National Waste Management Strategy



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 The National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) is a legislative requirement of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act No. 59 of 2008), the “Waste Act”. The purpose of the NWMS is to achieve the objects of the Waste Act. Organs of state and affected persons are obliged to give effect to the NWMS.

Waste management in South Africa faces numerous challenges and the NWMS provides a plan to address them. The main challenges are:

  • A growing population and economy, which means increased volumes of waste generated. This puts pressure on waste management facilities, which are already in short supply.
  • Increased complexity of waste streams because of urbanisation and industrialisation. The complexity of the waste stream directly affects the complexity of its management, which is compounded by the mixing of hazardous wastes with general waste.
  • A historical backlog of waste services for, especially, urban informal areas, tribal areas and rural formal areas. Although 61%1 of all South African households had access to kerbside domestic waste collection services in 2007, this access remains highly skewed in favour of more affluent and urban communities. Inadequate waste services lead to unpleasant living conditions and a contaminated, unhealthy environment.
  • Limited understanding of the main waste flows and national waste balance because the submission of waste data is not obligatory and where available is often unreliable and contradictory.
  • A policy and regulatory environment that does not actively promote the waste management hierarchy. This has limited the economic potential of the waste management sector, which has an estimated turnover of approximately R10 billion per annum2. Both waste collection and the recycling industry make meaningful contributions to job creation and GDP, and they can expand further.
  • Absence of a recycling infrastructure which will enable separation of waste at source and diversion of waste streams to material recovery and buy back facilities.
  • Growing pressure on outdated waste management infrastructure, with declining levels of capital investment and maintenance.
  • Waste management suffers from a pervasive under-pricing, which means that the costs of waste management are not fully appreciated by consumers and industry, and waste disposal is preferred over other options.
  • Few waste treatment options are available and so they are more expensive than landfill costs.
  • Too few adequate, compliant landfills and hazardous waste management facilities, which hinders the safe disposal of all waste streams. Although estimates put the number of waste handling facilities at more than 20003, a significant number of these are unpermitted.

The objects of the Waste Act are structured around the steps in the waste management hierarchy, which is the overall approach that informs waste management in South Africa. The waste management hierarchy consists of options for waste management during the lifecycle of waste, arranged in descending order of priority: waste avoidance and reduction, re-use and recycling, recovery, and treatment and disposal as the last resort.

The NWMS is structured around a framework of eight goals, which are to:

  • promote waste minimisation, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste
  • ensure the effective and efficient delivery of waste services
  • grow the contribution of the waste sector to the green economy
  • ensure that people are aware of the impact of waste on their health, well-being and the environment
  • achieve integrated waste management planning
  • ensure sound budgeting and financial management for waste services
  • provide measures to remediate contaminated land
  • establish effective compliance with and enforcement of the Waste Act.
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