The ‘Waste in Business Seminar 2011’, organised by Alive2green, considered the detrimental effects of current waste disposal techniques on the environment by looking at improvements to current technologies and the advancement of renewable and sustainable solutions.
With the growing awareness of the detrimental environmental effects of current waste disposal methods there is a significant onus of accountability for effective waste management. Better practice and safer solutions are required. Not only is there a need for more research on current disposal methods such as landfill, incineration, chemical and effluent treatment, but also on recycling, waste minimization, clean technologies, waste monitoring, public and corporate awareness and general education.
National government, cities and municipalities are required to learn about and understand the Waste act, to develop standards and to begin enforcing these standards in industry and business in South Africa.
Organics save most air space
Business is concerned with profit ‘an obvious point’ so in order to encourage responsible waste disposal businesses ‘require’ an incentive. Martin de Wit (Director of De Wit Sustainable Options and ASSET Research) suggested that organic waste and composting would provide the largest air space saving and would be the cheapest type of waste for businesses to dispose of sustainably. However composting options struggle to be financially viable and only have a chance of being successful at high volumes with a marketable quality.
De Wit believes that we need further market development of waste products to create a demand for recycled goods. The more we purchase recycled products the greater the demand.
Hugh Tyrrell (GreenEdge) said that we need a paradigm shift from disposal to minimisation, and a conversion from engineering science to human science. Human behavioural change is imperative for sustainable growth. The key message that must be sent out to businesses is that recycling is: easy, fun and popular.
Townships focused on health issues
We must remember though that priorities differ in township communities and there the focus should be geared at waste as a health issue. Recycling creates revenue generating opportunities – residents of the community could act as main facilitators who are responsible for educating the local community. See our story on Katy. We need to take action from the bottom up and create an empowerment approach.
Andrew Marthinusen (Executive Director of the Packing Council of South Africa) highlighted that humans are better at dealing with visible problems, but less able to comprehend subtle threats such as biodiversity and climate change. It doesn’t help that often governments tend to deal with the easier problems first.
This year the South African government is starting a tyre initiative to reduce tyre waste. A recovery fee will be incorporated in the price of tyres to deal with the number of tyre waste. The government also needs to implement a reduction programme. We tend to think that litter creates jobs ‘ but we don’t want to encourage this mindset, as it pollutes our environment.
Extended producer responsibility
Marthinusen believes that it is important to use the ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ (EPR) principle to help deal with our waste situation.
The advantages of EPR include:
- There is no room for ‘free-riders’ ‘ everyone has to take responsibility for their waste
- The environmental costs are built into all final products
- Product design will begin to be more sustainable
- This will encourage a longer product life
- Non-conforming countries will be penalised
Whereas the disadvantages of EPR are that:
- There will be an extra cost for the consumer
- We need very complex solutions to accommodate sustainable design in electronic products
- EPR may slow innovation and impede technical progress
- The government may try to avoid their responsibilities
- There is likely to be a multiplication of taxes
- There may be an unfair application of some nations
Although there is a number of both pros and cons related to the EPR approach, I believe that the pros far outweigh the negatives. We need to take action. The sooner the better! It is imperative that we work together for this important cause ‘ after all if you had a landfill in your back garden I’m sure that you would try to reduce the waste going into it!
For a variety of different recycling bins, contact Postwink, distributor of practical recycling products.
‘The Waste Revolution handbook‘: The Guide to Sustainable Waste Management’ provides an informative read.
Read more about Alive2green here.
By Debbie Worthington