Overloaded landfills pose a challenge for the waste management industry to find innovative ways to implement environmentally sustainable ways of handling waste.
According to a 2021 report on South Africa’s waste and scrap recycling, South Africa generates 108 million tonnes of waste per year, 90% of which is disposed of in landfills that fill up quickly.
Riots and looting in July 2021 increased pressure on landfills in Kwa-Zulu Natal following an unprecedented amount of waste generated by the wave of riots that swept through that province and Gauteng. . There is a shortage of landfills across the country and land to build new ones is hard to find.
“At best, landfills have a life expectancy of up to 15 years. However, due to rapid urbanization and the lackluster recycling culture in South Africa, more and more waste ends up in landfills, reducing the lifespan of these facilities. This means that the acquisition of land for new landfills will increase, while existing landfills will be forced to incinerate larger volumes of waste, posing a threat to environmental sustainability, ”said Khanyiso Myataza, Director of Sales. for integrated solutions at Servest.
With this in mind, residents and businesses have a responsibility to dispose of their waste responsibly. Businesses can be subject to significant fines if they fail to comply.
Myataza says that if a company is found guilty of non-compliant waste management regimes, it will face exorbitant fines. As a result, organizations will need to put in place sustainable waste management systems which will need to be closely monitored and reported in the future.
According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, South Africa has more than 60,000 waste pickers who play an important role in the country’s waste management industry.
Their operations have been affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed by closures last year and earlier this year. Research found that people employed in the informal waste management industry were most affected.
“For starters, a lot of South African waste is exported to China. Recycling market rates have fallen dramatically due to Covid-19 regulations, which have resulted in product exports halting as well as travel bans, forcing companies to downsize, downsize, and in some cases, to close, ”he said.
“For low-income households, collecting garbage is the fastest way to earn a living. The number of waste pickers has increased in line with rising unemployment. This is a positive development, but due to export restrictions, the waste management and recycling industry has been severely affected and secondary waste collectors are unable to manage the volumes of waste collected by collectors primary, ”Myataza added.
Facility management companies play an important role in creating an enabling environment for effective waste management and in developing and promoting long-term waste management programs and initiatives.
“Facility management companies can effectively develop and implement ‘source separation’ and ‘zero waste to landfill’ on behalf of their customers, without incurring additional operational costs for them.” , explains Myataza.
Over the past 18 months, remote working has gained traction as lockdown restrictions necessitated minimizing physical contact. Remote working has had unintended consequences on waste management efforts.
“Remote work has contributed in some way to the neglect of waste management. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we, the consumers, were not familiar with effective waste management systems and we continue to underestimate the extent of the waste we produce. Our attitude towards effective waste management practices has led to the disposal of more waste in landfills, ”Myataza explains.
Another trend that has emerged has been a push towards reducing waste generation, which has been widely adopted by businesses, households and schools. The circular economy is also gaining popularity with manufacturers and consumers.
“The use of disposable PPE and the increased consumption of fast food outlets were the biggest contributors to waste during the pandemic, and as the majority of recycling businesses were closed, waste pickers were unable to exchange the waste. that they collected for money, ”Myataza explained.
While businesses, some more than others, produce the most waste compared to domestic households, they also bear the greatest responsibility for ensuring effective waste management practices. People can also play a vital role in ensuring responsible behavior and protecting the environment.
“Our waste management education systems need to be improved. Short-term campaigns to raise awareness of the current state of the environment are insufficient. Waste collection systems should also be improved and citizens should be encouraged to separate waste from source within their households. It is more efficient for waste collection trucks to collect waste that has already been sorted rather than waste that has not been separated, ”Myataza concluded.