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Working on Waste

Introduction and Background

Waste management is a concurrent function amongst all spheres of government and the depart­ment of environmental affairs as the custodian for environmental management is mandated to en­suring a safe and healthy environment that is not harmful to the well-being of the citizens of the country. In recognition of this Constitutional obligation, the department promulgated the national en­vironmental management: Waste Act 59 0f 2008 (Waste Act) and in 2010 developed the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS). The Waste Act proactively assists government to adhere to the Constitutional assignment of legislative & executive powers between the three spheres of government and the NWMS assists to achieve the goals and objectives of the waste act. Waste management has been at the centre of a debate in most environmental policy discussions dating back to the Polokwane Declaration in 2002 where the following resolutions were taken:

  • Decrease in waste generation by 50% by 2012
  • Decrease in waste disposal by 25% by 2012
  • Plan for zero waste by 2022


All of the above have posed increased pressure on government to take immediate action to ensure that the targets are met. The introduction of an internationally best known practise in waste manage­ment, the Waste hierarchy (figure 1 below) is one of the best mechanisms in that came into effect with the promulgation of the waste act. The waste act promotes the exercising of the duty of care and the implementation of the waste hierarchy while protecting the environment.

Figure 1: Waste Hierarchy- National Waste Management Strategy 2010

  The outcome 10 of the service delivery agreement for the national government also makes provisions for the department of environmental affairs to deliver on specific targets related to waste manage­ment.

Output 3: sustainable environmental management Definition


Less & better managed waste


Indicator Targets
% of households with basic waste collection Increase from 64% to 75% by 2014
% of landfill sites with permits Increased to 80% by 2015
% of municipal waste that gets diverted from landfill sites for recycling 25% by 2012


Working on Waste is one of the initiatives by the Department of Environmental Affairs implemented under the auspices of the Expanded Public Works Programme  (EPWP). The initiative is a proactive preventative measure that recog­nises that inadequate waste services may lead to litter which is not only visual pollution but may lead to health hazards and environmental degradation. Ineffective waste management practices can affect the well-being of the affected communities and this can be further exacerbated by the increased use of illegal dumping and littering. The programme seeks to ensure that both social and ecological sustain­ability is achieved through implementation of sustainable waste management practices.


  • Create and support mechanisms for the protection of environmental quality
  • Create sustainable livelihoods through recycling of waste (waste collection & minimization)
  • Support the use of environmentally friendly waste disposal technology
  • Promote environmental education and awareness to the communities especially as they are the main waste generators

Legislative framework

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa under Chapter 2 the Bill of Rights stipulates that; everyone has the constitutional right to have an environment that is not harmful to his or her health and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that —

a) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;

b) promote conservation: and

c) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development;

Waste in South Africa is currently governed by means of a number of pieces of legislation, including but not limited to:

  • The South African Constitution (Act 108 Of 1996)
  • Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 of 1989)
  • The National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998)
  • Air Quality Act (Act 39 of 2004)
  • National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act 59 of 2008
  • National Waste Management Strategy



1. Development of landfill sites

This category covers both the rehabilitation of existing landfill sites and the development of new landfill sites for general waste. Depending on the volume of landfill airspace remaining, the rehabilitation may­be for closure or for ensuring compliance to permit conditions for continuous operation and extension of lifespan for the landfill site. This form of intervention seeks to contribute to the reduction of unpermit­ted landfill sites. It should be noted that even if the landfill site is to be closed, it needs to be permitted before it is closed. The construction of the landfill sites is done according to the minimum requirements for waste disposal at landfills as published by the former Department of Water Affairs & Forestry (DWAF) which makes provision for the use of latest applications for landfill technology. The minimum require­ments further regulate the quantification of general waste, enforcing weighbridges at landfill sites de­pending on the classification of the landfill site. In cases where weighbridges are not available (e.g. communal waste disposal sites) alternative methods must be used to give general estimates of waste volumes.

