An overall strategy addressing waste management would need to consider not only the environmental implications of waste management, but the economic and social implications as well.
Importantly, the monies collected and energy spent on recycling should be used specifically for the development of product markets.
So said Lutske Newton, the lead drafter of the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) during a Green Team event organized by WastePlan this month. She provided interesting insights into the waste strategies of South Africa.
An image of a chaotic scene at the Boitsepi landfill site in the Vaal Triangle highlighted the problems many of our landfills still face. Here many young black unemployed men fight – sometimes to the death – on a daily basis for waste and scrap metal. The locals bear the brunt of Gauteng’s heavy industrial development and are exposed to air, soil and water pollution. Children growing up in the Vaal Triangle are more likely to suffer from respiratory infections and stunted growth. Many are poor and unemployed.
Key is to divert waste from landfill
The development of the NWMS was a two year process beginning in March 2009. The key objective of the plan is to divert waste from landfill.
Industry associates that provide recycling facilities include:
- Collect a Can
- The Glass Recycling Company
- Paper Recycling Association of South Africa
- Plastics Federation of South Africa
- Polystyrene Association of South Africa
- Tetra Pak
In order to implement the NWMS we need a combined goal of responsible waste management. This is to be achieved through waste reduction, enhanced re-use, recycling and recovery of waste, and safe treatment and disposal of waste (as a last resort).The establishment of the Waste Classification and Management Systems is a primary mechanism for establishing standards for the safe storage, treatment and disposal of waste.
The ability to manage very complex wastes is through the declaration of priority waste, such as saline waste. This waste type is on the increase due to desalination processes. In a few years, it may no longer go to landfill. There is no specific industry to plan with and so a priority waste declaration may be called for.
Who is going to do what?
The points below have been included in the National Waste Management Strategy and show who is responsible for which parts of the recycling infrastructure:
- Municipalities need to facilitate local solutions, rather than provide the recycling infrastructure themselves.
- Municipal actions must not crowd out the role of the private sector in meeting the recycling challenge.
- Industry must to take responsibility for the products they produce, and provide infrastructure to take back these products.
- The pricing of waste services is key, usually linked to rates, income or a specific charge on the number of bins used.
- We need a massive sustained awareness campaign, nationally coordinated, but implemented at local level.
- Industry Waste Management Plans are regarded as consensual tools as they enable industries and companies to set waste minimisation targets and funding mechanisms. Many industries are reluctant to commit themselves to targets that they cannot achieve. However targets can be reviewed and refined to result in the most effective measures and realistic targets.
In conclusion, whilst the strategy is clear about the collection side of recycling, it is less specific about responsibilities in respect of the creation of markets for recyclables. The lack of markets and price fluctuations will be detrimental to any serious commitment to diverting waste from landfill. Major incentives in place for industries and entrepreneurs to invest in technologies however enable the development of products from wastes that may not be land filled.
A growing interest in recycling projects can help to address environmental challenges and create jobs. Strong, well co-ordinated industry associations are vital in enabling industries to get to grips with its waste management challenges in a proactive way.