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Africa's Urban Waste Could Generate Valuable Source Of Electricity

First Posted: Oct 13, 2015 12:16 PM EDT

A recent study revealed that Africa's urban solid waste could generate a valuable source of electricity, which could be beneficial to millions of households in Africa. 

The estimated electricity production from the total waste generated in Africa could reach 122.2 TWh (Terawatt-hours) in 2025, which is more than 20 percent of the electricity consumed in 2010 at the continental level (661.5TWh), researchers from the European Joint Commission Research Center revealed in a news release.

Major energy production or consumption is usually expressed as Terawatt-hours for a period which is sometimes a calendar year or financial year. One Terawatt-hour is equal to the sustained power of approximately 114 megawatts for a period of one year.

Africa's urban solid waste could be the answer to its electricity needs. Based on the analysis, the findings showed that over 40 million households could benefit from this potential electricity production by 2015, according to the study.

Waste management in Africa is poor, and the potential electricity of waste actually collected was estimated at 83.8 TWh in 2025. This amounts to the energy needed for use by 27 million families in 2025.

Many people do not have access to energy in Africa. Energy recovered from solid urban waste could help in reducing the impact that solid waste has on the environment. The researchers' evaluation of energy potentials from Municipal Solid Waste from African urban areas provided them with an estimate of the total potential of energy from waste incineration and from landfill gas (LFG) in 2025 for each African country.

There existed more than 600 waste-to-energy facilities in the world in 2010. The majority of these facilities were located in Europe (472), Japan (100)  and the United States (86). However, a very limited amount of waste is recovered and recycled in Africa. Waste management systems are mostly located in major urban cities.

The use of waste to generate electricity could be a major change for many countries in Africa. Electricity can be a significant contribution to many citizens in countries such as the Central African Republic, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Somalia, according to the researchers. 

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