SUEZ and MakeSense teamed up in 2014 to create the Future of Waste program, focused on alternative solutions for reducing, reusing and recycling waste. For COP21, Future of Waste is taking action and launching its first Waste&Climate Impact Program, which aims to build public understanding of the links between global warming and waste, while helping entrepreneurs to highlight their positive impacts on climate. Each week, open_resource gives Future of Waste its own slot to talk about an entrepreneur from the Waste&Climate program. Credit: iStock – Peter Topp Enge Jonasen
Green Bio Energy is a social enterprise based in Uganda that recycles organic waste into fuel briquettes.
Credit: iStock – Peter Topp Enge Jonasen
Uganda is one of the “poor” countries of the developing world (ranked 164th in the UNDP’s Human Development Index in 2014). In less than 20 years, the country has lost one third of its forests and has seen its CO2 emissions increase by more than two-fold. Domestic use of wood is one reason behind deforestation: 95% of the population uses wood or charcoal for cooking and heating.
The worsening state of the environment in the country and the associated practices make it very vulnerable. It is vulnerable because the status quo of the country’s ecosystem has changed and this has side effects, such as increased landslides (for example, in the Bududa region in 2012). It is also made vulnerable by current cooking methods as they have an effect on health: 23% of children under the age of 5 suffer from respiratory diseases or complaints linked to proximity to gases emitted by a wood fire. Finally, the country is socially and economically vulnerable. These fossil fuels represent a huge financial burden on the poor: 65% of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day and can spend up to 0.8 dollars per day on energy.
Green Bio Energy: recycling organic waste into fuel
Green Bio Energy (GBE) is a social enterprise that is addressing these problems by introducing Ugandans to charcoal briquettes made from organic waste. Using these “alternative” briquettes provides significant cost savings and benefits the environment and public health.
The briquettes are made from all kinds of organic matter: banana skins, corn cobs, rice husks, peanuts and coconuts, etc. The waste is collected from local communities in shanty towns and rural areas around Kampala, the capital, which have been specially selected by Green Bio Energy teams and trained on how to sort and dry their waste. Once dry, the organic waste is carbonized and mixed with recycled coal powder to increase the burning power of the end product: the briquette.
The company sold its first products in Africa in 2012. As they cost less than traditional charcoal, households that use the briquettes can save up to 40% of the money they would normally spend on cooking fuels.
In 2014, several hundred tonnes of briquettes were sold in addition to several thousand of Green Bio Energy’s flagship product: the improved stove. If we consider the combined useful life of these products, these sales should allow consumers to save over a million dollars in total, avoid almost 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and recycle 1,400 tonnes of waste.
For the past three years, Green Bio Energy has been selling its products through a network of micro-entrepreneurs known as “B-points”. The network appears to be the most reliable way of reaching households and winning their trust. The micro-entrepreneurs who sell Green Bio Energy products are selected for their strong links with disadvantaged communities in Uganda and regularly receive training and coaching from Green Bio Energy teams to fully leverage their activities.
The enterprise’s innovative activities were recognised in 2012 by the SUEZ Initiatives – Institut de France Award, in the social entrepreneurship category.
To find out more about Green Bio Energy go to: www.greenbioenergy.org
Green Bio Energy isn’t the only enterprise of its kind in Uganda. Today, Uganda is a fertile breeding ground for an ever-growing number of innovative enterprises (it was recently recognised as the world’s most entrepreneurial country by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor), which very often promise to show rapid and responsible growth, with a particular emphasis on waste recycling. Lat Photo Energy Uganda, for example, produces very inexpensive fuel using waste plastic bottles and organic waste from the capital Kampala. On a larger scale, the Kampala abattoir is on track to meet its own energy needs after investing in biogas. Biogas is made using production waste and provides instant fuel for high-consumption equipment such as refrigerators.
Maguelone Biau, Yoon-Joo Jee, Alexandre Waldman and Simon Duchatelet, Green Bio Energy.