Company Announcement: Integrated waste management in a resource scare environment

6th August 2007

Due to increased population growth and urban and industrial development, there is an increased demand for waste service provision in terms of storage and collection facilities and services, handling and transportation, treatment and ultimately disposal services and facilities, says Jeremy Boswell, managing director of Felehetsa Environmental (Pty) Ltd.

“Responsibility for the provision of waste management services falls with municipalities, but” says Boswell, “there are challenges facing municipalities to deliver integrated waste management services in a resource scarce environment.”

In a recent paper researched and written jointly by Takalani Muavha, also of Felehetsa, and Boswell, the authors point out that municipalities are often faced with an aging workforce and fleet, lack of transfer stations, inadequate generation of income for services rendered, non-compliance with environmental legislation, illegal dumping, inadequate community waste education and awareness raising, and no formal recycling.

Says Boswell: “The control of environmental impact associated with solid waste is of increasing international concern, especially in developing economies. South Africa is no exception.

“Solid waste management in developing areas has always been a problem. Few local authorities have adequate waste services. In addition, the perennial challenges of illegal dumping and littering make it increasingly difficult for conventional municipal waste collection and disposal methods to be effective.

“Waste education for all spheres of community - domestic, commercial, industrial and governmental - has to be considered a key priority. To enable the implementation of effective education and awareness training, there is a need to align waste education programmes with existing frameworks. The effectiveness of training of waste educators, and transfer of knowledge relating to best practices and technologies also needs to be ensured.”

Boswell believes that capacity building at national, provincial and local government levels should go hand in hand with improvements in government effectiveness.

“There is a great need to measure or evaluate the performance of waste education programmes in terms of achieving the desired objectives and ensuring improvements in waste management.

“One of the mechanisms for managing waste is through minimisation and therefore composting and recycling has become an integral part of the waste management strategy. With the correct practices, these strategies have proven to prolong the lifespan of landfill sites. However, when it comes to rural municipalities, despite these benefits, most do not prioritise alternative methods of waste management.”

Boswell and Muavha’s research shows that most of the larger towns tend to have recycling initiatives in the form of “scrap metal” collectors or private individuals collecting and selling to established firms, which are mostly located in neighbouring provinces. However, this makes transporting material costly and to some extent not a viable option. In most rural areas, recycling is not formalised and this presents a challenge for developing rural integrated waste management frameworks.

Boswell and Muavha show that the absence of an integrated waste management approach within municipalities is characterised by:

Says Boswell: “This is often due to the fact that education and skills levels, particularly in small urban and rural local authorities, fall far short of the required levels. The lack of development of people through skills and other training inevitably means that people may not be suited for the particular jobs they are doing and may in fact be a legal liability where heavy machinery is being utilised.

“In order for waste disposal to be both affordable and environmentally acceptable in rural and remote areas, the Minimum Requirements have been developed to be adaptable. However, if not properly designed and operated, municipal solid waste landfill sites can emit odorous gases, dust, leachate, and noise. Odours are generated in a landfill as result of biological degradation of refuse.

“In South Africa, buffer-zones of between 200 and 800 metres in width are currently recommended for operational Municipality Solid Waste. These buffer zones are separations between the registered landfill site boundary and any adjacent residential or sensitive development. They are established to ensure that a landfill operation does not have an adverse impact on quality of life and/or public health.”

The establishment and maintenance of buffer zones, or set back distances, is enforcement in terms of the Health Act, 1977 (Act, 1977), which makes provision for measures necessary to prevent any nuisance, unhygienic or offensive condition that is harmful to health (DWAF, 1998).

“Every municipality must make by-laws which contain conditions for municipal waste management services and must at least provide standards for municipal waste management services, measures to encourage waste and hazardous waste separation to facilitate waste minimisation, and standards for re-use and recycling. Law enforcement should be increased and stiffer fines and sentences should be implemented to act as a restraint,” says Boswell.

“In a resource scarce environment, the local authority needs even more careful planning and advice, so as to make maximum use of human, machine and financial resources. That way the authority will be punching above their weight, not shadow boxing, and they will be well on their way to a cleaner city.”

Issued bY: Lorraine van Schalkwyk APR
Cellular: 083 626 3762

On behalf of: Felehetsa Environmental (Pty) Ltd
Telephone: 011 678-9303
Contact: Takalani Muavha Jeremy Boswell