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South Africa Hopes to Light a Fire Under Waste-to-Energy

Cape Town, South Africa is has opened a waste-to-energy plant with the hope of reducing its landfill sites and creating jobs.

That’s according to News24.com, which says that this is all part of the city’s initiative to generate 20% of its electricity from renewable energy sources.

“This is an exciting addition to the green economy in Cape Town,” said Mayor Patricia de Lille, as quoted in the news site. De Lille said she felt it was wrong that Eskom had a monopoly and forced the city to purchase its fossil-fuel power; coal is the dominate fuel used in the country.

Zille said in the news piece that the project fit into the province’s plans of being the hub of the green economy.

The project is a collaboration between Waste Mart and Clean Energy Africa, and will be run by New Horizons Energy, it concludes.

But waste-to-energy is an energy intensive way to generate electricity. And the cost of it is high relative to burning natural gas. But in a country that is trying to wean itself from coal, the investment could well be worth it.

South Africa, of course, is one of the pioneers of coal-to-gas that has been used to run cars. During the Apartheid era and when the country was boycotted internationally, it had to figure out ways to make use of its ample coal supplies. Again, this is a technology that is expensive and especially now given the relatively low price of oil. However, it shows that the country can innovate.

A story Environmental Leader , says that waste-to-energy plants have been slow to take off in the United States because the plants pollute the air. It said in Maryland that citizens there want those facilities phased out, reasoning that the trash could be recycled for less money.

However, the story also interviewed Covanta’s chief sustainability officer Paul Gilman. He told the news site that waste-to-energy plays a key role in sustainable waste management and in helping companies achieve and maintain zero waste to landfill. He specifically points to American Airlines and Subaru.

“These companies have found that zero waste to landfill is a theme that really resonates with their client base and so they look to us, especially for hard-to-dispose-of materials like paint sludges that can be used to create energy,” Gilman said in an interview with Environmental Leader.

Despite controversies, the global waste-to-energy market is growing, and is projected to reach $43.96 billion by 2024, up from $25.3 billion in 2013, the site says, noting that Clean Harbors just finished a $120 million waste incineration facility in Arkansas. That’s the first commercial hazardous waste incinerator to come on line in the US in 20 years.

While some argue that the conversion process of taking waste and converting it to energy creates more pollution, EPA disagrees. It says that  waste-to-energy plants actually reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere compared to landfilling. The agency estimates these facilities save about 1 ton of greenhouse gas emissions per ton of trash burned, Environmental Leader reports.

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2 thoughts on “South Africa Hopes to Light a Fire Under Waste-to-Energy

  1. Stop discussions and take the Scandinavian countries as an example. Combined with a technology to change heat into cold it will help both the people to handle there waste in an efficient way and the environment due to avoid further landfill.

  2. We have an astronomical waste management problem and would appreciate you assistance to turn this problem into an energy opportunity

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