“People don’t understand waste,” says Chris Whyte, managing director of a Durban-based organisation that reclaims waste materials from landfills. “When people talk about climate change and issues of sustainability, they allocate a tiny sliver of the problem – 2% – to landfill,” he explains. “That’s because the measurements apply only to landfill gas emissions. But put landfill into perspective: we landfill 6 000 tons a day. That is 600 10-ton trucks, and that’s just Durban.”
Rapid urbanisation in South Africa – and globally – has resulted in increased waste production due to new commercial enterprises, accommodation, hotels, and restaurants. The pace of urbanisation is projected to be the fastest in low-income and middle-income countries, which will present challenges to governments to meet the needs of their growing urban populations.
A World Bank report in 2016 noted that worldwide municipal solid waste is growing faster than the rate of urbanisation, and these levels are expected to double by 2025. Alarmingly, the World Bank’s disposal data shows that almost half of global waste sent to landfill is organic material made up of paper, plastic, glass and metal. So, much of this waste could be recycled.
As it stands, almost all of South Africa’s solid waste (88%) is sent to landfill, or taken off-site for disposal by hazardous waste removal specialists. As the 2016 World Bank report highlights, global waste management efforts are far from stellar, but even so South Africa lags behind other countries and even its fellow BRICS countries in waste management.
Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, a Senior Director at the World Bank Group comments that: “Without good solid waste management, you can’t build a sustainable and livable city. There are climate, health, and safety impacts, as well as important social considerations, from the inclusion of waste pickers to changing behaviour so people and societies are encouraged to reduce and recycle waste.”
The Future of Waste Management in Africa
Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and technological innovations, smart African cities will be able to achieve zero waste and reduce municipalities’ operational costs by using more efficient waste collection systems. The smart waste collection technology industry is still in its infancy, but Navigant Research, a U.S. research company expects this type of technology to grow from $57.6-million in 2016 to over $223-million by 2025.
Nick Manny of Aurecon cautions, though, that it will not be possible for municipalities to go from the current landfill situation to smart technologies quickly because the technical, financial, institutional and social restrictions they face will not be easy to overcome. Waste management is therefore up to industry, waste management suppliers and experts working together to find solutions to the challenges that confront governments and municipalities.
Reaching for Zero Waste to Landfill Using ISO 14001
Waste management is the process of treating wastes, and it offers solutions for recycling and reusing materials and substances that do not belong in landfill or can be used for other purposes. Waste diversion from landfills is an important sustainability effort for organisations to strive towards as it demonstrates environmental stewardship, which a growing number of customers and other stakeholders are coming to expect.
Industry leaders like Walmart and Starbucks are in the process of rolling out waste diversion programmes as a key part of their Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. Their sights are set on achieving a zero waste to landfill milestone, starting at a facility-level and aiming globally. Subaru of Indiana Automotive is an indisputable trailblazer in the coveted zero waste to landfill management goal. For the past 13 years, Subaru and two of their manufacturing plants in Japan have sent zero waste to local landfills. Subaru’s coveted zero-waste to landfill achievement is guided by ISO 14001.
The Canon Group is one of the few organisations to achieve consolidated ISO 14001 certification covering all their operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The organisation uses their Environmental Management System to apply environmental considerations to every aspect of the product lifecycle and at the end of their life, products are stripped down and re-used or recycled.
ISO 14001:2015 provides a framework and a structured approach to handling waste but does not prescribe the steps in waste handling, which means that every organisation can approach the process of waste management according to their own needs.
Training of all employees and contractors that have anything to do with the handling of waste is a necessary first step towards waste management. The ISO 14001:2015 Standard will provide your organisation with an effective waste management strategy to maximise resources and minimise environmental impact. ISO 14001 also has the flexibility to include changes to legislation, materials, prices and customer expectations that will repay your organisation’s investment in training and the time it takes to develop an effective strategy.
For more information or guidance on which ISO standard(s) and services would best suit the needs of your organisation, please email Risk ZA at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on 0861 Risk ZA / +27 (0) 31 569 5900.