Uganda: Universities turn waste to substance

(image-Wikimedia Commons)

A foul stench hits you as you get near the Kampala City Abbatoir.

The slaughter area is clean and dry but a short distance away, a marabou stork feeds on the meaty bits of what constitutes solid waste ready to be taken to a feeds making factory.

Behind the high wall that surrounds the slaughter house is a drainage system through which untreated liquid waste (blood and water) empties into the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) lagoon. Other abattoirs in the city and elsewhere in the country are however not connected to the NWSC systems which makes the problem bad.

However, the foul smell will soon be no more. Using bioremediation technology whose primary aim is to treat abattoir waste, Makerere University intends to turn the waste into useful products  such as electricity and fertiliser as end products.

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) disposes of about 2.5 tonnes of sludge (dung) daily from the slaughter house at City Abattoir alone.

Bioremediation technology uses bacteria, fungi and plants to clean up the environment. These microorganisms and plants degrade toxic compounds in the soils or water to their basic compounds (bioaugmentation).

“This technology is designed to save our environment. When we harness  the energy, we would have saved the ozone layer.  When you treat the waste, you get fertiliser,” said Dr Joseph Kyambadde, the lead researcher.

Although the research is being done in Uganda, the end product is to be rolled out within the East African region owing to prevailing similar environmental conditions.

The $250,000 SIDA-funded project is part of the East African Regional Programme and Research Network ( Bio-Earn) which ensures intellectual property protection, access and transfer of biotechnology and bio safety policy development. Countries under Bio-Earn programmes are, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Makerere University products are expected to be commercialised next year after 14 years of research by the department of Biochemistry in collaboration with Kampala City Abattoir.

Similar research is ongoing at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to develop a biotechnology that would help in treating tannery wastes from Mopjo Tanneries.

In Tanzania, the University of Dar es Salaam partnered with Banana Investment Ltd to develop biotechnology for treating wastes from breweries. This technology will equally be rolled out to other countries.

According to the NWSC, only 10 per cent of both industrial and domestic effluents are treated and discharged into the environment  while the rest is discharged untreated. The discharge contain pollutants that have detrimental consequences on the ecological balance and public health.

For instance, Uganda Breweries has an activated sludge wastewater treatment plant installed, Green Fields Uganda Ltd has also set up a wastewater treatment facility, but these facilities cannot remove solid wastes and  nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus which are a major ingredients in hastening water weeds growth like hyacinth in Lake Victoria.

Tanzania’s technology is expected to help solve these problems. According to Dr Kyambadde, the Uganda technology will allow tapping of other end products like biogas from the sludge. The biogas will then be turned into electricity and what would be the final waste for the sludge is ready to use fertiliser.

Source: The East African – Hallimah Abdallah – 3 March 2012