ETHIOPIA – Japanese recycling company, Tanabe to help Ethiopia turn mountains of trash into an alternative fuel with its technology.

Ethiopia is undergoing rapid economic growth, with more garbage growing with it. As it stands, authorities can’t keep up with the volume of trash.

The problem has presented an opportunity for recycling companies such as Tanabe, based in Obihiro, western Hokkaido.

The company’s senior managing director Tanabe Yoshiyasu heard about the situation from a visiting Ethiopian student. Tanabe has been to see for himself, and during a recent trip he was shocked by what he came across.

“When I went there ten years ago, most landfill sites were large parcels of land, he says. “But during a visit last year, I found they had already turned into mountains, and the foul smell wafted for several kilometers. It made my skin crawl, the situation was that bad.

Tanabe believes the technology his company uses, which involves turning industrial waste into a solid alternative fuel called Refuse Paper & Plastic Fuel (RPF), can help.

The raw materials for RPF include paper, wood, and plastic. The components are first crushed, then metal is removed, and heat is applied to compress it into pellets.

According to the Japan RPF Industry Association, it is an alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and coke. It also emits less carbon dioxide than coal.

Tanabe wants to build his own factory to manufacture RPF and sell it as fuel. He also wants to create a system for sorting and collecting garbage.

“Ethiopia is looking to reduce the amount of garbage in landfills. Much of it can be recycled and used effectively as a resource, he says, adding there are economic advantages to that, including reducing waste transport costs.

“I think the first thing to do is to establish a system, one that would benefit both parties, adds Tanabe.

In cooperation with another recycling company in Hokkaido, Tanabe is looking at compost as well. Agriculture is important in Ethiopia, and soaring global fertilizer prices are a problem.

Meanwhile, in March Tanabe and Suntechn, agreed to engage in recycling waste products in Ethiopian industrial parks.

The two firms signed a memorandum of understanding with the Industrial Parks Development Corporation (IPDC) to implement the recycling project.

Within two months, the duo would first implement a pilot project in Hawassa Industrial Park, located more than 270 kilometers South of Addis Ababa.

The project would then be transferred to other industrial parks as well as other government institutions where waste products are available, said the IPDC.

The MoU involved partnership technology transfer as well as exchange of knowledge and experience exchanges in the sector.

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