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Challenges impeding South African Municipalities from Adopting Waste-to-Energy Schemes: An Exploratory Approach


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As a resource, waste is abundantly available but largely underexploited in South Africa. Through waste to energy transformation, waste offers a variety of benefits that could address socio-economic and environmental challenges such as energy poverty, decreasing landfill space and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As South Africa becomes more urbanised, the urban population will rapidly increase and greater effort will be required to manage waste and provide energy services. Municipalities have the potential to deal with these challenges and realise many benefits by transforming and valorising waste through waste-to-energy (WtE) schemes. The most prevalent WtE technologies include biological (biochemical conversion) and thermal (thermo-chemical) based conversion technologies. Biological technologies mainly employ anaerobic digestion (AD) of waste to produce biogas which can be used directly or upgraded to other secondary energy carriers. Landfill gas recovery is also based on anaerobic breakdown of waste in landfills. Thermal treatment methods that produce heat and electricity include combustion, gasification, and pyrolysis. The most common form of WtE conversion technology is combustion or incineration of solid waste. In the developing world, AD is the most common technology especially for small scale and domestic applications. WtE technologies have been successfully deployed in many developed as well as some developing countries but there are limited initiatives in South Africa due to a number of barriers to the deployment of the technology. This study explored the barriers to wide scale deployment of WtE technologies in South Africa with a specific focus on adoption challenges faced by local municipalities specifically in the Western Cape Province. Four objectives were identified, namely: (1) investigate existing waste management methods, challenges experienced and current (proposed) interventions; (2) investigate local municipalities’ efforts to implementing WtE schemes and the challenges encountered; (3) estimate the amount of energy that can be produced by local municipalities from waste and the extent to which the energy gap could be narrowed and; (4) identify the most appropriate WtE technology that local municipalities could implement. The research methodology comprised of a mixed methods approach which encompassed both qualitative and quantitative approaches, based on an exploratory design. A sample of five municipalities was identified and participated, from a population of 24 municipalities in the Western Cape Province. The criteria used to select the municipalities include (1) experiences, plans and efforts to adopt WtE (2) socio-demographic trends such as population growth and urbanisation rates as well as (3) proximity and ease of collecting data physically. Some challenges that were experienced relate to limited availability and accuracy of waste generation data and waste compositions, limited availability of municipal documents (such as feasibility studies and policy documents) and the inability of participants to answer all the relevant questions. The latter was mainly due to the different stages of WtE implementation in the different municipalities. Through the analysis, it was noted that socio-demographic trends such as population growth and in-migration increased between the 2001 and 2011 period, which also indicated an increase in the waste generated. Although local municipalities were implementing waste initiatives such as recycling and composting, none had physically implemented any WtE schemes. However, the municipalities were exploring the technologies and were at different stages, mainly at the feasibility stage. The challenges deterring municipalities from adopting WtE include: 1. Unsuitable waste feedstock for energy generation and poor data on waste generation and composition for investment decision making, 2. Restrictions on independent power producers (IPPs) of electricity to directly supply power to municipalities as well as timeous wheeling agreements (the monopoly of Eskom) 3. Poor synchronisation of policies (energy and waste policies do not provide a solid platform for establishing WtE industries), 4. Poor integration of WtE into waste management planning, 5. Limited knowledge of technologies by decision makers and lack of political will; 6. Low landfill tariffs, 7. Limited access to capital to invest in technologies and high investment costs depending on the type of technology, 8. Lack of skills to implement technologies, 9. Limited awareness of the technologies and their benefits and opposition from the public for various reasons including emissions of hazardous gases, and 10. Delays in processing environmental and legal applications.
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... Like many other countries, RSA is faced with a dilemma of increasing waste and limited airspace. There is limited space to develop sanitary landfill sites and the situation is further exacerbated by competition for land with other departments such as the National Department of Human Settlement (Mutezo, 2015). Inadequate government rules and public opposition also hinder the development of sanitary landfill sites (Mutezo, 2015). ...
