HomeNewsUpcycling invasive wood to address climate change

Upcycling invasive wood to address climate change

The largest charcoal production facility in the southern hemisphere has been launched near Wellington in the Western Cape in efforts to address climate change.

The Charcoal Manufacturing Plant will use alien vegetation from the Swartland Municipality to produce 10,000 tons of export grade charcoal. The source of raw material will be invasive species Blue Gum (Eucalyptus) and Black Wattle (Acacia). Products will include lump wood charcoal, biochar as a by-product and activated carbon.

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Trade and promotion agency Wesgro hosted a virtual sod-turning event on Tuesday 18 August to launch the construction of the site, which will be managed by Lesedi, a Cape Town-based nuclear power company.

Lesedi has been formally appointed as the EPCM representative for the Toronto Group to design, project manage, commission and to fully integrate the production facility.

CEO of the Toronto Group Phillip Mulungo said the facility would be carbon-neutral and the first of its kind charcoal manufacturing plant to use biomass from an alien invasive species: “Toronto Group complies with the Forest Stewardship council regulations which governs ‘chain of custody and controlled wood’ ensuring traceable wood sources. Our FSC certification ensures that we supply our markets with the best quality products from traceable and trusted sources and foster sustainable development without damage to the environment.”

Climate change strategies for economic growth and resilience

Halting the growth of invasive alien vegetation is one of the interventions that form part of the Cape Town Water Strategy. One of the key priorities of this strategy is improving the Western Cape’s water resilience in the face of climate change. Cape Town was one of the first large cities in the world to face the possibility of running out of water in 2018, following a severe 3-year drought. In addition to changing how Capetonians consume water, ensuring diverse water sources such as the recently announced aquifer next to the Steenbras Dam and dealing with the growth of invasive alien vegetation all form part of the Strategy.

Executive Mayor of Swartland Municipality Alderman Tijmen van Essen said they are proud to form part of the Western Cape’s solution for future water resilience and contributing to job creation: “Clearing invasive alien plants in the catchments of the major dams supplying Cape Town offers multiple social, economic and environmental benefits.”  

The sod turning event to mark the launch of the Toronto Manufacturing Plant was a mixture of virtual and physical. Image: supplied.

Construction of the 3040m2 manufacturing plant is expected to take eight months and the charcoal facility should provide approximately 150 direct jobs and 70 indirect job opportunities through the value chain.

CEO for Lesedi, Francis Carruthers: “When completed, Toronto will be the largest charcoal production facility in the southern hemisphere with a production capacity of 10,000 tons in export grade charcoal. We look forward to this challenge and we have full confidence in the expertise of our experienced teams to deliver this exciting project.”

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.