Campaigners call for Energy Recovery from Solid Waste in Africa

Photo credit: PACJA

Civil societies coalescencing under the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) have called for the promotion of energy recovery from solid waste in Africa in the context of Just Transition.

This call was made in an event  developed through the concerted efforts United Cities and Local Authorities of Africa (UCLA), ClimDev-Africa partners consisting of Africa Union Commission (AUC), African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and PACJA, in collaboration with the Government of Namibia, at the 10th Climate Change and Development in Africa Conference (CCDA-IX) in Windhoek, Namibia on October 25, 2022

Mohamed Nbou, Director of the Climate Biodiversity and Food System Department at UCLG Africa, said that food waste and loss was discussed previously at AMCEN and moving forward to COP 27, food waste transformation to wealth creation should be at forefront.

“How to go from just transition in Africa to incorporating a circular economy. COP 27 ambition that Africa would be looking at is to be able to reduce the waste produced in Africa by 50 per cent in 2050,” he added.

Desta Mebratu, Professor at UNHLC Lead Waste, mentioned that a large proportion of waste generated in urban centres in Africa were recyclable.

“Waste to energy issues in Africa include: first, the volume and content of waste as well as the technology required for such. Second would be the challenges attributed to the collection and segregation of waste in cities. In relation to this a key principle that should be followed is the Resource Cascade principles from high valued waste generation to lower possibilities. This will also determine our focus and technology preferences,” outlined Mebratu.

“The starting point is the development of an integrated waste management system in African urban centres. We should also prioritize land recyclable waste to energy. Furthermore, the social dimension of waste management such as job creation and value addition to the local economies should be publicized,” he added.

Augustine Njamnashi, Chair of the Political and Technical Committee of PACJA kicked off the session by buttressing that our focus should be on waste reduction and waste detrimental effect to the planet.

“Let’s not give the impression that energy from municipal solid waste (MSW) is a form of renewable energy thereby promoting waste generation in the long run, in a bid to produce raw materials. Rather our major point is to reduce waste generation. By 2025, MSW is projected to double,” he said.

“There is a need to collaborate with urban councils to reduce waste afterwards, how waste produced can be transformed to energy. This issue requires governance, multi-stakeholders’ participation and public awareness of the fact that waste generation is harmful to the health of people and the environment they live in at large,” concluded Augustine.

Godwin Ojo from Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) said that he disagreed with the creation of mega cities because it contributed to more waste creation.

“We need to investigate the role of technology in waste decomposition. I also urge the youth to look at local initiatives and bring up indigenous technologies to solve the problem in addition to technology transfer being demanded. Waste management should begin with a people-centred investment,” he said.

Godwin also brought to mind the problem of gas flaring and gas waste in crude oil production in Nigeria.

Cross-section of some of the participants at the CCDA-X side event

Elizabeth Wangeci Chege from Sustainable Energy For All (SE4All) stressed the need for strong legislation and policy development in addressing waste. She gave an example of the Sustainable Waste Management Bill in Kenya that formalises the accountability of industries. She also mentioned that there is a need for extended private sector compliance.

Deon Shekuza from Namibia Youth on Renewable Energy (NAYORE) highlighted other non-human waste generated such as methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture. He also questioned progress made in the promotion of indigenous knowledge in waste management like alumni waste workers that make a living out of metallic transformation.

Eskedar Awgichew Ergete, Executive Director of Eco-justice Ethiopia, spoke on a waste energy plant in Ethiopia that was built in enthusiasm. However, the plant has been reported to be working on and off.

“Close to 60 per cent of the waste produced in Africa is organic and easy to manage. We should stop looking at initiatives and solutions that are not home grown and do not address our peculiar needs. Waste energy plants are also great emitters of pollutants,” he stressed.

Cedrick Ouma from Africa Youth commission (AYC) Ghana said that waste-to-wealth solutions should be people centred.

“We need to make the waste sector more dignified. Waste collection and other jobs associated with waste management have always been seen as occupations that are not dignified. Young people and children do not even consider these initiatives/solutions because they do not fancy the occupation,” he said.

One of the online participants, Sakina Benabde mentioned that it is the responsibility of governments to handle waste collection.

“Proper Management would incorporate waste collection and segregation, afterward recycling and landfill. Two main waste transformation plants in Africa are in South Africa, what about the rest of the continent?” she said.

Augustine further added that there is need for close collaboration and engagement between communities with urban councils for waste segregation.

He called for the sealing up of micro initiatives on waste management and transformation that have been presented by several youth groups and NGOs.

“Overall waste should be avoided for our health, wellness and the good of the environment,” he concluded.


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