Local Waste to Energy – A Boost To The Environment
In a remarkable development, local forestry and timber company, MTO, last week formally introduced their Bio to energy plant at their saw mill in the George industrial area.

With vast amounts of waste product, generated by the saw mill, generating energy (for internal use) from the leftover bio-mass makes perfect sense.

Despite having an abundance of waste product at its disposal, MTO should still be commended for going through the motions to create the platform to generate energy from waste.

In a country where energy is at a premium, South Africa is always looking for clean and renewable energy options, says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“Energy from waste is however easier said than done. The regulatory framework required to become a player, of any scale, in the energy generation landscape is problematic, if not undesirable by local municipalities and Eskom, who derives income from selling electricity”.

In the Southern Cape, where we have seemingly unlimited supplies of invasive alien trees, landowners often pose the question: why are we not looking at generating energy from invasive alien plants (IAP).

The reality is that saw mills generate bio waste as they go along, and the waste arrives by the ton with every truck of timber delivered from the plantations. This means that the by – product (waste material) is supplied sustainably, cost free, and in a workable format.

Invasive alien trees on the other hand, although available in abundance, are generally of low quality, and grow in the most inaccessible places, all which have a bearing on the costs related to harvesting and transport.

Complicating matters further, the objective of eradicating invasive alien trees is to ensure that we return to indigenous, and control their re-growth. This would imply that, at least in theory, harvesting of invasives will ultimately not be sustainable.

INVASIVES PROVIDING ESSENTIAL FIREWOOD TO COMMUNITIESNot only impoverished communities, but also the community at large, are increasingly dependent on invasives for fire wood.

Of late Southern Cape landowners noticed that fire wood harvesters from Cape Town (where supply is under pressure) are harvesting fire wood from the Southern Cape. So, there may after all be a critical role for invasive trees to play.

An increased demand for wood from invasive trees does not save our catchments and mountains from the scourge of IAP invasions, where nobody can afford to harvest wood, but it does bring value to an otherwise problematic resource.

Eden district is embarking on a strategy to manage invasives on its land, and perhaps that process can unlock resources to communities, and the way we perceive the management of invasive alien plants.

Written by Cobus Meiring