Although South Africa is leading the waste management sector in Southern Africa, when considering the life cycle of waste management, South Africa still lags about 20-30 years behind European and other developed countries. This is according to Professor Suzan Oelofse, spokesperson and central branch chairperson of the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA), of which Averda is a member.
Giving an overview of the evolution of waste management in South Africa since 1990, Oelofse says that the minimum requirements series of documents developed by the South African government at the dawn of waste regulation 29 years ago had its focus on protecting scarce groundwater resources. She adds that it was based on the precautionary principle.
Disposal by landfill still dominant choice for waste management in South Africa
Developed for South Africa, the graded landfill requirement system was subsequently adopted by other Southern African countries, including Namibia and Botswana. The waste management hierarchy was first legislated in South Africa with the inclusion of clause 4(a) (iv). This clause states that waste is avoided, or where it cannot be altogether avoided, minimised and reused or recycled where possible and otherwise disposed of in a responsible manner in the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998.
As is evident from the latest South Africa State of Waste Report that was released in 2018, Professor Oelofse says that, despite the 1990 change in paradigm, waste disposal by means of landfill is still the dominant technology choice for hazardous and general waste management in South Africa.
Only 34.5% of general waste recycled or recovered in 2017
In 2017, South Africa generated an estimated 55.6 million tonnes of general waste and 52 million tonnes of hazardous waste. Of this number, only 34.5% of general waste and 6.6% of hazardous waste was recycled or recovered. The remaining 92.7% of hazardous waste and 65.2% of general waste was disposed of in landfill sites.
In 2017, municipal solid waste (MSW) contributed 23.1 million tonnes of general waste. This comes to 1.12 kg per day per capita on average. Municipal waste collection services are the responsibility of local government. National statistics show that, in 2017, 65.9% of households had access to waste collection services at least once weekly. The remaining 34.1% (5.5 million) households had to make use of their own or communal rubbish dumps – or they had no facilities for waste disposal at all.
During 2017, this amounted to about 7.8 million tonnes of municipal solid waste not disposed of on sanitary landfill sites.
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