the way Despite an oftenpessimistic view of the state of waste management in South Africa, the countr y is leading the world in many respects. By Boyd Ramsey*
uring late 2019, I had the opportunity to spend several weeks in South Africa on two trips, concurrent with the 17th African Regional Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering and the South African Landfill 2019 Conference & Exhibition. In addition to each conference, I stayed for several weeks and visited many participants in the South African waste and geosynthetics arenas. I left South Africa with many positive thoughts and impressions. Perhaps it is human nature to be somewhat pessimistic. Much of our education is focused on problem-solving and, in fact, nearly every test or examination consists of finding or selecting answers and solving problems. For many people and groups, this spills over into a focus on what is seemingly going wrong and what may need to be corrected or changed. I saw this during my visits and many of the people I spoke to expressed very negative sentiments on the state of the environment in South Africa. My thoughts, however, were more optimistic, as I am an optimist. My personal proverbial glass is not only half-full, but comes with a delicious drink, an umbrella and fresh fruit as a garnish!
Setting the standard
I am fortunate enough to have travelled a great deal of the world and been involved in waste containment, geotechnical engineering and geosynthetic materials throughout my career. I have first-hand knowledge of waste containment and management around the globe. My message to you is that South Africa, while having many problems and challenges, also has many activities and accomplishments that lead the world and the industry in this area. I will highlight briefly three themes: the use of digital technology in construction quality assurance, the use of recycled materials supporting a circular economy, and the format and content of environmental regulations.
Digital technology South Africa has two of the leading firms who have created and are developing digital technology in construction quality assurance (CQA). These two companies, Aquatan and Geo-X, have, over the past years, developed and refined digital tools for documenting, tracking and managing the construction processes. For geosynthetics, and many other materials, installation quality is a critical contributor to product and design performance. If not installed properly, it likely won’t work very well and may not perform as its design intended. In the past, CQA was managed and documented with paper
For geosynthetics, and many other materials, installation quality is a critical contributor to product and design performance. If not installed properly, it likely won’t work very well and may not perform as its design intended records, and an inspector walked around and wrote down what happened. The systems, developed separately by these two South African companies, offer digital advances. The data is captured digitally, in some cases directly downloaded from the installation equipment. Photos can be taken and digitally integrated into the CQA records, documenting special events and conditions – this