Global Partnership on Waste Management

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South Africa

Submitted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) based on collective experience in the sector and on work undertaken for the Department of Science and Technology in the development of a Waste R&D and Innovation Roadmap for South Africa.
  • Summary of information
  • Municipal solid waste (MSW)
  • Waste plastics
  • Healthcare waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Industrial waste
  • Waste agricultural biomass (WAB)
  • Organic waste
  • E-waste
Summary of information
Highest priority waste streams
Government has as yet, not prioritized waste streams for action, although the Waste Act (Section 14) allows for the declaration of priority wastes
Government has requested the following industry sectors to develop industry waste management plans:
•    Tyre industry (REDISA plan has been approved)
•    Paper and packaging industry
•    Lighting industry
•    Pesticide industry
Highest priority areas of capacity building
1.Technical and scientific
2. Financial
3. Policy and regulatory
Narrative summary
The answers provided by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) emphasize the importance of research and development in the field of waste management. In South Africa, landfilling stills remains the most common and currently most financially affordable solution to growing waste issues. In order to alter this situation research has an important role to play in informing regulatory and business approaches and in contributing to the introduction of alternative technical solutions and higher financial viability. In terms of capacity building, training is needed in both the public and private waste sector to enhance knowledge on the selection and implementation of appropriate, alternative technology solutions as well as the design and application of financing schemes, such as public-private partnerships and full-cost accounting. The promotion of a comprehensive approach to waste management is considered as crucial and can be achieved, among others, through the adoption and implementation of municipal integrated waste management plans (IWMPs) and industry waste management plans (IndWMP). Even though South Africa has a comprehensive legislative framework, compliance and enforcement remains relatively weak in a range of areas. It is also emphasized that all efforts that are undertaken at the policy, technical and research, and financial levels have to be complemented by measures in awareness raising at the household and consumer levels and that they have to be adapted to local social and infrastructural conditions.

Municipal solid waste (MSW)
Over recent years South Africa has developed an extensive waste policy and regulatory framework that supports sound municipal waste management practices. While the establishment of further policies and regulations are therefore considered of lower priority, there now remains considerable scope for implementing and enforcing existing policies and regulations more effectively. Enhancing compliance with the existing legislation will require the development of capacities and operational adjustments at all levels. In particular, technical capacities that ensure the successful operation of sanitary engineered landfill sites (and associated equipment) as well as capacities in auditing and monitoring are required to support legislative measures. In South Africa, the majority of municipal solid waste is still landfilled. To change this, it is necessary to develop capacities to effectively select and implement appropriate, alternative technological solutions (e.g. energy recovery, thermal treatment, beneficiation, recycling). Building up these capacities, especially at the municipal level, will contribute to a more comprehensive approach to the management of municipal solid waste. To effectively design and operate such facilities, the process will have to be supported financially. A major obstacle in this regard remains the relatively low cost of landfilling in South Africa, rendering alternative technologies and practices financially unsustainable (e.g. recycling). In this regard, capacity building in full-cost accounting of waste management, particularly within municipalities, is required. A toolkit enabling capacity building in budgeting and full-cost accounting is being developed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), but has yet to be implemented. The efforts at the regulatory and technical level will have to be accompanied by increased post-consumer recycling in South Africa. Here, capacity building and awareness programs at the household level are needed to ensure at-source separation and collection of recyclable materials.

Waste plastics
The answers from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research refer to waste plastics and packaging waste in general. With a policy framework and appropriate institutions in place to support the recovery, recycling, and manufacturing from packaging waste, South Africa has the potential to sustain a recycling sector. However, to secure financial viability of the recycling sector it is necessary to implement appropriate financial mechanisms. For instance, putting in place full-cost accounting schemes for municipal waste will help correct price distortions in the sector. It is emphasized that advancements in the technological field are needed to ensure that processing and manufacturing of packaging waste can be undertaken locally and can thereby be a factor in spurring local economic development. Awareness raising at the household level is important to support the source separation and recovery of different types of post-consumer recyclables. Moreover, it is considered critical for a well-functioning recycling system for packaging waste to build capacities in the informal waste sector, e.g. waste pickers, who play an invaluable role in the local waste value chain.

Healthcare waste
There is an urgent need to build capacities in public administration and entities in the health sector to support the enforcement of healthcare waste legislation, through improved management, auditing and monitoring. In particular, there is a need to develop healthcare waste management capacities at the national and provincial levels with regards to environmental impact assessments and licensing for treatment technologies, whether thermal or non-thermal treatment solutions, prerequisites for improved enforcement at provincial and national government level. Moreover, education and awareness-raising, based on sound research, has an important role to play in choosing and implementing the most appropriate technologies for the treatment of healthcare waste. Developing supporting laboratory and testing capacity for the validation of e.g. non-thermal treatment technologies; building capacity on the latest available high temperature thermal treatment solutions, as well as educating people on the potential inadequacy of low-thermal solutions in the South African context, are all important components in improving the management of healthcare waste in the country. As the healthcare waste is mainly managed by the private sector, full-cost accounting mechanisms are mostly already implemented and financing is therefore not a major issue of concern.

