Creating a sustainable circular economy

Transforming waste to address critical energy shortages is mounting.

Waste to energy is driving nations to focus on ways to conserve and make the most of their resources.
Image: LinkedIn

According to Webb Meko, business development director, Sub-Saharan Africa, Black & Veatch, increasing interest in the circular economy are driving developed and developing nations to focus on ways to conserve and make the most of their resources, while sustainability remains front-of-mind.

Advanced waste-to-energy (WTE) programmes offer municipalities and their communities’ new opportunities to look elsewhere and create value from often overlooked sources.

As countries experience increased resource scarcity – while focusing on socio-economic and environmental pursuits – the global push towards resource efficiency through enterprise development and innovation has become critical, therefore, the skill to transform everyday waste into energy is proving vital.

WTE projects have demonstrated tangible benefits for the environment and the ability to provide reliable and renewable power to communities, as well as facilitating reuse and recycling of resources; transforming a waste management problem into job creation and economic development. This combination of factors has boosted interest in WTE development – making it a key option for facilitating the circular economy, with nations recognising they can capitalise on waste reuse with concurrent benefits in reduced landfill requirements.

The Kyoto Protocol was developed to mitigate future global warming by substantially reducing developed countries’ greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.
Image:The energy collective

Although the WTE market has been developing for many years, the industry has dealt with some challenges and skepticism, centred mainly around technology and cost.

Years of progress in improving conversion technology efficiency with reduced emissions, in combination with enhanced waste processing for recycling and energy integration, have worked to address historical hindrances to successfully transforming waste into energy.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by limiting methane production in landfills has also spurred increased interest in WTE deployment in African countries. According to The World Energy Council’s World Energy Resources 2016 report, worldwide, the WTE market is projected to grow into a USD36-billion industry by 2020.

Landfills create a massive greenhouse problem.
Image: Ensia

Developing markets
Owing to Africa’s waste production, WTE is likely to be a major emerging market for many of the continent’s countries, along with increasing scarcity of landfill space in urban areas in the developing world.

WTE can also be key to power generation in countries with underdeveloped energy systems, principally in urban areas with increasing demand, while adding the socio-economic benefits of job creation.

With the production of waste projected to hit 11Mt a day globally, according to The World Energy Council, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the regions where WTE systems can be most beneficial, owing to projected population and economic growth.

In the latter part of 2016, Black & Veatch partnered with local entity, MBHE African Power, on a WTE plant near Drakenstein Municipality in the Western Cape. When operational, it will contribute 10MW to South Africa’s power grid, powering more than 10 000 South African homes.

Presently, the most viable way to finance projects are through public-private partnerships (PPPs). However, to date, funding has been driven largely by the private sector as supply and contribution to the grid is standardised in its transmission.

Other project costs for WTE plants may vary owing to emission requirements, grant stipulations for equipment sourcing, labour costs and productivity, equipment and reliability requirements. Greater collaboration between industry and the private sector, as well as detailed planning, can ensure adequate funding for projects and form mutually beneficial PPP models.


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