PIK­ITUP, the Waste Man­age­ment Com­pany of the City of Jo­han­nes­burg, is mov­ing full steam ahead with ac­tiv­i­ties in us­ing land­fill waste for re­new­able elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion, liq­ue­fied gas and en­ergy whilst ad­dress­ing the city’s waste dis­posal cri­sis.

In the last few months, Pik­itup Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Lungile Dh­lamini has presided over a for­ward-look­ing strat­egy for im­proved ef­fi­cien­cies by en­hanc­ing pri­vate sec­tor col­lab­o­ra­tions for im­proved solid waste col­lec­tion and dis­posal ser­vices across the city.

This has pro­gres­sively led to the five Jo­han­nes­burg land­fill sites be­ing able to gen­er­ate up to 13 Mega Watts of elec­tric­ity, which could meet the en­ergy needs of about 13 000 to 20 000 mid­dle-in­come house­holds.

In a city that gen­er­ates more than two mil­lion tonnes of solid waste a year, in the back­drop of dwin­dling land­fill airspace that is left with a life­span of less than 6 years, Pik­itup’s strat­egy un­locks a plethora of op­por­tu­ni­ties in on­go­ing ef­forts to pro­vide ad­e­quate, safe and sus­tain­able waste man­age­ment.

Land­fill gases, com­pris­ing 50% meth­ane, 42% car­bon diox­ide, ni­tro­gen and oxy­gen com­pounds, are re­leased into the at­mos­phere when bac­te­ria de­com­poses waste in the land­fills.

Pik­itup pro­cesses cap­ture the meth­ane (which is the most harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment) for re­new­able gen­er­a­tion of elec­tric­ity.

Peak pro­duc­tion oc­curs a year af­ter ma­te­rial has been de­posited in the land­fill, and has a gen­er­a­tion life­span of 20 years.

Dh­lamini says a multi-mil­lion rand solid waste-to-en­ergy plant that will gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity and liq­ue­fied gas, will soon be built in Jo­han­nes­burg.

The plant will also gen­er­ate or­ganic fer­tiliser to spur growth in agri­cul­ture, con­trib­ute to food se­cu­rity, job cre­ation, pub­lic health and meet the na­tional, pro­vin­cial and the lo­cal gov­ern­ment goals of re­duc­ing waste to land­fill, whilst de­creas­ing the car­bon foot­print.

Pik­itup has set it­self a five year tar­get to de­liver the pro­ject. Dh­lamini ex­plains that they will not use funds from the City, but will go out to the open mar­ket for eq­uity fund­ing and pri­vate, pub­lic part­ner­ships.

“The rea­son for tak­ing this route is that the City would not have the re­quired cap­i­tal re­sources nor the tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise, hu­man skills or risk ap­petite to spon­sor such a mega pro­ject.

“The pri­vate sec­tor part­ners would op­er­ate the plant for a num­ber of years whilst re­coup­ing their in­vest­ment, train­ing Pik­itup staff to take over af­ter the spec­i­fied pe­riod, which could be 25 years,” Dh­lamini says.

It is en­vis­aged that the plant will use 500 000 tons of waste an­nu­ally to gen­er­ate about 24 megawatt of elec­tri­cal en­ergy. That could sup­ply close to 60 000 house­holds with power sup­ply for ba­sic use such as lights, cook­ing, geyser and other elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances.

Dh­lamini es­ti­mates that the plant could cost R1.2 bil­lion to build.

Mean­while, Pik­itup’s on­go­ing solid waste-to-en­ergy projects is a land­mark achieve­ment for the City of Jo­han­nes­burg be­ing the first in­de­pen­dent power pro­cure­ment pro­ject us­ing land­fill gas to be im­ple­mented in South Africa.

Gas-to-en­ergy projects have been im­ple­mented at the Marie Louise and Robin­son Deep land­fill sites.

The De­part­ment of En­ergy has al­ready ap­proved the pro­ject and the Power Pur­chase Agree­ment (PPA) with Eskom for a 13 MW con­tri­bu­tion as part of the In­de­pen­dent Power Pro­duc­ers pro­gramme has been signed.

It was also reg­is­tered with the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC) in De­cem­ber 2012; to sell car­bon cred­its un­der the Ky­oto Pro­to­col. Mean­while, Pik­itup’s in­no­va­tions are in line with South Africa’s de­vel­op­ment agenda for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to be more cre­ative and ex­plore the use of re­new­able en­ergy di­ver­si­fy­ing their rev­enue stream.

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