Sustainable waste management solutions are top of mind for many countries. Many governments and private companies in South Africa are looking at the viability of waste-to-energy solutions as an increasing number of people are realising that waste doesn’t have to end up in landfills – it can be turned into energy, a valuable resource that is needed by everyone.

In South Africa, a ground-breaking waste-to-energy plant was opened in Athlone, Cape Town, a year ago. The goal of the R400-million biogas plant in Cape Town is to convert municipal solid waste into energy. The organic household, municipal and industrial waste is converted into renewable, clean energy, as well as several useful products such as organic fertiliser, refuse-derived fuel, compressed biomethane and liquid carbon dioxide.

Waste-to-energy plants can provide green solutions from cradle to the grave. Cape Town’s biogas plant absorbs approximately 10% of Cape Town’s current waste, which means that 10% less waste is ending up in landfills.

Waste-to-energy plants require a large capital outlay. So, a lot of research must be done to establish whether it is a viable solution for a particular city, municipality or region. Everything from the technology options, supply chain and logistics, as well as the land that would be used for such a plant, has to be carefully considered. A market needs to be identified to determine whether the offtake products can be sold. Different biogas plants also have different water requirements. Therefore, the availability and cost of water is also a factor that has to be kept in mind.

Waste-to-energy plants can go a long way in helping South Africa reach its recycling, energy, waste and sustainability goals. To make them financially feasible, funding options (such as donor fund sourcing and equity investments) need to be considered.

Gondwana Environmental Solutions specialises in creating sustainable waste management plans for the public and private sector. Contact us for more information today.