Unleashing the energy in waste
At the Dompoase landfill site, a renewable energy project is processing human toilet waste into biodiesel and solid fuel pellets. The biodiesel can be used to power engines and generators, while the fuel pellets can be burned in industrial kilns and boilers, as well as solid fuel power plants for electricity generation. A second income generating project is using organic waste to make compost, a valuable resource for crop farmers. Both these projects, as well as reducing the quantity of waste and creating wealth, are also good for the environment, reducing the output of harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Domfeh This is the Dompoase landfill site, located a few kilometres on the outskirts of Kumasi, Ghana's second largest city. Most of the city's domestic and industrial solid waste ends up here. Waste collection trucks are moving in and out every now and then to dispose of garbage. It is not really a pleasant sight and smell here. Yet people are busy working at this site. A couple of social enterprise projects have been established with the intent to add value to waste. Timothy Wade is the Chief Operations Officer of Waste Enterprisers.
Wade Our founding philosophy is that there is energy in waste and that waste should be treated like a resource and not thrown away. So we are piloting several different businesses in order to take waste and recycle it into a useable product, either sustainable food production or energy products, renewable energy products.
Domfeh Tell me about the projects you have here in Kumasi at the Dompoase landfill site?
Wade We have two projects here at Dompoase. We have a biodiesel research pilot where we are taking faecal sludge, human waste, and processing that in order to create a biodiesel fuel that can be run in heavy machinery, generators, trucks, cars and the like. The second project is an industrial fuel project, where we are taking again faecal sludge and processing it and drying it into a pellet that then can be burned in industrial kilns and boilers. For instance cement kilns or electricity generators like a coal fired electricity plant. And we hope to reduce fossil fuels by eliminating some of the fossil fuels that are used to create heat and electricity.
Domfeh The biodiesel project, how important is this to the communities that you work with?
Wade We like to talk about how we are truly trying to create a sanitation revolution in Africa and faecal sludge management is a major problem here in Ghana but all across the continent. And we believe that if we can harness the energy value and create something as important to industry and transportation as diesel fuel, and that is a cleaner diesel fuel, we believe that that can have global importance in preventing deaths from poor sanitation, in cleaning up the environment and then also protecting the skies and the air from producing less CO2 emissions. And we hope that within 18 to 24 months we would actually be able to build and commercialise a full scale plant that would treat the equivalent of say 100 truck loads of waste every day.
Domfeh There are yet other projects treating waste more as a resource than garbage to be discarded. Waste management firm, Zoomlion Ghana has established a waste-to-compost plant to convert organic waste into manure for agricultural production. This is Ghana's first registered Clean Development Mechanism Project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rachel Ofori Asantewa, an operations officer at the recycling and composting unit, explains there is value in the high amount of organic waste generated daily.
Asantewa Looking at how waste is collected in Ghana, when it gets to the site there are people that would do a manual sorting and then from there we would have an automated sorting. When that is done it means that the inorganic waste has been taken out, you will be left with organic waste which will be processed for the compost. The processing plant intends to process 300 tons of waste in a day.
Domfeh How beneficial is the processed compost to agriculture production and how important is this towards the greening of our environment?
Asantewa Compost is organic, compost enhances crop production. In as much as we reduce the amount of waste that is taken into landfills we are also able to generate compost that would enhance crop production, which is to enhance the soil. It does not have any adverse effect on the environment.
Domfeh You have described the sorting and composting facility as the largest in West Africa. In what ways does the project contribute to climate change mitigation?
Asantewa When this project is implemented, all the waste is not going to go straight to the landfill; some of the waste will be taken to the recycling facility and so it is going to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill. In as much as the waste in the landfill is reduced, the emission of gases is also reduced drastically.
Domfeh These innovative ways of reusing human and solid waste hold the potential to improving sanitation services for communities whilst unleashing the energy in waste for sustainable development. This is Kofi Adu Domfeh reporting from Kumasi, Ghana. End of track
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