South Africa's waste management future needs innovation

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Although South Africa’s waste management industry is continuously developing and is one of the most efficient in Africa, there is still a surplus of waste. Annually, South Africa generates over 42 million cubic metres of waste and most of it ends up in landfills. This equates to about R17 billion worth of waste that is dumped each year.Our waste management providers are stretched and too many valuable resources are being lost in landfill sites without any attempt to recover the value. South Africa’s recycling industry is growing rapidly, but more needs to be done.The focus should shift from landfills to recycling streams and other avenues of revenue generation from waste. Added to this, legislation and regulations need to be adhered to by all waste management providers. To change our waste habits, South Africa needs active involvement from the government, corporates and individuals.

Moving away from landfills

As is stands, only 10% of South Africa’s waste is actually recycled. The plastics industry has made big steps towards recycling their products. In 2018, the waste management industry needs to shift their focus from taking the waste to landfills, and instead, dropping it at recycling facilities that can deal with the valuable waste in a more efficient manner.South Africa also needs to find new ways to reuse materials, whether through recycling or repurposing, to benefit the community and industries. This innovative thinking is what will lead our waste management sector into the future.However, corporate South Africa can’t be entirely responsible for more environmentally-friendly waste management. Individuals and households can play a role by investing more time into actively recycling their waste. This will reduce waste at landfills and help the waste management providers in the sorting stage before the waste is taken to recycling facilities.Consumers have a critical role to play in being more environmentally and socially responsible, as well as helping the waste industry to find alternative solutions to our waste management.

Other uses for waste and revenue generation

South Africa is aiming for 20% waste division by 2019, meaning that a fifth of our waste will be sorted at recycling facilities and repurposed. This is a more sustainable method of waste management as it will generate more revenue for the economy.There are a few ways in which we can repurpose our waste:
    1. Repurposing high energy waste - The Department of Environmental Affairs enacted a new set of waste management regulations in 2017. These laws prohibit hazardous waste with a high energy value from being dumped at landfill sites. This has forced businesses that produce this type of waste to find new ways of repurposing it for alternative uses, which has also strengthened their compliance practices. Such solutions include producing waste-derived fuel (WDF) that can be used as alternatives to fossil fuels and coal.
    2. Waste to energy - It has been said that by 2050, South Africa’s energy needs will have doubled. This means that alternative sources of energy production need to be developed soon. Nuclear energy is highly expensive, not to mention the radioactive waste that is produced. One viable option is to burn the waste and turn it into electrical energy, much like the Scandinavians are successfully doing at the moment. 500 tonnes of waste can be converted into 12.6 megawatts of energy, and will also reduce the volume of waste that ends up in landfills.
    3. Laws and adhering to global standards - South Africa is leading the pack in terms of waste management legislation. One key change that has come into effect is the National Pricing Strategy for Waste Management which hopes to standardise and create a framework for waste management fees. Waste management providers that offer cost-effective and non-landfill disposal options will be favoured for their innovation and alternative revenue generation strategies.
The local waste sector is growing rapidly and is meeting many global standards, but the slow growth of the South African economy is hindering the progress. That is why innovative solutions that are cost-effective are needed. Understanding the main challenges and tackling them with viable long-term solutions will take South Africa’s waste industry into a profitable future.___Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment. ___By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries. ___Follow us Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the best tips on recycling and the latest industry news. See our Instagram and YouTube channels for more insights into environmental affairs and our work with local communities.