Converting waste to electricity stimulates sustainable urbanisation It is possible for Harare to have electricity generation from waste like the initiative being undertaken by Geo Pomona Waste Management.

Gibson Nyikadzino-Herald Correspondent

Tracy Mudzengerere (37), a teacher at a primary school in Budiriro high density suburb is a troubled mother of two.

What started as a mechanism to solve waste problems, has generated into a problem.

Before schools closed for the first term, some residents in her neighbourhood slowly and steadily used an open space across her lodgings to dump waste. What started as a small heap of garbage, became a hill and now it is an avalanche of filth.

The uncollected avalanche of filth, growing idly before her house for months and at times emitting plumes of smokes when burnt, has caused problems for her six-year-old daughter who suffers periodic asthma attacks. 

“I have seen my daughter having breathing challenges due to her condition, she is asthmatic,” says Mudzengerere.

To her, this chaotic environmental situation has one culprit with blood on the hands.

“The city council is failing when it comes to waste management. We pay rates, we elect councillors as a community, but nothing is being done to improve mechanisms of waste management,” she added.

If waste is not managed properly, it contaminates the quality of air that people breath, and in seldom circumstances, sparks diplomatic wars.

In January 2019, diplomatic relations between Canada and the Philippines were at their worst after the later shipped to Canada thousands of tonnes of waste that had “made in Canada” tags.

 “We are ready to go to war with Canada. We can take them down. I will send their garbage back to them, just wait and see. We are not the dumping ground of the world,” said then Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

A perennial affliction

Waste collection is erratic in the Zimbabwe’s capital. 

In 2023, council admitted it was incapacitated to collect garbage at a time it was grappling with cholera outbreak. 

Since then, the city has experienced bouts of inconsistency in service delivery and poor waste management practices, giving rise to pollutants affecting air quality in the suburbs.

Central Government’s interventions late last year gave council feet, but again, the town administrators have self-crippled. 

The city is reported to be generating at least 1 000 tonnes of solid waste every day, while its fleet of 25 refuse trucks can only collect 360 tonnes daily, with an existing gap of at least 640 tonnes.

“About 995 tonnes of waste are generated in Harare daily. Of this, 70 percent is generated in residential areas and 30 percent coming from industrial and commercial activities.

“The city’s current refuse management assets comprising 15 compactors, seven tipper trucks and three skip trucks can collect 360 tonnes per day. The city has established some material recovery centres, and five percent of the waste generated is recycled at these centres,” town clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango said.

Harare’s challenges with waste management come at a time most citizens and organisations are no longer enthused with council’s initiatives.

“Harare City Council officials have made it hard for the existing waste gap of 640 tonnes to be covered hence people are now dumping waste in streets and wherever convenient,” says Mr Nigel Madanire, spokesperson of Republic Waste Management.

Mr Madanire proposed that council needed to regulate waste management at household levels and fine those who are non-compliant to deal with waste.

“City council must rely on independent players to cover up for their deficiencies by finding a way to incentivise them. Another way is to ensure that every household subscribes to a waste collection service and those who are non-compliant are fined. This will reduce dumpsites in the suburbs,” he added.

Illuminating initiative

Mr Madanire said with proper planning and implementation of policy, waste management will be a thriving business for Zimbabweans leading to power generation. This is in the pipeline of Geo Pomona Waste Management.

It is possible for Harare to have electricity generation from waste like the initiative being undertaken by Geo Pomona Waste Management.

“Geo Pomona Waste Management should allow more waste to come, at relatively affordable prices because their business is profitable. It is unfortunate some people do not appreciate it because of lack of knowledge,” said Mr Madanire.

The waste management company, Geo Pomona Waste Management, took over Pomona dumpsite in 2022 from Harare City Council and is working towards power generation from the dumped waste.

The company has introduced new waste management processes to protect the environment, help improve the quality of air and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

“As part of our contribution to environmental protection, we introduced a new engineering process called encapsulation. This process involves covering the existing waste with a geo-membrane and geotextile and then covering it with soil.

“This captures all the gases produced by the waste, such as methane and nitrous oxides, and prevents them from escaping into the atmosphere. As a result, the process significantly reduces air pollution,” says the company’s chief executive officer and executive chairman Mr Dilesh Nguwaya.

Mr Nguwaya says issues of environmental sustainability are now taking centre stage around the world, and innovative technologies are the foundations to the improvement of livelihoods through replicating what others are doing.

One of the models inspiring Geo Pomona Waste Management is the Amager Bakke waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

The plant not only burns waste but also offers recreational spots for skateboarding, skiing and other sporting activities. 

The Amager Bakke plant is estimated to treat more than 400 000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste every year, producing at least 63 megawatts (MW) in Copenhagen. 

With an energy efficiency of 107 percent, it delivers low-carbon electricity to 550 000 people and district heating to over 140 000 households.

“We want the best for our country, and we need high standards too. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) seven calls for affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, which is the route we are taking.

“Our waste management and waste-to-energy project is currently underway and it is just a pilot project. However, the long-term plan is to expand this initiative nationwide, regionally, and eventually, on an international level. By doing this, we hope to create an eco-friendly environment, reduce waste, and combat climate change on a larger scale.

“After all, to advance towards a more sustainable future, we aim to implement innovative technologies in all provinces across the country, with the full support of the Government. We do not intend to have people suffer cardiovascular ailments because they inhaled toxic air, we are changing that. New energy sources are sustainable for modern cities, which we are contributing to,” added Mr Nguwaya.

As Harare officials struggle with waste management, their endeavours to make the city attain a world class standard by 2025 are diminishing by the day, despite promises made. 

As the order of the day in Harare is characterised by the uncontrolled disposal of large amounts of waste difficult to decompose in natural ecosystems, only innovation will unlock value and solutions for the current complex environmental mix.

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