchen. This way of manufacturing is not limited to small or very small manufacturers. Even large companies manufacture some of their products this way.

The use of modern manufacturing equipment and laboratory tests for monitoring production processes has raised questions about the authenticity of mass-produced ayurvedic medicines. It is argued that modern production technologies affect the quality and efficacy of ayurvedic medicines. Medicines produced on a large scale are said to be of a lesser quality because production processes are speeded up and machines lack the skill of artisans. Manual, small-scale production is time-tested and in line with the rules for the production instructed in Sanskrit books of Ayurveda. Traditional techniques are elaborate and time consuming. Large manufacturers see these traditional methods, demands for materials and processing times as very unpractical and too time-consuming for their modern businesses (Narayana et al. 1997).

The star products of many large manufacturers are made in fully automated plants. Modern factories harbor fully automatic, computer-controlled production processes. Employees comply with contemporary hygienic standards, as is evident in their hair caps and white overalls. Production areas are sealed off to prevent contamination of raw materials and fungal and bacterial infections. These products are tested in laboratories, and the final products are stored in cool rooms. No hands touch the products as they move through various phases of manufacture. Process monitoring techniques adapted from modern food technology are applied. The scale of operations is very large. Apart from the scale of operations, the time taken for manufacturing also differs from those sticking to tradition. While an artisan manufacturer takes about a month to make a 100 liters of Dasamfdarista, a large company needs only one day to produce a batch of 15,000 liters of the same product. To our knowledge no systematic evaluation has been made to determine if, and to what extent, modern production and monitoring techniques influence the efficacy of ayurvedic medicines. Without such a study, controversies about the appropriateness of modern technology will never end.

Most of the companies manufacture traditional products using their own master formulae and variations in processes, which are treated as jealously guarded secrets. For example, many herbs of the dasamUla group are now getting rare. To circumvent this problem, manufacturers resort to the substitution of herbs. This reduces the efficacy of products. Radha et al. (2014) procured seven brands of Mahdrasnadi Kvatha available in the Kerala market and compared several of their characteristics. The color of these seven brands, their pH, total dissolved solids, sodium benzoate content, H.P.T.L.C. profiles, microbial load and content of compound classes (total tannins, alkaloids, phenols and sterols) showed wide variation. The same is the case with almost all ayurvedic medicines available at present. This calls for standardization of manufacturing protocols. The Acts related to the manufacture of ayurvedic medicines, especially the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 need to be amended so as to incorporate provisions for correcting this problem.


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