Swaziland’s Controversial Incinerator Export: Weighing the Risks and Benefits


Swaziland’s population grapples with severe waste management challenges, generating approximately 600 tons of municipal solid waste annually. In an attempt to address this, the government implemented a controversial project: exporting waste to neighboring South Africa through the construction of a massive incinerator.

Arguments in Favor

  • Waste management solution: The incinerator would significantly reduce Swaziland’s landfilled waste, contributing to environmental conservation.
  • Economic benefits: The project promised export earnings through the sale of electricity generated during the incineration process.
  • Job creation: Construction and operation of the plant would generate job opportunities in the energy and waste management sectors.

Arguments Against

  • Health and environmental risks: Incineration releases harmful pollutants into the air, potentially causing respiratory problems and contributing to climate change.
  • Economic costs: Critics questioned the sustainability of the project, citing high operating and maintenance costs.
  • Lack of transparency: The government’s handling of the project was criticized for lacking transparency and public participation.

Controversy and International Pressure

The project faced significant international scrutiny, with NGOs and the European Union raising concerns about potential health and environmental implications. This resulted in temporary suspension of the export operation in 2018.

Current Status

As of 2023, the project remains stalled, with no clear plans for its future. The government is exploring alternative solutions for waste management, including waste reduction and recycling initiatives.

Potential Future Paths

  • Sustainable waste management: Investing in infrastructure for waste reduction, recycling, and composting.
  • Regional collaboration: Exploring partnerships with neighboring countries to share resources and expertise in waste management.
  • Private sector involvement: Encouraging private sector participation in waste management solutions through public-private partnerships.


1. What are the main risks associated with the incinerator export?

The project raises concerns about air pollution, climate change, and potential health risks.

2. What are the potential economic benefits of the project?

The projected benefits include job creation and export earnings from electricity generation.

3. Why was the project suspended?

The project was temporarily suspended due to international concerns about its environmental and health implications.

4. What is the current status of the project?

The project is currently stalled, with no clear plans for the future.

5. What are alternative solutions to the incinerator export?

Potential solutions include waste reduction, recycling, and sustainable waste management practices.


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