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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge


Daniel Ukasoanya

Waste to Energy as a Sustainable Circular Model for Developing Contexts: A Comparative Study between the UK and Ethiopia

Globally, unsustainable patterns of consumption and production have culminated in the continued deterioration of the global environment and this has become even more pronounced via poor municipal waste management amongst other factors. Using a comparative model with the UK, this study explores how Ethiopia, with sufficient solid waste generation per capita, can achieve sustainable energy generation and added waste management benefits through Energy from Waste (EfW) technologies, as is compatible with a circular economy model.

The study uses two case studies, MUX in the UK and MEX in Ethiopia. It reviews literature extensively in exploring the social, technological, financial and institutional frameworks of the waste management industry, and more specifically EfW, in these contexts. Findings show that Ethiopia has ambitious targets hinged on the country’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) roadmap to a green economy by 2030, and that EfW technologies, with carbon savings from landfills of 94,500 tCO2 per year, are well aligned with the key emission reduction objectives of the CRGE.

Financial analysis and Analytic Hierarchy Process results indicate that revenue streams for MUX were found to be more positive, with the net present value (NPV) being more positive at £720 million over 30 years compared to a loss of £140 million for MEX over the same period. However, these losses were largely due to an absence of major incentives as well as socio-economic barriers necessitating lower gate fees for MEX. Sensitivity studies show that a 300% increase in gate fees for Ethiopia was able to effect a positive NPV result of £72 million over 30 years. Hence, public-sector support towards subsidies for domestic producer gate fees are encouraged to allow EfW business models to thrive and encourage future investments in the sector. The study shows that while EfW technologies are more expensive than other energy recovery technologies like Anaerobic Digester systems and Landfill Gas Recovery, they show major strengths in other attributes like systems efficiency and volume of waste reduction and should be used in tandem with similar alternatives.

Ultimately, the study finds that EfW technologies are relevant solutions in the Ethiopian context with strong alignment with circular economy principles, at least until other initiatives like zero waste agendas, recycling and reuse initiatives higher up on the waste hierarchy are more developed.