Research Stay from Master Grantee Eva Shitaatala – Germany 2018

Waste to energy an opportunity for waste management in Africa

The realisation of value addition to solid waste birthed the evolution of waste to energy. Waste to energy is an innovative way of converting waste into useful energy and by-products. The innovation emerges since the late 19th century and it continues to evolve and today many cities across the world convert part of or all its non-recyclable waste into energy. Due to climate change and detrimental emission from conventional energy, waste to energy is continually becoming popular just like other renewable energy.

Currently, the world is responsible for generating 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually. Due to population increase, the current waste generated is expected to double by 2020. At the same time, it is expected that, waste generation in Africa will tripled amounting to 3.40 billion tonnes. Such amount of waste requires big landfilling space. With many cities running out of space, landfilling is no longer a viable option for waste management and waste to energy offers an opportunity not only reduces the burden of waste but also address issues of space and greenhouse gases emission.

By definition, waste to energy is a process of generating useful energy from waste using biological, thermal and bio-chemical technologies European Commission (2017). Each technology is uniquely chosen and applied based on the type of waste to be treated, cost vs benefit analysis (Campos et al., 2015; UNEP, 2001). Often waste to energy technologies are referred to as energy recovery technologies. Waste to energy converts it into-valuable by-products such as heat energy, fuel (e.g. mainly ethanol), biogas, bio-diesel and other by-products using direct combustion, pyrolysis, and gasification, aerobic or anaerobic digestion. Figure 1 summarises waste to energy technologies and their by-products.

Figure 1: A summary of waste to energy technologies (adopted from:

Despite the technology around for century, it is only practice in Europe, Asia and America. According to (World Energy Council, 2013)’s market analysis, Europe has the largest and sophisticated market for waste to energy technologies. The Asia-Pacific market is dominated by Japan converted up to 60% of its solid waste to energy through incineration. Between year 2011 and 2015, China doubled its growth of waste to energy facilities resulting it as the fastest growing market in the world. Regardless of the technology’s success globally, it is rarely practiced in Africa. Currently, there are countable facilities found in South Africa and Ethiopia. The implementation of waste to energy technologies is cost and required high investment. It projected that, it costs between $150 million to $230 million to establish a modern and sophisticated facility. Therefore, it is essential to investigating the viability of establishing such facilities.

Therefore, to understanding opportunities offered by waste to energy technologies in Africa prompt Ms. Eva Ndamono Shitaatala to undertake a study on waste to energy in Namibia. Through the YEEES, Ms Shitaatala spent time at Leuphana University of Luneburg as a fellow Germany trying to understand how Germany is exploring waste to value opportunities particularly in the area of waste to energy technologies as potential model for Namibia. During her stay, she engaged with various experts on the topic both at academic and industry. Ms. Shitaatala was fortunate to visit one of Germany’s wastes to energy facility. Müllverwertung Borsigstraße GmbH known as MVB waste to energy facility based in Hamburg. as shown in Figure 2 below. The Hamburg based facility was founded in 1994 and MBV is 100% owned by the city of Hamburg through SRH Verwaltungsgesellschaft mbH. It operates 24 hours converting more than 320 000 tons of waste into thermal energy. The plant converts thermally recycles more than 320,000 tons of waste from Hamburg’s households have been burned “around the clock” every year using the. The energy obtained in this way is used in the form of steam to supply district heating to Hamburg’s households. In terms of ownership, MBV is 100% owned by the City of Hamburg.

Figure 2: Caption of Eva during MVB site visit

To dated MVB process approximately 800 000 tons waste is incinerated every year in Hamburg and nearby plants Knowingly, Germany is one of the leading countries in Europe when it comes to waste to energy