Waste recycling, beneficiation and waste-to-energy could create 150 000 jobs by 2024

13th October 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The 2020 National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) posits that increased recycling and beneficiation of waste can act as a catalyst and contributor to the circular economy with the potential to create up to 150 000 new jobs by 2024, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) acting chief director Thabo Magomola said on October 12.

Accelerating waste recycling, waste-to-energy and waste beneficiation would be key to unlocking the possible economic opportunities in the waste sector. However, the targets cannot be achieved without the private sector working with government and academic institutions, he added.

Specifically, the Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa calls for investment into research and development, including intellectual property, and infrastructure to enhance the use of local waste resources for new products, substances and services that will create jobs, and enhance the production of environment-friendly chemicals.

"The objectives include growing the secondary resources economy by increasing local use and beneficiation of waste resources by 50% to 75% through the creation of an enabling regulatory environment, and the generation of opportunities from chemical and waste resources for the creation of jobs or opportunities in new or existing markets, specifically through enabling small, medium-sized and microenterprises," said Magomola.

Further, this plan aims to reduce waste to landfill by 75% of industrial waste and 50% of municipal waste through education and awareness, a compliant society and the application of cleaner production.

"An enabling regulatory environment includes strengthening local government collection and clean up, and requiring and enforcing the separation of waste streams, as well as investment in infrastructure, such as recycling and buy-back centres," he noted.

The NWMS aims for municipalities to introduce materials recovery facilities and pelletisation plants to increase plastic recycling rates, and for a minimum of 50% of households to separate waste at source by 2023.

Additionally, municipalities will need to introduce an electronic waste (e-waste) levy to increase collection rates, and simultaneously to unlock recycling of legacy government information and communications technology equipment.

Further, municipalities will need to produce building aggregates and construction inputs from rubble and glass.

"The waste sector is recognised by government as one that provides opportunities for value recovery, beneficiation, job creation and economic development."

Further, the aim is to integrate waste pickers into the formal recycling industry, including through support packages, and to leverage industry plans from producers, including the extended producer responsibility initiatives, that will be driven through investment, transformation and job creation targets, Magomola said.

The DFFE is also planning to update packaging guidelines and to formalise the packaging industry's extended producer responsibility schemes.

"Achieving the goals of the NWMS will require investment of R9.1-billion, with the Phakisa plan envisaging government investing R1.8-billion to develop material recovery facilities to provide feedstock for recycling plants and transfer station infrastructure for separation at source.

"This amount will also include paying for consulting and technical support to unlock legacy government e-waste, and to establish a pilot project for the treatment of meat residues," Magomola added.

The remaining R7.3-billion is expected to be invested by the private sector to develop logistics infrastructure for ash export and to buy brick-making equipment to produce bricks from ash.

Further, the private sector will also need to invest in meat residue processing infrastructure, such as anaerobic digesters, biorefining for protein and composting.

Additional private sector investments will be needed to establish e-waste recycling centres, buy transport vehicles to collect separated waste and to buy construction rubble and flat glass crushers, as well as block-pressing facilities. Final investments will involve consumer awareness, which will take place in addition to government's drive for municipalities to raise awareness among residents, he explains.

Meanwhile, Government Communication and Information System media engagement chief director William Baloyi said the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan included a significant green component that would help in creating new green jobs, industries and firms.

"Developing the green economy, green industries and green energy will help South Africa to address the persistent challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment, and the risks presented by climate change and vulnerabilities, as well as ensure the country and industries are sustainable and competitive in a green global economy."