What should the City County of Nairobi do with the rising mountains of waste generated daily? A new study says the garbage, if recycled, can bring in Sh13.5 billion every year.
The attractive revenue stream can be generated by converting the waste into biogas, fertiliser, as well as through carbon credits, says a study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), has established.
It says at least 1,760 tonnes of waste are generated everyday in Nairobi, enough to produce 70,400 cubic meters of biogas and 2,288,000 kilogrammes of bio slurry nitrogen.
“It is an indirect solution to manage the waste problem in Nairobi and has double benefits,” explains Asaah Ndambi, ILRI lead researcher. “The biogas can be used as energy which we need in the city while the fertiliser can be used for crop production in the rural areas.”
By his estimation, the biogas can translate into 704,000 kilowatts of electricity every day, while the county stands to win carbon credits worth Sh87,648.
To achieve such a grand asset however, the county would need to invest an industrial scale biogas plant worth US$ 2.5 million, the report adds.
“The waste can be collected from restaurants, factories, slaughterhouses, as well as pooling at the household level,” explains Ndambi.
It comes as the city county seems helpless over riding mountains of garbage in the city centre.
County executive committee member for environment Evans Ondieki recently said the garbage is but a big headache.
"The situation has never been like this in the history of Nairobi, with garbage now being dumped in the CBD,” he said.
But it is the possibility of generating organic fertiliser from waste recycling in the city that puts a spark on such an investment
According to Ndambi, a recycling plant in the city would reduce the proliferation of landfills, which have eaten into land that can be useful for property development.
It can also even out the urban sprawl, he explains, or where food generated in the rural areas is sent to the city for consumption and ends up as organic waste.
“This is mining of nutrients from the village because the food leaves the rural areas and ends up in the urban dumping sites,” he explains.
After the waste is recycled, he says, the fertiliser can be sent back to the rural areas for crop farming.
According to him, organic fertiliser enriches the soil organic matter and its aeration. This improves the soil structure and allows the exchange of minerals. It is a trait that synthetic fertilizers don’t have, he says.
The Center for Energy Efficiency and Cogeneration (CEEC) at Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) is on the lookout for such projects.
David Njugi, the CEEC programme manager says KAM is engaging counties to create awareness on the importance of renewable energy projects, and would go ahead to consult for finances to back such investments.
“The challenge is making the projects presentable to financial institutions,” says Njugi. “But once the feasibility of the projects is done KAM will support in handing over to financial partners.”
The Agency for Science and Technology Information Communication (ASTICOM), has described the waste fix in Kenya as ‘a time bomb waiting to explode’.
Studies have shown that rampant waste disposal causes serious sediment poisoning among communities living near dumpsites, argues ASTICOM chief executive officer, Dr. Leah Tsuma.
According to her, anaerobic disposal would be the best technology to manage waste in a city like Nairobi, because it uses bacteria contained in the garbage to digest it.
“It reduces carbon emissions and can be controlled in the lab setting, then upscaled to an industrial process,” she explains.