South Africa’s national waste management policy has been aligned with the concept of circular economy.
Addressing a webinar about circular economy in celebration of South Africa’s Recycling Week, the minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, Barbara Creecy, also pointed out the green economy is one of the four sectors prioritised by the national government to assist with the country’s economic recovery.
“South Africa has realised that green industries can open up new possibilities for development and assist in creating much needed jobs. The waste management sector has strong potential to innovate and improve socio-economic conditions, and contribute to sustainable development and resource use,” Creecy said.
Last week, the South African cabinet approved the National Waste Management Strategy 2020, which is meant to promote waste hierarchy and circular economy principles while achieving both socio-economic benefits and reducing negative environmental impacts.
“Key to this are the three Pillars of the National Waste Management Strategy, which are promoting waste minimisation; efficient and effective waste services and awareness raising; and compliance monitoring and enforcement,” Creecy explained.
Taking responsibility for the products you create
The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries this year embarked on an extensive consultation process to kickstart the Extended Producers Responsibility for paper and packaging; electrical and electronic equipment; and lighting.
This gives effect to Section 18 of the National Environmental Management Waste Act of 2008 and also charts a new approach to the management of waste in the country.
Creecy: “This will make a significant contribution to the diversion of waste from landfilling, thereby increasing the recycling rate to achieve the objectives of the National Waste Management Strategy. This programme will ensure that waste pickers are fully integrated in the recycling value chain.”
Part of the new rules also ensure product design changes that embrace circularity for the manufacturing of plastic carrier bags.
Closing the loop on plastic
Creecy said the Department had received extensive comments on the amendments of the plastic carrier regulations. “Despite the setbacks faced in the Section 28 process for waste tyres, in November 2019, I commissioned the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – in term of section 29 of the Waste Act – to develop an industry waste management plan for the waste tyre sector. This process has not been without its difficulties but following recent interactions, we hope to issue a version which is fully compliant with the regulatory environment later this year.”
Other initiatives the Department hope will promote the circular economy include the exclusion regulations which recognise material that can be used for beneficiation purposes without needing a waste licence.
Creecy added: “I have approved 48 applications for the beneficial use of several waste material, thus unblocking obstacles and promoting the full implementation of the waste management hierarchy.”
She said the Department will continue the implementation of programmes such as the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme and Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa initiatives that contribute to job creation while diverting waste away from landfills.
“We are also taking time to rethink and reimagine how these programmes can further enhance the demand for waste materials in order to close the loop,” said Creecy.