Creecy shares strides govt has made in circular economy efforts

17th September 2020 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Creamer Media Online Writer

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy says government understands how green industries can open up new possibilities for development and create much-needed jobs in South Africa.

Delivering a keynote address at the Waste Khoro 2020 event, which was held virtually on September 17, she added that the waste management sector, in particular, had strong potential to innovate and improve socioeconomic conditions and contribute to sustainable development and resource use. 

With South Africa a founding member of the African Circular Economy Alliance and a participant in the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, Creecy believes the country can contribute meaningfully towards the broader African post-Covid-19 response programme.

Improving waste management by means of adopting principles of a circular economy is one of the focus areas for government.

Cabinet earlier in September approved the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) 2020, which is aimed at promoting the waste hierarchy and circular economy principles, while achieving both socioeconomic benefits and the reduction of negative environmental impacts.

Key to the strategy are promoting waste minimisation, efficient and effective waste services and raising awareness, as well as compliance monitoring and enforcement.

Last year’s Waste Khoro event reflected on the progress made during the first decade of the Waste Act implementation and agreed on resolutions. The NWMS 2020 builds on the successes and lessons from the implementation of that 2011 strategy.

The NWMS provides government policy and strategic interventions for the waste sector and is aligned and responsive to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 adopted by all United Nations member States.

It is also aligned and consistent with South Africa’s National Development Plan: Vision 2030, which is the country’s specific response to, and integration of, the SDGs into overall socioeconomic development plans.

Creecy discussed the significant strategic shifts from the 2011 strategy made in the NWMS 2020, including addressing the role waste pickers and the informal sector in the circular economy; and promoting approaches to the design of products and packaging that reduce waste or encourage reuse, repair and preparation for recycling, supporting markets for source separated recyclables.

Other objectives of the new strategy include investigating potential regulatory or economic interventions to increase participation rates in residential separation at source programmes; investing in the economies associated with transporting of recyclables to waste processing facilities; and helping to address the skills gap within the sector.

“With regard to compliance promotion at local government level, we have seen that implementation of the NWMS 2011 showed a lack of monitoring and evaluation of municipal waste management.

"This needs to be addressed with a collective effort to bring the necessary change, and we must call out poor performance and noncompliance, and ensure that corrective action is taken where needed,” Creecy stated.

She highlighted that more needed to be done to support municipalities to comply with landfill infrastructure standards, improve the number of households that have weekly waste collection and actively promote waste diversion from landfill.

The Minister urged stakeholders within the waste management industry to set attainable targets, enhance training, battle noncompliance, work across all levels of government to support resource mobilisation and actively build partnerships with the private sector.

Creecy explained that, central to promoting private sector collaboration, was the concept of extended producer responsibility.

CHANGE IN MOTION

This year, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) embarked on an extensive consultation process to initiate extended producer responsibility schemes with the private sector for paper and packaging, electrical and electronic equipment and lighting.

This gives effect to Section 18 of the National Environmental Management Waste Act and also supports the approach to the management of waste enshrined in the NWMS 2020.  

The introduction of recyclate content targets for specific products is an important mechanism to stimulate the demand for waste resources.

In this regard, the department has also taken strides to ensure product design changes that embrace circularity for the manufacturing of plastic carrier bags.

“We have received extensive comments on the amendments of the plastic carrier bags regulations, and I am pleased that we are moving in the right direction to prevent and manage plastic pollution.

“Other initiatives that we hope will promote the circular economy include the exclusion regulations that recognise material that can be used for beneficiation purposes without requiring a waste licence.

“Our department has approved 48 applications for the beneficial use of several waste materials, thus unblocking obstacles and promoting the full implementation of the waste management hierarchy,” Creecy pointed out.

She added that demand stimulation was central to the success of the circular economy.

“Government has considerable spending power and we must take the lead in advancing green and sustainable procurement. 

“We are already in discussion with our sister departments on using alternative building materials, consisting of repurposed ash, construction and demolition waste and organic waste. New building standards in this regard can improve circularity.”

Meanwhile, the Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa identified several waste initiatives and priorities. This led to the development of detailed action plans and business cases for 20 initiatives.

In implementing some of the initiatives from the Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa relating to the exclusion regulations, the DEFF has now approved 48 applications for the beneficial use of several waste materials thus unblocking obstacles and promoting the full implementation of the waste management hierarchy.