Promoting integrated resources management
The official journal of the
Don’t paper over your extended producer obligations
Return to baseline principles From waste to resource Not a dark art after all
ISSN 1680-4902 • R50.00 (incl. VAT) • Vol. 22 No. 02 • May 2020
LandďŹ ll costs
Use of virgin resources
Utilisation of assets
Vol. 22, No. 02, May 2020
ON THE COVER
CONTENTS M AY 2020
Paper is one of the oldest technologies in the world, but the way it is sourced and made has come a long way since old rags, papyrus and unchecked forestry practices. Still, many companies worry about paper, about printing on it or using it for packaging. P6
Editor’s comment 3 President’s comment 5 News round-up 8 Events 44
Don’t paper over your extended producer obligations
LANDFILL The need to return to baseline principles
Addressing the liquid waste ban
Gauteng’s landfill future Tshwane ready to step it up Future planning at City of Johannesburg Striving for sustainability
Discovery installs Earth Cycler composting machine
Landfill containment: cost-effective long-term solutions
Boiler ash – a wasted resource
Solar panel recycling: not a dark art after all SA’s recycling habits revealed Making a real difference
It’s time to prepare for the expanding sector Solar energy: the benefits are here
in association with
Restoration of critical rail link
Is your waste system resilient?
Determine leachate risk before drilling
23 24 26 28 30 31 32
Shedding light on grid independence
Landfill closure and recycling A pact to reduce plastics usage
14 16 18 20
40 41 42
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25 TH WASTE CONFERENCE & EXHIBITION
Golf Conference Technical Tour
9-11 Feb 2021 Emperors Palace, Johannesburg, South Africa
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Editor Danielle Petterson Managing editor Alastair Currie Journalist Nombulelo Manyana Head of design Beren Bauermeister Chief sub-editor Tristan Snijders Contributors Janine Espin, Alexandra Felekis, Leon Grobbelaar, Gavin Heron, Simon Johnson, Mzukisi Kota, Karen Surridge, Jason van der Poel,
It’s in the air
Mark Williams-Wynn Production & client liaison manager Antois-Leigh Botma Production coordinator Jacqueline Modise Group sales manager Chilomia Van Wijk Financial manager Andrew Lobban Distribution manager Nomsa Masina Distribution coordinator Asha Pursotham Printers Novus Print KZN Tel +27 (0)31 714 4700 Advertising sales Joanne Lawrie Cell +27 (0)82 346 5338 email@example.com
Publisher Jacques Breytenbach 3S Media 46 Milkyway Avenue, Frankenwald, 2090 PO Box 92026, Norwood 2117 Tel +27 (0)11 233 2600 Fax +27 (0)11 234 7274/5 www.3smedia.co.za Annual subscription firstname.lastname@example.org R200.00 (incl VAT) South Africa ISSN 1680-4902 Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa Tel +27 (0)11 675 3462 Email email@example.com All material herein is copyright protected and may not be reproduced either in whole or in part without the prior written permission of the publisher. The views and opinions of authors expressed in the magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher, editor or the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa. © Copyright 2020. All rights reserved. Novus Holdings is a Level 2 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Contributor, with 125% recognised procurement recognition. View our BBBEE scorecard here: https://novus.holdings/sustainability/transformation The ABC logo is a valued stamp of measurement and trust, providing accurate and comparable circulation figures that protect the way advertising is traded. ReSource is ABC audited and certified.
ockdowns across the globe, as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, are having a disastrous impact on economies, but the environment may be breathing a sigh of relief. With non-essential manufacturing halted and transport severely restricted, many countries are seeing a marked decrease in emissions, improved air quality, and cleaner water. But how long can this last?
Pre-pandemic pollution Prior to the current pandemic, the world was not on track to meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Despite a slowdown in the rise of emissions, emissions in 2019 were still higher than in 2015, when the agreement was signed. And air pollution is not only fatal for the planet, but also for people. The World Health Organization states that ambient air pollution kills an estimated 4.2 million people worldwide every year. Now, the risks associated with air pollution are proving even greater for those who contract the new SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19. New research has found that long-term exposure to air pollution may be one of the most important contributors to fatalities caused by the disease.
production in an attempt to claw back some of their lost profits.
Fighting for change In May, over 350 organisations – representing over 40 million health professionals and over 4 500 individual health professionals from 90 different countries – wrote to the G20 leaders (including President Cyril Ramaphosa) calling for a #HealthyRecovery. They pointed out the dire consequences of air pollution, calling for a healthy recovery from the pandemic that will not permit unabated climate change and deforestation. A call went out for smarter incentives and disincentives, suggesting major reforms to current fossil fuel subsidies and shifting the majority towards renewable energy. Across the globe, many parallels have been drawn between the health crisis and the climate crisis. With the novel coronavirus pandemic placing a spotlight on these issues, we can only hope that, moving out of the crisis, governments will place a greater emphasis on climate policies. The pandemic has taught us that, in times of crisis, we can rally together to mobilise resources, research solutions, and change behaviours. Perhaps we could do the same to save the environment.
The good, the bad and the ugly One good thing to come from pandemic-induced lockdowns is that air pollution has been decreasing. Two new studies have found that nitrogen dioxide pollution over northern China, Western Europe and the US decreased by as much as 60% in early 2020 compared to the same time last year. Unfortunately, this marked drop in pollution will not last long. Eventually, economies will reopen, cars will flood the roads, and emissions levels will return to their usual levels. In fact, some have expressed concern that emissions may rise past pre-lockdown levels as manufacturers boost
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Making a difference • The IWMSA joined the realm of hosting live feeds of important events on social media. Leon Grobbelaar, president, IWMSA
By the time you read this, I will be the past president. It feels like just yesterday when I prepared my first president’s report.
efore accepting the nomination as vice president, I consulted my then CEO to obtain approval to accept the position while employed and I remember his words clearly: “Leon, as long as you make a difference.” Writing my last president’s report, I am reflecting on my inaugural speech and the past two years, which I thoroughly enjoyed: I am proud to say that I was part of a team that made a difference. • We conducted a market survey that identified a new road map for the IWMSA. • For the first time in its history, the IWMSA became a national member for the International Solid Waste Association and I had the privilege to attend the General Assembly of ISWA, where 72 countries were represented. • We signed another MoU with our regulator, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, to become one of its partners in contributing towards a greener and more sustainable environment. • We updated the IWMSA logo to reflect the current social environment.
Covid-19 impacts For the first time in our lifetime, we face a challenge that we never imagined in our wildest dreams: the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially, it was something ‘out there’ and the next moment the pandemic was at our doorstep and spreading all over the world. As a nation, we needed to adapt or die, while cooperating with the entire world to find safe working procedures and to minimise possible infections of our essential services workers, our residents, and our loved ones. Pollution and GHG emissions have fallen across the globe as countries imposed lockdowns and restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19. The drop in CO2 emissions could be the largest since the Second World War. Scientists estimate a 5% fall in the carbon output in 2020. The countries and cities with the highest Covid-19 rates are witnessing clear and sunny skies. The pollution in New York has reduced by nearly 50% due to the strict measures in place. Taking all the above into consideration, there needs to be a greater ambition to mitigate climate change, channelling significant efforts towards cleaner energy and renewables to save our planet for our children and their children. The earth has sustained us as humans for millennia and, suddenly, it is as if Mother Earth has had enough – the same earth we have been abusing and polluting for years without fail. While the entire world was in lockdown – with no sport, shopping, working, manufacturing or mining – Mother Nature has had some chance to breathe and heal again to some, although short-lived, extent. Japan recorded its lowest carbon emissions in the past 40 years.
This pandemic is expected to have a serious detrimental effect on the world economy, and we will see many people losing their income and jobs as businesses close. As the waste industr y, we should be ver y diligent to ensure that polluters do not pollute more for the sake of sur vival.
Next steps for the IWMSA I would like to take this opportunity to thank the council members for their support during the past two years. I salute you for the great work you are doing and for your dedication to a clean environment. I would like to welcome our new incoming president, Brendon Jewaskiewitz, and his newly elected vice president, Mpendulo Ginindza. I am proud of you both and have no doubt you will make the IWMSA very proud. I would also like to thank the head office team, as well as all the branch managers for their excellent work in keeping the IWMSA a professional and well-run organisation that serves the needs of all its members. Unfortunately, we had no alternative but to postpone WasteCon 2020 to Februar y 2021. This will provide us with some time to reflect on the past three months and plan on how we are going to conduct business moving for ward. For all the IWMSA members, thank you for your loyal support; I urge you to please continue to strive towards better and more innovative ways to assist and support our environment moving into the future. I wish the new branch committees and council well for the next two-year term of office. Lastly, I would like to thank my family and friends for all their support during my two-year term. I salute you all.
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Don’t paper over your extended producer obligations Paper is one of the oldest technologies in the world, but the way it is sourced and made has come a long way since old rags, papyrus and unchecked forestr y practices. Still, many companies worr y about paper, about printing on it or using it for packaging.
hese worries emanate from deeply rooted myths that paper is bad for the environment. “We recognise that these are legitimate concerns for any company that values sustainable and responsible sourcing,” says Francois Marais, manager of Fibre Circle, which has been established and mandated by the majority of South African paper manufacturers and importers as the producer responsibility organisation (PRO). It will manage extended producer responsibility (EPR) programmes on behalf of the sector. “Paper is one of the most sustainable materials. Forestry companies as well as the downstream value chain of wood- and paper-based products subscribe to cer tification organisations to ensure that the paper is sourced and produced in a responsible and balanced manner, and that its end-of-life is managed appropriately,” notes Marais. Continuous improvement has seen the sector do more with less natural resources, from planting more trees on less land, to optimising water and energy use in mills and improving paper recovery rates through industry-led programmes. EPR, a relatively new concept, describes the life cycle of products and packaging manufactured, sold and distributed by producers, importers, brand owners and retailers – collectively referred to as ‘obliged industries’. It was 1990 when Thomas Lindhqvist of Sweden’s Lund University presented the idea that manufacturers should be responsible for their products to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment. His research sought to determine how recycling and waste management were
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driving cleaner production policies. According to Lindhqvist, “EPR makes the manufacturer of the product responsible for the entire life cycle of the product and especially for the take-back, recycling and final disposal of the product.” EPR dictates that the costs of collection, processing and recycling are placed on the obliged industries, with one of the objectives being to encourage them to design products for better recover y and recycling. In many countries, EPR legislation has spurred many remanufacturing initiatives.
Making the circle bigger Fibre Circle aims to bring together players in the paper and packaging value chain, including obliged industries (manufacturers and importers of the products – filled or unfilled, flat or unconverted) and brand owners and retailers. Given the costs involved of designing, operating and financing recovery and recycling systems, it is better for a group or class of producers to belong to a coordinated EPR programme. To this end, Fibre Circle has mapped out key groups of products and has been engaging producers and importers of: • printing and writing grades • p aper packaging and packaging paper for conversion • paper sacks or sack kraft • liquid board packaging for beverage and food cartons • liquid board packaging for paper cups • labels and release liner/backing paper.
The ultimate renewable While many paper products are classified as single-use, most are recoverable for recycling and all are renewable. Commercially grown trees are the source of thousands of ever yday products, not just paper. Tissue. Labels. Boxes – from common cardboard to highend luxury packaging. Paper cups. Milk and juice cartons. Books. Brochures. Newspapers. Pulp for rayon, sponges and cellophane. Biochemicals, additives and bioplastics. And that’s the short list.
Francois Marais, manager of Fibre Circle
In South Africa, wood fibre comes from around 840 million trees sustainably grown over 693 000 ha for the explicit purpose of pulp and paper manufacture. Farmed like any other agricultural crop, trees are planted, harvested (only 6% per year) and replanted in cycles, albeit for longer rotations. While growing, these trees are absorbing carbon dioxide and storing carbon – an element that remains in their fibres even when the wood is chipped and pulped, and even further through paper’s recycled life. A large proportion of paper-based products are recyclable – until they have laminates and sparkling bits added to them. South Africa boasts a recovery rate of around 70% of recoverable paper products, which excludes tissue, sanitary Paper-based coffee cups are recyclable, as their high-density polystyrene lids (Credit: Detpak)
More than half of locally made paper products contain recycled content (Credit: Mpact)
products and items like books. More than 53% of locally made paper products contain recycled content.
Recyclability requires value Making up the largest proportion of recovered paper are cardboard and cartons. “They are easier to collect and easy to recycle,” says Marais, adding that there is room for improvement with products that are either difficult to collect, difficult to recycle, or both. Office paper, a high-value commodity due to virgin fibre content, can be difficult to collect if offices and homes do not separate at source. Label backing paper or release liners are difficult to recycle due to the siliconised laminate, but relatively easy to collect due to large, preconsumer volumes at factories. Paper cups and beverage cartons are recyclable, but not easy to recover. “Coffee and cold drink cups are mobile recyclables, making them tricky to collect once in the hands, or rather out of the hands, of the consumer,” says Marais. “When a recyclable is difficult to collect, its value to a waste collector is low.” One paper cup is not worth the effort for a collector. One tonne of paper cups from one location, every week, is a different story.
