Integrating Waste Disposal Policies into Energy Studies: The Case of Landfill Gas in South Africa
Current research into the pattern of energy usage in South Africa reveals an extraordinarily heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity, a strategy that is not only unsustainable but which has resulted in serious air pollution problems. The paper argues that this development ought to be seen in the context of South Africa’s harmful waste disposal policy. Some 85% of South Africa’s municipal solid waste is landfilled, thereby generating a significant volume of landfill gas (LFG), which contains approximately 50% methane (CO3). As a ‘greenhouse’ gas, CO3 emissions carry serious implications for global warming in the Southern African region. The paper explores the use of LFG as a renewable energy source, and concludes that not only is LFG extraction for energy use technically feasible, but that it is economically feasible as well. By integrating LFG capture as an example of improved waste disposal policies into energy studies, it is possible to initiate a shift in South Africa’s energy usage towards renewable energy technologies.