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Aug 24, 2012

SA making waste management strides

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Waste management procedures and legislation in South Africa are among the best in Africa, but the industry is still faced with some significant challenges, says a firm of consulting engineers and scientists, SRK Consulting.

“South Africa, in my opinion, leads the way in waste management in Africa. It has the service industry and infrastructure support. Environmental procedures and authorisation of waste management facilities can take a long time,” says SRK Consulting partner Bruce Engelsman, who has worked in the waste- management industry in various African countries, including Angola and Nigeria.

He adds that the cost of implementing appropriately designed landfills for waste management in Africa is high.

“This is mainly as a result of the remoteness of locations and the lack of locally available resources and products. The logistics involved in constructing landfills outside South Africa are cumbersome and contribute to higher costs and project delays,” he says.

SRK Consulting senior environmental scientist Kirsten King emphasises the role of municipalities and governments in effective waste management.

In 2002, SRK Consulting was appointed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA) to prepare a guideline document for the development of integrated waste-management plans (IWMPs) for local municipalities.

An IWMP must include an implementation plan, specifying the required actions, as well as the associated timeframes and budgets for executing those actions. This assists the municipality in planning and budgeting for the required waste-management activities.

“The guideline document was prepared to assist local KwaZulu-Natal authorities in producing high-quality IWMPs in the required format. The purpose of the guideline document, therefore, is to build capacity and guide municipalities in the required IWMP, as well as ensuring the IWMPs are developed according to a common format that will be acceptable for the DAEA,” she explains.

King notes that these IWMPs should be reviewed, updated and expanded on a regular basis.

“Although the main focus of waste management should be on the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste, with disposal as a last resort, many municipalities in rural areas still make use of informal and unlicensed disposal facilities.

“Hence, in many smaller municipalities the focus of waste management is on developing formal, licensed waste disposal facilities and extending waste collection services beyond the formal urban areas,” she says.

King adds that several small municipalities are facing immense capacity and budget constraints in terms of waste management.

She notes that the municipalities provide collection and disposal services for general waste, but leave hazardous-waste collection and disposal to the private waste contractors.

“The biggest issues facing waste management in South Africa are a lack of awareness and enforcement of waste-management legis- lation, as well as a lack of incentives and support for the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste.

To best address these challenges, the allocation of the required resources, training and capacity building must be provided for offi- cials. We need to see more public–private partnerships for recycling projects. We need to emphasise the importance of separating waste at source and implementing a cradle-to-the-grave concept in terms of waste management,” she says.

With regard to hazardous waste, such as that stemming from the mining, general industry, healthcare and services sectors, SRK Consult- ing senior environmental scientist Philippa Emanuel says that recognising the importance of the waste hierarchy – reduce, reuse, recycle – is critical in limiting the quantities of hazardous waste that require disposal.

She adds that KwaZulu-Natal is a province that is proactively addressing its hazardous waste needs. The province has limited disposal capacity, owing to the high cost of establishing hazardous-waste management facilities, as well as time-consuming approval policies.

“The KwaZulu-Natal DAEA identified hazardous-waste management as an issue the province needed to deal with, which led to the appointment of SRK Consulting for the preparation of a hazardous-waste management plan (HWMP) for the province.

The purpose of this HWMP is to consolidate information regarding hazardous-waste management and develop an integrated plan in providing such management for KwaZulu-Natal, including hazardous-waste reduction, recycling, reuse, treatment and disposal capacity,” King explains.

Emanuel notes that it is important to recognise that, as technology and processes develop rapidly, policy and legislation need to be dyna- mic in keeping up.

“The various spheres of government are actively involved in hazardous-waste management at different levels. The legislative framework is gradually being built and will, in time, provide the incentives and frameworks needed to reduce hazardous waste in the country.

“Further, with technology developing rapidly, processes are being modified to limit the generation of hazardous waste. The legal environment is also being modified to allow the use of hazardous waste as raw material,” says Emanuel.

At national level, Emanuel notes, much energy has been and still is being spent on developing legislation that will enable government to regulate hazardous waste generation and disposal more effectively.

“Four draft regulations have been drawn up and have been published for comment, which are in the process of being finalised,” she says.

The Draft National Waste Information Regulations – GN 718 will ensure that authori- ties have the information required to make informed decisions regarding waste-manage- ment facilities and highlight areas where improvements can be made.

The Draft National Standard for Disposal of Waste to Landfill – GN 432 will change the way landfills are classified.

The Draft Standard for Assessment of Waste for Landfill Disposal – GN 433 will align the type of waste with the most suitable disposal facility based on its environmental risk.

The Draft Waste Classification and Manage- ment Regulations – GN 435 will change how waste streams are classified.

“This means that some waste, which was previously classified as hazardous waste, may no longer be classified under this category and that waste which had previously been classified as general waste may now be classified as hazardous,” says Emanuel.

“The cost of hazardous-waste disposal provides further economic incentives for reducing hazardous-waste production and, therefore, producers of this waste are also involved in finding ways to reduce the generation of this waste,” she notes.

Emanuel states that South Africa has made great strides in meeting the need for stringent and practical waste-management legislation.

“The draft regulations create a sound basis from which to make significant progress. However, implementation of the regulations will be critical and it will require significant training and capacity building if regulations are to be effective,” she says.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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