email@example.com What is Trash to Energy? Burning trash as biomass Methane capture Emerging technology of high temperature gasification Burning Trash as Biomass. Trash is burned in large scale incinerators. Works like burning any other type of fuel. Low pressure to create briquettes that can be used In place of coal and burner cleaner than coal. Can be used as CDM projects Image of straw and hay briquettes. Methane Capture Organic waste is put into storage tanks. The decomposition process releases methane gas that can be siphoned off and stored. The same process creates methane pockets in landfills. It is considered to have a double benefit because it prevents the methane that would be released from the landfill and also providing a cleaner burning alternative to more conventional fossil fuels. Often used for small scale projects. High Temperature Gasification The process uses thermal decomposition to chemically breakdown waste and create a hydrogen rich synthetic gas. The technology uses induction heating (similar to a microwave) as opposed to burning. Along with the synthetic gas, the process also creates a ash like by product that can be reused. The company advancing the technology claim that the process has a relatively small carbon footprint and that the process limits the toxicity of the ash. Induction heating chamber Examples of the materials that can be converted Medical waste Household waste Agricultural waste Plastics Tires Sewage sludge Paper Fly-ash from traditional incinerators What is Africa Doing Now? Examples from Nigeria and South Africa Nigeria In 2010, Kwara, one of Nigeria’s 36 states, contracted with American company Power House Energy Africa to put in a high temperature gasification plant. The agreement was reached as part of Kwara’s Public Private Partnership Initiative. The President of Power House Energy Africa has promised that the plant will be not add any pollution and that the costs will be kept low. Plans for the plant were unveiled in July 2010. It remains to be seen if the plant will be able to meet those expectations. If it works then it could be a huge step forward for Africa and abroad. South Africa In 2006, the French Development Agency provided a loan to South Africa for a methane capture project. The Project involves methane capture from three landfills in the South African municipality of Durban. The project is estimated to be able to generate up to 10 MW of power, enough to electrify 9,000 homes. This undertaking is a certified CDM project with South Africa being able to sell carbon credits. Incinerators As they qualify as CDM projects there has been a push for more incinerators in Africa. My research was unable to identify current incinerator projects in the continent, though the UN conference held in Cancun last week indicated that interest in burning trash for biomass is gaining traction in the continent. Why Africa Benefits from Trash to Energy Projects The Trash Problem Money The Trash Problem Like many nations Africa has too much trash. There are African nations that lack the resources or even the stability to have proper sanitation systems. Trash to energy allows for that trash to be put to use. Briquettes burn cleaner than fossil fuels- prevent Africa from developing a coal addiction. The processes can even be combined in existing landfills, pulling out methane and then burning. If high temp gasification works then it can get rid of plastic waste. Waste to energy projects have the benefit of solving two problems- providing energy while getting rid of trash. Money Foreign Investment Opportunities Domestic Investment Incentives CDM/Carbon Market Other Pros Solve a problem without preventing investment in other renewable energy sectors. The close proximity of landfills means it doesn’t have the transmission line problems that go along with wind and solar. Uses a resource that the community has and doesn’t need. Is Trash to Energy a Bad Choice for Africa? Environmental Injustice Can Africa Afford it Environmental Injustice The Scavengers On Dec 1st protesters from India, Latin America, and Africa hung banners outside a UN meeting in Cancun protesting plans to allow trash incinerator CDM projects in those regions. The protestors are “trash scavengers.” These people support themselves and their families by scavenging through the landfills and then selling what they find. Incinerators take away this form of livelihood from the people least able to afford it. Environmental Injustice Toxic Damage Burning trash creates less GHG’s but can instead release toxins from the waste being burned. These are mainly poor communities in Africa that cannot defend themselves against government decisions to build an incinerator. Can Africa Afford Trash to Energy Projects Incinerators have very high construction costs that will be made worse by the loss of income from both waste pickers and sanitation workers. Methane capture can be expensive for the energy gained. Of course, these costs may be offset by monies gained from selling carbon credits. Should Africa be Investing Elsewhere? There is an argument that money being spent on trash to energy projects would be better spent of wind and solar projects, So What Should Africa do? Diversify projects Put in protections for local communities. Use waste to energy projects when it can, especially is a low cost option does become available.