Inside Africa’s First Waste to Energy Plant

Aderonke Ajibade
20% Complete
 24-Aug-2018

The issue of waste management is a Global challenge that keeps drawing great attention. Waste management is one of the many issues that African countries struggle with. Ethiopia is Africa’s second-largest country (in terms of population) and with a high population comes the problem of waste management.

Addis Ababa, the country’s capital like any booming African city has its fair share of waste management problems.The past method of disposal was open dumping: hauling the wastes by truck, spreading and leveling by bulldozer and compacting by compactor. For half a century, the Koshe dump site has been the only landfill in Addis Ababa and has pose serious problems for the residents. In 2017, a landslide at the premises killed about 114 people. The 41-year-old Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed developmental projects indeed has led to tremendous growth in the country. For proper waste management,  the government on 20 of August launched the continent’s first waste-to-energy facility on the Koshe dumpsite.

Reppie Plant

Koshe also known as Repi is a large open landfill which receives rubbish and waste from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

The site is located in the southwestern part of Finfinnee. Dumping of waste at Koshe landfill began in 1964, prior to that year, it was an unofficial site for burning dead animals. In 2014, the site was about 36 hectares but shrinking as the result of regulation. A community of hundreds of rubbish pickers lived and worked on the site. They are known as “scratchers” as they typically carried a metal hook to pry open the waste which was compressed and delivered by garbage trucks.

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In March 2017, a landslide at the site killed more than 114 people.The landslide occurred when a section of the dump collapsed onto a slum built at the toe of the slope.The country announced three day-national mourning, following the incident.

In an attempt to curb the increasing waste problem, the Ethiopian government inaugurated a $120 million waste-to-energy plant, right next to the koshe garbage dump.

The Koshe dump site was transformed to the Reppie project. For half a century, the Koshe dump site has been the only landfill in Addis Ababa. As the city has expanded, the landfill – which used to lie on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital has become part of the urban landscape, sprawling over an area the size of 36 football pitches and attracting hundreds of waste pickers who make their living from salvaged trash.

The plant called Reppie will harvest energy from 1.4 million kilograms of waste each day.This will produce enough electricity to power an estimated 30% of Addis Ababa’s households.The Reppie energy plant will burn approximately 85% of Addis Ababa’s fresh domestic waste to generate heat, which will drive steam turbines to produce an estimated 185 million kilowatt hours of electricity per annum.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Government of Ethiopia and a consortium of international companies: Cambridge Industries Limited (Singapore), China National Electric Engineering and Ramboll, a Danish engineering firm.  It was fully funded by government with the overall cost put at 2.6 billion birr. The consortium was established to design, construct and in some cases own waste-to-energy facilities customized for Sub-Saharan Africa. Reppie is the first of what the consortium hopes will be a series of such facilities in major cities across the region.

A different kind of waste-to-energy plant opened in Cape Town, South Africa last year with the aim to convert organic waste into gas and fuel.In Naivasha, Kenya an anaerobic digester plant produces enough energy to cultivate a commercial farm and sell surplus electricity to the national grid.

The Reppie project is just one component of Ethiopia’s broader strategy to address pollution and embrace renewable energy across all sectors of the economy,” said Zerubabel Getachew, Ethiopia’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations in Nairobi. He says the plant will meet the same emission standards as in the EU, using a flue gas treatment technology to ensure that nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide produced by the plant are drastically reduced.

How it works

In waste-to-energy incineration plants, rubbish is burned in a combustion chamber. The resulting heat is used to boil water until it turns to steam, which drives a turbine generator that produces electricity.

Reppie plant operates within the strict emission limits of the European Union. The plant adopts modern back-end flue gas treatment technology to drastically reduce the release of heavy metals and dioxins produced from the burning.

Benefits

In cities where land is in short supply, “waste-to-energy” incineration is of great benefit. It saves precious space, generates electricity, prevents the release of toxic chemicals into groundwater, and reduces the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas generated in landfills into the atmosphere.

The Reppie facility has the potential to recycle an estimated 3.6 million kilograms of metals from the incinerated waste each year. Residue ash could also be used to produce an estimated 27,000 bricks every day,

The works of the Ethiopia government is truly remarkable, how a government can turn a problem to a solution of many other problems is highly commendable.  The problematic Koshe dump site has metamorphosed to the historic reppie project.

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