Waste disposal is an increasingly criti- cal issue confronting South Africa. Landfills that were originally located in outlying areas are now located alongside cities and informal townships that have mushroomed to cope with the growing population.
With limited free space now available, these same dumps are causing a number of adverse environmental conditions, such as wind-blown litter, the attraction of vermin and the generation of liquid leachate that drains from the landfill and contaminates the water table.
Other common by-products are methane and carbon dioxide gas that result in an unsavoury odour, kill surface vegetation and produce greenhouse gas. Traditionally, waste has been dumped onto these sprawling open landfills, while the balance is deposited alongside streets and public spaces or on nearby vacant land.
Waste management company The Enterprise Development Corporation (Tedcor) director Gavin Glick says the lack of waste removal and management has direct health, environmental and general aesthetics impacts on vulnerable communities.
“Current collection systems are overstretched and rarely provide recycling services. However, sourcing new landfill sites is not a solution and merely moves the problem to another area,” says Glick.
He adds that the limited capacity in local councils has also played a role in leaving waste management below acceptable levels of service delivery. The poorer areas suffer the most as they are underserviced and, in some instances, there has been little improvement since 1994.
Entrepreneur and Tedcor founder John Houghton, in his bid to uplift poorer communities, saw a synergy between managed waste removal and job creation.
“In the early 90s, waste removal was nonexistent, and still is in many of these areas. “By linking local residents and emerging contractors looking to start their own enterprises with municipalities that award large- scale waste management tenders, we have a workable model. In addition, it also opened the opportunity for banks to fund large-scale vehicle purchases and commercial truck manufacturers to sell their trucks,” explains Houghton.
When tenders are awarded to Tedcor, the model is available to selected members of local communities, with the proviso that they meet the basic employment criteria set by Tedcor. They also have to pass an extensive training programme, accredited as a learnership by the University of South Africa.
He notes that, with Tedcor’s funding, the implementation of the training programme and ongoing financial and business support, municipalities can rest assured that they will achieve their waste management service delivery goals. The cost of the qualification, which is spread over the three- to five-year municipal contract period, is borne by the company.
To date, there have been over 120 waste management community contractors established throughout the country, with each contractor employing 12 people and servicing 6 000 to 7 000 households. Many have completed their tender contracts and have gone on to set up further small and medium-sized enterprises.
Glick emphasises that educating communities in recycling waste as a resource is key to waste management. However, unrecyclable waste can also be used to generate renewable energy through different treatment processes. Waste- to-energy factories are already providing innovative and environment-friendly solutions to the power and waste crises of the twenty-first century.
“We will continue to build a sustainable waste management business and to create entrepreneurs who can compete and operate on their own. With over 767-million people living in sub-Saharan Africa, a high proportion do not have waste collection services. “Extending our offering into Africa would mean the creation of over 5 000 direct jobs to which, over and above this figure, service personnel can be added.”
He points out that the company is currently doing feasibility studies in a number of African countries and hopes to expand the business to these countries in the near future.