... There is limited space to develop sanitary landfill sites and the situation is further exacerbated by competition for land with other departments such as the National Department of Human Settlement (Mutezo, 2015). Inadequate government rules and public opposition also hinder the development of sanitary landfill sites (Mutezo, 2015). Due to inadequate policies, RSA is ranked as the 12th largest emitter of GHGs and the waste sector contributes 2-4.3% to the national GHG emissions and 12% of the CH 4 emissions (Borello et al., 2018;Friedrich and Trois, 2016;Nahman et al., 2012). ...
... The electricity transmission and distribution system in RSA are controlled and maintained by a state-owned enterprise, with 30 active power stations as of 2018 (Thopil et al., 2018). The 30 Source: (Gumbo, 2013;Mutezo, 2015;Ofori-Boateng et al., 2013). ...
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Landfill gas to energy (LFGE) projects were implemented in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) to diversify the energy mix and transition to a green economy. This study provides an overview of the status of LFGE in RSA and identifies major factors that inhibit the adoption and utilization of this technology, using existing data from 2010–2020 from electronic databases, namely, ScienceDirect, Taylor & Francis, Google Scholar, Sage Open, Springer Link, Sabinet, and IEEE Xplore, and using a combination of keywords and Boolean functions. This study revealed that, although RSA has made significant progress in the adoption and utilization of landfill gas (LFG) through the seventeen (17) planned LFGE projects, only six (6) are operational and generate 15 MW of electricity supplied to the local grid in the KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Gauteng Province. The waste-to-energy (WtE) sources such as LFGE are not given priority, and the country continues to invest in coal-fired power stations, owing to the abundance, availability, and low cost of coal reserves, which will supply coal for the next 200 years. The study identified factors inhibiting LGFE projects in RSA, which included the lack of sanitary landfill sites, LFG monitoring, funding, skills, research, and development. Potential LFGE in RSA is evident, however, except for limited processing facilities, economic investment, and public awareness. Suggestions for further research on the techno-economic and policy assessments are provided in the study. This study contributes to synthesizing evidence of the status of LFGE, insights on state-of-the-art technologies of WtE and the associated challenges in the waste management sector, identifying the potential for LFGE, and LFGE in the circular economy, and building a foundation for future research on WtE such as LFGE. Moreover, it also offers a reference for policymakers, decision-makers, researchers in the waste management sector on the technologies of WtE, LFGE, and potential to reduce waste generated.
... Composting and anaerobic digestion in RSA is practiced both in small and large scales according to Mutezo (2016). However, the latter is hardly practiced because of the poor conversion efficiencies of biogas-to-electricity (Mutezo, 2016). ...
... Composting and anaerobic digestion in RSA is practiced both in small and large scales according to Mutezo (2016). However, the latter is hardly practiced because of the poor conversion efficiencies of biogas-to-electricity (Mutezo, 2016). An example is a 4.4 MW 9 biogas plant in Tshwane city that supplies BMW Rosslyn factory with about 30% of its energy needs (Business Sweden, 2017). ...
... The limited data on waste generation and unsuitable waste feedstock deters constant supply of WtE feedstock (Dlamini, 2016). Bureaucratic processes involved in purchasing electricity from other sources other than Eskom discourages the uptake of such initiatives for financial benefit (Mutezo, 2016). This is because WtE projects are not integrated to mainstream energy, SWM and planning programs. ...
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Solid waste management (SWM) is a challenge in developing countries such as the Republic of South Africa (RSA). This book chapter highlights the drivers and state of SWM in RSA and suggests alternatives to make solid waste a resource. The SWM strategy of the country has a role in pushing waste up its hierarchy towards minimal generation, reuse, and recycling through extended producer responsibility and economic instruments. However, the lack of an all-inclusive planning and management has challenged the success of these initiatives. In recognition of these flaws, the private sector is teaming up with the government and individuals to bridge service and value chains in sustainable SWM by formalising waste pickers, initiating waste-to-energy initiatives, promoting recycling at all stages of the waste cycle, and adopting practices that divert wastes from landfills. These initiatives if taken up will promote better economic turnover through the production of alternative energy, environmental conservation, and creation of employment opportunities in RSA.
