Shortcuts in waste management are costing SA

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South Africa is making leaps and bounds towards a greener future - some local companies are even pledging to totally ban plastic products. However, when it comes to recycling and responsible waste management, the country needs to make large improvements still. Most of our waste ends up in landfills, rather than being reused.The education around, and promotion of responsible disposal of plastic and recyclable waste should remain a top priority for waste management providers. Under-pricing in the industry actually inhibits the development of greener solutions to waste management. Many businesses looking to score waste disposal contracts will often reduce their prices, but won’t follow the correct procedures and legislative requirements as set out by the government. This means that shortcuts are taken at the expense of being environmentally responsible.“Reputable waste management companies often guide their clients on how to reduce waste. At Averda, we develop strategies with our clients that enable them to divert significant portions of their waste away from landfills. This includes a rebate system to incentivise recycling. However, when disposal is necessary, reputable providers can be trusted to ensure that this is managed responsibly,” says Reg Gerber, national landfill manager at Averda South Africa.

Unlicenced waste management poses risks

Mismanagement at local landfill sites presents numerous risks and hazard to the environment and human health, from air pollution to toxic groundwater contamination. When unlicensed or non-compliant waste management providers are hired for a contract, they often dump the waste in landfills, rather than disposing of it in the safest and most eco-friendly way.Chemicals and other hazardous materials need to be contained and managed properly. By not doing so, landfills are at risk of breaking into uncontrollable fires or polluting rainwater during the wet season - that contaminated water then makes its way into the water table or oceans.Averda’s landfill sites are constructed with containment barriers in accordance with the legislative guidelines. These barriers trap chemicals and pollutants and prevent them from contaminating groundwater. Waste at these sites is treated and sorted correctly, minimising environmental risks and the impact on the surrounding area.

Responsible waste management

“Averda has a number of landfill sites that are designed and managed to deal with specific waste streams. Our site in Vlakfontein, for example, is a Highly Hazardous Class 1 Landfill site, which is South Africa’s only landfill to be constructed to the standards prescribed by the new Waste Classification and Management Regulations for Class A containment barriers,” says Gerber.Once a landfill facility closes, Averda continues to monitor it for 30 years. “We develop a closure plan prior to the development of our landfill sites. This is essential to ensure we have the resources required to monitor and maintain our facilities on an on-going basis following their closure,” explains Gerber.South African businesses and consumers should be strict when it comes to their waste - not only by reducing the quantity of waste but by ensuring that it is properly disposed of. Something as simple as putting the correct waste items in the right recycling bins is a great way to help waste management providers. Similarly, businesses must scrutinise their waste collectors and ensure that they are reputable and certified.