Engaged Scholarship

Waste to Energy

Waste to Energy for Lenasia's Thembelihle ECDs

The Material and Process Synthesis (MaPS), a chemical engineering research centre, in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Health Science (ISHS) at the University of South Africa (UNISA), undertake a project to provide a solution to waste disposal in informal settlements, which poses a serious health hazard. In addition access to energy and quality of life are linked and many informal settlements do not have access to electricity and still use candles and paraffin for lighting and cook with coal, wood or paraffin stoves.

The purpose of the project

The idea is to build a waste to energy plant that will enable communities in informal settlements to use their own waste material, and turn it either into a valuable product that can benefit the community directly in meeting their energy needs or a marketable product as a source of income. This not only enables the community to have a cleaner, healthier environment, but provides a potential for job and wealth creation and access to some improved form of energy that can improve their living standard.

The Technology

The technology consists of a small-scale plant (container size) that takes in carbonaceous waste material such as garden waste, kitchen waste, plastics, cardboard, chipboard, papers… etc. These materials are turned into Syngas at elevated temperatures; the Syngas is then used in a gas engine to produce electricity or converted into synthetic fuels and Wax using a Fischer Tropsch Process. The Synthetic fuels can be separated into a range of different products comparable to conventional diesel, gasoline and paraffin. These products can be used directly in the community for and cooking. The Wax can be used to make candles.

Project Benefits

• Job Creation
• Cleaner Environment
• Access to energy for the community
• Catalyst for community development (social entrepreneurship) through downstream business development
• Skills Development (business and technical)
• Catalyse interest in Science and Engineering for local scholars

What we are doing now

• We are engaging with the community in Thembelihle township in Lenasia, to understand what they perceive their energy needs are
• This will allow the design to match the product with the community needs
• Community campaign to ensure broader community engagement
• Design of the first plant, to be used as a demonstration and testing plant. The plant will first produce electricity only to be supplied to an early childhood development centre (ECD)
• Development of training methods for unskilled people to use the plant safely

Contact Details
Dr LB Ngubevana (Project Manager) ngubelb@unisa.ac.za
Dr BC Sempuga (Project Engineer) sempubc@unisa.ac.za

Last modified: 2023/08/07