Our global population growth is giving rise to two very significant challenges. Challenges that need to be urgently addressed – those of waste disposal and energy production:
Huge quantities of waste are produced around the world, with amounts increasing due to both population growth and change in consumption patterns. South Africa alone produces some 230 million tons of waste per year, including hazardous waste, commercial waste, hospital waste, used tyres and other types of non-recyclable waste. Most waste is dumped in landfills or burned in incinerators, both of which are inefficient, costly and lead to a host of environmental problems such as:
- Contamination from landfills can leach into the water table for decades;
• The solid remains of landfills are a long-term contaminant;
• Methane and carbon dioxide (in addition to unpleasant odours) are released into the atmosphere;
• Landfills can catch fire, and are very difficult to extinguish resulting in increased pollution;
• Incineration can release NOx, SOx, dioxins, furans and other dangerous pollutants;
• Fly-ash from incineration is hazardous and typically must be buried in specially designated landfills.
The world is battling to produce enough energy – this problem extends to both developed and developing countries, although the added burden of high population growth rates and urbanisation of the developing countries make this problem even more acute.
Over-Reliance on Fossil Fuels
The supply of fossil fuels is finite and subject to political uncertainty, which is reflected in the long term upward price trend. Burning oil and gas to produce electricity is very costly. Fossil fuel-fired power stations produce large amounts of pollutants and greenhouse gases.
Add to this South Africa specific challenges;
- Population growth driving increase in Waste at 5% p.a. in established areas, 10% - 12% in new development areas;
◦ Shortage of electricity and cost growing annually (Eskom has had a 400% increase in the price since 2007, with a static generation capacity);
◦ Fuel price has doubled since 2009 due to weakening Rand;
◦ Current Waste Water & Landfill sites at full capacity;
◦ Limited Return on Investment with current solutions;
◦ CAPEX & OPEX cost to fix waste plants growing at alarming rates with limited funds available;
◦ Waste Management resources/skills aging with limited attraction of new entrants;
◦ Service Delivery challenges negatively impacted by limited funding for Communities;
◦ Waste material delivery flows expensive to maintain;
How do we address it?
By moving away from traditional, polluting landfill practices and incineration technology to the NEW generation non-burn / non-incineration Pyrolysis, Gasification or Plasma Energy recovery technologies which convert waste to energy, instead of waste to pollution.