Asignificant challenge for waste man- agement in South Africa is the failure of municipalities to carry out effective waste management practices because of a lack of resources, and new legislation is expected to further complicate the issue, reports Institute of Waste Management Southern Africa (IWMSA) president Stan Jewaskiewitz.
The new National Environmental Manage- ment Waste Act, No 59 of 2008, came into effect in March 2009, with chapter two of the Act, the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS), scheduled for implementation in November 2010.
“The only disadvantage of the new legislation, including the NWMS is that municipalities form the largest sector of the waste management industry and are, therefore, the most affected. Most municipalities are currently incapable of delivering waste management services, including waste collection and disposal. This is due to a lack of qualified staff, experience and equipment, such as trucks,” he explains.
Jewaskiewitz adds that many municipalities do not have the necessary funds or make grossly insufficient budgets available for the performance of this service. The new legislation does not deal with this issue and only exacerbates the situation.
He suggests that to improve municipal waste management, political support is required to establish a programme that employs experienced people, on a short-term basis, to signifi- cantly improve waste management systems.
“In the long term, capacity should be devel- oped through appropriate recruitment and training programmes,” explains Jewaskiewitz. Incentives should also be introduced to ensure that skilled individuals remain in the public sector and are not poached by the private sector.
Meanwhile, Jewaskiewitz says that the market for recyclables is highly volatile and impacts on the financial viability of recycling schemes and initiatives.
He suggests that government imple- ments incentive schemes and also assists the recycling industry in terms of subsidising new businesses in the market, securing the conti- nued support of major recycling companies and finding solutions to stabilise the market for manufacturers that reprocess recyclables.
Further, the new legislation makes it difficult for entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises to enter the recycling market because of stringent licensing requirements.
“If these issues are not addressed, then the new waste management legislation will not have the necessary impact to achieve its aims,” says Jewaskiewitz.
The new legislation in the Act governs waste management and supersedes the rele- vant sections of the Environment Conser- vation Act, No 73 of 1989.
“The NWMS has to be established in two years and supersedes the 1999 NWMS. The new strategy has been in preparation since early 2009 and is currently out for comment,” explains Jewaskiewitz.
As a result of the new NWMS, various new regulations and standards are being developed. These include a new waste classification system, which will have a significant impact on how the treatment and disposal of waste, particularly hazardous waste, are done.
An advantage of the new legislation is that it combines all waste management issues under one Act, whereas before, waste management legislation consisted of various fragmented pieces of legislation.
Jewaskiewitz says that the new legislation focuses mainly on reducing, reusing and recy- cling waste and will assist authorities in enforc- ing recycling initiatives. In the past, there was no legal incentive to do this. Further, various waste management activities that have an impact on the environment have been identified and will require licensing to be controlled.
Waste Management in Industries
Besides municipalities, Jewaskiewitz says that treatment and disposal of hazardous waste by the petrochemicals industry is also a challenge.
“There are ongoing processes to review and improve the petrochemicals industry’s waste management practices. “An area that requires urgent attention is the industry’s need to ensure compliance with new waste classification and disposal systems,” he notes.
Meanwhile, Jewaskiewitz says that companies are becoming more conscious of improving their waste management practices owing to the more stringent legislative requirements and the increasing costs related to the treatment/disposal of waste. These costs affect their financial performance; however, companies are investigating the potential revenue derived from the sale of recyclables, as well as the sale of waste streams for reuse in other manufacturing processes.
Jewaskiewitz advises that companies should become familiar with the new legislation and regulations that are being developed and comply with them.
“Experience in other countries has shown that the sooner companies comply with new legislation, especially concerning waste treatment and recycling, the sooner they become more competitive and have an advantage over other companies in their market. “Initially, it is always difficult to change habits and practices, but, if new legislation is approached with an open mind, it will be easier to adapt and a number of opportunities will present themselves,” he says.
To further improve waste management, there is ongoing development of new products and cleaner technologies, which produce less waste. As the cost of waste management and disposal increases, owing to more stringent legislation, there is greater need for new technologies that produce less waste.
“There are currently various products that make use of recyclables, which include the processing of plastic waste for conversion into new products, such as plastic wood, explains Jewaskiewitz.
The IWMSA has various branches around the country that are involved in a number of community and school projects.
“For example, in the Eastern Cape waste awareness campaigns and school competitions are held yearly. “These normally result in awards being made at prestigious functions to recognise achievements and generate the necessary publicity to raise awareness further afield. “Branch committee members usually get involved in the development of these projects and assist local organisations with their waste management programmes,” says Jewaskiewitz.
He believes that it is important to develop a culture of good waste management practices at a grassroots level.
“The youth play a great role in promoting recycling and waste management. By starting recycling and awareness programmes or projects at schools, the youth are able to share ideas on promoting recycling and good waste management practices. These ideas and experiences filter down to their homes and communities.”
Once a culture of good waste management practice has been developed in communities to place pressure on industry and local government, he says that, the aims of reduce, reuse and recycle will become easier to achieve and South Africa can be assured of a cleaner and healthier environment.