Uncollected trash is a very big problem in developing regions of the world, especially Africa. According to a World Bank Urban Development Series report, Africa currently produces just about 70 million tons of waste every year. With its rapid urbanization and growing economies, waste production in Africa will exceed 160 million tons by the year 2025.
Waste is a problem because it causes pollution, disease and environmental crisis when it’s not properly disposed of. The good news is, most of the waste produced in Africa can be recycled and reused to create new products. Sadly, only about 10 percent of the waste generated every day in Africa is collected. The rest usually ends up in illegal dump sites, gutters and drainage in Africa’s cities.
To this effect, Africa’s first recycling plant that converts end-of-life plastics into commercial synthetic fuel oil is underway. Alternative Energy Systems, based in Kiambu county of Kenya uses a conversion technology that can process 16 tonnes of plastics per day.
Company CEO Rajesh Kent says all types of plastic waste can be treated – including thin-gauge plastic below 30 microns. The process output will be 70-90% oil and roughly 8% carbon black.
An estimated 2500 tonnes of waste is generated daily in Nairobi and Kiambu counties alone, 11% of which is plastic.
Kent explains that Alternative Energy Systems heats the waste under controlled conditions to produce oil, similar to industrial diesel oil and heavy fuel oil used in power plants, industrial furnaces and boilers. More than 1500 indirect jobs will be created for waste collectors in the area, besides an additional 65 direct jobs will be created in machinery operations and performance of administrative duties.
“This technology will be transformational in how we handle plastics in this country and Kenya will be used as a benchmark on the continent,” Kent says.
However, the volume of waste generated on our continent is expected to double in the coming years as Africa’s economy becomes more prosperous and the size and population of its cities explode. Waste is anything that people do not value anymore and would love to throw away. But as dirty as waste could be, a couple of Africans have ventured into the recycling business and trying to curb the menace within the continent.