Waste-to-energy plant to take on Ethiopia's rubbish epidemic

The Reppie waste-to-energy plant is located next to an open-air dump on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.

(CNN)A landslide of rubbish from a vast open-air landfill site just outside of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, killed more than 110 people last year.

This weekend, the Ethiopian government inaugurated a $120 million waste-to-energy plant, right next to the garbage dump, in an attempt to curb the city's mounting waste problem.
The plant -- called Reppie -- is now operational and able to harvest energy from 1.4 million kilograms of waste each day.
    This will produce enough electricity to power an estimated 30% of Addis Ababa's households, according to the company responsible for the project, Cambridge Industries.
    "One of the exciting things for us about the Reppie facility in Addis is that it's the first of its kind in Africa," Samuel Alemayehu, Managing Director for Africa of Cambridge Industries, tells CNN.

    Diminishing the need for landfill

    A different kind of waste-to-energy plant opened in Cape Town, South Africa last year with the aim to convert organic waste into gas and fuel.
    In Naivasha, Kenya an anaerobic digester plant produces enough energy to cultivate a commercial farm and sell surplus electricity to the national grid.
    The Reppie energy plant will burn approximately 85% of Addis Ababa's fresh domestic waste to generate heat, which will drive steam turbines to produce an estimated 185 million kilowatt hours of electricity per annum.
    The idea is that this plant will reduce the need for further landfills, while producing and exporting electricity to the Ethiopian national grid.
    But the Reppie power plant will not convert debris from the dumping site next door, explains Alemayehu.
    The landfill site — called "Koshe," meaning "dust" — covers an area the size of 36 football pitches and releases toxic chemicals into groundwater and methane into the atmosphere, according to UN Environment.
    A view of Addis Ababa from Koshe -- the main landfill on the outskirts of the city.
    Alemayehu says an all-encompassing waste-to-energy facility is an optimal solution for Africa's growing metropolises.
    While such facilities are common in Europe, African countries are more likely to dispose of waste in open dumping sites or semi-protected landfill, he explains.