Environmental waste solutions in South Africa

Arial view of Bisasar landfill site
Just over two years ago, EWS took on intense competition to secure a solid waste contract from eThekwini Municipality with the objective of creating electricity from solid waste. Shortlisted, EWS’ technologies and business plan were scrutinised and consequently led to success – it is now in the final stages of signing off relevant timescales, coupled with take-off agreements. “It is exciting,” says EWS Africa’s Managing Director Leon Boshoff. “Construction of the firm’s large-scale municipal waste to energy plant will cover key sectors including waste management, environmental sustainability, community development, job creation, renewable and sustainable energy and recycling – and 180,000 bricks per day recycled out of building rubble for low cost housing projects.”
Ultimately the primary focus of the firm will be in contributing towards easing the energy crisis currently experienced in South Africa by means of green power simultaneously creating a clean environment, says Boshoff. “The energy from waste facility will generate enough power to supply electricity to thousands of homes and will dramatically reduce the municipal solid waste going to landfill. Our aim that eventually landfill sites will no longer become an option as a means to dispose of waste.”
Supplementary products produced include recycled materials such as paper, metals, building materials, glass and plastics, as well as ash, which is a by-product of the waste to energy process. This product can be utilised in areas such as the construction of roads.
Boshoff has worked with EWS for a while now and was originally approached by the firm as an Electrical Engineer back in November 2008. “This was a role in which my prime task was to put together the technology that we’d be using and take care of the plant construction and infrastructure,” he says. “As we progressed through the two years, I moved from a purely technical side to Managing Director.”
Boshoff has renewed objectives today: “As MD, I am now constantly looking out for new technologies coming along, making sure that we’re ahead of the game as far as technology is concerned. We want to utilise the best that there is.”
Modern waste to energy plants are extremely complex in terms of the technology used. As such, a sound knowledge of the ‘fuel’ waste, as well as its effects on design and operation are crucial criteria for successful planning and implementation of Waste-to-Energy plants. And this is why globally renowned Germany-based Martin GmbH was brought on as EWS’s official technical partner. “Their technology is actively used in more than 750 waste to power stations around the world, they comprise around 300 engineers, and constantly work to develop and improve highly refined, phenomenal technology,” Boshoff explains. “EWS realises that the technology it offers is not only is the most suitable, but also the most reliable and proven technology in the world for utilising municipal solid waste as a fuel for the generation of high output electricity.”
Having raised substantial funding from European banks and various financial institutions, EWS has its pick of the best. “We have a very sound business model, so gaining access to funding has not been a problem; there are a lot of venture capital people out there wanting to invest in this kind of project. At this moment in time, we haven’t selected where our funding will come from purely because we want to look at the best possible rates,” Boshoff says.
The South African Government too has shown immense support through encouragement and grants. “This plant will be the first of its kind in Africa to go up, and the government would like it up as soon as possible, because as soon as it’s running we want to start looking at other sites where we could put up more structures like this. Because there is a problem with electricity supplies in South Africa at the moment, the government is supporting us in a major way through grants, which become effective once you reach certain stages of construction.”
Indeed, there is a high demand for electricity in South Africa, as the county’s main supplier, Eskom, continues to experience capacity constraints. The plant capacity of electricity produced in the EWS waste to energy plant will be 120 Megawatts.
“We will be able to contribute a lot to the electricity shortage. If we could put up enough plants to utilise all the waste in the country, for instance, we can generate up to 10 percent of a city’s energy requirement. So that’s very exciting,” says Boshoff. “Obviously, the overall aim is to totally lead the way so that there will not be a need for landfill sites anymore,” he adds.
In fact, once EWS’s operation is fully running in a couple of years, landfill sites will be totally shut down.
The plant is being developed in conjunction with world leading, specialist engineers and service providers who have been contracted externally.
Boshoff tells us a little more about the sort of people he will be bringing on board to support this highly skilled base team: “The German technology is the heart of plant itself. But all the technology and design around that will be done by local companies. We’ll employee passionate experts with the best possible power station and engineering experience. We want to be the best that we can by getting the best expertise out there.
“Ultimately we want to make sure that whoever comes on board is a team player and will feel part of a family. We’re utilising KMPG and their Human Resources Division in finding these types of people. From my point of view, once you have a passionate person on board, you’ll have unlimited benefits from them,” he says.
As a Level 4 BBBEE company, with a policy that strives towards continuously improving this status, EWS also endeavours to solely engage with BEE compliant sub contractors and suppliers. “EWS fosters a culture of respect and is structured towards extensive training, transfer of skills and career development opportunities,” says Boshoff. Furthermore, the firm’s code of ethics is governed by the guidelines of making positive contributions to South Africa and its people through technology and significant action. “Our calling is to work towards the realisation of a sustainable society utilising internationally approved technology, as well as promoting and asserting the persistent actions of our employees,” he explains.
To add to this, a ‘safety first’ policy has also been adopted, showing a further commitment to the wellbeing of its employees and environment in which it is working. “Compliance to all health, safety and environmental standards are in place and monitored on a continual basis,” Boshoff stresses.
The EWS community fund, which is currently in the process of being set up, will be aimed at contributing towards the upliftment of the local community. “EWS’s Business Plan includes to, at all times, channel funding into the local community as an ongoing program to uplift the poor and under privileged,” Boshoff says.
One of the community initiatives that will be vigorously pursued is to create entrepreneurial opportunities whereby waste could be collected by unemployed and unskilled people and brought to the EWS Waste Facility where they will be paid for the volumes of waste delivered, he says. “This programme will not only result in a cleaner environment but will also enable the unemployed to work at their own pace empowering them to receive an income. The drive of this programme is through education to get individuals to possibly turn their collection of waste into a larger scale enabling them to eventually own their own waste management business where others could then be employed”.
The EWS Community funds will also be channelled to programmes such as low cost housing, care for widows and orphans, care for abandoned or abused children and education aid and skills development for children of the future.
In terms of future strategy, Boshoff tells us that at this moment in time there are three additional sites that have already been identified for further plants. “The strategy of the company is that once our current plant goes up, we’ll be putting up more.
“We’ve been approached by companies from South America, so we will also go international, which I’m very keen on. We’ve also been approached by Angola, wanting us to come over there and put up a plant. These potential deals are close to closure, especially in South America. So as far as the company is concerned, we expect to show a very rapid growth, especially in the South African and African market,” he adds, outlining some promising prospects. “This current project is going to be just short of R3 billion. We want to at least secure another project of similar value by the end of next year, so that’s 100 percent increase in projects.”
Continuing, Boshoff summarises the company’s future focuses, going forwards: “Local community upliftment will continue to be high on our agenda. We’ve actually committed to assessing annual feedback around local community upliftment. From a company point of view we really want to try and look after the local community, especially where we will be putting up these sites, making sure that people can get jobs there and create infrastructure that may not have existed before.”
Supported by a backbone of first class technology and people, EWS’ vision to become a sustainable and respectable leading company in the industry looks set to materialise. As the first of its kind in Africa, it seems that with substantial backing, both financially, and from the government, this firm can only grow as it takes advantage of the vast amount of attention it is already gaining worldwide.

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