Workshop: Decarbonization of the Waste Sector- Global Experiences

This 2-day workshop organized by IEA Bioenergy Task is the second of a series of seminars this task has organized since 2021, on the topic of decarbonization of the waste sector in support to South Africa’s Just Transition towards a Decarbonised and Circular Economy.

Since 2021, the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), an R&D state entity of the Department of Minerals, Resources and Energy has been collaborating with the South African Research Chair in Waste and Climate Change (Prof. Cristina Trois) and the other members of Task 36 of the IEA Bioenergy for the development of a Waste to Energy Roadmap for South Africa. Phase 1 of the “WtE Roadmap for South Africa” was launched in March 2022. A Waste-to-Energy (WtW) Policy Review Report, including a detailed comparison of barriers and drivers for the implementation of WtE systems in the Task 36 member-countries was published in the IEA Bioenergy website in February 2023.

DAY 1 – Decarbonisation of the Waste Sector: Global Experiences

On Day 1, Task 36 members were invited to present their experiences and lessons learnt on the development, implementation and impacts of similar waste-to-energy roadmaps in their respective countries.

The workshop was opened by Inge Johansson (RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden, Sweden and Task 36 Leader) who presented Sweden’s experience in moving from disposal of waste into landfills to the progressive adoption of materials’ recycling and energy recovery systems. Dieter Stapft (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany) discussed innovations developed in Germany and Europe on carbon cycle-recycling and incineration of residual waste.
The adoption of a new concept of waste-to-resource hierarchy towards the application of the circular economy in Italy was discussed in great detailed by Giovanni Ciceri (RSE, Italy). Beau Hoffman (US Dept. of Energy, USA) joined online from Seattle and discussed the lessons learnt in the deployment of advanced waste-to-energy projects in the USA. The international experiences presented by Task 36 members were echoed and amplified by SABIA’ Secretary General, Alberto Borello (FGE, South Africa), who detailed strategic interventions that the South African Biogas Industry Association is putting in place to promote biogas to energy as fulcrum of a sustainable decarbonized economy in Southern Africa. Cristina Trois (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) presented the key elements of the Waste-to Energy roadmap that she is developing for the South African Department of Minerals, Resources and Energy. The lack of reliable waste data has been identified as a critical barrier in the implementation of waste to energy projects in South Africa. Aiden Bowers (JG Afrika, South Africa) closed the workshop presenting the results of a recent project funded by the World Bank on the diagnostic of SWM businesses in South Africa’s metropolitan municipalities.

DAY 2 – Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment for Waste Management: Stakeholder Participation for the Identification of Key Indicators

On Day 2, Task 36 members from South Africa, Ireland and Germany invited experts from South Africa contributed to a panel discussion on sustainability indicators and life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) for the development of WtE technology assessment tools. The panel discussion was followed by a knowledge exchange on Waste-to-Energy between postgraduate students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) and the University College Dublin (Ireland).

In countries like South Africa, the US and Ireland, there is still a poor public perception of energy-fron-waste. Lack of transparency during the decision-making process or not inviting residents and stakeholders to be part of the project as well as lack of information exchange between the operators and the clients may lead to poor public acceptance. Developing scientifically based sustainability metrics to give a sound basis for the discussions might also facilitate greater acceptance. Further, a proper decision framework integrating all the main aspects of sustainability (economy, environment and social) is an enabler to ensure that the developed strategies are not sub-optimized in favour of short-term solutions. Inclusion of relevant sustainability metrics is an important consideration in LCSA of waste management systems as typically the inclusion of impacts to be studied are determined exclusively by the LCA practitioner, and the relative weights of those impacts are not reflective of the opinions of the affected local and regional stakeholders. It is therefore suggested that to fully maximise the sustainability of waste management systems, it is important to consider the perceptions and views of stakeholders to inform the life cycle impact assessment of any analysis. Thus, ensuring that locally and regionally relevant sustainability information is included to better inform decisions regarding the implementation of new waste management systems. This workshop series combines informative workshops on regionally relevant waste management systems with the participation of stakeholders in the development of an LCSA framework to consider the most relevant sustainability indicators.

Fionnuala Murphy (University College Dublin, Ireland) opened the workshop on Day 2 presenting experiences in the use of LCSA of waste management systems in the context of South Africa and Ireland. Cristina Trois (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) presented outcomes of the application of the WROSE (Waste to Resource Optimisation and Scenario Evaluation) Model in South African municipalities. WROSE is a decision-making tool developed at UKZN since 2010 to assist municipalities and the private sector for a sustained waste and carbon emissions reduction in South Africa. Task 36 invited several experts from South Africa to join the DAY 2 workshop and panel session. Prof. Catherina Schenck (SARCHI Chair Waste and Society, University of the Western Cape, South Africa), detailed outcomes on the application of social indicators and stakeholder engagements in waste management in Southern Africa. Charlotte Nell (Aquila Consulting, South Africa) also presented the outcomes of the stakeholder engagement process employed for the development of the WtE Roadmap for South Africa. Finally, a detailed account of chemical recycling of plastics waste through pyrolysis was presented by Prof. Dieter Stapf (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany).

Read more:

You can now watch the recorded version of the workshop available here (OBS: videos have not been edited).

For more info, please, contact IEA Task Member  Cristina Trois.