We Should All Be Circular Economists (From the Lens of a Waste To Energy View)
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According to a United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) report, Nigeria generates over 32 million tons of waste annually, accounting for 2.5 million tons of plastic. Nigeria is among the top 20 nations that contribute 83 per cent of the total volume of land-based plastic waste that ends up in the oceans. Waste to energy is a promising solution to Nigeria’s growing waste management and energy challenges. Nigeria, like many other developing countries, faces a significant waste management problem due to the rapid growth of its urban population and the lack of proper waste management infrastructure. In addition, Nigeria also faces an energy crisis, with many communities having limited or no access to electricity.
Waste to energy is a process that involves converting organic waste into usable energy through combustion, gasification or anaerobic digestion. The energy. produced can be used to generate electricity, heat, or fuel. The approach has been successfully implemented in many developed countries, and it holds great potential for Nigeria. One of the main advantages of waste to energy is that it reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Landfills are a major contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions and they also pose a significant health risk to nearby communities. By converting waste into energy, we can reduce the amount of waste in landfills and also produce a clean and renewable source of energy. Waste to energy also has the potential to create jobs and boost the local economy.The process requires skilled labor, which can be provided by local communities. Additionally waste to energy plants can generate revenue by selling the electricity produced to the national grid.
There are some challenges that need to be addressed in implementing waste to energy in Nigeria. These challenges include:
- Lack of proper waste management infrastructures: Nigeria currently lacks the necessary infrastructure to collect, sort and process waste in an efficient and cost effective manner. Without proper waste management infrastructures, waste to energy cannot be implemented effectively.
2. Lack of public awareness and support for waste to energy: Many Nigerians are not aware of the potential benefits of waste to energy and may be skeptical about technology. This lack of awareness and support can make it difficult to secure the necessary funding and political will to implement waste to energy projects. Rural residents, people over 50 years old, and people with low education and low income are the major groups which should be focused on to enhance the public perception.
3. Funding: Waste to energy projects require significant investment and securing funding can be challenging in Nigeria’s economic climate. The high capital costs associated with building waste to energy plants can make it difficult for private sector investors to justify the investment.
4. Technical expertise: Waste to energy technology requires specialized knowledge and expertise, which can be difficult to design and operate waste to energy plants effectively.
5. Regulatory environment: Nigeria’s regulatory environment can be complex and uncertain, which can create challenges for waste to energy projects. The regulatory framework for waste management and energy production needs to be streamlined and made more transparent to encourage investment in waste to energy.
To tackle the challenge of waste to energy in Nigeria, a comprehensive approach is needed. Here are some measures that can be taken:
Develop waste management infrastructures: Nigeria needs to invest in waste management infrastructure such as collection, sorting, and processing facilities.
Increase funding: To encourage private sector investment in waste to energy projects, the Nigerian government needs to provide incentives and create a supportive regulatory environment . This can include tax breaks, subsidies, and streamlined regulatory processes.
Develop technical expertise: Nigeria needs to develop a pool of technical expertise in waste to energy technology. This can be done through training programs, partnerships with international organizations and collaboration with universities and research institutions. The Nigerian government can also invest in capacity building programs to design and operate waste to energy plants effectively. These training could be forwarded to engineers, technicians and other skilled workers.
Raise public awareness: The Nigerian government, private sector and civil society need to collaborate to develop a coordinated approach to waste to energy. This could include working together to develop waste management infrastructure and advocating for supportive policies.
Streamline regulatory processes: Nigeria’s regulatory environment needs to be streamlined and made more transparent to encourage investment in waste to energy. This can be done through reforms to the legal and regulatory framework governing waste management and energy production.
In conclusion, tackling the challenges of waste to energy in Nigeria will require coordinated effort from multiple stakeholders; government, private sector and civil society. By developing waste management infrastructures, increasing funding, developing technical expertise, raising public awareness, streamlining regulatory processes and addressing environmental concerns, Nigeria can harness the potential of waste to energy to address its waste management and energy challenges.
Salma Adam is a Junior Associate, Knowledge Management at Clean Technology Hub