29 April 2019


The benefits of turning waste to energy

Electricity- A bare necessity and important component to efficiently run homes, schools and industry but is currently a rare commodity in Africa. More than half of the Sub-Saharan African population does not have access to electricity, which impacts a variety of socio-economic issues such as industry and employment as well as access to health and education. This poses key obstacles to Africa’s economic development.  

Energy infrastructure in Africa can be described as challenging. It is associated with high costs, insufficient capacity and poor sustainability and reliability, with some countries even facing an energy crisis. The ever-increasing energy costs and frequent load shedding occurrences have a negative impact on the manufacturing industry for example, it slows down the production of goods, which in turn affects investment decisions and potential economic growth. The electricity struggle also has a direct socio-economic impact on poorer, underserved African communities as access to basic clinical services for instance can become a serious issue.   

These energy struggles make it crucial for the government and independent power producers alike to rethink the relationship between energy and the development of the African continent.

Are there any possible solutions to this problem?

Conventional forms of electricity generation are fast becoming outdated and are contributing to the rising global, environmental and health concerns. In recent times, the need for alternative power generation methods has become quite urgent.

But could an unlikely candidate like waste be a two-fold solution?

According to The Africa Waste Management Outlook, Africa produces less waste than other continents, but sub-Saharan Africa will become one of the most important regions in the world in terms of waste generation as population and growth in Africa is the largest globally.

Because African cities are predicted to produce more waste in the future, Waste Management solutions are becoming imperative. The decomposing waste at landfill sites produces landfill gas, release harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses.

Waste to energy is the process of converting municipal and industrial waste into electricity or heat, using available expert technology from companies like Siemens. Turning waste to energy can be viewed as an opportunity and one of the few possible solutions that can help alleviate this energy deficiency. This process basically turns the problem of waste into a much needed resource.

So, where’s the worth?

Carbon neutrality and contributing to a green economy are crucial global topics which waste to energy projects support. Siemens is helping to solve the growing waste challenge by providing technologies and solutions which help convert municipal solid waste as well as various types of sustainable biomass from woodchips, sugarcane and sorghum into fuel to produce reliable electricity.

Other benefits of waste management include:

  • The reduction of waste going to landfill sites
  • The reduction of carbon emissions
  • The reduction of the use of fossil fuels
  • The production of cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy

Additionally, the waste to energy industry creates jobs and contributes to the economy. Waste entrepreneurs in countries like South Africa for example, can be incorporated into the value chain and logistics of a waste to energy plant, this could make a substantial impact, not only on their livelihood but that of their families too.

Population growth and increased density in African cities cannot be avoided, what’s true is that they’re putting pressure on individuals, communities, countries and continents to look after the planet. The waste management industry requires immediate attention, not only by government but also key industry players to turn the state of the growing pollution problem in Africa around by producing a vital resource, electricity.

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