Fill your cup with Fibre Circle Fibre Circle has been working on a prototype of a coffee cup collection bin. Designed to resemble a giant coffee cup and lid, the bin comprises three inner compartments – for liquids, high-density polystyrene lids and cups. “The idea is that office buildings and high-traffic areas can install these bins as a way of creating volume and value for the collector,” explains Marais. It’s initiatives like these that Fibre Circle aims to roll out as its membership grows. “The sector needs practical solutions that prevent usable paper fibre from going to landfill, while ensuring it is turned into value. “As members of Fibre Circle, companies pay an EPR fee based on ‘rand per tonne of product’ put on to the local market,” he notes.
Liquid packaging bales for recycling (Credit: Mpact)
Funds would support, among other things, the research and development of infrastructure and alternative systems for both broader paper recovery as well as more product-focused initiatives, such as the cup collection bin. Fibre Circle has earmarked R2 million specifically for research and development into the processing of difficult-to-recycle paper products, such as liquid board packaging and label release liner.
“By paying their dues, paper manufacturers, impor ters and brand owners can extend responsibility beyond their own gates and beyond their customers’ hands, diver ting material from landfill, training more people and creating more jobs – something that our country desperately needs.” While paper is renewable and recyclable, it requires producers to be responsible – from beginning to end, and back again.
Beyond compliance, fostering stewardship In response to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ call for an EPR framework in line with section 18 of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (No. 59 of 2008), industry bodies representing the paper, paper packaging and other waste streams had been in consultation with government prior to the Covid-19 lockdown. Marais adds, “All indications are that EPR will become mandatory in the near future.” EPR has been part of the sector’s culture for many years, with local forestry and paper companies demonstrating environmental stewardship well beyond simple compliance. “It is our intention that, through Fibre Circle, the responsible sourcing, recovery and end-oflife management of paper products can take the sector further towards the circular economy,” says Marais. With local EPR not yet legislated, membership with PROs is on a voluntary basis as part of companies’ sustainability commitments.
PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY ORGANISATION
www.fibrecircle.co.za email@example.com +27 (0)71 475 6586
Beverage cartons, both gable top and aseptic, are recyclable in South Africa (Credit: Nampak Liquid Packaging)
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SUSTAINABILITY NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD Plastic levy increase – who will it benefit?
Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni annouced during his 2020 Budget Speech in March that there will be an increase in the plastic bag levy from R0.12 to R0.25 at the beginning of April.
Moreover, the Budget Review revealed that National Treasury will also be consulting on extending the current levy on plastic bags to all single-use plastics used for retail consumption, including plastic straws, utensils and packaging in 2021. According to Anton Hanekom, executive director, Plastics|SA, Mboweni’s increase announcement conveyed the impression that the funds raised will be used to mitigate climate change. He asserts that if the expected R250 million generated from raised levies will be used to boost recycling and grow a circular economy, they would welcome and support the minister’s announcement. However, past experiences have proven otherwise. “Past experiences (such as the Buyisa e-Bag initiative) have shown that government views the plastic bag levy as an easy way to raise funds to pay for other projects that have nothing to do with the environment,” Hanekom said.
Study reveals food waste may be worse than previously estimated Experts have identified food waste as one of the top sustainability problems globally and the UN Environment Programme has a goal of eliminating half of all food waste by 2030. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that about a third of all food produced goes to waste. The FAO came to this conclusion by looking at how much food is lost during production and how much is lost in the kitchen. By looking at these sources of waste, the UN proposed that the average person tosses out roughly 214 calories’ worth of food per day. However, researchers from Wageningen University & Research found that consumers are wasting twice as much food as initially estimated. They also found a link between affluence and food waste; meaning, the more money a person makes, the more food they tend
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to waste. They discovered that people in poorer nations begin wasting more food as they earn more money. “Globally, if food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the US,” the agency said on its website. The new study focused solely on what happens to food when it reaches the consumer. Waste that’s created through the production process wasn’t analysed. The researchers found that it’s far worse than the FAO thought – they believe people are actually wasting 527 calories’ worth of food a day.
The Buyisa e-Bag initiative was established to administer the funds by promoting waste minimisation and awareness initiatives in the plastics industry, expanding collector networks, creating jobs, as well as kick-starting rural collection. However, according to Hanekom, the project quickly failed and less than half of the money raised went towards recycling projects. The rest was channelled into the National Revenue Fund and allocated to government departments. Hanekom asserts that the plastics and packaging industries continue to work at addressing the issue of plastic bags polluting the environment and, despite the lack of government funding, the South African plastics recycling industry continued to record year-onyear growth. The industry hopes that the money raised through the new plastic bag levy will be ringfenced for the recycling industry.
Coca-Cola SA launches 2 ℓ bottles that can be reused up to 14 times Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) has introduced a 2 ℓ returnable bottle made of PET plastic, which can be reused up to 14 times. This not only offer consumers value for money but, it’s also good for the environment because this returnable bottle can be recycled and made into new bottles. The project is being piloted in the Mandela Bay and Border-Kei districts in the Eastern Cape and, if successful, is expected to be rolled out to the rest of the country. The returnable bottles are made of PET plastic and are labelled with a new paper label, with ‘Returnable’ appearing in green on the front of the bottle. “Through innovation and our infrastructure investment in this packaging line, we are providing consumers with greater value for money, while introducing a PET plastic bottle that can be reused,” says Velaphi Ratshefola, managing director of CCBSA.
The recommended retail price for the 2 ℓ Coca-Cola Original Taste – Less Sugar beverage is R15. Other brands, like Coca-Cola No Sugar, Sprite and Fanta, are also be available in the new 2 ℓ returnable PET plastic bottle at a recommended retail price of R12. Once a bottle is returned to CCBSA, it will go on a journey to be cleaned to Coca-Cola’s stringent measures and requirements, then refilled and start its next life cycle. When the bottle reaches the end of its 14 usable life cycles, it will be recycled and turned into another PET plastic bottle. “We’re committed to increasing recycled material in our packaging and ensuring more packaging is collected and recycled,” adds Ratshefola. “The launch of the Returnable PET plastic bottle is another way we can use innovation to unlock the value in waste and support a circular economy in South Africa.”
Scientists on the verge of creating 100% recyclable plastic One of the biggest problems with plastics is that even ‘recyclable plastics’ aren’t always able to be fully broken down and reused again. In truth, less than a third of recyclable plastic is repurposed after the recycling process. The rest is either tossed along with other nonrecyclable waste or incinerated. However, new research efforts by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory may offer a solution in the form of plastics material that is designed to be fully recyclable. Peter Christensen, lead author of the study published in Nature Chemistry, says that even though most plastics were never made to be recycled, they have discovered a “new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”
New type of plastic material Chemicals added to many plastics such as fillers that make the materials tough or plasticisers
that make plastics flexible often stay in the plastic even after it has been processed at a recycling plant. Thus, the biggest challenge for the research team has been finding a way to separate the polymers of the plastic from the various additives often used to give the finished product specific qualities. The scientists developed a new type of plastic material called poly (diketoenamine), or PDK for short. PDK differs from traditional plastics in the way additives bond to it and, unlike plastics that pile up at recycling plants today, the bonds the PDK plastic forms with other chemicals are reversible via an acid bath.
This means that recycling PDK plastic allows for the base material to be fully separated from any additional chemicals that were added later, thus enabling it to be 100% reusable. PDK plastic can be broken down at molecular levels and can be repeatedly reassembled into another object with a different shape, colour and texture without the material losing its quality. Researchers plan on testing the new plastic with a variety of additives to demonstrate its potential while ensuring that it can always be broken back down into its most basic form and turned into something new. If that goes well, this breakthrough could play an important role in the efforts to save the world from plastic pollution.
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The need to return to baseline principles The current focus on total containment with respect to landfill design and construction – to the exclusion of good landfill operations and maintenance and other effective policy levers – is problematic. A more balanced approach that lends norms and standards has added itself to a workable circular a significant level of upfront cost economy is needed. and complexity, with insufficient By Alastair Currie enforcement of regulatory compliance
cross South Africa, the state of municipal landfills and their management has steadily deteriorated. This is chiefly due to a decline in compliance and the specialist experience required to establish, operate and maintain compliant engineered landfills. “Despite tightening legislation and regulations, the evidence (particularly at municipal solid waste landfills) would suggest that we have gone backwards in terms of effective landfill management over the last 10 to 20 years,” says Brendon Jewaskiewitz, vice-president, IWMSA. “Pollution from waste disposal sites has escalated – largely as a result of poor operational management.” The regulations stipulated by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation have placed major emphasis on landfill design and construction requirements, with the protection of South Africa’s scarce water resources being a key priority. However, although commendable, the recent progression in the
during the operational phase. While there are many old, unlined municipal landfills essentially operating as dump sites, today there are also many municipal landfills in South Africa with world-class infrastructure in place, but with a glaring lack of baseline expertise to manage them on a day-to-day basis. “Working on the lowest-bidder principle, tenders started to be awarded to companies lacking the necessary expertise and experience. Compounding the problem, these new entrants didn’t price in realistic current and future operational cost requirements, such as diesel and equipment,” says Leon Grobbelaar, president, IWMSA. “It’s of great concern that, in many instances, the internationally accepted basic practice of compacting incoming waste and covering it with a layer of soil is not
being adhered to,” he continues. “Just by applying these two simple rules – compaction and cover – most sites would have achieved at least an 80% success rate in terms of environmental compliance. If you don’t cover waste daily with a layer of soil, it attracts pests like flies and rodents, creates windblown litter, as well as promotes water ingress that then generates leachate.”
Landfill classification system The classification of a landfill is the starting point that will determine the type of barrier system required. The previous ‘Minimum Requirements’ used a two-pronged approach: H for Hazardous and G for General Waste. The General Waste landfill was subdivided into large (L), medium (M), small (S) or communal landfills classified by the intended waste volumes to be received. Each site was then further subclassified as a B+ or B- landfill, with the +/- symbol referring to a positive or negative water balance within the landfill. Landfills classified as B+ needed to provide for a leachate collection system to contain or collect the excess water generated from the landfill as leachate – a cocktail some 300% more toxic than raw sewage. In terms of the current norms and standards, however, a blanket approach has been taken. Now all landfills, irrespective of classification, location or size, must be lined in accordance with the relevant
category of waste to be received. Class A liners are required for hazardous waste; Class B liners for municipal solid waste or pre-classified waste; Class C liners for mixed building waste and domestic waste; and Class D liners for building rubble only. The Class A liner has two HDPE layers and the Class B and C liners have a single HDPE layer. “This often results in significantly increased construction costs, which are unaffordable for smaller, rural municipalities”, Jewaskiewitz points out. “In many cases, it could be argued technically that these stringent liner requirements are unjustified. The result is that, instead of opting for better waste management solutions, many of these smaller municipalities simply carry on with their existing dumps, which are totally noncompliant, overfilled, with a worse environmental result than had a more cost-effective solution been implemented. However, this situation also lends itself to the discussion around the regionalisation of landfills.” During the operational phase, leachate accumulation needs to be managed, and the leachate treated appropriately. Landfill gas also needs to be managed to prevent migration and odours, possibly through the installation of landfill gas collection and flaring systems, particularly where there’s a presence of significant quantities of putrescible waste. In some cases, the utilisation of the landfill gas as an energy source could be beneficial. With effective containment barrier systems, the leachate is generated and collected within the landfill waste mass and is managed outside the landfill by means of a collection pond and possibly a treatment system. One option for public facilities is to dispose of their leachate via a municipal wastewater treatment works. “There is often insufficient attention paid to the operation and maintenance of landfills once they have been commissioned, with poor operations resulting in the failure of these facilities. We have many examples of state-of-the-art landfill facilities having been constructed, with no
attention being paid to the compliant operation or sustainability thereof. “Significantly, it is often said that a poorly constructed landfill with great operational management is far better than a world-class landfill that is poorly operated, in terms of limiting the environmental impact,” he continues. “Sadly, we see too many examples of inept operations and maintenance.”
budgets for repair. In this case, municipalities revert to the plant hire option by using bulldozers, which do not meet the minimum requirements for compaction densities. Whether in- or outsourced, municipalities need to familiarise themselves with the real costs to license, design, construct, operate and rehabilitate landfills. To operate a landfill to comply with the waste classification and management regulations varies from R80 to R400 per tonne, depending on Managing a landfill the daily volumes received, exclusive of the capital Municipalities that opt to run landfills in-house costs required to design and construct the landfill. also need to factor in the cost of rehabilitation. It is thus of utmost importance to accurately Furthermore, landfill environments place heavy calculate the cost per tonne in relation to current demands on equipment, given the nature of the and future airspace when factoring in gate fees materials they need to handle, spread and compact. for waste disposal. Many small and medium-sized Municipal and industrial waste municipalities do not levy a gate fee at all. As streams contain all sorts municipalities have a fractured accounting of materials (including system, it is extremely difficult to plastics and determine their real costs of operation. “It is often glass), e-waste, As many landfills in South Africa are said that a poorly and building running out of airspace, people are constructed landfill rubble. For realising the true value of airspace with great operational this reason, when they need to rehabilitate or purposelicense a new facility. management is far better built landfill In Cape Town, for example, than a world-class landfill compactors the approximate disposal fee is that is poorly operated.” are required R490 per tonne, while prices hover Brendon Jewaskiewitz, to crush and around R250 per tonne in Gauteng vice-president, IWMSA compact these – far below acceptable operating materials to the costs for a modern engineered landfill. smallest possible volume By comparison, some European countries and in turn save airspace for the are operating in the region of R1 500 per tonne. landfill owner. Standard construction equipment The sooner municipalities realise the importance such as a tracked dozer offers minimal to no of waste diversion, the better. But be warned that compaction, and in turn a lot of landfill airspace is waste diversion is not necessarily cheaper than wasted. These types of equipment have no ability to landfilling; however, waste streams like construction crush bulky waste, whereas a purpose-built landfill and demolition, or organic waste, can at least be compactor can. reutilised with no long-term liabilities while mixed Landfill compactors are very expensive to with the municipal solid waste stream. purchase and costly to maintain. Owners of these machines often do not realise the costs involved A regional strategy to keep these machines operational, which results Given the general lack of experience and expertise, industry leaders are increasingly motivating for in machines being parked because of limited or no M AY 2 0 2 0
a shift in policy thinking towards regional landfills that are compliant with the norms and standards and controlled within metros or district municipalities, or outsourced, or developed through public-private partnerships. Such contracts or partnerships can encompass key plant requirements to include landfill compactors, mobile crushing and screening plant, and chippers for garden waste. Smaller towns could then progressively close their disposal/dump sites and switch to formal separation-at-source or other material separation strategies for recyclables, and establishing material transfer stations. Builders’ rubble could be crushed on-site, and non-recyclable material would be hauled to the regional landfill for disposal.
