The National Waste Management Strategy.

South Africa faces numerous waste management challenges including the growing volumes of waste generated due to economic and population growth and the complexity of waste streams generated. The lack of sufficient recycling infrastructure, reclamation systems and insufficient funding mechanisms further add to the complexity of this composite challenge. Central to these challenges; is a need for continued coordination and sharing of resources across the three spheres of government as well as industry and civil society to make momentous changes in the waste management sector.

South Africa is also experiencing severe constraints in terms of the availability of landfill space, as well as challenges in operating and decommissioning landfills in a manner that is compliant with licensing conditions. Furthermore, once disposed of to landfill, waste is no longer economically productive, and, in the absence of landfill gas capture, landfills generate methane which is a potent Greenhouse Gas.

According to the 2018 State of Waste Report, in 2017 South Africa generated 55 million tonnes of general waste, with only 11% being diverted from landfill. In the absence of aggressive strategies to avoid waste generation, the total volumes of waste generated will increase in future, which will in turn require greater effort in waste diversion, simply to maintain the current rate at which landfill airspace is depleted. This is already recognised as being unsustainable. For these reasons, diverting waste from landfill is a key imperative for the country’s National Waste Management Strategy. South Africa’s strategy for diversion of waste from landfill is based on building a secondary resources economy around the beneficiation of waste as part of the circular economy. This is through among others, the recycling of paper, glass, plastics, metals, tyres, power generation waste, waste oils, pesticides, batteries, lighting equipment, and recovery of construction and demolition waste to substitute recycled content for virgin materials.

Waste minimisation is accomplished by waste pickers who perform the crucial first step in extracting recyclable and reusable materials from the waste stream and initiating their revalorisation. Part of the value chain, is the private sector on the basis of opportunities to generate revenue by reusing and recycling waste or to reduce production costs by avoiding waste or substituting recycled and recovered materials for virgin materials where recovered materials are less expensive.

The National Waste Management Strategy 2021 (download pdf) which was approved by Cabinet last year, sets the priority areas which includes driving the recycling economy, implementing a varied regulatory system, creating jobs and SMMEs, promoting public awareness and supporting waste service delivery amongst others.

As we grow our ocean economy, we also have to be cognisant of the impact of increasing human activity on the health of our oceans. It is essential that we manage our footprint and impact and put in place measures to protect our ocean and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity within the context of sustainable development. It is for this reason that South Africa’s Oceans Economy programme includes a specific priority and focus on marine protection and ocean governance.

Our oceans are globally recognised as unique and a hotspot of marine biodiversity. The Atlantic, Southern and Indian Ocean’s fishing grounds are among the healthiest worldwide, and coastal tourism is, and has the potential to be a significant income earner for many African coastal nations. Marine litter, including plastic litter, has become a matter of increasing global and national concern as a source of marine pollution. Globally, plastic production has reached new highs, with over 320 million tons now being produced annually. It has been estimated that between 4 to 12 million tons of plastic are added to the oceans each year. It is estimated that between 15 000 and 40 000 tonnes of plastic waste per year enters the oceans in South Africa

A 2015 study published in Science, by Dr Jambeck, revealed that the top 20 countries, of which South Africa is ranked 11th, account for 83% of the mismanaged plastic waste on land, available to enter the ocean. Reducing the amount of mismanaged waste by 50% in these top 20 countries would result in a nearly 40% decline in inputs of plastic to the ocean. It has been documented, and is known worldwide, that rivers and other waterways such as stormwater canals are common ways in which litter is transported to the coastal environment.

There is sufficient evidence that a large percentage of pollution in the ocean originates from sources on land. In response to this growing concern of litter washing up on South African beaches from inland sources via river systems, the department has developed a “Source-to-Sea” initiative focusing on managing litter sources, mainly from upstream catchments where the litter gets transported to the ocean and coastal areas by rivers and tributaries that discharge into the ocean.

The Source-to-Sea programme involves multiple government departments, at national, provincial and local level, as well as the private sector and other stakeholders, working in priority catchment areas, and providing job opportunities through the Working for the Coast programme.

The main objective of the programme is to reduce the prevalence of marine litter by up-scaling efforts to capture and recover litter in these river systems. The project also aims to monitor and characterise the litter recovered and to conduct schools and community awareness initiatives. Marine litter primarily comes from towns and cities located along rivers and waterways, which become pathways for litter into the marine environment.

As part of the Presidency’s Employment Stimulus Initiative the Department is expanding the Source -to- Sea Programme into 16 coastal districts with the target of creating approximately 1 600 job opportunities.

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