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Meet Jan Palm, IWMSA President fighting the war on waste

When he isn’t fighting the war on waste or designing waste management infrastructure, the President of the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA), Jan Palm, enjoys riding around the country on his Harley Davidson.

Palm is a Civil Engineer by training, but he explains what makes his job slightly different to that of his peers. “Most civil engineers design infrastructure for mankind to live better whereas in waste management we design infrastructure to protect the environment from mankind’s footprint.”

Long before it became ‘trendy’ to recycle and think about one’s environmental impact, Palm saw the need to develop infrastructure to manage waste: “In 1987 I read about the concept of landfills as bioreactors. This sparked my interest and I told my boss that we should explore the field of waste management as a future engineering opportunity.  After some debate, I was allowed to ‘look into it’.”

Palm, who was designing sewage treatment projects for the engineering firm GFJ Inc at the time, certainly ‘looked into it’, and his foresight back then to specialise in this exciting and growing field has paid off.

In 1988 Palm established the Solid Waste Division of GFJ, and later rose to the position of Associate and shareholder before becoming a Regional Director of the company in 1995. The Western Cape offices of GFJ became Entech Consultants in 1996, and he left Entech and formed JPCE in 2003. Throughout his career Palm has specialised in designing engineering infrastructure for waste management.

Amongst the noteworthy projects he has been involved in, Palm mentions the first landfill using geosynthetics for the town of Windhoek in Namibia in the early 1990s. “The Windhoek landfill project was innovative in its design and opened up a whole new field of geosynthetics,” says Palm. He is currently working on a state of the art Waste-to-Energy project for the Drakenstein Municipality in the Western Cape.

Palm says each project has been fascinating in its own way, and adds that he finds great satisfaction in helping clients to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills and thereby move up the waste hierarchy. He is also aware of the unique aspects of designing waste management plants in Southern Africa: “We have to ensure that our designs balance out mechanical efficiency with the socio-economic need for jobs,” says Palm.

The biggest change in the field of Waste Management has been surrounding legislation, says Palm. “The changing legislation has opened many opportunities for environmental scientists and engineers to improve the level of design and quality of the infrastructure, leading to reduced risk to the environment.” The problem, however, says Palm is when legislation is not enforced.

Looking ahead Palm explains what worries him about landfills. “I am concerned about the pollution burden that poorly located, poorly designed and poorly managed landfills still place on our environment.” He adds that local political will to resolve these challenges appears to be lacking in many municipalities, and that the cost of legal compliance with norms and standards is often used as an excuse to do nothing.

Despite his concerns, the people in the field of Waste Management give Palm hope for the future. “Their enthusiasm, innovation and drive astonishes me,” he says, adding that he is excited about the innovative approaches being followed to reduce our environmental footprint, making green living more affordable.

While Palm seeks to add value in the industry through the various training courses and networking opportunities offered by the IWMSA, his personal dream is to tour around countries on his Harley Davidson motorbike with his wife. “Having done Route 66 in the USA, other countries that come to mind are New Zealand and Scandinavia,” concludes Palm.

For more information on the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa visit You can also follow IWMSA on Facebook ( and Twitter (

The women in waste are changing the field

Generally dubbed a ‘man’s world’, the remarkable women who serve on the council for the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) are showing how influential and much needed women in waste are.

Prof Suzan Oelofse is the president of the IWMSA and serving alongside her are Margot Ladouce, chairperson at the IWMSA Western Cape Branch and Nomakhwezi Nota, chairperson at the IWMSA Eastern Cape Branch. With a vision to better the country as a whole in the way waste is dealt with, these incredible women are laying the foundation.

These three noteworthy women have over 44 years’ combined experience in the waste management field. Prof Oelofse, Research Group Leader for Waste for Development at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Natural Resources and Environment Operating Unit, joined the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) in early 2006 and has been the non-profit’s president since 2013. Ladouce, head of Research and Development – Solid Waste Disposal at the City of Cape Town has been a long-standing member of the IWMSA since 2005.

