Piles of urban solid waste in Africa could be put to good use, a new study revealed. Researchers from the European Commission Joint Research Centre have postulated that waste could be a valuable source of electricity that could power many Africans who do not have access to energy, according to a news release.

Recycling the urban waste also reduces environmental impact and increases sanitation across the country, since trash is often dumped into water bodies and nearby dump sites are routinely out of control.

For their waste-energy study, researchers analyzed average electricity consumed by residential houses in Africa in 2010 and projected that electricity production could reach 122.2 TWh (Terawatt-hours) by 2025 – a than 20 percent increase. That's enough energy to power 40 million households. Terawatt-hours are used to measure energy production and consumption. One TWh is equal to the sustained power of approximately 114 megawatts for a period of one year.

Waste management in Africa is generally poor, so researchers had to adjust their model's parameters. Converting the actual amount of waste collected (not the total amount of waste created because some is not properly disposed of) could generate an estimated 83.8 TWh of electricity in 2025 – a significant amount that could supply 27 million families with energy.

There are upwards of 600 waste-to-energy facilities throughout the world but that's not thte case in Africa where only a limited amount of waste is recovered and reused and only major cities have waste management systems, researchers noted.

The study was recently published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews and could have significant impacts worldwide.

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