Cape Town – The Department of Environmental Affairs is planning to integrate South Africa’s waste pickers into the country’s municipal waste management programme, Minister Edna Molewa said in Parliament on Tuesday.
The country has about 62 147 registered waste pickers who remove recyclable material from landfill sites, she told MPs during a debate on the department’s budget of an estimated R6bn.
This year the department plans to help scale up waste recycling enterprises through a recycling enterprise support programme that would provide the initial capital set-up costs for emerging entrepreneurs.
Plans had also been put in place for the management and disbursement of funds through a Waste Management Bureau that would be fully operational in 2016, Molewa said.
In an effort to stop the dumping of hazardous waste, in the past financial year the department has issued 53 Remediation Orders for contaminated sites, and by the end of May hoped to have finally eradicated a backlog of 341 unlawful municipal landfill sites.
But the department still felt that waste management at municipal level was an issue and hoped that integrating the waste pickers into the municipal system would help.
But DA MP Johni Edwards questioned why South Africa was still creating landfill sites in the first place. She said that Sweden used its waste to produce heat and electricity and had no landfill sites left.
If the department was serious about reducing waste, it should start by banning plastic shopping bags and creating jobs through the manufacture of reusable bags instead.
“Why are we still using plastic bags in supermarkets? Why are we actually paying for something that is so harmful to our environment?”