Composting, anaerobic digestion and biochar production in Ghana. Environmental-economic assessment in the context of voluntary carbon markets

Waste Manag. 2014 Dec;34(12):2454-65. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2014.07.027. Epub 2014 Sep 6.


In some areas of Sub-Saharan Africa appropriate organic waste management technology could address development issues such as soil degradation, unemployment and energy scarcity, while at the same time reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. This paper investigates the role that carbon markets could have in facilitating the implementation of composting, anaerobic digestion and biochar production, in the city of Tamale, in the North of Ghana. Through a life cycle assessment of implementation scenarios for low-tech, small scale variants of the above mentioned three technologies, the potential contribution they could give to climate change mitigation was assessed. Furthermore an economic assessment was carried out to study their viability and the impact thereon of accessing carbon markets. It was found that substantial climate benefits can be achieved by avoiding landfilling of organic waste, producing electricity and substituting the use of chemical fertilizer. Biochar production could result in a net carbon sequestration. These technologies were however found not to be economically viable without external subsidies, and access to carbon markets at the considered carbon price of 7 EUR/ton of carbon would not change the situation significantly. Carbon markets could help the realization of the considered composting and anaerobic digestion systems only if the carbon price will rise above 75-84 EUR/t of carbon (respectively for anaerobic digestion and composting). Biochar production could achieve large climate benefits and, if approved as a land based climate mitigation mechanism in carbon markets, it would become economically viable at the lower carbon price of 30 EUR/t of carbon.

Keywords: Anaerobic digestion; Biochar; Carbon markets; Composting; Life cycle assessment; Sub Saharan Africa.

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bioreactors
  • Charcoal / analysis*
  • Charcoal / economics*
  • Charcoal / metabolism
  • Environment
  • Ghana
  • Recycling / economics
  • Recycling / methods*
  • Waste Management / economics
  • Waste Management / methods*


  • biochar
  • Charcoal