Covid-19 pandemic – The road to a green recovery

by Rumbidzai Mashavave

Lessons learnt from Covid-19 pandemic

  • We are connected globally, maybe more than we realized.
  • Prevention is better than cure. Covid-19 demanded more prevention strategies so an outstanding healthcare system was not enough to fight it.
  • Biotechnology is as important as the Premier League.
  • Most importantly, corona virus lockdowns unintentionally improved air quality.

With lock downs easing globally and businesses resuming operations, the road to recovery from Covid-19 is an opportunity to move further away from a linear to a circular economy in the way we do business. To rethink, redesign waste out of the system. One way of doing this is by

Increasing the use of renewable energy from non renewable energy reduces GHG emissions, promotes public health and environmental health.  

Within the Covid-19 recovery period (April-June 2020), a shift towards renewable energy has been evident. In the US domestic utilities are generating less power via coal and more with alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar. As of June 2020, –  More companies such as Rolls Royce have committed to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on the Race to Zero Campaign. Also, several UN agencies launched a renewed call for a shift towards a green recovery from the pandemic.

In Europe, the EU is boosting the use of clean hydrogen fuel, the French, German and UK governments are promoting the use of electric cars by  governments increased subsidiaries for people buying electric cars.

Though Africa has had the lowest impact of Covid-19 globally, there has been activity towards renewable energy use and investments between April and June 2020. Mature markets such as South Africa have attracted investments in renewable energy infrastructure according to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) Sub-Saharan Africa Market Outlook. Also, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a subsidiary of the World Bank Group are supporting the construction of photovoltaic power plants and wind power plants in the country.

In Nigeria, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) is preparing for the construction of a 10-MWp solar park. Likewise, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is currently preparing for the construction of 500 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity across the country.  Zimbabwe has experienced 15 hour power cuts in urban areas, partly because hydro power fails to meet the demand of electricity.

What does this mean for a zero waste system?

The immediate benefits of the use of renewable energy is a reduction to greenhouse emissions caused by the use of fossil fuels. Using solar energy and wind energy as alternative is rethinking and redesigning waste that would otherwise be created from the use of fossil fuels. For example coal.

However, while electricity generation globally is not yet 100% driven by renewable sources, the waste generated from fossil fuels still needs to be either reduced or eliminated. The least favored acceptable waste management strategy for non recyclable waste is chemical recovery. In South Africa, 80% of its electricity is derived from coal. Through chemical recovery, the hazardous waste products from the coal –such as petrochemical waste, liquid sludge and hydrocarbon waste streams are used to make refuse derived fuel (RDF) as an alternative fuel for the cement industry. The RDF produced is similar to that of A-grade coal.  

The world has started to think and act circular a little more, hopefully this momentum remains until we are 100% run by renewable energy.

A road MaP to zero waste 

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