Waste and energy are two major industries in South Africa. The energy sector has fallen on tough times recently, forcing load shedding and power saving initiatives across the country. Meanwhile, the waste management sector has the challenge of an abundance of waste to process.
The two industries could collaborate to solve both of their problems. It is possible to create energy from waste – numerous successful examples exist around the world. The question is, could waste-to-energy be made a reality on a small scale for households in South Africa? Could we use household waste to generate electricity and become more sustainable in the process?
Tackling excess waste
Recent statistics suggest that South African households produce 108 million tonnes of waste every year. Of this, around 90% is sent to landfills. Much of this waste has the potential to be used as an alternative fuel source for generating electricity, especially organic waste from homes.
Landfills are filling up fast and many have already reached capacity. The South African government has already released changes to the National Environment Management: Waste Act (2008) that seeks to divert waste from landfills. The aim is to promote a circular economy and zero-waste-to-landfill practices, such as using the refuse to generate energy.
Using waste to generate energy
In short, it is not currently viable to generate energy from household waste on a small scale. Homes do not produce enough waste on their own to create sufficient electricity. However, there are opportunities for communities to pool their waste and to partner with their local municipality.
By combining all the waste from households in a geographical area, it could be possible to collect enough non-recyclable refuse to burn as an alternative fuel source for generators. Where restaurants and businesses are located, non-recyclable waste could be diverted from landfills to a power-generating facility.
Collaboration needed to establish waste-to-energy sector
Local governments and businesses will need to help fund the construction of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) facilities. This public and private sector partnership will help communities to become more sustainable. Not only will waste be diverted from landfills, but the energy produced would supplement the shortfall from the national grid.
This situation will also create jobs and boost employment statistics. The global waste-to-energy sector is expected to grow from R397-billion in 2017 to R602-billion in 2024. This presents a significant opportunity to grow the waste and energy industries in South Africa, through collaboration.
Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment.
By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, pipe inspection, CCTV, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries.
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