Workshop report: Decarbonisation of the Waste Sector: Global Experiences

Workshop report: Decarbonisation of the Waste Sector: Global Experiences



This report summarises the deliberations of a hybrid workshop that IEA Bioenergy Task 36 organised in Durban, South Africa, on the topic of “Decarbonisation of the Waste Sector: Global Experiences” on 29th and 30th of November 2022. This 2-day workshop is the second of a series of seminars that Task 36 organised, 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 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 WtE 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. (To access the report click here, and to the new/highlight click here).

In South Africa 95% of the energy mix is dominated by energy from fossil fuels (primarily coal). In this context, any meaningful strategy to activate a pathway for decarbonization in line with the Paris Agreement needs to prioritize the optimization of existing and the development of new waste-to-resource infrastructure.

This report focusses on the first day of the workshop.

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 webinar explored the main issues that are preventing the widespread insertion of waste to energy and biogas to energy projects in the South African energy mix, despite the challenging times of continued loadshedding imposed by the electricity utility ESKOM.

On Day 2, Task 36 members from South Africa, Ireland and Germany invited experts from South Africa in a panel discussion on sustainability indicators and 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).

The workshop was opened by Inge Johansson (RISE, former Task 36 Leader – Sweden) 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), Task 36 member – 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 details by Giovanni Ciceri (RSE, Task 36 member – Italy). Beau Hoffman (US Dept. of Energy, Task 36 member – 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’ former 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, Task 36 member – 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.


Workshop objetives

The main aim of the first day of the workshop on “Decarbonisation of the waste sector – Global Experiences” was to provide opportunities for discussion on lessons learnt on the implementation of waste to energy projects from the member-states of Task 36. A second aim was that to share experiences on the development of waste to energy roadmaps globally, to inform the South African’s Just Energy Transition.

Concluding remarks of the workshop
This workshop successfully brought together a wide diversity of experiences and useful lessons learnt on barriers and drivers influencing the development of waste to energy roadmaps in South Africa, Sweden, United States, Italy and Germany.
Political will (or the lack thereof) to implement mitigation strategies seem to be the key barrier and/or driver in the accomplishment of set targets, which are often replicated in developing countries without taking in consideration the context in which municipalities operate, the presence of obsolete or inefficient waste management systems, the lack of know-how and the scarce availability of reliable waste data. Social acceptance of waste to energy projects remains one of the major barriers in the insertion of WtoE technology, coupled complex regulatory and legislative frameworks that dominate especially in Africa and developing, despite the lack of control and indiscriminate illegal dumping.
SABIA, in their shared Vision 2030 strategy have set very clear targets for the development of the biogas sector and the abatement of global GHG emissions to 10% by 2030, through the promotion of AD technology. Finally, 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 was stressed. The workshop ended with SANEDI and the DMRE pledging their support towards the implementation plan of the waste to energy roadmap for South Africa in the future.

Appendix A: Related Links
All presentations are available at this link:


Link to the report here: Workshop Report for IEA Task 36_Decarbonisation of the waste sector_29 Nov 2022_final