The South African government has introduced the first-ever research chairs on waste management; two positions whose aim is to transform the waste industry and advance South Africa’s socio-economic development. The Department of Science and Technology launched the two positions in partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The two chairs, named the South African Research Chair in Waste and Climate and the South Africa Research Chair in Waste and Society, were announced in Pretoria recently. The two positions fall under the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI).
The Research Chair in Waste and Climate was appointed to professor Cristina Trois, Dean and Head of the School of Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The Research Chair in Waste and Society was awarded to professor Catherina Shenck from the Department of Social Work at the University of the Western Cape.
The attention on climate and society in the waste sector are two key elements of South Africa’s Waste Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) Roadmap. This roadmap was initiated by the government to facilitate decision-making, use of new technologies and to bolster the capacity of the waste management industry.
Waste management industry will develop
The South African waste sector will evolve steadily going forward as new waste management methods are devised. The two research chairs will put into practice solutions and processes from their findings that will benefit the industry in the near future.
“If mismanaged, waste directly impacts the health of communities, yet it also provides opportunities for improved livelihoods and reducing poverty, simply by changing the way we think about waste as a resource,” says Prof. Linda Godfrey, manager of the CSIR Waste RDI Roadmap Implementation Unit.
In order to progress, the industry needs to better understand waste and the behaviour of South African citizens. In addition, appropriate business models that support small and medium enterprises will facilitate the creation of jobs and improve the capacity of the industry.
The initiative will improve the competitiveness of South Africa’s international research. Innovation in the industry will also progress while addressing the current social and economic challenges faced by local industries.
Appointment of female research chairs a welcome step
The fact that two women have been appointed to the new research chair positions is a step in the right direction for the industry. “It is also opportune that these two new chairs are being launched in August, Women’s Month – a celebration of women who have been instrumental in rewriting South Africa’s story,” says Prof. Godfrey.
“And now we have the opportunity to do the same in the waste sector, with the new chairs having been awarded to two extremely capable and well-respected women in the sector,” she continues.
The two chairs will begin the process of researching the state of the waste sector; such as the impact of waste on the climate, the impact of climate change on the waste industry and the appropriate solutions for the South African context.
Prof. Trois will be responsible for initiating local research and development into the effects of climate change on the waste management industry and the impacts of waste generation and disposal on the local climate. She will also focus on education and the technological progression of the sector.
Prof. Shenck will focus on the perceptions and behaviour of local citizens towards waste. She will research the potential for job creation and new business models that aid smaller businesses in the industry. Her role will also allow the waste sector to have a more positive impact on society.
The two chairs have the ability to make tangible changes with respect to waste management and the community and environment. The positions are a positive development and a welcome initiative that will ensure South Africa’s waste management sector continues to improve going forward.
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