Promoting a circular economy When it comes to embracing the latest practices in managing waste, South Africa is at least 20 to 30 years behind developed countries. But that doesn’t mean we have to reinvent the wheel. “Addressing the current state of our landfills is the foundation for driving a secondary resources economy,” says Professor Linda Godfrey, principal scientist: Waste and Circular Economy, CSIR. “However, the big question is: who funds
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the transformation of our waste sector? Who funds the transition from dump sites to engineered landfills? Who funds the transition to alternative waste treatment technologies? Given that most waste streams are negativevalue products. “To work on a sustainable and commercial scale, some recycling sectors may need funding assistance to make them attractive for investors through public-private partnership arrangements. Extended producer responsibility is one potential policy instrument to get the private sector on board. Either way, pricing must be competitive,” she continues. The upside is that South Africa has the capability to implement globally proven technologies within a short space of time, but not necessarily in the public sector. “To fast-track implementation, we must have the right skill set and an enabling environment that essentially ‘penalises’ landfilling and incentivises diversion. There are various policy instruments that support this, that help to create local markets for the uptake of reusable and recyclable material, including green procurement,” Godfrey asserts. In addition to her other responsibilities, Godfrey is also manager of the Waste RDI Roadmap Implementation Unit at the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). Now in its fifth year, this initiative promotes strategic direction and investment in waste R&D and innovation in South Africa. Priority research areas include unlocking high-value local end-use markets for priority waste streams
such as organic waste, plastic, municipal solid waste, tyres and electronic waste. Among the research currently being funded are biorefinery feedstock endeavours for the timber sector (sawdust by-products) and the food and foodprocessing industry. Another initiative is the DSI’s recent funding of a demonstration project on the use of non-recyclable waste plastic in road construction. To support greater local beneficiation of electronic waste, the DSI is also supporting the development of a technology landscape report and business case for the recycling of Li-ion batteries in South Africa. Around 30% to 40% of South Africa’s domestic solid waste is organic waste. Paper and packaging represent a further 10% to 20%, followed to a lesser extent by electronic waste, and builders’ rubble. That means South Africa could potentially divert 60% to 70% of its municipal waste stream from landfill towards reuse, recycling and recovery – leaving a small fraction to be safely managed in regional, engineered landfills. “People view landfilling as the problem, which indeed it is, if you look at the current state of our municipal facilities, but it should really be seen as part of the solution,” adds Jewaskiewitz. “The reality is that nothing else currently comes close to landfill in terms of cost-effectiveness, particularly in the absence of significant subsidies or effective and robust markets for recyclables (or secondary resources). Even heat and energy could be generated from the thermal treatment of waste. But, first, we need to get back to landfill compliance,” he concludes.
Addressing the liquid waste ban
mbracing the legislation promoting more sustainable and environmentally acceptable waste management practices, EnviroServ has taken steps to provide customers with legally compliant solutions. The company recently unveiled its new micro encapsulation plant at its Holfontein Waste Management Facility in Gauteng. Similar to a cement batching plant, the plant’s end product is an immobile solid that easily complies with the norms and standards for landfill disposal. “We knew the prohibition on disposal of highmoisture-content wastes to landfill was coming into effect in August 2019, so we started trialling various options to treat these problematic materials and turn them into immobile solids a few years ago,” says Terence Malan, national technical manager, EnviroServ. “We have been working on various iterations, but it all came together last month [April 2020] with the latest upgrades to the plant being a shed to house the ash.”
treating the moisture content in the waste by converting the waste into an immobile solid that complies with legislation is then developed. “Power station ash is a primary ingredient used in the blending process and this, together with other proprietary additives, absorbs the moisture, creating a stabilised and solidified waste material. We use front-end loaders to load the ash into feed bins. “Conveyer belts control the rate at which the ash is added into the mix. The ash, together with other additives, is mixed with the high-moisture waste in the feed hopper. The combined mix drops down into the pugmill, which mixes the materials into a slurry,” explains Malan. Additives such as cement and lime, among others, are added
In anticipation of the changing legislation around the disposal of liquid waste at landfill, new innovations have sought to minimise the impacts of the disposal of wastes with a high moisture content. into the mix to aid absorption and immobilisation of salts and moisture in the waste. The pugmill discharges the stabilised waste into the bunker from where it is loaded on to trucks and transported to the landfill cell for disposal. The micro encapsulation plant is capable of treating approximately 1 000 m³ of waste per day. “Any business that produces wastes of high moisture or salt content that are no longer suitable for traditional landfill disposal – including industries such as petrochemical, metallurgical and water treatment facilities – can potentially utilise the micro encapsulation plant, which can treat a multitude of problematic wastes,” says Malan.
Plant capabilities The process starts with obtaining a waste sample from a customer, which is analysed in EnviroServ’s in-house laboratory. A recipe for M AY 2 0 2 0
M U N I C I PA L F O C U S | G A U T E N G
Gauteng’s landfill future Responsible for roughly 33% of the countr y’s waste, Gauteng is by far South Africa’s biggest waste generator. But is the province making adequate provision for its long-term waste management needs? By Danielle Petterson
ince 1998, when the last large regional municipal landfill was licensed and developed in Gauteng, the province has consumed significant amounts of landfill airspace and seen the closure of several landfills throughout the province. Speaking to delegates at an IWMSA seminar on the topic ‘Addressing the landfill airspace crisis in Gauteng’, Kobus Otto, director, Kobus Otto & Associates, provided an over view of the state of the province’s landfills. “Without suf ficient landfill airspace in Gauteng, the municipalities in Gauteng will not be able to render effective and environmentally sound waste management ser vices to millions of residents,” he said.
estimated remaining life of more than 20 years, while Bronkhorstspruit, Ga-Rankuwa and Soshanguve have only 5 to 10 years remaining. The Onderstepoort landfill was recently closed. Johannesburg has three large regional landfills – Goudkoppies, Marie Louise, Robinson Deep (all GLB-) – and one medium landfill operated by the municipality – Ennerdale (GMB-). The estimated remaining life for all four of Johannesburg’s landfills is less than five years. According to Otto, there is no real space
at these landfills for further cell development to create additional airspace.
Increased transport distances There are no municipal landfills towards the north of Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg, nor towards the south of Tshwane. As a result, some areas already have long travel distances to reach landfills. As landfills close over the next 5, 10 and 20 years, these travel distances will increase significantly.
Currently operational municipal landfills Ekurhuleni has five large regional landfills operated under contract: Rietfontein (GLB+), Rooikraal, Weltevreden, Platkop, and Simmer & Jack (all GLB-). While Rooikraal, Weltevreden and Platkop all have an estimated remaining life of more than 20 years, Rietfontein and Simmer & Jack only have an estimated remaining life of 5 to 10 years. Tshwane has one large regional landfill, one medium landfill and two small landfills operated by the municipality. These are Hatherley (GLB-), Ga-Rankuwa (GMB-), Bronkhorstspruit (GSB-), and Soshanguve (GSB-). Hatherley has an Gauteng’s current municipal landfills
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Predicted municipal landfills between 2030 and 2040
Waste management alternatives
Otto stressed that, as waste will need to be transported over longer distances in future, Gauteng has a growing need for effective waste transfer systems. Increased transport distances will result in significantly increased collection and transport costs, coupled with decreased collection efficiencies. There will be an increased pressure on remaining landfill infrastructure, longer turnaround times for collection vehicles at landfills, and negative impacts on environmental compliance.
Based on synthetic data (costs, times, etc.) – which includes a truck with driver and a collection crew of six – the overall per-tonne costs associated with the collection and transport of waste to landfills using large rear-end loaders have been predicted, as shown in Graph 1. As may be seen from the graph, per-tonne costs rise steadily as the distance to landfill increases. Above a distance to landfill of roughly 40 km, the per-tonne cost increases dramatically, due to a drop in the feasible number of collection rounds per day from two to one.
The waste hierarchy forms the basis of all South Africa’s waste projects and is generally seen as the solution to the landfill airspace shortage. But the unfortunate reality is that South Africa is not compliant with the waste hierarchy and there is no balance between landfilling and alternatives, stated Otto. He highlighted the fact that South Africa has no cohesive set of waste industr y targets. Instead, it appears as though we are shooting in all directions tr ying different technologies. Waste diversion from landfill is considered the preferred option and various alternative waste treatment technologies are available internationally. Only some of the treatment technologies implemented in South Africa were sustainable; many failed. Otto pointed to, among others, the discontinuation of municipal separation-at-source projects, as well as the closure of several ‘dir ty’ MRFs (materials recover y facilities) since the Robinson Deep MRF was shut down during the early 1990s. Otto explained that the two primar y requirements determining the financial viability and therefore sustainability of alternative waste treatment technologies are mostly ignored: 1. Appropriate feedstock (quality and volume) 2. Sustainable markets for various offtakes. “Without these, we can have the most advanced technologies and the most committed staff, but it is not going to work. With sustainable markets to drive demand for and subsequently the price of offtake upwards, the waste industr y, both formal and informal, will source appropriate feedstock – whatever it takes,” he said. Recycling is meant to create thousands of jobs, but the industr y is facing serious problems. Prices for recyclable material in South Africa are extremely sensitive to international influences. Otto stressed that there is no sense in using donor funding to support the recycling industr y if, when that funding is withdrawn, the project collapses. The only solution is to create sustainable local markets. “Driving the markets up will drive the demand up, will drive the prices up and will drive the sustainability up. This is the basic principle of making waste minimisation successful in South Africa,” he concluded.
GRAPH 1 REL cost per tonne vs distance to landfill (Graph developed by John Clements) Note: The X-axis represents the one-way distance to the landfill. The ‘fixed’ cycle time used was 180 minutes: 120 to 150 minutes for actual collection and 30 to 60 minutes’ turnaround time at the landfill.
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M U N I C I PA L F O C U S | G A U T E N G
ready to step it up Out of the 12 landfill sites in the Tshwane metro, only four are still active. In the last three years, the metro has closed down the Derdepoort, Valhalla, Temba, Kwaggasrand, and Garstkloof dumping sites – resulting in a rise in illegal dumping.
shwane is planning on transforming its waste management system, away from dumping everything in landfills to a modern system with effective recycling facilities and composting plants. It is one of the many initiatives directed towards the fulfilment of Tshwane´s vision for a more liveable, resilient, and inclusive city. Tshwane has one large regional landfill, one medium landfill and two small landfills operated by the municipality. These are Hatherley (GLB-), Ga-Rankuwa (GMB-), Bronkhorstspruit (GSB-), and Soshanguve (GSB-). Hatherley has an estimated remaining life of more than 20 years, while Bronkhorstspruit, Ga-Rankuwa and Soshanguve have only 5 to 10 years remaining. Speaking at the IWMSA’s Waste Crisis in Gauteng seminar, Abel Malaka, head: Waste Management Division, City of Tshwane, said the city is focusing on initiatives that will secure waste disposal facilities, for better waste management in Tshwane. These are the following: • acquisition of private landfill site airspace • alternative waste treatment • l andfill sites closure plans and alternative landfills.