Nota, managing director at AMN Environmental realised her passion for the waste industry in 2008 when she joined the CSIR, hitting its full potential in 2013 when she started environmental consulting in East London.

“Women are much needed in the waste industry and with more and more women pursuing careers in waste management – on every level – I envisage a radical shift over the next few years towards an ethical, innovative and compliant industry,” says Oelofse.

Since joining the IWMSA in 2014, Nota took the initiative to spread the IWMSA’s involvement in more Eastern Cape towns, other than East London and Port Elizabeth. She and her team achieved great success with an approximate 10% increase in membership from organisations and individuals with a hunger to learn more about waste management.

In the Western Cape, Ladouce took on the challenge of organising the IWMSA’s flagship conference,WasteCon. WasteCon2014 proved to be a huge success with over 450 delegates in attendance. The conference attracted key players in the waste management industry, ultimately facilitating dialogue and participation between government and industry players.

Value in Waste

Frequenting industrial sites early on in her career, Oelofse describes how she could not understand why the heaps of waste could not be used for something else. “The thought that all waste generated is in essence the result of consumer demand and consumption, made me realise how unsustainable human activities are and thus my passion for waste management was born”, says Oelofse.

Ladouce adds by explaining where South Africa’s waste industry is heading towards, “Waste should be seen as a resource. Through proper management and processing, waste can add value and can be used to beneficiate and make a noticeable difference to the GDP of South Africa. This can be done through implementation of waste to energy, anaerobic digestion and composting technologies. It is also a vehicle to create opportunities for entrepreneurs.”

Nota mentions that although waste management was not explicitly mentioned in the initial presentation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the targets and indicators identified for the MDGs clearly show important links between waste management and the MDGs.

“These links are indicative of how better management of waste can lead to improvements and poverty reduction aimed at achieving the set MDGs. Significant proportions of populations depend on waste management for their livelihood, and there are opportunities for more employment generation as services extend to cover the rapidly-growing populations globally. Proper waste management has a significant impact on the lives, health and surroundings of humans and the environment,” explains Nota.

Promotion of dialogue with all industry stakeholders

The IWMSA continues to strive to be at the forefront of waste management practices, as well as to support entrepreneurs and encourage young professionals to embark on a career in waste management.

“I love encouraging young professionals to ensure that we are able to sustain what we have initiated through proper engagement with our up and coming young scientists and engineers,” mentions Ladouce.

Nota adds that as a developing country, the increasing population demographics require more innovative thinkers in the waste industry as more waste will be generated in future – a fantastic opportunity for young waste enthusiasts.

Commenting on her role as president, Oelofse says, “Being the president of the IWMSA provides me with the opportunity to influence the strategic direction of the IWMSA to ensure that we remain relevant and that we continue to make a difference in the waste management community.”

Establishing a working relationship with the Department of Environmental Affairs has been an achievement that Oelofse is most proud of since having joined the IWMSA team.

The IWMSA encourages the public to help with its plight in preserving the country by getting involved in recycling initiatives. The IWMSA is hosting two thought-provoking conferences this year namelyLandfill2015 in the Western Cape and The Road to Zero Waste Conference in the Eastern Cape.

Source: mediaupdate

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Easy steps to make every day Earth Day

‘It’s our turn to lead.’ The theme for this year’s Earth Day calls on all citizens around the globe to unite and show support for the protection of a beautiful and green environment. The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) encourages all South Africans to take this challenge of a clean environment head-on by reducing consumption at home.

Earth Day is celebrated annually on 22 April. Now in its 45th year, Earth Day is one of the largest observances in the world with one billion people participating in

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activities each year*. The IWMSA urges South Africans to take a stand all year round and join its plight for a healthy future for everyone.

“To reduce personal consumption is not always an easy task to tackle, but there are a few doable steps you can follow throughout the year to help protect our environment for future generations; you may also save money in the process,” says Dr Suzan Oelofse, President of the IWMSA.

