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A S M W I

FEATURE


THE RECYCLING

WAT C H D O G The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) was set up 30 years ago with the objective of providing South Africa with something that is written into South Africa’s constitution, the right to a clean and healthy environment. By John O’Hanlon

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IWMSA FEATURE

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WMSA’s biennial conference WASTECON is the largest industry event in southern Africa and the occasion for the election of a new president to serve for the next two years. Last year’s WASTECON in Johannesburg attracted more than 700 delegates and was the largest in IWMSA’s history. The man elected to lead the Institute until 2012 was Stan Jewaskiewitz, a consultant whose firm Envitech handles civil and industrial projects and has worked extensively throughout southern Africa and the Middle East. Jewaskiewitz is a pragmatist, with no illusions about the size of the task facing Africa if it is to catch up with the rest of the world, though a passionate advocate for better training and status for the industry and for the better direction of resources. While regulation and international benchmarking has driven improvements in industrial practice - for example the management of tailings dams in the mining industry - municipal waste collection is still very patchy in South Africa. “One of the biggest problems we are addressing as a country is how we are going to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill,” says Jewaskiewitz. The Polokwane Declaration signed in 2001 set targets for a 50 percent reduction in waste to landfill by 2012 and zero by 2022. “There will always be a certain amount of waste left over, of course, but the declaration aimed to achieve maximum recycling by that date.” This was the first attempt to get South Africa aligned with European and global practices, but it was never going to be easy to reach these targets. Although the most economically developed country on the

African continent, South Africa is faced with numerous priority issues such as public safety, housing, education, health and the like, so waste management is often perceived to be of lower importance. Rapid population growth, use of high-tech materials, the tendency to congregate in large cities and the establishment of informal settlements where waste management is limited or non-existent have resulted in increasing pressure on waste management resources. In any case the Polokwane Declaration has now been overtaken by the Waste Act of July 2009, which sets a new agenda for the industry; one in which IWMSA will undoubtedly play a pivotal role. “The first requirement is to set up a truly national waste management strategy – we are currently working on this and setting new targets, not just for waste to landfill reduction but addressing the lack of waste collection facilities in South Africa,” Jewaskiewitz says. He estimates that 50 percent of population have no service at all, though the situation varies wildly, with only the large cities having adequate services. In local municipalities, the landfill is often an unmanaged dump. Illegal waste dumping is common. The Waste Act calls for more licensing at every stage in the process. If it is properly implemented, industry will have to introduce cleaner production technology. Households will have to separate their waste; the country will develop a recycling infrastructure. IWMSA started its preparation two years ago when it held a strategic planning session that took a long hard look at the industry. “We had to refocus, and we decided the first thing we needed to do was to bring our

One of the biggest problems we are addressing as a country is how we are going to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill

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Bisasar Road landfill gas to electricity project in Durban, part of first CDM project in South Africa.

communications up to date,” says Jewaskiewitz. The website (www.iwmsa.co.za) was upgraded; the Institute started to send electronic newsletters to members and the public at large. Nowadays it is regularly featured on radio and TV and is recognised as the mouthpiece of the industry, though it has some way to go before it attains the status and ‘teeth’ enjoyed by the UK’s Chartered Institution of Wastes Management for example. The biggest single problem in the region is a shortage of skills so the Institute has thrown its 4

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Some of the larger metros have put out tenders for alternative technology for the treatment of waste

weight behind education and training. “We have developed training courses and materials right up to degree level,” Jewaskiewitz says. “We have a tie up with the Cape Peninsula Institute of Technology (CPUT) and the local government SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority).” Education and training is at the forefront of the development plan that IWMSA is currently working on, with the aim of creating a structure that will really support the industry. Already, young people are starting to view waste management as a


IWMSA FEATURE

career path, and Jewaskiewitz hopes newly qualified engineers will soon come along to plug the woeful gap in skills at local and municipal level. There are more incentives for local authorities to invest in recycling than just cleaning up the environment. Though few at present, waste to energy schemes are beginning to appear in South Africa. Separation and treatment reduces waste to landfill but it also generates valuable materials and by-products that can be recycled, sold, exported or used to generate electricity. “Some of the larger metros have put out tenders for alternative technology for the treatment of waste,” says Jewaskiewitz. “The projects are all fronted with a recycling plant. The waste arrives at the facility, goes through process where the recyclables are separated out

and the organic matter goes to the energy component. This could be incinerated, fermented or gasified to generate steam to drive turbines.” Many IWMSA members are involved in these projects, and while training is its first priority its second is the task of persuading local authorities to make enough financial provision for waste management and recycling. Finally, the Institute is lobbying hard to introduce accreditation for service providers. While engineers are governed by their professional bodies, anyone can set themselves up as a waste management practitioner and it would help control the industry if they were required to be accredited by IWMSA. “As things stand, we can only suspend their membership if they violate our code of conduct,” Jewaskiewitz concludes. END Outdoor exhibition of vehicles and equipment at WasteCon 2010

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IWMSA FEATURE  

SA Mag - Issue 14 - IWMSA FEATURE

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