Landfill sites closure plans and alternative landfills Malaka indicated that four sites have been identified and recommended for feasibility studies – namely the Temba, Onderstepoor t, Kwaggasrand and Garstkloof landfill sites. For the Temba landfill, a closure application has been submitted to the Gauteng Depar tment of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) for consideration. It will alternatively be used as a garden waste site or waste transfer station, where municipal solid waste is temporarily held and sor ted before heading to a landfill or waste-to-energy plant. Garbage trucks that run city routes drop off their trash here before it’s loaded on to larger vehicles and shipped off. The Onderstepoor t landfill is also in the process of submitting a final repor t for closure, also for consideration by the GDARD. It will alternatively be used as a garden waste site, a transfer station or rubble crushing plant. It is also being proposed that it be turned into a materials recover y and energy facility, which will receive recyclable materials and then use a combination of equipment and manual labour to separate and densify materials in preparation for shipment to end-user manufacturers. Kwaggasrand is already an existing materials recover y facility, while the
Garstkloof landfill site will alternatively be used as a rubble crushing plant and waste sor ting facility.
Alternative waste treatment Malaka says the acquisition of airspace is a shor t-term solution for the city, which is currently in negotiation with private landfill owners for the outright purchase of airspace. Faced with dwindling landfill space for waste disposal, the Gauteng Infrastructure Financing Agency (GIFA) was appointed in March 2015 to conduct a feasibility study into alternative waste treatment methodologies. Tshwane then announced a large wasteto-energy project for its landfill sites and wastewater facilities. It would extract methane gas at landfill sites and install biodigester facilities to generate biogas from wastewater treatment plants and landfill gas. The GIFA allocated a budget and a transactional advisor was appointed in November 2015. The GIFA and Tshwane then signed a memorandum of understanding on the project in May 2016; upon completion of the feasibility study, the GIFA recommended a waste-toenergy plant for Pretoria west power station and Rooiwal. The city is currently approaching private companies in the energy sector to conver t Pretoria west power station into an incinerator. This power station, which
Illegal dumping has risen following the closure of several landfill sites
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was built in 1952 and has a design capacity of 180 MW of power, is destined to be transformed from its usage of coal to generate power to using waste for energy.
Improving landfill site compliance Tshwane has recently been labelled as having some of the most non-compliant landfill sites in the country. Three of Tshwane’s landfill and waste disposal sites faced imminent closure last year, due to non-compliance with the conditions of the permits/licences under which they operate. Malaka says the city is developing an action plan to ensure compliance and is doing an
audit report on landfill sites conducted by the department. An airspace assessment and financial provision repor t has been completed. In addition, the city appointed a panel of service providers to undertake surface water and groundwater monitoring, as well as an independent external audit, which has advanced a report to motivate for external landfill site operations and management.
Tshwane is developing an action plan to ensure compliance at its landfills
Specialist Waste Management Consultants • • • • • •
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Landfill Closure Leachate Treatment Regional Waste Studies PPP Involvement in Waste Management Alternative Technologies for Waste Reduction Integrated Waste Management Plans
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Future planning at City of Johannesburg The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) collects about 1.6 million tonnes of waste each year and, just like many other Gauteng municipalities, it is experiencing waste disposal and management challenges. This is primarily due to the lack of landfill capacity and alternative waste disposal facilities.
ohannesburg currently has four landfills with an estimated remaining life of roughly five years. Speaking at the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa’s Waste Crisis in Gauteng seminar, Makhosazana Baker, director: Waste Management and Regulation, CoJ, says the city’s waste management problems largely stem from three main issues: • increasing waste volumes coupled with diminishing landfill space • environmental pollution and degradation • u nsustainable waste practices and uncoordinated waste planning/policy implementation. Baker says, going for ward, the CoJ’s target is to reduce waste to landfill through waste minimisation and recycling, and to develop alternative waste treatment technology projects to treat over some 800 000 tonnes of waste per year. This is 50% of municipal waste. The CoJ plans to do this through a threepronged approach: 1. Promoting separation at source 2. D eveloping alternative waste treatment technologies 3. R educing waste to landfill through waste minimisation.
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A separation-at-source programme (S@S Programme) was piloted in 2009, at the Water val depot. It was then rolled out in additional CoJ depot areas using a cooperative model in low- to middle-income areas in 2013. The model included 25 cooperatives, which were appointed and managed through a memorandum of understanding. Using this model, Pikitup was only responsible for providing a caged truck with a driver, plastic bags and a sor ting facility. It was then up to the cooperatives to provide their own labour, distribute bags, collect recyclables, sor t and sell recyclables for their own financial benefit, and repor t waste diversion tonnages to Pikitup. In 2017, a private sector model was introduced, whereby two companies became responsible for the entire waste collection and management process. They repor t tonnages to Pikitup as waste diversions and, in return, Pikitup pays ser vice providers on a rate per household basis. Baker says both models are currently under review due to high running costs and the CoJ is looking into a single model, which will be based on a rate per tonne diver ted instead of the current rate per household.
This project was initiated in 2007 and a contract was signed to implement the project over the next 20 years. Feasibility studies were completed on six sites, with five of those found to have enough gas to generate electricity. The CoJ is currently commencing with a public-private partnership (PPP) procurement stage. This will not only result in a drastic reduction of waste to landfill but will also be instrumental in the generation of renewable energy and creation of jobs. “The general scope of this project is to provide the City of Johannesburg with a waste treatment technology facility. It will accept and treat 500 000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per annum,” says Baker. Renewable energy generated from the project will be fed into the municipal grid, offsetting largely
coal-derived electricity. It is expected that about 19 MW will be generated from the project, which can power approximately 12 500 middle-income households.
A feasibility study has been completed by the University of Johannesburg facility, which will use waste from fresh produce markets and garden waste to generate biofuel to run nine Metrobus vehicles. Baker asserts that this will not only reduce carbon emissions but there are plans to scale up to a bigger plant, which has the potential to divert 30% waste generated and produce enough biofuel to run 800 buses.
coupled with low household participation. “Sometimes the material they provide is also of low quality. This module requires par ticipation from residents and, at the moment, it’s ver y low.” She also asser ts that there is poor coordination and synergy in spheres of government. In terms of the wasteto-energy facilities, Baker says the biggest challenge is the high cost of developing the project and getting it up and running. In addition, the lack of technical skills and know-how has proved to be a barrier.
The current challenges
CoJ plans going forward
Baker says the biggest challenges with the S@S model is the high cost of collection,
Baker says the CoJ is planning on establishing more PPPs and to secure landfill/disposal space from private sector role players. Moreover, it also plans to: • r eview the current ser vice deliver y model, focusing on combating illegal dumping and responding more effectively to community needs • increase future planning and oppor tunity management vs per formance management • a lign legislation to create an enabling environment • p romote greater syner gy and cooperation from all stakeholders • a llocate more resources to green waste minimisation and recycling initiatives.
Biodegradable waste pilot
M U N I C I PA L F O C U S | G A U T E N G
Striving for sustainability As the four th largest metro in South Africa, the City of Ekurhuleni landfills roughly 1.2 million tonnes of waste per annum across its five disposal sites.
kurhuleni’s waste streams are varied, originating from households, as well as commercial and industrial areas. Roughly 47% of this waste comprises general domestic waste. This domestic waste is disposed of at the city’s five own landfills and the private Chloorkop Landfill without any form of treatment, except limited rubble crushing and shredding of garden waste. Most of the industrial waste that goes to landfill undergoes some form of sorting to recover recyclables.
Challenges and actions The City of Ekurhuleni faces numerous challenges when it comes to waste management and service delivery. The number of households in the city has grown at a faster rate than the national one. Speaking to delegates at a recent IWMSA seminar, on the topic ‘Addressing the landfill airspace crisis in Gauteng’, the City of Ekurhuleni’s Matome Magolela noted that the increasing flow of migrants places a strain on infrastructure and the city’s ability to provide services. A growing indigent population requires free services and an increasing number of hijacked buildings cannot be billed. For those who are paying, the costing model is based on bin size, comprising a flat monthly fee with no added costs for those who generate additional waste. The preservation of airspace remains a huge challenge. Compounding this, the city does not own a landfill in the northern service delivery region and is currently buying airspace from the
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private Chloorkop Landfill site. Illegal dumping is on the rise and the uncontrolled environment for informal waste pickers creates many additional challenges. To address some of these challenges, the city has identified five areas that require continual improvement: 1. Awareness, education and information dissemination 2. C ommunity participation 3. C ooperation, coordination and partnerships 4. M unicipal waste by-laws 5. H uman resources. These are backed up by several strategic interventions. The first, according to Magolela, is a feasibility study for the development of alternative waste treatment technologies. Others include the deployment of bulk walk-in containers in informal settlements, the mechanisation of informal waste pickers through tuk tuks, and service point audits for waste management. Further interventions Magolela named are, among others, promoting education and awareness in all 112 wards through a clean city programme, rubble crushing at the Simmer and Jack Landfill, and the shredding of garden refuse at all sites except Platkop.
Current minimisation and recycling Magolela was frank about the fact that the national target to divert 25% of recyclables from landfill has not been achieved; however, he believes that the population’s mindset towards recycling and waste minimisation has been changing, albeit at a slow pace.
Preservation of airspace remains a huge challenge in Ekurhuleni, and indeed South Africa
Currently, the metal, glass, paper and plastic industries are driving recycling initiatives in Ekurhuleni, with the participation of informal and small buyback centres at the low end of the value chain. According to Magolela, a lack of municipal incentives to encourage recycling at source adds to the slow uptake of recycling at community level. The city has established a Waste Minimisation Unit to support community-based recycling cooperatives through infrastructure and upskilling. There are currently five kerbside recycling pilot projects under way in Actonville, Wattville and Thembisa. The city has also established a landfill gas extraction and utilisation programme at four of its landfill sites – Rooikraal, Rietfontein, Weltevreden, and Simmer & Jack. This reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions and prevents explosion hazards. At Simmer & Jack, methane gases are used to produce 1 MW of electricity. The City of Ekurhuleni has also signed 45 independent power producer agreements to generate renewable energy. The City of Ekurhuleni intends to focus on awareness and education to improve recycling levels
Discovery installs EARTH CYCLER composting machine
Discover y has installed Ear th Probiotic’s locally developed and manufactured Ear th Cycler food waste composting machine.
iscovery’s ambition is to be a zero-waste-to-landfill site and this on-site composter will process food waste at 1 Discovery Place – Discovery’s 5-star Green Star rated head office in Sandton. Installing the Earth Cycler composting machine not only demonstrates Discovery’s commitment to supporting local manufacturing but also puts actions behind the company’s stated “commitment to responsibly [manage our] environmental impact and [minimise] the use of natural resources in our business.”
A data-driven approach In line with Discovery’s data-centric operational approach, the Ear th Cycler automatically generates on-line reports that enable the company to accurately track organic waste volumes diverted from landfill and the environmental impact, in terms of reduced CO2e emissions, of this composting technology. These statistics can then be easily imported into Discovery’s sustainability reports. “When we designed the Earth Cycler, we knew that accurate measurement and reporting were key. All businesses need to measure and monitor their impact in order to build effective environmental impact minimisation strategies. The Earth Cycler measures inputs and outputs
and thus makes it easy to calculate the positive impact of an organisation’s food waste recycling activity. Being connected to these machines also enables us to check the performance of the Earth Cycler and deliver, like a Tesla motor car, software updates over the air,” notes Gavin Heron, director at Earth Probiotic. Located in the recycling/waste area at 1 Discovery Place, the Earth Cycler is operated by waste management company Wasteplan’s on-site team. Prior to committing to installing the Earth Cycler, the unit was on trial for just under a year. “The trial unit performed well, but we added input guidance metrics to enable operators to easily comply with the food and carbon input recipe,” states Heron.
Remote operations As the Earth Cycler is an automated unit with remote management capability, it has worked well in this lockdown period. The composter can be operated by small teams and remote management has enabled the Cycler to be monitored off-site, thus assisting with social distancing requirements at Discovery. In addition to Discovery, Earth Probiotic’s Earth Cycler automated on-site food waste composting machine has been installed by Standard Bank, FNB, Tsebo (at the Kusile power station), Philip Morris International, and at various lodges in Botswana and Zambia.
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Landfill containment: cost-effective longterm solutions
Arguably one of the most critical and farreaching infrastructure decisions, secondar y only to the selection and preparation of the landfill site, is the choice of liner and capping system to be put in place.
odern landfill best practice favours geomembranes as ef fective, durable barriers against liquid and gas leaching. To assure landfill owners and operators of a continuous, enduring seal across the entire area of the site, polyethylene geomembranes such as AKS Geoliner are specified as both lining and capping solutions.
It’s tough in a landfill Because of the demanding, often aggressive and hazardous environments of landfills, the installed lining should comply with various manufacturing standards and pass numerous pre-installation and in situ tests to ensure it will withstand a lifetime of harsh surroundings. Factors considered when designing and manufacturing AKS Geoliner include the on-site physical stresses likely to be encountered, the types of waste material, the expected depth of fill, the compaction methods envisaged, and the geophysical characteristics of the site. Making allowances for these factors determines the type of resin used, the thickness, and the asperity height of textured or smooth geomembranes.
Testing, testing, testing In AKS’s state-of-the-art laboratory, the company follows strict testing protocols, adhering to and usually exceeding international standards. For example, the US Geosynthetic Research Institute’s GRI – GM13 Standard Specification requires 10 checks for thickness control, while AKS performs as many as 36 checks in 36 zones. In fact, all Geoliner produced by AKS meets or exceeds international standards such as GRI-GM13 (HDPE), GRI-GM17 (LLDPE) and the local SANS 1526. Testing during production is done as a matter of course; continued pinhole detection is applied across the entire width of the sheet. For added peace
of mind, AKS invites customers to a plant visit to familiarise themselves with the integrity and quality standards at work in the company’s modern, easily accessible plant in Brackenfell.
