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. Earlier this year, a landslide on the dump site killed 114 people, prompting the government to declare three days of mourning.
But a new waste-to-energy plant is set to transform the site and revolutionize the entire city’s approach to dealing with waste. The plant, which is due to begin operating in January, will incinerate 1,400 tons of waste every day – that’s roughly 80 per cent of the city’s rubbish – all while supplying Addis with 30 per cent of its household electricity needs and meeting European standards on air emissions.
The facility, which is the result of a partnership between the Government of Ethiopia and a consortium of international companies, is the first of its kind in Africa.
“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. “We hope that Reppie will serve as a model for other countries in the region, and around the world.”
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.
In cities where land is in short supply, “waste-to-energy” incineration is a quadruple win: 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.
Waste incineration is popular in Europe, where nearly one quarter of all municipal solid waste is incinerated. France alone has 126 waste-to-energy plants, while Germany has 121 and Italy 40.
Like its European counterparts, the 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.
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. 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.
Pollution is the theme of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, which is gathering in Nairobi, Kenya from 4-6 December. Sign the #BeatPollution pledge and join the global movement towards a pollution-free planet.