In a joint venture between Anglo-American energy technology company KwikPower, and Solid Waste Technology Ltd, a Cape Town based company; the corporations aim to build a series of facilities producing ‘green electricity’ and alcohols from rubbish, sewage sludge, tyres and other suitable waste feedstock.

The first stages of this venture will use a propriety technology called “Waste to Energy” gasification. This process turns waste materials into bio-gas, this is then used to run a diesel generator to produce electricity. In the second stage of the operation bio-refinery facilities will be constructed to produce higher value products such as alcohol from the waste feedstock.

The process units produce zero emissions and the project plans to utilise the only by-product of the waste disposal technology – inert ash – by compressing the ash into lightweight bricks that can be used for low cost housing.

The waste regeneration technology is due to be initially tested in the southern regions of South Africa, specifically Athlone, Khayelitsche and Langa, as early as April this year. It is then hoped to roll it out all over South Africa, Dr James Watkins from KwikPower told edie.

The “Waste to Energy” units range in size from 125kw/hr up to 5mw/hr, with 1kw/hr transforming one kilogram of waste into energy; a 5mw/hr unit could deal with 40,000mt/yr of waste. Athlone produces 800 tonnes of rubbish daily and whilst the joint venture won’t be able to deal with all the waste of these areas, Dr Watkins sees the facilities as providing “an innovative solution to some of the most pressing pollution and waste disposal problems in the Southern Africa region”.

This technology is already in use in the UK and Israel. Edgar Adams, Managing Director of Solid Waste Technology says he wants to see the transportable units at work in more rural areas, reducing rubbish dumps where other waste disposal methods have been unable to access.

When asked about the joint venture, spokesmen for the South African Government Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism stated they had not heard of it.

Story by Sorcha Clifford

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