Longevity Along with its excellent impermeability, AKS Geoliner is characterised by its exceptional durability, high chemical resistance, UV protection and superior weldability.
Karlo Wentzel, Sales Manager: Geomembranes, AKS
The material’s excellent tensile properties and high elongation characteristics combined with flexibility make for a tough barrier that is highly resistant to tearing and puncturing. At the same time, AKS Geoliner is flexible enough to allow for ease of installation without compromising its integrity.
An inline marking system ensures on-site quality control and traceability. Instead of relying on a mere sticker or label to identify the brand and batch, a line indicating the wedge weld overlap width – 150 mm from the edge – is printed every linear metre together with the roll number. The number is linked to the AKS quality control system and provides manufacturing information such as the resin used, the master batch, the responsible operator and the MQC certification details. In large installations, the number is entered in a panel layout to provide a record of every square metre of lining used on the site.
Options Geoliner is manufactured using the calendered ‘flat-die’ extrusion process, in 7 m widths, with thickness ranging from 1 mm to 3 mm. It is available in HDPE and LLDPE, with a smooth or textured finish, or a combination of smooth and textured, either on one or both sides of the sheet. AKS Megatextured Geoliner, offering a more enhanced textured surface, is available in HDPE or LLDPE with either single- or double-side texturing options. To ensure a consistent product with the highest level of accuracy, AKS liners are manufactured using European-made precision extruders. Geoliner can be custom-made to suit specific project requirements, taking into account installation needs, roll lengths, and truck and container loading configurations. When it comes to handling – to facilitate off-loading and moving the product on-site – each roll is fitted with two lifting slings.
Availability AKS Geoliner is manufactured at the company’s modern plant based in Brackenfell, Cape Town. A large yard with ample storage provides the shortest possible lead times to customers. For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +27 (0)21 983 2700.
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Boiler ash - a wasted resource When diver ted from landfill, boiler ash can become a useful resource with economic and environmental benefits.
Sandile Khumalo, project manager, NCPC-SA
oiler ash is a perfect contributor in the drive to diver t waste from landfills and the transition to a low-carbon economy. It is extensively used as a raw material in concrete products and the manufacture of ash bricks. Fly and bottom ash are produced from the incineration of biofuel in boilers. This ash becomes a problem when disposed of at landfill because it has negative environmental impacts unless contained within binding agents. Ash contains hazardous particles that are harmful to humans. Thus, to avoid contaminating the environment, ash should not be dumped at landfills.
An ash economy Applying industrial symbiosis means creating industries that recover and redirect resources
for reuse, in turn creating green business opportunities. Sandile Khumalo, project manager, National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA), says that the application of industrial symbiosis methodology presents a perfect solution to divert ash from landfill and promotes the reuse of this resource. Currently, ash is used as a cover at some landfills in order to prevent waste from being blown away and to prevent the escape of methane and other landfill gases into the atmosphere. However, boiler ash being used as landfill cover means that the ash can no longer be accessed or redirected for any other economic use, thus ending its economic life. An ash economy can be realised when ash is used in an application where a product is manufactured using it as an input material, such as in aggregate replacement, resulting in monetary benefits and savings for the user.
Two informal brickmaking sites in Ga-Rankuwa and Mamelodi in Tshwane are currently using ash to manufacture cement bricks. This ash is sourced from two companies operating boilers in Tshwane. The brickmakers substitute crusher sand with ash as one of the raw materials. The site in Ga-Rankuwa makes bricks for the community using approximately 3 000 tonnes of ash. The Mamelodi site supplies the community and a hardware store with the bricks it makes. In a year, the Mamelodi site has used approximately 1 000 tonnes of ash, diverted the waste material from landfill, and provided a useful application for the waste by making bricks used for building. From the volumes of ash supplied by Isowall, the company was able to manufacture approximately 30 000 bricks. â€œWe are proud to be a part of this symbiosis programme,â€? says John van Duyn, general manager, Isowall Group.
Industrial Symbiosis Case Study
Company with waste material
Company that needs waste material
Isowall Southern Africa
Crystal Concrete Works
3 jobs Interesting fact
No investment 24
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Waste diverted from landfill
408 tonnes GHG emissions reduction
167 000 tCO2e
Boiler ash cover at Malelane sugar mill landfill
According to Khumalo, the informal brickmaking sites found a unique use for ash and, in so doing, created an economic benefit for the businesses, thus enabling economic value recover y from the waste. The environmental benefit of using ash as an input material in brickmaking is that this resource substitutes costly aggregates for the brickmakers, resulting in reduced virgin aggregate mined from the ear th. The waste was made available to the brickmaker at a no cost,
and because of the cost saving and availability of the ash resource, the Mamelodi company was able to create three new jobs. “From these relationships, we can obser ve two companies from different sectors who benefit from the collaboration, as well as economical value recovery through diverting ash from landfills. One man’s waste becomes another man’s treasure,” says Khumalo.
The NCPC-SA’s Industrial Symbiosis Programme is a free service that uses a unique facilitation approach to rapidly match member companies’ underutilised resources with those who can utilise them. The programme is currently operated in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In Gauteng alone, the Industrial Symbiosis Programme generated a total economic value of R94.8 million between April 2015 and March 2018
To sign up, visit www.ncpc.co.za
MACHINES AND PLANTS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF ALTERNATIVE FUELS Pellets or fluff as alternative fuels from domestic or industrial waste
AMANDUS KAHL GmbH & Co. KG Dieselstrasse 5–9 · 21465 Reinbek Hamburg, Germany · +49 (0) 40 72 77 10 email@example.com · akahl.de
Johannes Schuback & Sons (S.A) PTY Ltd. Sandton/South Africa T +27 11 70 62 270 · F +27 11 70 69 236 firstname.lastname@example.org
Solar panel recycling: not a dark art after all By some predictions, the year 2050 will see 15% of the worldâ€™s energy being produced by photovoltaic (PV) cells. While solar panels have a life of several decades, it becomes increasingly impor tant to consider reuse and recycling options as time passes. By Dr Mark Williams-Wynn*
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he uptake of PV technology is being driven by the demand for clean energy tied with the reduced capital and operational costs of the technology. At present, between 90% and 95% of solar panels use silicon-based PV cells that conver t sunlight into electricity. Other solar panels use thin films of cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide to conver t the sunlight to electricity. These chemicals are highly toxic and make the management of these types of panels extremely hazardous. While silicon-based and thin-film PV are currently the only widespread technologies, there are also several nextgeneration technologies that will likely become more widely used by 2050. The average solar panel has a life expectancy of between 20 and 50 years, meaning that panels installed today will only become waste 20 to 50 years into the future. However, the predicted exponential increase in the number of solar panels that reach end-of-life (EOL) will require efficient and cost-effective waste management strategies. The 2014 amendment to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (No. 59 of 2008) bans all waste electronic and electrical equipment from landfill as of 23 August 2021.
This includes all solar panels. South Africa is yet to see demand for solar panel recycling, but the implementation of the ban together with more solar panels reaching EOL will result in increasing demand for solutions.
The life of a solar panel PV cells degrade slowly over time, resulting in decreases in efficiency. The EOL of a panel is often reached because the efficiency of the panel drops below a cer tain threshold, but other than this, the panel continues to function. For large commercial applications, the panels must be replaced when the efficiency drops to a cer tain level. However, the panels can continue to produce electricity for many more years, albeit at reduced outputs. Strategies for reusing these panels in lessdemanding applications should be developed. Examples of such applications include the electrification of rural areas and schools. These panels could be sold, donated or leased. A major concern with this strategy is ensuring that the panels are managed sustainably when they no longer function. For this reason, leasing may be a better option, as ownership will be maintained by the supplier. The income from leasing panels could be used to cover the EOL recycling costs.
RECYCLING Apar t from efficiency issues, other solar panels are considered waste due to super ficial or par tial damages. Many of these can be repaired and can enter the used market. At present, there is no second-hand market for solar panels, and the creation of such a market may assist in reducing the amount of waste produced, while increasing the availability of PV technology. However, in a similar manner to the reuse of lower-efficiency solar panels, thought needs to be given to how the solar panels are recovered for recycling once they are no longer functional.
Recycling options A solar panel consists of the PV cells housed within a plastic, glass and metal structure. Up to 96% of the mass of a solar panel (predominantly the structure of the panel) can be recycled within South Africa. It would, therefore, be prudent to locally recycle as much of the materials from the solar panels as possible, as this will create jobs, ensure that materials remain within South Africa and reduce shipping costs. As the volumes of solar panels that require recycling increase over time, it may become feasible to begin processing the PV cells themselves in South Africa. However, the current low volumes render this option infeasible. The biggest challenge with dismantling solar panels is the separation of the silicon wafers from the glass protective layer under which they are glued. This can be done either through thermal treatment, chemical treatment or mechanical treatment. The value of the separated silicon is
dependent upon the treatment technique used. Undamaged wafers obtained through thermal or chemical treatment have a higher value than those separated by mechanical means. However, the mechanical processes are often cheaper and faster.
Creating a recycling market Despite such a large fraction of a solar panel being recyclable, the recycling of solar panels costs more than can be recovered by selling the recycled materials, due to their low value. Thus, the challenge in encouraging the recycling of PV technology boils down to the questions of who will fund it, and how these will funds be managed. Regardless of where on the value chain this cost is included, it will always be the case that
the end user will bear the cost of recycling. However, the location at which this cost is added can play an important role in ensuring that the available finances are used responsibly and correctly. To encourage the recycling of solar panels in South Africa will require cooperation between all players in the industry, including manufacturers, installers, users and recyclers. Without the recycling of solar panels, solar power is not so green after all â€“ but with an efficient waste management system, we can ensure green energy for the future of South Africa.
*Dr Mark Williams-Wynn is a research engineer at the University of KwaZulu-Natalâ€™s School of Engineering.
SA’s recycling habits revealed Data from a new sur vey tapping into the public’s attitudes towards recycling has revealed that the majority of working- and middle-class South Africans simply find recycling too much effor t.
when it comes to PET plastic, commonly used to produce plastic bottles.
n the largest consumer research of its kind in South Africa, almost 1 000 adults – mostly from major cities in South Africa but including peri-urban and rural areas – spanning living standard measures (LSM) 1 to 10 were quizzed. The results show that although recycling habits are becoming more mainstream, a third of South Africans do not recycle at all. “PETCO has under taken extensive research to understand and unpack South African consumer perceptions and attitudes towards recycling. Our most recent research shows that recycling behaviour among South Africans is still quite limited,” notes Cheri Scholtz, CEO, PETCO. Insights from the research will assist PETCO – the organisation overseeing polyethylene terephthalate (PET) reuse and recycling in South Africa – in its long-term strategy of improving South Africans’ recycling habits, specifically
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“Many consumers are apathetic and indifferent about why they should recycle. Our research fur ther shows that dif ferent economic groups are differently motivated to recycle,” says Scholtz. Respondents representing LSM 1 to 3 indicated that their incentives to recycle were economically aligned, with their experience of recycling being that it created jobs and was therefore good for the economy. Respondents representing LSM 4 to 10 were, in turn, motivated by environmental factors. This, they indicated, was because recycling minimised waste, saved energy and helped combat climate change. Their biggest barriers to recycling were a lack of facilities and space to store the items within the home and a lack of understanding of where to take recyclables once they were separated from general household waste. There was additionally a high level of confusion around what the various polymer identification codes meant.
“Most consumers inter viewed, across all demographics and age groups, were simply not motivated to star t recycling. Even if they did want to star t recycling, they didn’t know how to star t, what to do with their recyclables, where to take them, or whether recycling was wor thwhile or not [not knowing what is done with the post-consumer recyclables],” says Scholtz.
Findings from low-income respondents (LSM 1-3) Respondents said they first became aware of recycling from waste collectors in their suburbs, as well as through friends and family. Major barriers to recycling are a lack of storage space at home and the absence of easily accessible recycling depots. The group showed a decrease in recycling from PETCO’s previous sur vey in 2017. More than half of the respondents indicated that they did not recycle, and more than a third showed no interest to do so – either now or in the future. More than two-thirds also viewed recycling as hard work, indicating it was easier to just throw recyclable items away. Respondents aged 18 to 24 in this LSM group made up the largest count of non-recyclers.
Findings from middle-income respondents (LSM 4-6) Middle-income respondents saw the benefits of recycling as being mainly environmental (53%), with economic factors such as job creation and the reuse of household items also listed as top benefits. Although there was a positive disposition towards recycling, the levels of recycling were lacklustre. Overall, almost two-thirds of these respondents did not recycle.
Findings from high-income respondents (LSM 7-10) Among the high-income group, 43% of respondents claimed to be recyclers, while 29% said they were occasional recyclers and 28% did not recycle at all. The main benefit of recycling as cited by high-income respondents
was environmental, with 81% agreeing that recycling was “no longer optional”. They cited traditional media sources (TV, newspapers, radio and magazines) as the main communicators creating awareness of recycling, with social media the next most prevalent information stream.
