Home > Climate Change, Environment > Methane Gas from Tamale Landfill Fuels Global Warming.

Methane Gas from Tamale Landfill Fuels Global Warming.


Methane gas escaping through vents in the Tamale Landfill  in the Northern Region of Ghana is contributing to global warming, the Environmental Protection Council (EPA) has warned.

Methane, a greenhouse gas, is produced by bacteria as a by-product of anaerobic respiration during the bio-degradation of waste that occurs in landfills. Since the gas is flammable, if it is allowed to accumulate, it would reach a level that if there is a fire, there would be a big disaster. Fires at landfill sites are difficult to extinguish because of the presence of methane. Furthermore, if the gas remains within the landfill, it will prevent other micro-organisms from working and the waste will not be degraded.

However, the present method of getting rid of the gas by simply allowing it to escape is of grave concern to environmentalists because while atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen by about 31 percent since pre-industrial times, methane concentration has more than doubled.

As a greenhouse gas, methane is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and remains in the atmosphere for nine to 15 years. It is the second most important human induced greenhouse gas and accounts for about a fifth of warming effects.  Its chief sources are landfill sites, fossil fuel energy and agriculture, especially rice and livestock farming. Other sources are coal mining, waste water treatment, stationary and mobile combustion and some industrial processes.

The effect of methane emissions is also compounded by the fact that, methane-induced warming in turn stimulates microbial decay of organic matter in wetlands, the primary natural source of methane. Scientists have expressed fears that deposits of methane and similar gases trapped in normally frozen ground in the arctic constitute a time bomb and may thaw out and spew into the atmosphere if global warming continues unabated.

Commenting on the issue, Mr. Abu Iddrissu, Northern Regional Director of the EPA said methane trapping remains the best solution to the problem. This would not only curtail its global warming effects but would also provide household gas for cooking in hospitals, schools and other institutions which will in turn  reduce their overreliance on fuel wood thus saving our forests.

He said the aspect of methane trapping as a waste management process can be contracted to private companies to undertake as a business venture if it falls beyond the capacity of the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly which is currently managing the landfill.

He called for the landfill to be condoned off or fenced completely. Presently, it has only been partially fenced with the lee end, where water has accumulated exposed to the public thus allowing goats, vultures and other animals to stray into it.

Mr. Iddrissu stressed the need to regulate the waste in the land fill site by partitioning the waste. “Hazardous waste such as clinical and biomedical waste, car batteries and ordinary torchlight batteries should not be mixed with ordinary waste. Labour should be hired to sort out hazardous waste from plastic waste and organic waste”.

He criticized the mode of transportation of waste to the site and the management of the site, saying, “Waste vehicles transporting waste to the landfill site should be covered and after the waste has been dumped at the close of the day, it should be covered so that it would not be blown around by wind. Presently, there is 24 hour access to the site which should not be so. Anybody can just walk in, and people living in communities close to the site walk into it and scavenge its contents”

 Furthermore, the Tamale landfill was not built up to modern standards. While it is a requirement that the sides of landfills should be lined with clay or absorbent material to prevent liquid from seeping into ground water leading to its pollution, the Tamale landfill is unlined.

Data collection on the kind of wastes in the landfill to facilitate the recycling of waste has also been neglected. 

“It important to keep data on the kind and quantity of waste in the landfill since it constitutes a repository for research. We should be able to tell the weight of plastics or bio-degradable material coming in as well as the amount of fluid and methane coming out. Then if there is the need for the assembly to purchase a waste re-cycling plant or a plastic plant, based on the tonnage of plastics coming in, they can tell whether such a project would be sustainable and can generate enough pellets of plastic for sale or whether fertilizer can be produced from organic waste material However, in the absence of hard data, you cannot tell. ”, Mr Iddrissu said. 

He regretted that present figures on waste are based on the sum of all the waste coming in, saying, “The present waste management system does not allow for composting to produce organic manure. What we are battling with is simply waste collection. If the bio-degradable ones are sort from the non bio-degradable ones, then we can think of composting.”

Mr Iddrissu said since the landfill can create jobs if managed successfully, the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly should seek assistance outside its own doors by throwing the challenge to research institutions such as the University for Development Studies (UDS) to research on how to create  livelihoods and generate income from the site; “It is a repository for making money to undertake all the development projects we need in Tamale and there would even be reserves yet we are wasting it.”

“The technical knowhow to turn the waste into useful products is not available hence there is the need for policy makers to link up with academia and manufacturing industries”, he explained.

He suggested some potential uses of the waste as the recycling of plastic waste for the manufacturing of plastic yam stakes, car and motor bike plates and materials for pegging during road construction as well as signboards and bill boards while waste paper can be recycled into affordable toilet roll.

Mr Iddriss said since yam stakes result in the destruction of a lot of small trees in a year, if plastic materials were turned into yam stakes, they would not only rid the environment of waste but also reduce the dependency on trees and preserve the environment.

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  1. January 2, 2011 at 11:57 am

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