Multimillion rand biorefinery launched in Durban

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A multimillion rand biorefinery has been launched in Durban to process biomass waste and extract energy from it. The R37.5m facility will process waste from the forestry, agro-processing and other biomass-based industries in South Africa.The Biorefinery Industry Development Facility (BIDF) was launched by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on 20 March 2018. This facility will lead innovations and enable growth in a number of industries, most notably the forestry sector which is struggling globally.

The main purpose of the BIDF

The facility will aid South Africa’s paper and pulp industry by extracting more value from the wood chips and waste paper that usually ends up in landfills. This waste is sometimes burnt or even dumped at sea, which means that the economic value of these by-products is being wasted.BIDF will help tackle the shortage of landfill space by taking the waste from the paper mills and converting it into useful chemicals such as biogas, biopolymers (used for packaging) and nanocrystalline cellulose (a light, strong and conductive material that has a wide range of innovative uses).

Supporting industry competitiveness

The project was launched in partnership with the Industry Innovation Partnership Fund (IIPF) which supports research and technology programmes, as well as industry competitiveness. This facility is the third IIPF initiative to be successfully launched by the Department of Science and Technology; the Biomanufacturing Industry Development Centre (BIDC) and the Nanomaterials Industrial Development Facility (NIDF) are the other two.Minister Kubayi-Ngubane revealed at the BIDF launch that her department compiled a report on the manufacturing industry. Currently, there are several challenges hindering the growth and innovation in the industry. A major challenge is the low investment in research and technology by the private sector.“A key recommendation of the report was for the government to put in place effective measures and mechanisms to attract the private sector to invest in R&D and innovation,” says Kubayi-Ngubane.The IIPF was created for this very reason and sponsors co-funding partnerships with businesses in the sector. “A key long-term outcomes measure would be increased sector contribution to the GDP through stronger RDI-based industrial development,” she says.

Making the industry more competitive

The focus now is on making the science and technology sector more competitive to drive innovation and enable growth. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini says that science needs to support industrial development and innovation.“Our mandate requires us to use science and technology to contribute to scientific and industrial development, which will improve the competitiveness of the South African industry and also create new industries,” says Dlamini. “The CSIR is using innovation to contribute to economic growth and thus assisting in the fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment,” he adds.The director of the CSIR Forestry and Forest Products Research Centre, Professor Bruce Sithole, highlighted the potential for the BIDF to be an asset to other sectors. “The BIDF is accessible to large industry and small, medium and micro-sized enterprises for their research and development, analytical and pilot-scale testing, evaluation, processing and development of technologies for processing biomass,” says Sithole.“Some of the equipment at the BIDF is unique in South Africa. The facility is home to highly-skilled chemists, engineers and biologists who are well-versed in technologies for beneficiation and valorisation of biomass,” he says.The BIDF will ultimately foster growth and lead the way for research in a number of key industries for South Africa. ___Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment. ___By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries. ___Follow us Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the best tips on recycling and the latest industry news. See our Instagram and YouTube channels for more insights into environmental affairs and our work with local communities.