Hazardous waste
In South Africa the management of hazardous waste is well integrated into the policy framework. With new policy instruments being developed and implemented , such as the development of industry waste management plans (IndWMP) and classification systems for hazardous waste, it is of particular importance to build relevant local capacity. The required institutional mechanisms and agencies to support this process are being put in place, but more can be done, for example the role of the National Cleaner Production Centre (SA-NCPC) in supporting the development of IndWMP. The highest priority, in terms of capacity building for hazardous waste management, lies in the technical and scientific understanding of alternative technology solutions. To the present day, landfilling remains the predominant means of hazardous waste disposal, pointing to the need to develop or implement alternative technology solutions that enhance performance in reduction, reuse and recycling of waste, moving up the waste hierarchy. The capacities needed are, above all, related to the identification of alternative technologies and the feasibility of implementing them at the local level (e.g. availability of engineering skills). Improving capacities and enhancing knowledge on economically viable bi-products of hazardous waste is also necessary to achieve comprehensive waste management. However, the development of these alternative waste management solutions is largely constrained by the lack of finances. Putting in place economic incentives and disincentives and building capacities to support the design and implementation of such economic instruments, is critical to address price distortions in the management of waste. Capacity development is needed to support the implementation of extended producer responsibility programs, undertake cost-benefit analyses of technology options, and establish small and medium-sized enterprises in new areas of hazardous waste management. Since hazardous waste is mostly handled by the private sector, the disposal and treatment of hazardous waste is already based on full-cost accounting. Increasing the knowledge on the safe disposal of household hazardous waste through awareness-raising at the household level is important.

Industrial waste
The management of industrial waste faces challenges in terms of capacity development in the areas of technology and finance. An increased effort to implement a favorable policy framework, through the design and implementation of industry waste management plans (IndWMPs), will need to be complemented and followed by initiatives that make alternative technologies more viable. In terms of institutional arrangements, capacities will have to be built to evaluate and implement industry waste management plans (IndWMPs) and to monitor the outcomes of such plans. With landfilling remaining the main solution to managing waste, including industrial waste, it is, according to CSIR, indispensable to allocate resources for the identification of appropriate, alternative technology solutions. These technologies will have to undergo an evaluation as to whether they are feasible in a given local context, for instance with regards to the availability of skilled labor. Raising finances to develop and implement such technologies is a further priority and could be tackled by a regulatory approach, through economic incentives and regulations, and increased involvement of the private sector, through schemes of extended producer responsibility or by supporting waste-business skills in small and medium-sized enterprises. In this regard, eco-labelling programmes and inventories on the exposure to pollutant releases through waste and air quality information systems can be effective tools in enhancing the social awareness of an industry’s eco-efficiency among consumers.

Waste agricultural biomass
Policies that define the separation and treatment of organic waste, including waste agricultural biomass (WAB), are currently under development. When it comes to the management of WAB the capacities needed lie, according to CSIR, in the areas of technology and finance. Above all, it is capacity building on technology solutions to deal with biomass, through among others, energy recovery and biorefinery. Cost-benefit analysis and life-cycle analysis skills within industry and business are required, in order to identify business opportunities for WAB. Moreover, creating the capacity to respond to existing funding calls, e.g. national green fund, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) green economy fund, multilateral development cooperation, and others, will be a considerable asset in attracting finance to the management of this waste stream. On the institutional level, building relations with the national energy supplier (Eskom) and promoting the uptake of energy created from WAB and other waste streams into the national grid will be beneficial to create a favorable investment environment that can be used by small and medium sized enterprises. In social terms, raising awareness on the use and advantage of green energies from WAB is an important element in making them more accepted and economically viable.

Organic waste
Policies and regulations that apply to organic waste are currently under development in South Africa. Gaining greater technological and scientific understanding with regards to organic waste is ranked as the highest priority. Developing know-how on alternative technology solutions, ranging from composting to anaerobic digestion through thermal treatment to biorefinery are critical elements in building up adequate capacities for the improved management of organic waste. It is not only technological capacity that is required. Developing business skills, involving the private sector through improved accessibility to schemes such as public-private partnerships, in particular at the municipal level, are equally necessary. To make businesses and industries aware of the opportunities associated with commercial and industrial organic waste recovery and valorization, campaigns and trainings will have to be conducted. This same awareness is also required at the household level and within commercial enterprises. Setting up the institutional infrastructure that deals with organic waste management is required to promote the establishment of SMMEs and public-private partnerships (PPPs) that can make use of organic waste. Complementing this effort with introducing pricing mechanisms that make alternative technologies viable compared to current landfilling options will be a further requirement for the improvement of South Africa’s waste management system.
E-waste is a waste stream of growing importance in South Africa. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop and implement an Industry Waste Management Plan (IndWMP) that supports the institutional, legal and financial mechanisms required for recovery and recycling of e-waste. However, the CSIR assigns the highest priority to finding technical solutions that deal with the complete e-waste streams and are not limited to metal recovery. In order to make resource recovery operational, institutional arrangements have been set up to support take-back programs. For instance, e-WASA, the e-Waste Association of South Africa, has been built up, but still more can be done at an institutional level to support recovery and recycling programs. Through economic incentives and by applying extended producer responsibility priority (EPRP), manufacturers and distributors can be encouraged to ensure that take-back schemes are in place. To make these programs viable they will have to be accompanied by sustained awareness raising initiatives informing consumers about safe disposal facilities for their e-waste.