The landfill classification system is applied in differentiating the type of landfill according to:

  • The type of waste,
  • The size of the waste stream and operation,
  • The potential for significant leachate generation,
  • The need for leachate management


Depending on the deliverables of the project, landfill site projects are generally regarded as highly technical as they require a lot of specialist studies and infrastructure development. The support that is provided by the program to municipalities includes providing funding for the specialist studies that may be required. The project deliverables cover the construction of the landfill site with relevant infrastruc­ture as well as activities permitting of the site and may include but not limited to the following:

  • Geotechnical studies, engineering surveys architectural & designs,
  • Environmental impact assessments as part of the waste licence application,
  • Construction of landfill cells,
  • Leachate control system
  • Installation of weighbridge,
  • Construction of sorting bays & storage facilities
  • Access road, perimeter fencing and creation buffer zone
  • Construction of administration with ablutions
  • Construction of a guard house


2. Construction of waste transfer stations

The waste transfer station is a temporary facility meant for keeping waste before it gets transferred to the disposal or processing facility. The facility receives waste from collection vehicles and waste is dumped into static compactors, then re-compacted into compaction containers or floor trailers. By nature, it is a small facility and the construction of the facility also involves labour intensive methods but does not have major infrastructure. The following table outlines the different transfer station options:

Type Definition
Small static compactors

Handling 5-30 tons of waste per day, compacting into 11m3 compaction contain­ers removed by skip loaders

Medium to large static compactors

Handling 30-300 tons of waste per day compacting into 30m3 compaction con­tainers removed by roll on vehicle

Macro static compactors

Handling 300-1500 tons of waste per day, compacting into 70m3 to 100m3 walking floor trailers or compaction containers removed by a roll on vehicle

The project deliverables of the facility may include the following:

  • Construction of the storage facility
  • Installation of static compactors & compaction containers
  • Office block with ablutions
  • Access road and perimeter fencing


The support that will be provided by the program only includes providing funding for setting up of the facility as well as licensing of the facility and does not include procurement of trucks that will be used to transfer waste from the transfer stations.

3. Construction of buy-back/recycling centres

Recycling plays an increasingly important role in an integrated waste management system. The vol­ume of waste collection may be reduced if recycling of recyclables such as card boxes, plastics, paper and other recyclables can be promoted at source. Similarly, the same benefit can be derived if garden refuse can be collected separately from domestic waste and disposed in a designated composting facility. The department works together with the municipalities to promote reduction, recycling and re-use of waste. This category of projects contributes to the reduction of waste that goes to the landfill and therefore extending the lifespan of the landfill. The most important aspect is that it provides an opportunity to create SMME’s for waste recycling and can create a myriad of job opportunities in the value chain. The municipalities identify a group of community members that are established into a co-operative who will become the operators and a legal owning agent on completion of the project. The deliverables in this category include:

  • Construction of the steel structure
  • Establishment of sorting bays
  • Installation of bailing machines
  • Water and electricity reticulation
  • Entrance gate, guardhouse
  • Fencing
  • Office block and ablution facilities


4. Construction Material Recovery Facilities

A Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is a facility where solid waste is delivered to be separated, pro­cessed and stored for later use as raw materials for remanufacturing and re-processing. It is sorted fur­ther, bulked up into load sizes suitable for transport, made ready for collection and transportation, sold, stored, and shipped to the buyers including some of the original manufacturers. The MRF is made up of a series of conveyor belts and a mix of manual and automatic procedures to separate the materi­als and remove the items that are not needed. This is a high tech facility operating on a high volume capacity and it provides services at a regional scale.

The deliverables in this category include:

  • The construction of the super structure
  • Installation of the conveyor belts
  • Provision Bins
  • Installation of Scales
  • Glass crushers
  • Supply of Fork Lifts
  • Supply and installation of bailing machines
  • Installation of an overhead crane


Figure 2: Waste Management Process

5.  Composting facility

This category of project focuses on recycling of organic waste where the organic component of solid waste is decomposed under controlled conditions.

The organic waste can range from fruits, vegetables, alien vegetation and any other bio-degradable materials which once processed into compost is packaged and sold in bulk.

