WOIMA BLOG 4/2018 – Waste in Africa – a Threat and an Opportunity
Waste, in all its forms, is a growing threat to people and the environment. At the same time, it offers a growing number of enterprises and people new business opportunities. Under-developed countries are especially vulnerable to the ill effects of waste, but also have the most to gain.
Not All Waste is Wasted
The renowned Webster’s Dictionary defines waste as ‘loss of something valuable that occurs because too much of it is being used or because it is being used in a way that is not necessary or effective’. This would suggest that value is inevitably lost due to the inefficient operations. However, in this case one man’s garbage dump can really be another man’s treasure chamber.
The Western World can just about cope with their waste, with their solid infrastructure for waste collection and management. Waste becomes a real challenge, when the so called Third World Countries join the ‘rat race’; the pursuit of happiness through wealth, without the means to manage the accruing waste mountains. This is where innovative waste management solutions are called for. The solutions have to fulfil the following three criteria; robust in design to cope with the local conditions, modular in nature to enable easy expansion and people-sized to win over the trust of locals.
Waste for Energy
Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs builds on the actualization of one’s physiological needs; food, water, warmth and rest. These are things that we take for granted, but are still a struggle for almost half of the world’s population. Inadequate housing, poor sanitary conditions, polluted drinking water and unhygienic food preparation conditions are the harsh reality to three billion people daily, and also the number one cause for untimely deaths.
The answer, at least a partial one, for the above challenges is electricity. It won’t mend a leaking roof or build an indoor toilet in the house, but it can be used for water purification and refrigerators. And most important of all, electricity, or power in general, will enable the establishment of small and medium-size enterprises, which can kick-start the positive spiral of development in the local community and the country as a whole.
It can be argued that burning waste containing valuable materials like plastics and wood is a waste in itself. This is partially true; recycling is almost always the preferred solution to incineration. However, without a local industrial use for the recyclables, the whole concept of recycling is a waste. Once the positive development spiral is up and running thanks to the local SMEs utilizing the power produced from waste, more emphasis can be directed in the reuse of waste in the form of raw materials. In an ideal world, only the share of the waste that cannot be profitably recycled, will be incinerated for energy.
The detrimental approach of not managing the waste properly cannot continue much longer. Not only does it have harmful environmental and health impacts, but it is also a complete waste of what is essentially a free fuel or raw material. The reduction of methane, a greenhouse gas over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, emissions in landfill sites should be reason enough to start acting in favour of other waste disposal solutions.
WOIMA is currently working on dozens waste-related development projects in the African continent. These waste-to-energy opportunities draw on our decades of project delivery experience across the globe, vast cooperation network and our own waste-to-energy power plant. With our cooperation partners we can generate the most out of waste by implementing also material recovery and biogas solutions. This WOIMA Ecosystem will introduce energy generation efficiencies of 50-80% and waste utilization rate of over 97%
At a Glance
- The total amount of waste produced annually is 20 billion tons, i.e. 2,500 kg per capita
- The waste volume will double in the next 20 years
- Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is the number one source of waste in landfills
- Other major sources of waste are construction and agriculture, which can be recycled more easily
- The higher the income level and rate of urbanization, the greater the amount of MSW produced
- Currently OECD countries produce half of the world’s waste, while Africa and South Asia regions produce the least waste
- By 2030 Asia will become the leading waste producer
- By 2070 Africa will overtake Asia as number one waste producer
Ask more about saving the planet with circular economy and W2E solutions in Africa.
We have several ongoing initiatives in the continent, please contact us for more information.
Chief Executive Officer, WOIMA Finland Oy
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