A Rapidly Deployable Waste to Energy System for Developing Countries
Widespread infectious disease, air and water pollution, energy poverty, and high unemployment are growing problems in many developing nations. These have become delicate issues for humanitarian organizations like the UN, OECD, WHO, and World Bank. Most of these developing countries have been struggling to meet the Millennium Development Goals. However, many of these problems can be linked together and solved with a new class of waste-to-energy (W2E) systems. Waste has become an uncontrollable problem in many developing countries and in Latin America. Nearly 100 percent of waste in low-income countries goes to landfills. However, a W2E system can reduce waste and generate electricity at the same time. The actual gasification and pyrolysis technologies used in waste to energy conversion are nothing new as it was widely used in Europe during WWII, but now several companies are packing the system in a convenient shipping container size. This means it can be deployed throughout the world quickly and efficiently, over both land and sea. These new W2E systems obviate the technological barriers to building a W2E facility in a developing country. And, the system can significantly improve both rural and urban communities in the following ways: 1. Improve health and sanitation The W2E systems use almost any organic waste as the fuel. This includes paper, plastics, used tires, spoiled food, and dry manure. Thus, it cuts down on the size of landfills and there is an incentive to collect waste together rather than littering along the roads. By cleaning up the streets and reducing landfill sizes, you have also eliminated the breeding grounds for many infectious diseases. Agricultural by-products such as saw mill waste, nut shells, sugar and rice bagasse, corn stoves, cassava peels, and sorghum. Many of these potential fuels are currently either left to rot or are disposed of by burning in the field, emitting dangerous plumes of greenhouse gasses and pollutants. 2. Improve local economy The W2E system does not require in depth technical knowledge to operate, but it still needs a workforce to maintain it. It will also create jobs for waste collection and sorting. And, not only does the system create jobs, it creates sources of revenue for the entire community. The electricity can be sold; and depending on the W2E technology and feedstock, the end byproduct can be sold as well. In many cases the W2E system will displace a diesel powered generator, and even in an oil producing nation such as Nigeria, the return on investment can be 12 months or less based solely on fuel savings. 3. Increase productivity and raise living standards The W2E system will be able to provide rural communities with electricity and or heat. Electricity can extend working hours and productivity. Access to electricity has been closely linked to higher levels of education, lower levels of poverty, and reduced gender inequality in developing nations. Haiti is a prime example of where this W2E system would be most useful. Debris and waste are a large problem in Haiti, with mountains of trash surrounding the popular markets and streams of garbage filling the drainage canals. Haiti ranks near the bottom in all of the World Bank’s health indicators. And, a very small number of Haitians have jobs, with 77% of the country’s population living in poverty. At the same time, only 12% of rural Haitians have electricity according to the World Energy Outlook. Introducing the W2E system into Haiti could exemplify the system’s full potential. The system is ideal for refugee camps, rural villages, and institutions like hospitals. In Haiti, many buildings use diesel generators which are costly to upkeep and negatively impact the local and global environment. The W2E technology already exists, and with manufactures in both the U.S. and U.K. Because it is manufactured in the U.S., it does not demand in-depth technical knowledge or capabilities from the country the system will be deployed to, but it could create the basis for long term manufacturing collaboration and knowledge transfer. In addition, the systems meet US and EU emissions requirements, and it can also be used to process and eliminate hazardous organic substances. Thus, the distributed W2E systems improve health, cleans up the natural environment, while creating jobs and generating revenue for the local community.