Education of utmost importance “The need for greater recycling education is of utmost importance to turn this situation around. Specifically, consumers do not understand how technologically advanced and sophisticated the PET plastic bottle recycling process in South Africa is,” says Scholtz. “They are not aware that PET plastic is 100% recyclable when basic design principles are adhered to, or that recycled PET can be used to make many new products, such as stuffing for
duvets and pillows, or polyester fibre for jeans and T-shirts, or serve as raw material for a brand-new PET bottle.” In 2018 alone, 98 649 tonnes of postconsumer PET plastic bottles were recycled by PETCO, saving 612 000 m3 of landfill space and lessening the country’s carbon emissions footprint by 148 000 tonnes. “Greater awareness should also be created around the fact that the lives of many South Africans are being changed for the better through the local beneficiation of PET bottle recycling in the country,” continues Scholtz. Through PETCO’s effor ts, an average of 6.2 million PET plastic bottles were collected for recycling across South Africa every day in 2018, creating 68 000 income-generating oppor tunities for small and micro-collectors – up from the 64 000 for 2017.
Making a real difference Committed to community development and job creation, ECOmonkey Recycling is making a tangible difference to people’s lives as the company strives to provide environmentally friendly recycling ser vices.
etween 60% and 75% of all manufactured waste can be usefully recycled. If done, this can significantly reduce the environmental impact of waste by decreasing the volumes sent to landfill. “With landfills in South Africa reaching their maximum capacity, recycling should be a top priority for ever y South African,” says Simon Thom, owner, ECOmonkey Recycling. “By increasing our recycling levels, we can significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from landfill, conser ve natural resources, save energy, and create jobs.” Job creation is a core part of ECOmonkey’s mission. The company offers environmentally friendly recycling collection ser vices to residential, corporate and industrial customers, big and small. This includes the weekly or fortnightly collection of glass, paper, plastic, cans and e-waste.
Employment and upliftment ECOmonkey promotes an owner-driven collection service with BBBEE development. Collections are managed by independent drivers who are paid per client that they service. ECOmonkey assists drivers by purchasing vehicles on their behalf and providing a client base. Once paid off, drivers receive ownership of their vehicles. The owner-drivers of the waste removal trucks are trained and assisted by ECOmonkey to manage their SMMEs, and the company’s policy is to source staff from community-based organisations or NGOs. Recyclable materials are delivered to various community recycling projects where they are sorted, and the income goes directly to the community members involved.
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Despite the environmental services industry – which includes recycling – having no industry transformation char ter, ECOmonkey has positioned itself as a BBBEE service provider. The company measures its transformation against the requirements for empowerment set out in the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (No. 53 of 2003), and the Codes of Good Practice on BBBEE. All employees are trained in the highly specialised domain of recycling as well as provided training in basic business practices for entrepreneurs and SMME owners, basic literacy and numeracy (if required), occupational health and safety, and waste management principles. “After eight years with us, one of our drivers was able to move to Polokwane and establish his own recycling business with two vehicles. It is a great opportunity to grow your own business,” says Thom. “Everyone benefits. We offer upliftment through education and create jobs for disadvantaged members of the community while diverting waste from landfills and ensuring that recyclables are processed correctly.” Having operated in Gauteng for years, Thom hopes to expand the company, which he describes as “a collection of small SMMEs”, to the Cape Town area within the next year.
It’s time to prepare for the expanding sector With Eskom announcing the possibility of load-shedding over the next 18 months in Februar y this year, it’s no revelation that South Africa’s energy situation is precarious. By Janine Espin
Janine Espin, managing director, EDS
ecause Eskom alone cannot supply the R1 trillion investment in power generation, transmission and distribution needed before 2030 in terms of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), private sector participation will be essential. As such, our focus on the supply of renewable energy by independent power producers (IPPs) needs to intensify. However, this will require the obstacles that currently hinder private sector energy solutions to be removed, in order to give the renewable energy sector the space it needs to grow.
IPPs: the current reality Renewable energy holds great promise for South Africa and, since its inception in 2011, the Renewable Energy Independent Power
Producer Procurement Programme has planned for the creation of 38 701 full-time jobs and a contribution of more than US$14 billion (R263 billion) in private sector investment in South Africa, according to Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Jeff Radebe. A total of 102 IPP projects have been procured from four bidding round windows, with the announcement of the fifth window hotly awaited. These projects use a variety of renewable energy technologies including biomass, landfill gas, hydro, solar (concentrated solar power and photovoltaic) and onshore wind.
The new IRP 2019: making progress After many years of debate, the IRP was finally published by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) in 2019. Although there is concern that the plan is inadequate in a number of aspects, these concerns must be viewed through the prism of a handful of developments. The first being the encouragement for IPPs to bring forward the new renewables commissioning date from 2025 to 2022, along with an increase in the annual allocation for large-scale corporate power purchase agreements. Additionally, an annual commissioning of 1.6 GW of wind energy between 2022 and 2030 has been introduced, which is anticipated to create as many as 16 000 direct jobs annually over the eight-year period.
So, what’s next for IPPs? While there is no indication as to when the fifth round of bidding is due to star t for companies to submit their proposals for consideration by the DMRE, IPPs and companies in related industries should not lose hope or sit idle. Because these IPP projects can have such a positive impact on unemployment in surrounding rural areas and contribute to the strengthening of our power position and ultimately our economy, IPPs should be using the time to prepare. Local businesses near IPP sites that have the potential to supply goods and ser vices to IPPs must make sure they comply with the necessar y requirements to become a preferred supplier. This is critical, because noncompliance will limit the ability for renewable energy projects to make an impact on the area in which they are located. This means ensuring the company is registered with the CIPC and SARS for tax compliance, in addition to registering with the Depar tment of Labour and obtaining the necessar y compliance cer tificate in this regard. These processes can be lengthy to complete, so it’s advisable for companies to use their time wisely now to give themselves the benefit of being prepared and ready to dive straight into the real work of growing the renewable energy sector when the fifth bidding round is announced. M AY 2 0 2 0
SOLAR ENERGY: the benefits are here
considerable share of between 40% and 50% of electricity is used for hot water preparation. Solar water heaters, therefore, offer a compelling alternative option, in the heat space, to reduce the electricity demand and associated environmental effects such as CO2 emissions caused by using heat generated via fossil fuel power plants. SADC member states have excellent solar irradiation of more than 2 000 kWh/m² annually, say reports from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA also suggests that solar thermal systems could meet approximately 70% to 80% of the region’s low-temperature heating and cooling demand. So, what needs to be done in order to harness this energy, which can the alleviate the stress on an already constrained electricity grid in South Africa?
Solar technology Solar energy is available to harness as either a heat or light resource. Although free, it does require
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technology to exploit it. The direct use of the heat component of solar is extremely efficient, since in excess 90% of this energy can be used directly in a solar thermal technology system. Today, various technologies are available for deployment in the solar energy sector and South Africa is at the forefront of this development. The question is: what needs to be done to stimulate the widespread uptake and implementation of this technology while growing the local marketplace? Initially, solar systems demonstrate that the sun can deliver energy within required parameters and then skills must be developed in order to build and maintain the technology associated with these systems. As technology familiarity and uptake increase, the local industry will start developing in stages to manufacture and support subsequent requirements. However, in parallel, quality and standards across all these areas of technology development must be ensured so that the reputation and, importantly, support of solar thermal technologies are maintained.
Currently, over 80% of electricity generated in the SADC region is from coal; however, the region continues to face a dire power deficit due to a lack of investment in power infrastructure, which in turn leads to supply disruption. This presents a major threat to economic growth. By Dr Karen Surridge*
South Africa has already made significant progress in the above value chain, stopping just short of manufacturing as at the current scenario; the implementation of solar thermal technology is steadily increasing and innovating. Already, the country has seen an exponential growth in solar thermal technology scale and skills. South Africa is now rated in the top 20 (as per m2 in a single installation) of District and Residential Heating Global Capacity (IEA, 2019) milestone installations. Locally, we have several flagship projects that have tangibly demonstrated the cost and energy generation benefits of solar: • The Wits Junction student residences district heating project in Johannesburg, Gauteng, is estimated to benefit from costs savings of R40 million over the next two decades. The university has already enjoyed substantial electricity savings since its inception in August 2018. • The Klein Karoo International leather tannery in the Northern Cape has installed 600 m2
The Klein Karoo International leather tannery in the Northern Cape
solar collector system to reduce costs and increase competitiveness. It is estimated by a Stellenbosch University feasibility study that 60% of the tannery’s local fuel usage could be replaced by solar and it would see a return on investment within 6.5 years. • The SANDF Air Force Base in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, benefits from two 1 500 ℓ solar water heating installations that not only improve electricity and water consumption but also act as a catalyst for upskilling personnel. The base enjoys less water wastage, since hot water is almost instant once a tap is opened.
Financial gains of solar in the property marketplace Today’s property owners usually consider two main points when deciding to move over to solar: capital
costs and the payback period – the amount of time required to save on traditional energy costs and cover the capital costs of the system. Other factors include the desire for energy autonomy/independence, energy security and longterm cost benefits in terms of saving, once the payback period has lapsed. To meet the above, each solar system needs to be tailored to the customer’s demands and affordability, which will also determine the payback period. Currently, most payback periods range between two and seven years, depending on the system specifications. At present, it is believed that the target is to reach electricity cost parity as quickly as possible in terms of meeting the market needs of cost versus energy security and independence implemented by these systems. To the above-mentioned Wits Junction student
residences system’s estimated costs savings as an example: as the electricity cost from the cogenerator is equal to the municipal cost, the thermal energy is free and the centralised plant requires significantly fewer maintenance interventions, hence the lower costs. This, weighed against the project cost of under R15 million, makes it a very financially attractive project. Solar technology is mature and proven; significantly, it is becoming known and accepted in the property market and the resultant financial service industry, which is seemingly becoming more open to offering finance towards these systems.
*Dr Karen Surridge is the manager: Renewable Energy Centre of Research & Development at the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi).
Solar water heaters offer a compelling alternative for hot water preparation
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Landfill closure and recycling Many municipalities, especially the smaller ones, do not have any form of engineered landfill or formal waste collection and disposal processes in place. Equipped with the necessar y knowledge base and financial resources, however, there are viable oppor tunities to transition to a circular economy. Reon Pienaar, professional engineer at JPCE (Pty) Ltd, discusses the possibilities.
Construction of Cell 4 at the Karwyderskraal regional landfill site
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eveloping a practical waste diversion strategy is complex and hinges on key factors such as ongoing education and access to funding for infrastructure development. Landfills that are often little more than uncontrolled dump sites don’t incur operational costs; however, the expense of closing them is often substantial. For example, a landfill site for a small town servicing several thousand people can cost R5 million to R10 million to rehabilitate. For a small municipality facing pressing infrastructure priorities like roads and water and sanitation upgrades and maintenance, landfill closure is going to be one of the last items on the agenda and is very rarely done. “Landfills will be part of the South African landscape for many years to come,” says Pienaar. “The goal, though, is to progressively reduce their number and make sure they’re all environmentally compliant. Essentially, we must manage landfills as part of an integrated waste management solution rather than the primary solution.” JPCE is a specialised waste management consulting engineering firm whose work includes the engineering of landfill closures, as well as the compilation of Integrated Waste Management Plans (IWMPs). In accordance with the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (No. 59 of 2008), municipalities are required to develop regular IWMPs to incorporate into their Integrated Development Plans. JPCE also assists municipalities with obtaining waste licences for the closure of their smaller landfill facilities and helping them establish materials recovery facilities (MRFs), public waste drop-off facilities, solid waste transfer stations, composting facilities, and other wasterelated infrastructure.
A regional strategy From an industry perspective, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) supports the move towards closing small municipal dump sites and shifting to a regional approach. There are already various working examples nationally. Within this scenario, MRFs in smaller towns will focus on separating recyclable waste at source and transporting the balance via transfer stations for disposal at engineered regional landfill facilities. Working predominantly in the Western Cape, JPCE has successfully worked with several district and local municipalities to re-engineer their landfill operations in this fashion. For Overberg District Municipality, headquartered in Bredasdorp,
JCPE has assisted in further developing the Karwyderskraal regional landfill site. This landfill services other local municipalities in the district, which currently include Theewaterskloof and Overstrand. Overberg has a successful composting facility at the landfill, processing garden and some fruit waste. Meanwhile, in towns like Gansbaai and Hermanus, MRFs recover recyclable materials, with the remaining waste sent to Karwyderskraal. “The first prize to achieve the highest rate of recycling is clean separation at source,” explains Pienaar. “Dirty waste, whether paper or recyclable plastics, has a reduced commercial value, as there’s the added cost of removing contaminants like dirt and food residues. “Across the board, we work with municipal waste managers to develop an implementation strategy that will help stimulate the local waste economy,” he continues. “As part of this process, we encourage municipalities to engage with private industry at local waste forums. As with any business, determining commercial viability is a critical starting point, and that depends on the market and potential buyers for recyclable materials.” JPCE is currently working on municipal organic waste studies to determine the optimum economies of scale for the treatment of this waste, in order to divert it from landfill. The proposed norms and standards for the development of composting facilities will greatly facilitate the process for municipalities. These norms and standards have been in draft form for some time and currently the development of a composting facility still requires an environmental authorisation and waste licence application, which can be a costly and time-consuming exercise. To develop an MRF is much easier. In October 2017, the DEFF removed the environmental authorisation and licensing requirement from the list of waste management activities that have, or are likely to have, a detrimental effect on the environment. Although an MRF still needs to be registered and operated according to the norms and standards set by the DEFF, it no longer requires a waste management licence and environmental authorisation process.