... Before designing and implementing any WtE technology, it is important to know the quantities of waste, its characteristics and compositions because energy generation is significantly dependent on these base parameters (Mutezo, 2016;Kumar and Samadder, 2017). Furthermore, characteristics such as particle size, moisture content, climate conditions, calorific value and density are equally important for selecting and developing an appropriate anaerobic digestion system (Aleluia and Ferrão, 2016). ...
... However, Africa has significantly underutilised LFG technology, but what are the challenges impeding Africa from developing and using LFG technology? A research conducted on the challenges impeding South African municipalities from adopting waste-toenergy schemes; the conclusion showed the major problems were inappropriate landfill management from Municipalities for power generation and poor data on waste generation; monopolising the electricity sector, thereby making investors lose interest; poor policies on waste sector which do not give room for establishing waste to energy industries; limited knowledge on technologies by government and lack of political will; small tariffs on landfill; lack of expertise to implement project; and limited awareness of the benefits associated with the project [47]. ...
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This review evaluates the current Landfill Gas (LFG) utilisation technology across Africa and gives general overview on the global context. With the increase in global Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), the world has embraced landfilling to be its major way of MSW management. About 85% of the world’s MSW is deposited in landfills. This has brought increased concerns of gases emitted from landfill sites. These gases have contributed enormously to the global anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission which are detrimental to the world’s environmental media. Although significant progress has been made on the utilization of landfill gases but this is limited to some developed countries, while in Africa, there has been limited strategies and control of LFG emissions. This review spotted several reasons that could have influenced the low development of LFG utilisation in Africa as ranging from lack of skilled expertise, inadequate knowledge of the technology involved, lack of political will, inadequate funding for LFG utilization projects and monopoly of the power sector among others. It is recommended that urgent attention should be given to LFG utilisation as it can aid in acquiring carbon credits, reduction in obnoxious smell and odours, and provide the much-needed energy which is crippling the economy in Africa as well as reducing the consequences associated with the release of greenhouse gases to the environment.
In South Africa, the burden placed on energy due to the rise in its demand coupled with the huge amount of untreated waste that ends up in landfills has called for the quest for sustainable energy utilization from waste resources. The literature has revealed a huge amount of theoretical energy potential recoverable from waste generated in Africa. However, many African countries are not yet exploiting the full potential energy inherent in waste to solve their energy and waste management crisis. To achieve success in WTE Industry, it is important to assess the peculiar local factors which impede its growth. The study evaluated the energy potential from waste in Africa with emphasis on South Africa’s case and the existing and proposed waste-to-energy (WTE) projects in South Africa. It was revealed that South Africa has the highest theoretical potential of energy from waste in Africa based on the quantity of generated and collected waste. About 104463 TJ/year and 22710 TJ/year can be recovered from incineration and landfill gas, respectively, in South Africa. Some of the barriers to full-operative WTE processing in South Africa were identified and discussed. Major resource-related barriers which are peculiar to South Africa’s waste management and energy system are the cheap and affordable coal resources and the low landfill tax. Recommendations for the future directions of WTE and sustainable energy recovery from waste in South Africa were made
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The generation, characteristics and energy potential of municipal solid waste for power generation in Nigeria is presented in this paper. Nigeria generates 0.44-0.66 kg/capita/day of MSW with a waste density of 200-400 kg/m3 leading to large volumes of poorly managed waste. The direct burning of these wastes as a waste management option in the open air at elevated temperatures liberates heat energy, inert gases and ash which can be conveniently used for power generation and other applications. The net energy yield depends upon the density and composition of the waste; relative percentage of moisture and inert materials, size and shape of the constituents and design of the combustion system. MSW samples used in this study were obtained randomly from different dump sites in selected state capitals, at least one from each of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria based on the spot sampling method of Corbit. An average calorific value of 17.23 MJ/kg with variable high water content of 20-49% was determined for MSW using a bomb calorimeter and on the basis of an incineration plant of capacity 1500 ton of MSW/day, 700kW/day of power can be generated.