The deliverables include:

  • The storage shed for general equipment
  • The storage shed dry compost
  • Installation for automated turners and chippers
  • Installation of scales and packaging machines
  • Installation of electronic monitoring equipment (Temperature and Humidity )
  • The installation of weigh pads


6. Street cleaning & beautification

This category aims to address issues related to improving the aesthetics of the Central Business District (CBD) areas in towns and public areas. These projects are categorized as softer projects with less infra­structure development and therefore yield a substantive number of beneficiaries being employed.

The project deliverables in this category includes but may not be limited to the following:

  • Street cleaning by litter picking and sweeping
  • Beautification by general landscaping and street-scaping
  • Installation and provision of bins at strategic areas
  • Construction of gateways at the main entrance and exit points of towns
  • Conversion of public dumping sites into mini-recreational parks
  • Education and awareness for the public


7. Domestic waste collection

This category seeks to extend waste collection services to under-serviced communities using an SMME based labour intensive model. The implementation model makes use of the services of local SMMEs that are contracted for waste collection. The category aims to address the municipal backlogs with regards to household refuse collection as well as to develop capacity in municipalities in waste man­agement.

The project deliverables in this category include:

  • Refuse collection in households that are not serviced by the municipality
  • Disposal of waste collected to acceptable landfill sites
  • Litter picking in formal and informal areas
  • Providing support to municipalities in developing Waste Management planning tools
  • Capacity building of municipal officials in waste management
  • Monitoring and evaluation of service delivery to ensure compliance with the National framework


8. Greenest Municipalities’ Competition (GMC)

This category of projects mainly emanates from the annual calendar event that has been running since 2001 formerly known as the Cleanest Town Competition and now the GMC. The competition facilitates the participation of municipalities, provincial counterparts, communities and other relevant stakeholders in waste management within their respective areas. A special award ceremony is hosted by the Deputy Minister each year and awards are given in two categories i.e. Metropolitan and Local Municipality category. The funds for the redemption of the awards are sourced from EPIP in a form of waste management and greening related EPWP project equivalent to the prize money. This is of great strategic importance as it encourages municipalities to initiate projects that address issues within their Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) and links with the EPIP mandate of creating temporary jobs and skills development. The type of projects that are implemented in the category are conceptualised by municipalities and should cover the aspects of waste management, greening and management of open spaces.

9. Integrated waste management plans (IWMP)

A municipal IWMP is a strategic planning tool that serves as a first step towards informed planning and ac­countability for waste management within the municipalities. The Department of Environmental Affairs published a National Framework Guideline for the Development of Integrated Waste Management Planning in January 2009 to provide guidance to municipalities and provinces in the development of IWMPs. Through municipal IWMPs, municipalities are able to develop concrete plan for extending waste services and implementing the waste hierarchy. The municipal IWMPs must be aligned to the IDP as required by the Municipal Systems Act (MSA). In terms of Section 25 of the MSA Act, each municipal council must, within a prescribed period after the start of its elected term, adopt a single, inclusive and strategic plan for the development of the municipality.

The Waste Act specifically requires IWMPs to:

  • Set out priorities and objectives for waste management.
  • Establish targets for the collection, minimization, re-use and recycling of waste.
  • Set out the approach to planning any new facilities for disposal and decommissioning existing waste disposal facilities.
  • Indicate the financial resources required for the IWMP.
  • Describe the implementation mechanisms for the IWMP.
  • For the national and provincial departments, the IWMPs must also set out how they intend to support municipalities to give effect to the objects of the Waste Act.



It should be noted that the development of the IWMP is not a stand-alone category of projects but an intervention that is made in all the Working on Waste projects where it has been identified that there is no existing IWMP.The funding for the development of an IWMP is allocated within the budget of an approved existing project that is implemented within the specific municipality and becomes one but part of the deliverables for that project.

Performance indicators

  • Number of licensed landfill sites established
  • Number of buy-back centres established
  • Number of households benefiting from waste collection
  • Number of Integrated Waste Management Plans developed
  • Number of waste bins provided/installed
  • Kilometres of streets cleaned
  • Area of illegal dumps cleared



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