Removing landfills In some cases, landfills can be completely removed and the ground rehabilitated to make way for urban development. This process depends largely on the volumes of waste involved and the costs of excavations, testing and transport, etc. A case in point is a project recently completed by JPCE for the town of Riebeeck West. During the removal
Riebeeck West’s public solid waste drop-off during construction
Worcester MRF nearing completion
of the landfill, everything that could potentially be recovered and reused was assessed. During the screening process, mostly clean soil and builders’ rubble were recovered for reuse. The remaining contaminated material was then transferred to a licensed regional landfill for disposal. The feasibility of rehabilitating the land by removing the landfill is very site-specific and cost-dependent, so each situation needs to be assessed on its merits.
Waste parks In developed regions, like the EU and UK, a common trend is the establishment of integrated waste treatment facilities (IWTFs). “These tend to work very well, principally because waste management is a culture that these communities have grown up with, so it’s ingrained,” says Pienaar. “I believe IWTFs have significant potential in South Africa within the larger metro environment.” IWTFs work on the basis that source-separated materials arrive at the gate for assessment. From there, this is either directed to the tipping area, or a materials recovery, composting, or builders’ rubble stockpiling area. Electronic waste is another stream with major revenue potential.
“A further step in the IWTF model is potentially the establishment of an anaerobic digester for the treatment of organic food waste,” he continues. “Then, at the far end of the scale is a direct combustion, thermal waste-to-energy facility. These are very costly to establish, but successfully treat virtually all nonrecycled wastes. The ash residue generated from a waste-to-energy plant is then landfilled in a controlled manner.” South African metros like Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane have all conducted feasibility studies for alternative waste treatment technologies. These projects are theoretically bankable through a public-private partnership model but need political drive, extensive public participation and an increase in separation at source to be successful. “Given the obvious long-term economic and environmental benefits, recycling is the right thing to do, but it’s well understood that it’s not a simple process, and is definitely more expensive
than landfilling currently,” he adds. The gate fee for landfilling in South Africa is still less expensive than any other form of waste treatment and this is one of the reasons why almost all our locally generated waste still goes to landfill. The long-term environmental and economic benefits of investing in alternative waste treatment justify the short-term financial costs in order to stimulate the circular economy. Establishing needed waste infrastructure, buyback centres and formalising offtake agreements are key to making the process financially sustainable. Building a local recycling and remanufacturing economy would also make South Africa less dependent on an export-driven waste model, as well as less vulnerable to international volatility in commodity prices. “Lowering operating costs and providing better access to markets is essential, and it can only work as an integrated process with combined public and private cooperation. Sustainable waste management includes landfilling, but only as part of an integrated solution,” he concludes.
Costs of “killing” Landfilling (Gate Fees Required for Comparison) R1 600,00 R1 400,00 R1 200,00
Landfill (R500/t) Includes assumed R50Million Capital Cost and Allowance for Closure. Site dependant.
R1 000,00 R800,00 R600,00 R400,00 R200,00 R-
Crushing (R100/t) Can be cash positive if find the right offtake. Anaerobic Digestion (R350/t) Needs about 100 tonnes per day. Includes Opex en Capex and can be further reduced with additional off takers.
Recycling (R1,450/t) Includes Capex & Opex and collection. Can make up costs (or make profit) through sale of product but very market and transport (distance) dependant. Composting (R720/t) Includes Capex (site development) & Opex (chipping and composting). Can still sell R100 – R200 p/t depending on quality. Removal of licensing requirements will reduce costs. Direct Combustion (R600/t) Includes Opex en Capex and can be further reduced with additional off takers but requires large sustainable feedstock. Only feasible for metropolitan areas. M AY 2 0 2 0
A pact to reduce plastics usage While global plastic waste statistics are over whelming, initiatives like the South African Plastics Pact aim to tackle the problem by keeping plastics in the economy and out of the environment. By Nombulelo Manyana
esearch shows that of all plastics produced each year, more than 8 million tonnes of it is dumped into our oceans and, should we continue business as usual, by 2050 there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean by weight. In addition to the significant impact that plastics have on the environment, the lack of a circular product approach leads to the loss of valuable material. Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, about 12% has been incinerated, while the rest ends up in landfills, dumps or the environment. With the use of plastics growing worldwide, there is an urgent need to rethink the way they are designed, used and reused. The SA Plastics Pact, launched in January, was developed for this exact reason. The pact was developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA), in partnership with the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (Sapro) and the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). It brings together key stakeholders in the plastics value chain – businesses, governments and NGOs – behind a common vision to address plastic waste and pollution issues. The first of its kind in Africa, the SA Plastics Pact brings
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together a host of South African companies, who have committed to reducing plastics usage by making all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. “Through the SA Plastics Pact, we can support the development of a secondary resource or ‘circular economy’ in South Africa, which will drive investment in infrastructure, support livelihoods and keep our environment free of plastic pollution. We applaud the South African Plastics Pact signatories, who are pioneers in taking the first step towards establishing a circular plastics economy nationally and in the region,” says Lorren de Kock, project manager: Circular Plastics Economy, WWF-SA. The SA Plastics Pact follows similar commitments from other countries across the globe. The pact, managed and delivered by GreenCape, is part of a network started by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy campaign group.
Global Plastics Pact Network Although it has been developed for the South African context, the pact was shaped by experiences of others in the global Plastics Pact Network. The Plastics Pact is a bold initiative bringing together the entire plastics packaging value chain behind a common vision and committing to a set of ambitious targets. The network offers a unique platform to exchange knowledge and
best practices across the globe, which will help to accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics. The UK Plastics Pact was the first of the planned global network of plastics pacts. This pact is supported by 68 members who are responsible for 80% of plastic packaging sold in the UK’s supermarkets, and half of all packaging placed on the market. Following the launch of the UK Plastics Pact less than a year ago, the network has become increasingly international and expanding. A Chilean pact, the French National Pact, and a Dutch pact have also been developed and have been followed by other initiatives in the EU and around the world. The Global Commitment has been signed by 250+ organisations, representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally. Signatories include many of the world’s largest packaging producers and brands, including well-known consumer businesses such as Danone, H&M Group, L’Oréal, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever. It also includes many retailers and recyclers, as well as governments and NGOs. Although each pact sets out its own unique target, the global pact has collective targets, which cover five key areas: • eliminating unnecessar y and problematic single-use plastic packaging • making sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
CIRCULAR ECONOMY • significantly increasing the collection and recycling of plastic packaging • increasing recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material • becoming members of relevant PROs. WRAP has been working on the plastics circular economy in the UK since the 2000s, primarily on developing new markets for post-consumer recycled plastics and increasing householder and local authority participation in plastic packaging recycling. Branching out to other countries, like South Africa, gives the network an opportunity to share not only knowledge but also resources.
•7 0% of plastic packaging effectively recycled • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging. In order to achieve these 2025 targets for a circular economy for plastic in South Africa, various activities are required. Some plastic items are problematic and essentially need to be ‘designed out’. New reuse models can reduce the need for single-use packaging while, at the same time, holding the potential for significant user and business benefits. All plastics need to be designed to be reusable, recyclable or compostable in practice and at scale, with an effort on both the design, and the
Specificities of the SA pact As mentioned previously, the SA Plastics Pact brings together South African companies that have committed to reducing plastics usage by making all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. At the same time, they have also pledged to effectively recycle 70% of plastic packaging and use 30% recycled content across any plastic packaging. By the end of 2025, members also aim to take measures against all problematic or unnecessary packaging and elaborate ways to address it. Additional goals will ensure that members are also part of producer responsibility or ganisations, according to the pact’s website. Alternatively, it may consider more investments or job creation in the plastic waste sector. Effectively, by 2025, all members commit to: • take action against problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery models • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
By delivering on these targets, the SA Plastics Pact aims to help boost job creation in the South African plastics collection and recycling sector, while simultaneously keeping plastics out of the environment and in the economy
after-use side. In the case of compostables, this is only applicable in controlled systems with sufficient infrastructure available. “The SA Plastics Pact has the advantage of working with an established recycling sector but there are challenges. We’ll need to focus on smarter packaging design, alternative delivery models and ways to increase the value of materials,” asserts De Kock. By delivering on these targets, the SA Plastics Pact will help to boost job creation in the South African plastics collection and recycling sector, and help to create new opportunities in product design and reuse business models. It will result in changes that will meet the demands of customers, consumers, NGOs and other stakeholders, namely: • less problematic plastics • plastics that are designed to be reusable or recyclable • an increase in recycling efforts • a stronger recycling and sorting sector bringing jobs and investment • demand for more recycled plastics being used and less virgin material • alignment of global, national and corporate goals will help deliver much needed change further and faster. By delivering on these targets, the SA Plastics Pact aims to help boost job creation in the South African plastics collection and recycling sector, while simultaneously keeping plastics out of the environment and in the economy.
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L E G I S L AT I O N
SHEDDING LIGHT on grid independence
South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, created a wave of excitement when he announced at the recent Investing in African Mining Indaba in early Februar y that his depar tment was busy drawing up regulations to make it easier for companies to generate their own electricity. By Jason van der Poel, Mzukisi Kota and Alexandra Felekis*
he country’s industrial and commercial users, from smelters to retail stores, have suffered financial losses since December as stateowned power utility Eskom, unable to meet demand, has re-introduced intermittent loadshedding. Among Eskom’s biggest customers are underground miners, who have drawn up plans over the past few years for private generation capacity of 40 MW to 75 MW. Unfortunately, until recently, it was unclear whether or not self-generation projects exceeding 10 MW would be required to apply for and obtain an exemption from the minister from the obligation to comply with the IRP 2019 in terms of section 10(2)(g) of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA; No. 4 of 2006), before an application for a generation licence would be considered by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).
Distributed generation The definition of distributed generation in the current version of the IRP 2019 does not expressly limit distributed generation to 1 MW to 10 MW. According to the IRP 2019, distributed generation refers to “small-scale technologies to produce electricity close to the end users of power”. The reference to small-scale in the definition and explanations provided elsewhere in
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the IRP 2019 suggest that distributed generation projects may be limited to projects with an installed capacity between 1 MW and 10 MW. The minister indicated that his department was in the process of revising Schedule 2 of the ERA, which would enable self-generation and facilitate municipal generation options. Depending on the circumstances, a generation plant might only need to be registered, not licensed, he said. More light was shed on the issue by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address on 13 February. He said Nersa will ensure that all applications by commercial and industrial users to produce electricity for own use above 1 MW are processed within the prescribed 120 days. He also noted that there will be no limit to installed capacity above 1 MW. Arguably, the president has confirmed that “distributed generation” as defined in the IRP 2019 is not capped at projects with an installed capacity of 10 MW and that self-generation projects above 1 MW may apply for a generation licence from Nersa and are not required to request an exemption from the minister for deviating from the IRP in terms of section 10(2) (g) of the ERA. This is a positive development for self-generation and will eliminate unnecessary red tape to licensing. However, the position in the IRP 2019 should be clarified formally by the department.
The IRP 2019 provides for an uncapped allocation of “distributed generation” up to and including the year 2022. The IRP 2019 provides, with reference to distributed generation in table 5 in the IRP 2019, that this is an “allocation to the extent of the short-term capacity and energy gap”. As such, developers of self-generation projects should submit their generation licence applications sooner rather than later.
Licensing The central piece of legislation regulating electricity in South Africa is the ERA. Schedule 2 of the ERA sets out activities that are exempt from the obligation to apply for and hold a licence. These activities must still be registered with Nersa, which is responsible for licensing and tariffs. These are the generation facilities that only need to be registered, not licensed, currently: • no bigger than 1 MW that is connected to the national grid, where there is a single customer, no wheeling of electricity through the national grid and the minister has not published a notice in the Government Gazette stating that the amount of megawatts allocated in the IRP for embedded generation of this nature has been reached • no bigger than 1 MW that is connected to the national grid, where there is a single customer,
L E G I S L AT I O N
wheeling through the national grid and there is an allocation for that electricity in the IRP • no bigger than 1 MW that is not connected to the national grid, where the operation is solely to supply the owner of the generation facility in question or for consumption by a customer related to the generator or owner of the generation facility on the same property where the generation facility is located • for demonstration purposes only, where the electricity produced is not sold and the facility will be in operation for less than three years • where the electricity is produced from a co-product, by-product, waste product or residual product of an underlying industrial process and where the operation is solely to supply the owner of the generation facility or for consumption by a customer related to the generator on the same property where the generation facility is located. Based on current legislation and the public announcements made by the government: • If companies wish to generate less than 1 MW of power for their own use, they will need to register with Nersa. • If companies wish to generate more than 1 MW of power for their own use, they can do so under the current IRP and will not need a ministerial deviation but will need to get licensed by Nersa. It is not clear what amendments will be made to Schedule 2 of the ERA to address the licensing of self-generation projects above 1 MW. Based on the statements made by the president in the State of the Nation Address, it does not appear that self-generation projects above 1 MW will be excluded from the requirement to be licensed by Nersa. We would assume that the definition of what constitutes distributed generation will be aligned in the ERA and IRP 2019. In particular: the definition of distributed generation in the IRP 2019 should be amended not to limit this type of generation to “small-scale” projects, the reference to generation “close to the end users of power” should be clarified, particularly where there is wheeling, and it should be made clear that there is no limit to the installed capacity of these projects.
