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During a recent webinar, sector development agency GreenCape launched its annual Market Intelligence Reports. During the discussion, circular economy programme manager Saliem Haider pointed out that these reports focus on waste beneficiation as a driver of investment.

While the lockdown caused by COVID-19 is having an effect on the South African waste sector, Haider said the local recycling market was already going through a massive dip and not faring well for two reasons.

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The Chinese ban on importing recycling material affected the paper and cardboard recycling sector in South Africa, and to a certain extent the metal and electronics recycling sectors as well.

The other reason was the drop in the oil price having an impact on the plastics sector: “The demand for replacing virgin material was then lowered,” explained Haider.

“COVID-19 and the lockdown was not the cause, it just exacerbated the difficulty the sector was facing. Some of the companies that were teetering on the brink could have been pushed over the edge. Whereas the downturn in the market affected a lot of the waste handlers, COVID-19 impacted the recyclers as well,” said Haider.

Still, he feels the lockdown would merely delay the investment opportunities which could come to fruition in the waste sector, and therefore the circular economy, over the next few years.

National waste management strategy

“COVID-19 highlighted the sensitivity of the market in terms of recycling in its own right. While landfills are filling up, bans are coming and the government is taking this seriously so I think the opportunity to invest and start doing things different is there and that favours investment in this sphere,” said Haider.

He pointed out that the South African government’s national waste management strategy will compel major metros to include and integrate the informal sector into the waste management space by 2021, and all secondary cities to do so by 2023.

On the policy side in the Western Cape, the Department of Environmental Affairs has announced an organics ban: “Fifty percent diversion from landfills by 2022 and 100% by 2027. That lends itself to the opportunity for investment into anaerobic digestion, composting etc.

“The fact of the matter is when it comes to 2027, no banana peel [in the Western Cape] may end up in your black bag anymore so we have to have mechanisms in place to deal with it. Again, it will change the way each and every person views waste and will start valuing waste,” said Haider.

Listen to the full recording.

Sector development agency GreenCape specialises in understanding and unlocking opportunities in the green economy. Their annual Market Intelligence Reports (MIR) reveal a range of opportunities currently emerging in the South African Greentech sector.