In the last three weeks, I have attended
five workshops and stakeholder events
around power generation in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, none have discussed the
potential for energy recovery from waste
in Nigeria.
My article titled ‘Poor Waste Management
as Nigeria’s Bane to Achieving Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs)’ published
last year highlighted how poor waste
management could impede Nigeria’s
achievement of goals 3, 7, 11 and 13 owing
to growing amount of waste that ends up
in poorly managed dumpsites.
Global estimates indicates that about
70% of solid waste generated is disposed in
dumpsites and landfills with 19%recovered
through recycling or composting and the
remaining 11%converted to energy using
different energy recovery technologies.
In Nigeria, over 90% of non-metallic
solid waste collected ends up in unsanitary
dumpsite. As frequent as possible, these
dumpsites are set on fire to reduce the
volume of waste; disrupting ambient air
quality and releasing dioxins, furan, VOCs,
PCBs etc. and heavy metals like Mercury
and Lead. These pollutants have long-term
health consequencesincluding cancer; liver
problems and impairment of the immune
system. In addition, the biodegradable
fraction of waste forms leachate which seeps
into and contaminates ground water.
Furthermore, data shows that the disposal
of large amounts of waste in landfills and
dumpsites accounts for about 5 per cent of
total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
and 12 per cent of the world’s methane (CH4)
emissions; a GHG that is 23 times more potent
than carbon dioxide (CO2).
Thus, with waste generation projected
to increase with growing population and
changing consumption patterns in Nigeria,
current poor waste management practices
can only translate to more environmental and
health challenges.
But thanks to science, there are technological
options available to minimize aftermath
release of pollutants and GHG emissions from
waste. These include recycling, composting
and energy recovery. The latter being focus of
this piece.
Energy recovery otherwise called Energy from-
Waste (EfW) or Waste-to-Energy
(WtE) involves the combustion of waste in a
controlled chamber to produce electricity and/
or heat. Energy from waste technology reduces
the overall GHG emissions by as much as 80%
in comparison to waste disposal in dumpsites
and reduces to the barest minimum release of
pollutants. In fact efficient energy recovery is
considered as recycling.
Global EfW market is projected to grow by
about 50% from 25.3 billion in 2013 to US$37.6
billion by 2020. In 2015, it was estimated that
the over 2,200 energy from waste plants across
the world processed about 280 million tonnes
of waste, a45% increase from 2010 estimates of
about 192 million tonnes processed.
Countries like Sweden, France, Denmark,
Netherlands, Switzerland, and Japan currently
incinerates (for energy production) over 50% of
solid waste that is not recycled, thus, reducing
the amount of waste that ends up in landfills
to as low as 4% of the total waste generated.
In January, Cape Town, South Africa opened
the first large scale energy from waste plant
in the city of Athloneto improve the city’s
electricity generation mix and security, reduce
waste to landfills in Cape Town by 10%
and create about 80 full-time jobs alongside
hundreds of indirect jobs.
As at 2015, the total global installed electricity
generation capacity from EfW stood at over
12,900MW; an amount of power that is three
to four times Nigeria’s generational output.
As Nigerians from north to south continue
to suffer erratic power supply with a per capita
electricity consumption of about 143kWh,
there is urgent need to rethink options.
Energy from waste can be that viable option
considering the over 40,000 tonnes of waste
generated daily across Nigeria and the billions
of naira lost by industry operators as a result of
gas supply constraints.Therefore, as a growing technology,
Nigeria must position herself to embrace
EfW so to avoid making the mistake of
the early 1900s; missing the economic
development that came with coal to power.
But before this can be achieved, the first
and top requirement for Nigeria is to put
in place regulations to encourage energy
production from EfW. The regulation must
prohibit the disposal of non-recyclable
fraction of combustible and biodegradable
waste in dumpsite.
Another is the availability of waste
feed stock. Overall, the profitability and
the environmental impact are mostly
dependent on plant location, capacity and
the conversion technology.
Beyond improving Nigeria’s electricity
generation and promoting sustainable
waste management, energy from waste
technology will create jobs, help Nigeria
meet her national determined contributions
(NDCs) targets (of 20% unconditional
emissions reduction) and earn money from
carbon emission reduction (CER).
Invariably, energy from waste can
promote the much needed green economy
in Nigeria.

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