DURBAN can be justifiably proud after winning an Honorary Climate and Clean Air Award. The award was conferred on Durban for its Durban Landfill Conservancies project by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in Bonn on 12 November 2017.
The project is a successful landfill that reduces emissions of methane, provides safe waste disposal, employs workers from surrounding communities, and produces electricity for the local grid. Its landfill gas project was the first in Africa and is still one of the most successful in the world. The project has also provided assistance to several other countries and cities within and outside Africa.
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The Climate and Clean Air Awards recognise exceptional contributions and actions to implement projects, programmes, policies and practices that reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), such as black carbon, methane, hydrofluorocarbons and tropospheric ozone. Reducing these dangerous air and climate pollutants is key to improving air quality, slowing the rate of climate change and provides multiple benefits for health, ecosystems and the sustainable development goals.
The Durban Landfill Conservancies project shows the potential that well managed waste systems have for reducing short-lived climate pollutants. Proper waste collection reduces waste burning that emits black carbon and other toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. Methane emissions from municipal solid waste are responsible for 11 percent of all man made methane emissions. According the International Energy Agency landfill gas is typically 60 percent methane and 40 percent carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is at least 23, and up to 32, times more powerful that CO2 at atmospheric warming.
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In Durban, methane is extracted from the landfill and used to run generators that produce electricity for the local grid reducing its impact on the climate and providing a cleaner energy source. To date Durban’s landfills have avoided approximately 2.5 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions. It has also benefitted local air quality by reducing emissions of harmful gases.
The improved landfills have also prevented liquid runoff from polluting groundwater, reduced odour, and prevented the breeding of disease carrying animals like flies and rats. Green areas filled with indigenous plants create buffer zones surrounding the landfill and some 700,000 trees have been planted.
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