The Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi officially opened the Waste Management Officers’ Khoro in East London, Eastern Cape today.
The Waste Management Officers’ Khoro is an annual conference for all government institutions dealing with waste. Since the Second Waste Management Officers Khoro last year, a lot of progress has been made in terms of waste management. One such milestone is the cabinet approval for implementation of the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) last year. The Deputy Minister officially launched the NWMS that is inclusive of all three spheres of government, at the Khoro.
Speaking at the Khoro, the Deputy Minister described the National Waste Management Strategy as a milestone in South Africa’s waste management approach as it is the first single document outlining how government, industry, businesses and households as a collective will deal with waste in order to increase the efficiency and delivery of waste services.
Tasked with achieving the objectives of the Waste Act, 2008, the National Waste Management Strategy has already paved the way for great strides in dealing with waste in South Africa. The National Waste Management Strategy proposes a means of waste management for industry and commerce by providing a policy framework to deal with a specific waste stream.
The Deputy Minister said, “This gathering presents us with an opportunity to; on an annual basis; take stock of where the country is currently and map the way forward into the future on issues of waste. As we may know, the waste sector is a dynamic sector, influenced by population variations, economic development and technology. As society progresses, we face the challenges of new and complex waste streams which must be managed in a sustainable manner. In other words; the systems and technologies which were used in the early 80s may not necessarily be applicable or relevant for managing waste in 2012”.
She explained that this brings along challenges in certain waste stream including waste tyres which we are facing in this country. It is estimated that about 11 million tyres are sold per year, which will essentially become 275 000 tons of waste. The waste tyres present a challenge when taken to waste disposal sites because they do not that do not biodegrade. It is for this reason that the Minister recently approved the Integrated Waste Tyre Management Plan submitted by the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA).
“The plan seeks to deal with waste tyre problems whilst incorporating job creation and SMME development- both of which are government’s top priorities.The implementation of the Plan has already started, and we all have to engage with it and see what our role is, particularly for local government. The Department of Environmental Affairs will put systems in place to monitor its implementation and report on progress from time to time,” said the Deputy Minister.
The annual Waste Management Officers Khoro plays a big role in bridging the gap in waste management skills. Since its inception in 2010, the Khoro has provided a space for waste management officers to share their experiences and establish best practices in managing waste in their respective municipalities.
“Funding of waste services is one of the areas that we need to put more energy in along with a need to maximise on efficient budgeting and utilisation of available resources sparingly. It is often a cry of local government that there are no funds to carry out waste delivery functions, often referred to as ‘unfunded mandates’.
We are working closely with National Treasury to ensure that funds for waste management are allocated and that they are sufficient, however; local government has to put systems in place for efficient budgeting and be able to achieve more with less,” said the Deputy Minister.
In June this year, a delegation for the department participated in the Rio +20 conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil where the United Nations identified seven (7) key issues which needed critical attention- two of which are related to waste management. One being job creation and the other being energy. As such, this year’s Khoro places much needed emphasis on creating jobs in waste management whilst striving for the efficient delivery of waste services.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Creating jobs and increasing efficiencies in the delivery of waste services”. A global transition to a low carbon and sustainable economy can create large numbers of green jobs across various sectors. Waste management is one of the key sectors to drive the green economy.
The Deputy Minister added that we should continue to make efforts to support the implementation of the waste management hierarchy approach as embedded in the National Environmental Management Waste Act, 2008, through development of tools such as guidelines, regulations and standards to ensure that we divert waste away from landfills. There is a need to work closely with other government departments such as the Department of Trade and Industry, Science and Technology and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as well as the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to ensure that there is coordination in building the recycling economy and ensuring that there are markets for recyclable waste.
It is important to continue to engage the private sector and create partnerships to deal with recycling. According to the packaging sector; in 2008 South Africans consumed over 3 629 million tons of packaging (metal, paper, glass and plastic) and this includes paper which is found in the waste stream examples of this includes newspapers, magazines and mail. In that year about 1 595 million tons of pre and post-consumer waste was collected for recycling, a rate of 43.9%.
Although not all packaging and paper can be recycled, this area remains key for opportunities of recycling where municipalities can participate. There is a need to have better systems of collection which incorporate separation at sources, in order to get clean material, and better quality jobs than the current practice of waste picking on landfill sites.
The issue of diverting waste from going to landfill is one of the three key priority areas outlined in Outcome 10 of the government service delivery agreement, upon which we are supposed to deliver as a sector. This is coupled with regularisation or licensing of unpermitted sites and provision of waste services to the unserviced communities (dealing with service delivery backlogs).
The Deputy Minister went on to urge all three spheres to engage and ensure that we deliver on the targets set in this agreement and monitor progress. The department has set aside some funds to assist municipalities to license their sites working with our provincial counterparts.
This project targets a few municipalities in each province but does not stop municipalities who have capacity and the means to apply for licenses. Where applicable, some of the sites may be licensed for closure and rehabilitation.
Enforcement remains a big challenge in the country, even though we have good legislation in place and this is exacerbated; in part, by lack of enforcement capacity. In this 2012/13 financial year, the department continues to support the development of Environmental Management Inspectorate capacity at the local authority level.
She concluded that in order to ensure the successful implementation of the National Waste Management Strategy, it is imperative that we work closely with other government departments such Department of Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the South African Local Government Association.