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The Climate Impact and benefits of our Circular Approach

5 min read

In today’s world, natural resources such as energy, food and water are becoming scarcer by the day. What many people don’t seem to realize is that both organic waste and fecal waste streams contain all of these valuable materials. Most dominant waste management practices neglect the value of waste, considering waste streams to have only one suitable destination: the landfill. Yet more and more studies prove that both poor sanitation and poor local waste management are both huge sources of methane and carbon emissions, significantly contributing to global warming.

With the climate discussions starting this week during the United Nations Climate Conference COP28 in Dubai, we’d like to highlight how the climate benefits of Safisana’s circular waste-to-resource approach are front and centre to these discussions. In this story, we'd like to showcase how we contribute to avoiding carbon emissions, environmental pollution and exhaustion of the planet’s resources. We do this simply by following the waste through its lifecycle, from the source where the problems start to the processes of treatment up to the end of the value chain. Which in our model is in fact the beginning of yet another new lifecycle. Let's #FollowTheWaste! 🌎 ♻️

Stage 1: The Source (of the Problem)

The Organic Waste Problem

Food production is essential for nutrition, but it also is a huge source of waste. One-third of all food produced is lost or wasted – around 1.3 billion tonnes of food. Up to 10% of global greenhouse gases come from food that is produced, but not eaten, according to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP, 2021).

More and more studies show the so far underestimated environmental impacts of waste on global warming.
Last year, scientists stated landfills release far more planet-warming methane into the atmosphere from the decomposition of waste than previously thought. They used satellite data from four major cities worldwide and found that emissions from landfills in 2018 and 2019 were 1.4 to 2.6 times higher than earlier estimates.
This week scientists published a study stating that better management of municipal solid waste can significantly contribute to climate goals.

Our impact
The Safisana waste collection team collects 6 tonnes of organic waste per day from the various local food markets and industries in Accra. By removing litter from the streets, we ensure a cleaner, healthier and safer living environment for the people in the community with less foul odours, rodents, flies and mosquitoes that can spread diseases. On a yearly basis, we prevent over 4000 tonnes of waste from ending up in landfills.

The Fecal Waste Problem

Worldwide around 829.000 people die each year from poor sanitation and hygiene. 1.8 billion people globally either defecate in the open or use filthy and broken toilets. In Ghana that is 1 out of 5 people. Poor sanitation poses huge risks to people’s health and safety and majorly contributes to climate change. A recent study calculated that poorly managed sanitation is estimated to contribute 4% of global manmade greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This has a major impact on global warming. 

Existing waste management systems massively neglect this value, allowing waste to be dumped and valuable resources (energy, water, nutrients and minerals) to get lost to the community. This is a big shame, especially in developing countries with growing populations and increasing challenges of energy and food scarcity.

Our impact
Safisana collects about 6 tonnes of fecal waste daily for treatment and recycling, coming from public toilets in the community. This way hygienic disposal is safeguarded and recovery of resources is guaranteed. On a yearly basis, Safisana prevents 10,900 tonnes of fecal sludge from being dumped into the environment. Instead, it is used to produce 685 MwH power to the grid and 864,000 Kg of organic fertilizer sold to local farmers to produce food.

Stage 2: Waste Collection and Treatment

The Safisana Way versus Current Practices

The Safisana Way: Daily waste collection service from local food markets and industries in Accra.
The Safisana Way: Fecal waste from community toilets is collected for recycling.
The Safisana Way: Our anaerobic digester captures methane, that is produced during natural decomposition processes, and thus avoids emission into the air.
The alternative: No service, litter on the streets.

The alternative is: Fecal waste is dumped untreated into the environment, leading to contamination, and health hazards.
The alternative: Landfills, producing large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions, and the loss of scarce and valuable resources.

Stage 3: Reuse of resources or end of lifecycle

With growing populations especially in developing countries, the demand for food, energy and water will only increase in the future. To meet these growing demands without exhausting the planet, local and sustainable systems need to be put in place. In contrast with a traditional linear model based on the dumping of resources on the one hand and mining on the other, circular models create an endless lifecycle for these scarce and natural goods, offering a sustainable solution for future generations.

The Safisana Way versus Current Practices

The Safisana Way: At our recycling plant, the biogas in the digester is converted into electricity, providing a green and sustainable alternative to fossil energy. The electricity goes back into the national grid, to serve the people in the community. An increase in the availability of electricity helps communities to thrive socially and economically.
The Safisana Way: At our recycling plant, the residual waste from the biodigester is dried, mixed with fresh organic waste and further processed into a purely organic premium organic fertilizer. The fertilizer is called Asase Gyefo which means Love your Land in the Ghanaian local language, because of its high content in organic matter, macro/micro-nutrients and minerals such as Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc. These finite resources that would otherwise have to be mined are now recovered from waste. Moreover, in comparison to chemical fertilizer, the use of organic fertilizer leads to long-term improvements in soil health and fertility. This leads to improved food yields, economic livelihoods of farmers and overall food security.

The alternative: Mining and exhaustion of the planet. The world has proven oil reserves for about another 47 years at current consumption levels. Global consumption of oil has steadily increased over the last three decades, totalling 4.39 billion metric tons in 2022, and is expected to increase in proportion to the growing world population.
The production and use of manure and synthetic fertilisers emit the equivalent of 2.6 gigatonnes of carbon per year – more than global aviation and shipping combined. In the long run, the use of chemical fertilizers leads to the depletion of soils and, a decrease in biodiversity.

Check out our #FollowTheWaste stories on Instagram

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Safisana Holding,
Weesp, The Netherlands
+31 (0) 294 773857

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