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Circular economy can benefit municipalities, communities and the environment

8th March 2023

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Municipalities, especially smaller ones, should consider implementing a circular economic model of reusing, recycling, refurbishment and remanufacturing of waste products, rather than dumping them in landfills, as this could help them manage waste sustainably, says Stellenbosch University public and development management doctoral graduate Dr Timoteus Kadhila.

“By making a circular economy model part of their waste management practices, municipalities could enhance their resource efficiency, create job opportunities and new revenue streams, improve the livelihoods of local communities and reduce their impact on the environment,” he says.

His findings are based on his exploration of how the current waste management models of the municipalities of Langebaan, in the Western Cape, and Swakopmund, in Namibia, contribute to the realisation of sustainable waste management, including environmental, economic and social sustainability, in the context of a circular economy.

Additionally, Kadhila developed a framework that the two municipalities – also suitable for any small municipality seeking to improve its waste management – could use to implement a circular economic model as part of their waste management practices.

The framework emphasises key aspects, such as cost, committees that can coordinate a circular economy, waste separation, green market centres, and educating and training of local communities about waste separation.

The Langebaan and Swakopmund municipalities strove to manage waste in an integrated manner, promote waste avoidance and minimisation of waste, encourage separation of waste and facilitate the diversion of recyclable and re-usable waste from landfill, he notes.

However, the municipalities have not yet made a circular economy model part of their waste management systems, and still follow a linear economy model, with landfilling as the predominant waste disposal method, he highlights.

“For example, when plastic containers, toys and packaging material, among others, are not needed anymore, they are dumped in landfills.”

Similarly, most municipalities in South Africa and Namibia have made little progress toward implementing a circular economy in their waste management systems, he notes.

Cost is one of the main barriers to the implementation of a circular economy, and the separation of waste is key, he states.

“Waste that is readily available for reuse should be taken back into consumption. Waste that has the potential for reuse should be recycled, repaired and remanufactured and turned into suitable products, such as chairs, cups and tables, among others.

“These products can be sold to the locals at green market centres at affordable prices. Small amounts of residuals that may not be recycled can be incinerated to produce electricity for the poor,” he says.

“Policymakers can use the proposed framework to revise existing regulatory instruments to promote transitioning to circular business models for waste management,” he emphasises.

Further, to overcome the cost barrier, Kadhila proposes that a yearly budget jointly funded by the government providing 40%, the municipality providing 40%, and key stakeholders providing 20% should be tabled to run the affairs of the framework successfully.

The budget should allow for the appointment of coordinating committees that can ensure circular economic activities take place at waste generation sources, and for drawing up the budget, determining the costs of implementing the circular economy and presenting it to the relevant stakeholders for approval, he adds.

The framework could help to drive action for zero waste cities and towns because waste generation will be fully coordinated through a 100% waste separation target, Kadhila says.

A circular economy entails reducing the consumption of raw materials, designing products in such a way that they can easily be taken apart after use and reused, called eco-design, prolonging the lifespan of products through maintenance and repair, using recyclables in products and recovering raw materials from waste flow, he explains.

“The circular economy is gaining momentum as a means to drive environmental, economic and social sustainability, although more investments and more effective governance are still in most cases needed to upscale promising innovations," he concludes.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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