Nairobi — With a 27-billion shilling ($314 million) waste-to-energy project scheduled to launch February 24th, officials are optimistic that Nairobi has finally found a long-term solution to waste management.
The Nairobi County government signed a deal on September 28th with German companies Sustainable Energy Management UG and ISO International Development & Consulting GmbH, to build a solid waste recycling plant for turning millions of cubic tonnes of solid, organic and inorganic waste into electricity.
The new plant is expected to take two years to construct and will create 250 jobs directly and another 1,000 jobs for hauling, sorting and labelling garbage prior to its processing.
"Garbage management has been a headache to both policymakers and residents of this city for a long time," Nairobi County Governor Evans Kidero told Sabahi. "With this project, our projections show we can generate 70 megawatts of electricity per hour from the waste the city produces."
Kidero said the energy produced will be sold to Kenya Power Company to link to the national grid. It will help address the city's frequent power blackouts and rationing that occur during peak hours or when electricity-generating dams are under maintenance.
Nairobi's 3.2 million residents produce 2,000 tonnes of waste a day, but the city government only collects between 850 and 1,100 tonnes daily, according to the governor.
"The rest is dumped in illegal dumpsites or uncollected in the estates," Kidero said. "This project will improve our collection capability because the more garbage we collect, the more energy this plant will generate."
He said the county will increase its fleet of garbage trucks to collect waste in city estates and create main collection centres in Nairobi with the goal of collecting an additional 800 tonnes daily.
A cleaner, healthier Nairobi
Kidero said the project is the only one of its kind in the country. "It will mark a realisation of our long dream of a cleaner city which has been a challenge because of lack of waste management technical expertise," he said.
"Bio-waste accounts for 60% of the solid waste in the city. Most slaughterhouses are unable to properly dispose of their waste to the required hygiene or safety standard, but I am sure [they] will be relieved and ready to send their waste to this project," he said.
The power plant will be constructed at the Dandora dumpsite in Nairobi's eastern suburbs. At 30 acres, it is one of Africa's largest dumping and scavenging sites, and residents who live near it support the project as a long-term solution to the health menace that routinely affects their lives.
"It has been an eyesore for years," said Sarah Njoroge, a 45-year-old housewife who rents a house near the dumpsite. "When it is hot, the stench is nauseating and we cannot eat in peace because of marauding houseflies. I am now relieved the power plant coming up is a long-term solution."
Njoroge said she fears the health risks associated with the dumpsite because it attracts rats, which sneak into houses, and scavenging birds, which litter garbage on residential properties.
"There is risk of contracting diseases because what is disposed here is unregulated and comes from industrial, agricultural, domestic and medical waste," she told Sabahi.
Kaberia Lula, a 32-year old mechanical engineer who lives in Nairobi, predicted the project would exceed expectations.
"The practice of waste-to-energy and heating should become a model for other counties," he told Sabahi. "Nairobi should explore modalities of acquiring garbage from other counties should demand for trash outstrip supply when this project starts."
Waste-to-energy project 'a shining example'
Ayub Macharia, director for environment education, information and public participation at the National Environmental Management Authority, said the project would pave the way for the rehabilitation of the Dandora dumpsite, which will appease the local population and environmentalists alike.
Kenya generates 1,600 megawatts of electricity daily against a peak demand of 1,500 megawatts, with demand growing at an average rate of 8% a year, according to statistics from the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen).
KenGen generates a little over 1,200 megawatts, while other private companies generate the balance.
"This project's 70 megawatts will supplement the power supply because with burgeoning real estate developments, more power will be needed in the city and the country in general," Macharia told Sabahi.
He said other parts of Kenya, especially larger cities, should embrace the waste-to-energy strategy because renewable energy reduces the use of fossil fuels and is therefore a solution to global warming.
A section of the new plant unit will be dedicated for identifying glass, plastic, metal, cardboard and other materials that can be recycled. Currently recycling is done by small private companies and individuals on a small-scale basis.
"Actually, it has solved the need to relocate the dumpsite as the city authorities have been proposing," Macharia told Sabahi. "This project will serve as a shining example to other Kenyan counties. It is a giant step towards the beginning of reduction, reusing and recycling of trash."