Here are five easy steps to reduce consumption and make every day Earth Day:

  1. Sort your cupboards and closets first before hitting the shops

“With the winter months approaching, sorting your cupboards and closets will help you to focus on the things you really need,” guides Oelofse. Sort clothes that are too big, too small or is simply not you anymore and donate these items to the less-privileged. “Donations are a form of re-use which will cut your waste while helping people in need, especially during winter time,” adds Oelofse.

  1. Plan your shopping trip

Window-shopping only leads you to temptation to buy the things that you don’t necessarily need. “Impulsive purchases are often left unused and eventually ends up in the dustbin,” shares Oelofse. “Rather draw up a shopping list of the things you need beforehand. This is especially important when purchasing perishable food as it usually gets spoiled and ends up at landfill sites. The challenge to this step is to stick to the shopping list!”

  1. Set up a meal planner

When cooking food, try to use the oldest ingredients first before its shelf life expires. Oelofse advises to regularly rotate or sort cupboards according to shelf life as it will help you to access your oldest stock quicker and easier. “Prepare just enough food for the amount of people that will be enjoying the meal. If there is food left over, use it for a delicious soup or start your own home composting system. Cooking just enough food will cut your waste and even save electricity,” shares Oelofse.

  1. Challenge yourself to see how little you can get by with

“Rather than spending money on the latest and newest products, challenge yourself to see with how little you can get along with. A little really does go a long way,” suggests Oelofse. This will not only save you money, but save the environment’s valuable resources.

  1. Buy eco-products

Melissa Baird, editor of Green Home magazine, says, “We are seeing more eco-products making its way onto shopping shelves that are good for the environment and great for your home as they don’t contain harsh chemicals. Consumers should shop around and find out what works for them when making new choices.” For those who are unsure where to start, visit The Green Home Fair at Brooklyn Mall from 27 to 28 June 2015. The Fair forms part of the annual Sustainability Week and consumers will be treated to the latest in-home and décor products.

With these easy steps, everyone can make every day Earth Day. “Protecting our earth through reduced consumerism, saves you money!  It is a win-win situation,” concludes Oelofse.


Source: My News Room


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Hazardous waste: are you informed?

All the products consumers use on a daily basis need to be disposed of correctly to prevent it from ending up on a municipal landfill area. So says Dr Suzan Oelofse, president of the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA).

Household hazardous waste is one such waste stream which should not end up on a landfill site as it is potentially extremely harmful to the environment and citizens’ health.

With dwindling landfill airspace and higher environmental consciousness, the correct disposal of waste items has become more important than ever in South Africa. With the growing supply of buy-back centres and kerbside collection facilities, South Africa is moving towards separation at source to ultimately reduce pressure on landfill sites and to promote better waste disposal practices.

Household hazardous waste is one waste stream that can potentially have a very negative effect on the environment, not to mention human health. These items include electronic waste, batteries, CFL light bulbs, health care waste which includes syringes and old medicines, paint, pesticides and oil.

There is unfortunately no ‘one-size fits all’ solution to hazardous waste, however, a number of retailers already provide drop-off facilities for batteries, e-waste and light bulbs. Pick n Pay, Spar, Woolworths, Makro, Builders Warehouse and Incredible Connection stores are just some of these retailers. Some municipalities also provide drop-off facilities at garden sites for this purpose, but not all hazardous waste streams are necessarily accepted.

Consumers should also be informed about The Consumer Protection Act (Act 68 of 2008), which is geared towards protecting consumers. The Act recognises that some consumer goods that have reached the end of its lifecycle may be prohibited from being disposed of in common waste collection systems. This act places a responsibility on suppliers and producers of consumer goods to implement take-back schemes at no charge to the consumer.

There are various recyclers that collect certain hazardous waste streams, so that it can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Consumers should start to separate their waste at source to contribute to a cleaner environment.

To find out where your nearest waste recycler is, visit

For more information, visit the IWMSA website.

Alternatively, visit their page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Source: Media Update

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