*Jason van der Poel, Mzukisi Kota and Alexandra Felekis are all partners at Webber Wentzel.
Jason van der Poel
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E N V I R O N M E N TA L M A N A G E M E N T
Restoration of critical rail link JG Afrika recently completed hydrological, topographical, sedimentation and climate studies to greatly assist the Malawian government to rebuild railway infrastructure in an area prone to devastating floods. By Simon Johnson*
he railway line extends from the Mozambican border in the south of Malawi, to Bangula, at the confluence of the Shire and Ruo rivers. Here, it crosses extensive floodplain areas, before travelling adjacent to the Ruo River to Sandama, and onwards to the Limbe Station in Blantyre, one of Malawiâ€™s main commercial hubs. The study focused on the section of the railway line where significant flooding occurred in January 2015 as a result of cyclonic activity. Floods caused massive erosion and wash-away damage on several sections of the railway line near the river. Several bridges also washed away. The infrastructure is important, as it acts as a link to the Mozambican port of Beira, and the damage has had profound negative socioeconomic impacts on an already impoverished area of the country.
Addressing the damage Before January 2015, Malawi was undertaking preliminary design of upgrades to the railway infrastructure in this area. However, considering the extent of the damage caused by the floods, it decided to first appoint specialists to undertake
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Bridges damaged during flooding from the Ruo River were modelled for the design of rehabilitation measures
hydrological, topographical, sedimentation and climate studies to better inform the repairs. The government received financing from the International Development Association toward the cost of the Malawi Floods Emergency Recover y Project (MFERP). Through the MFERP Project Implementation Unit (PIU), the government appointed a joint venture between JG Afrika and Royal HaskoningDHV (RHDHV), in association with a local Malawian company, Majiatua Engineering Ser vices International (MESI), to undertake the study. JG Afrika, who led the study, was responsible for most of the outputs and was supported by RHDHV on the sedimentation studies. MESI provided important in-country support, as well as hydrological input and context of the working environment. Survey support services were provided by Southern Mapping and Surveys Malawi.
Successful delivery Initial challenges included the lack of rainfall and stream flow data in the area to calibrate the models, which led to the deployment of less dataintensive methods to obtain the required outputs. Considering the dynamic nature of the confluence area from a hydraulic and sedimentation perspective, modelling of the flows and the subsequent water levels was a particularly complex undertaking. Community members were a wealth of information, providing the team with a historical account of the various flooding events, including flood lines at stream flow gauges and on buildings in the area. The area could also only be accessed safely during the dry season. Wet roads and steep topography, combined with the risk of flooding, make certain areas inaccessible and others dangerous during the wet season.
The outcomes of the study were workshopped with a variety of different local and national stakeholders. Notably, the joint ventureâ€™s work, including simulated flood levels, was accepted by the authorities shortly before Cyclone Idai made landfall in March 2019. The extent of the flooding experienced during the cyclone mirrored the simulations generated during the study and acted as a further validation of its outputs. Regrettably, there was further loss of life in the area and the extent of damage again reiterated the need to accelerate the rehabilitation of this infrastructure to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of the people living in the area. JG Afrika would like to acknowledge the support, vision and commitment of the MFERP PIU and Geoffrey Magwede, director: Railway Services at the Government of Malawi, whose oversight and guidance were instrumental in the development of a strong partnership with the study team and ultimately led to the successful delivery of the project.
*Simon Johnson is a technical director at JG Afrika.
Erosion of the railway line adjacent to the Ruo River looking across to Mozambique
S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y
The novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable our businesses are to disruptions in logistics and supply chains. Gavin Heron* believes our new, adaptive business strategies need to address how we can shor ten the supply chain.
ore resilient supply and service systems are now essential to keep our businesses functioning. But what does resilience actually mean? A good definition is: “the ability of a system to withstand changes in its environment and still function”. Here, “system” can be replaced by business, people, services, mental state and even families. Resilience doesn’t just happen – it needs to be built into systems. Resilient systems come from good planning and are more than a risk management strategy.
Is your waste system resilient? While resilient strategies are usually developed post facto, the pandemic has highlighted that we need to develop resilient strategies to avoid running off-the-cuff crisis management interventions, which may lead to larger problems. Running rigorous ‘if that, then this’ planning sessions will enable any organisation to build resilient organisation strategies. But resilience does not mean immunity; repeated challenges and attacks can lead to the total collapse of any system.
Resilience in waste One area that needs resilience is waste. China closing its borders to recyclable waste imports had a massive impact on the global waste industry. More recently, Covid-19 has impacted waste service both locally and abroad.
The problem with food waste is that it can quickly become a disease vector. So, how will food waste be properly managed if waste services become seriously degraded by Covid-19 infections? During these times, everyone – business, individuals and municipalities – needs to consider strategies to improve resilience. The waste system is vitally important. On-site business or domestic food waste composting will help to build resilience into the waste management system while reducing stress on municipal resources.
*Gavin Heron is the director of Earth Probiotic Recycling Solutions.
G R O U N D WAT E R
Determine leachate risk before drilling
Contamination from petroleum hydrocarbons and industrial solvents is not easy to trace to a particular source
Companies and municipalities looking to use groundwater as a path to water resilience need to pay careful attention to the risk of contamination from leachates before rushing into drilling boreholes. This is according to Richard O’Brien, principal environmental geochemist at SRK.
The contamination of groundwater by leachate from various sources becomes more of an issue as municipalities and businesses try to become ‘water resilient’
If contamination has occurred in the upper layers, which are not adequately sealed off from the aquifers below, cross-contamination can occur
er tain chemicals that can contaminate groundwater can make water from these sources unfit for their intended use. Furthermore, the cost of treating contaminated water once pumped to surface could be prohibitive – rendering the whole exercise unsustainable. Many older municipal landfills were not required by law to include liners, so it is not uncommon for rainwater to percolate through the waste material and create an acidic leachate capable of affecting groundwater aquifers. While many legacy landfills in certain urban areas have been identified by government and remediated, there are probably many more in rural regions that remain unattended. Mines’ tailings storage facilities – or tailings dams – pose a similar challenge, with a regulatory requirement for liners in certain conditions being introduced only in recent years.
Legacy O’Brien notes that there are also legacy issues related to how other industries traditionally disposed of their waste, in terms of the prevailing legislation and what was considered good practice in the past. The result has been contamination plumes that have the potential to affect water resources.
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G R O U N D WAT E R “The contamination of groundwater by leachate from various sources becomes more of an issue as municipalities and businesses try to become ‘water resilient’ in the face of growing demand and greater rainfall variability,” he explains. “Sourcing groundwater of the required quality is therefore no simple matter, especially as the usual local drinking water standards like SANS 241 can miss toxic contaminants in the water.” Contamination from petroleum hydrocarbons and industrial solvents are some of those that, while being fairly common, are also not easy to trace to a particular source. They could emanate from a variety of sources such as wash bays, industrial storage, oil-water separators, poor waste management and legacy operations, for instance. He highlights the difficulty, therefore, of finding a culprit once the contamination has been discovered – especially in a densely populated industrial zone. “The legal remedy in these cases is seldom fruitful,” he continues. “There are simply too many variables, technicalities and loopholes to prevent any specific party being held accountable.” With the balance of evidence being almost impossible to establish, companies sourcing groundwater from a new borehole frequently have no option but to shoulder the costs of water treatment. Such treatment, however, is
not always commercially viable, and there are no ‘silver bullets’. Sometimes, the only solution is to apply multiple treatment technologies – a process that can quickly become too expensive to be worthwhile. The implications can be severe for companies using water for food production, where even the taste and smell may render the water unusable in food or drink applications.
Vulnerability Often, water supply drillers can aggravate the problem by drilling through a shallow water table in search of a stronger-yielding borehole. If contamination has occurred in the upper layers, and these upper layers are not adequately sealed off from the aquifers below, cross-contamination can occur. “This highlights the importance of groundwater and source vulnerability – which needs to be explored well before any borehole drilling is contemplated,” says O’Brien. “Investigating possible areas of vulnerability means understanding what other activities in the area could affect the quality of your groundwater.” While formal source vulnerability assessments are often conducted for large water supply projects to assess yields, they seldom include potential contaminant sources and water quality. This is particularly important for industrial users,
given the potential contaminant sources in industrial areas, to check that the water quality is suitable for its intended use. The process offers the user a better understanding of the demands and threats to the available water sources. It also helps in identifying alternative water sources that may be available to alleviate any threats to the primary resources. These options would consider both groundwater and surface water as potential resources. “On the strength of a solid assessment, the user can then develop a source-water protection plan,” he continues. “This would be put in place to protect and manage the sustainable supply of water to users and consumers.” O’Brien emphasises that this vulnerability to leachates could pose significant risks to municipalities, given the evidence that many will contract borehole drillers without the engagement of geohydrologists and other expert scientists. The discovery of contamination after a borehole has been constructed could place an additional burden on municipal funds. “If any user’s water strategy is reliant on groundwater, it is vital to conduct effective vulnerability assessments – both before any borehole drilling programme and during the life cycle of the water project,” he concludes.
Upcoming EVENTS for AFRICAN UTILITY WEEK & POWERGEN AFRICA Venue: Cape Town International Convention Centre, Western Cape
Date: 24 to 26 November 2020 Website: www.african-utility-week.com African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa offers a meeting place for the entire power, energy and water value chain. The event delivers a scaled continental marketplace enabling business through professional learning, networking and connections. With more than 10 000 attendees from 82 countries and over 360 exhibitors, African Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa showcases market-ready and innovative solutions that are appropriate and relevant for Africa.
POWER & ELECTRICITY WORLD AFRICA 2020
Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Gauteng Date: 4 to 5 November 2020 Website: bit.ly/3344b33
Built on 23 years of history, Power & Electricity World Africa is about innovation, investment and infrastructure â€“ energy for the people! The conference is a C-level platform that focuses on global trends and practical innovative energy applications as well as how market players can capitalise on business opportunities across the continent. This is the place where the energy community finds solutions to its challenges.
ELECTRA MINING AFRICA 2022
THE SOLAR SHOW Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Gauteng Date: 4 to 5 November 2020 Website: bit.ly/34hlZIj The show is intentionally designed to inspire and encourage knowledge exchange, project opportunities and to showcase disruptors who promise solutions that are transforming how energy is supplied in Africa. The event welcomes utilities, government, IPPs, large end-users, disruptors and innovators all looking to procure from, and collaborate with, the best in the world.
Venue: Johannesburg Expo Centre, Gauteng Date: 5 to 9 September 2022 Website: www.electramining.co.za
Venue: Emperors Palace, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng Date: 9 to 11 February 2021 Website: www.wastecon.co.za
Electra Mining Africa, due to take place from 7 to 11 September at the Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The next edition of the show will be held from 5 to 9 September 2022 at the same venue. The largest show of its kind on the continent, Electra Mining Africa is a unique platform for the mining, manufacturing, automation, electrical and power industries to connect, innovate, learn and grow. The organisers have promised more value-added show features for 2022 in addition to the usual industry conferences, free-to-attend seminars, skills development zone, inward buying mission, business match-making and live demonstrations.
The IWMSA will host its 25th flagship conference and exhibition, WasteCon, from 9 to 11 February 2021at Emperors Palace in Gauteng. The conference will take place over a period of three days, with plenary, parallel and workshop sessions. The exhibition floor and outdoor exhibition, which will be open to the public, will showcase the many innovative products and services that service providers to the industry have to offer. Abstract submissions have been extended. Please submit your abstracts to email@example.com by 30 June 2020.
INDEX TO ADVERTISERS
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AKS Lining Systems
National Cleaner Production Centre
Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa
Earth Probiotic Recycling Solutions
INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT • BUILDING • MAINTENANCE SERVICE DELIVERY • UTILITIES MANAGEMENT IMESA
The official magazine of the Institute of Municipal Engineering of Southern Africa
OUR READERS ARE YOUR BUYERS IMIESA and www.infrastructurenews.co.za and the weekly newsletters provide critical information on infrastructure development, maintenance and service delivery. Our readers are key decision-makers in the industry. Contact us for content marketing opportunities across print and digital platforms
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Inspired innovation can set you apart Whatever your engineering challenge, weâ€™re on the same page
We thrive on challenges. They stretch us to find new and better ways of doing things. We call it innovation in action. Proudly South African, JG Afrika provides civil and structural engineering and environmental consulting services throughout Africa.
SIKHULISA SONKE â€˘ WE DEVELOP TOGETHER