Material and Energy valorisation of waste in a Circular Economy

Transitioning towards a decarbonised circular economy: Focus on Waste to Energy


IEA-Bioenergy Task 36 discusses this hot topic at the SABIA NATIONAL BIOGAS CONFERENCE 2021 (online from South Africa)

With the increased need to incorporate renewable energy resources in the energy mix, the transition towards a decarbonized circular economy has become a “hot topic” among policy makers, governmental departments and local authorities. However, not many countries worldwide have developed comprehensive roadmaps to navigate this transition.

South Africa, as many other countries in the African continent, discards over 90% of municipal solid waste and industrial biomass on land, without any effective recycling of materials or resources. In this context, any meaningful strategy to activate the circular economy needs to prioritize the optimization of existing and the development of new waste-to-resource infrastructure.

SANEDI (South African National Energy Development Institute), an R&D state entity of the Department of Minerals, Resources and Energy, is 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, that will be launched in March 2022. Task 36 members were invited to present their experiences and lessons learned at the first webinar and panel discussion of the SABIA (South African Biogas Industry Association) National Biogas Conference on “Transitioning towards a decarbonized circular economy: Focus on Waste to Energy”, held online on 11 June 2021.

Develop the biogas and waste to energy sectors

The webinar, opened by SABIA Managing Board Member, Eddie Cook, kickstarted with a welcome address by Acting CEO of SANEDI, Lethabo Manamela, who highlighted the focus that the SA Government is currently placing to develop the biogas and waste to energy sectors, through the insertion of appropriate waste to energy infrastructure and the development of institutional and economic frameworks and incentivization schemes in the country. Manamela also stressed the importance that R&D and international collaboration platforms, such as that with Task 36 and the IEA, are playing in informing and guiding the Waste to Energy Roadmap process. Her words were echoed and amplified by SABIA’ Secretary General, Alberto Borello (FGE, South Africa), who detailed strategic interventions that SABIA is putting in place to promote biogas to energy as fulcrum of a sustainable decarbonized economy in Southern Africa.

Good stakeholder engagement

Task 36 was represented by Daniel Roberts (CSIRO, Australia) who presented the Australian experience in the development of the “Hydrogen Economy” and in the insertion of next generation Waste to Energy technologies. Beau Hoffman (Dept. of Energy, USA) detailed the lessons learned by USA’s Government in developing the USA Waste to Energy Roadmap,  and stressed the importance of a good stakeholder engagement in ensuring the success of the roadmap. Task 36’s leader, Inge Johansson (RISE, Sweden) spoke about the effectiveness of incentives schemes for the successful insertion of bioenergy from waste in Sweden and the EU. Cristina Trois (UKZN, 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 President of the World Biogas Association, David Newman, inspired the audience exploring the real concept of circularity in the biogas and waste to resource sector. The panel discussion was animated by many questions of the diverse international audience of practictioners, scientists and governmental officials who attended the webinar.

Figure 1 (a,b): SABIA National Biogas Conference 2021-Event 1 – Programme and Speakers (Source: SABIA Marketing Manager: David Sobey)

Read more:

All the presentations of the SABIA NBC 2021-Event 1 are available at: https://sabia.org.za