The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) can confirm that the Green Scorpions executed a search warrant at the Solid Waste Technologies’ City Deep, Johannesburg, processing facility on 31 August 2015.
The company has been prosecuted in the past for failure to comply with conditions of its permits as well as contraventions of the Waste Act. These contraventions took place in 2012 and the court convicted and sentenced the company to a fine of R200 000 on 30 April 2015.
The execution of the search warrant this week follows an inspection conducted by waste specialists from the DEA last week. The waste specialists noted serious concerns in relation to the manner in which anatomical and infectious waste was being stored. It was found that tonnes of healthcare risk waste (medical waste) was not being treated and/or stored properly, which is in contravention of the conditions of the waste management licence that was issued to Solid Waste Technologies.
The investigation and execution of the search warrant has also uncovered serious violations of the Waste Act by some of the major healthcare groups whose waste is being stored at the facility. Criminal charges against these healthcare groups are also being investigated, as the ultimate legal responsibility lies with the waste generators to ensure that the waste is treated and disposed of correctly.
Spokesperson for the Department Albi Modise said: “This criminal investigation further emphasises the Green Scorpions’ zero tolerance approach to unlawful activities as far as health care risk waste is concerned”.
Members of the public are also urged to report any environmental incidents and tip offs to the 24 hour toll free anonymous number 0800 205 005.
Speaking at the conclusion of the second African Marine Debris Summit (AMDS) that took place at the SANBI Research Centre in Kirstenbosch, Cape Town recently, Sustainability Manager at Plastics|SA and convener of the event, John Kieser, said that he was greatly encouraged by the outcomes of the discussions.
The aim of this year’s summit, hosted by Plastics|SA in conjunction with UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme,) the Department of Environmental Affairs and SANBI (SA National Biodiversity Institute,) was to facilitate the formation of a Southern African Network on Marine Debris with the long-term goal of establishing an African network that ties into the global management of marine debris.
“We acknowledge that plastics are the biggest challenge in reducing the accumulation of marine debris along shorelines, floating on the sea surface and lying on the ocean floor. However, we are committed to turning the tide on marine debris through forming partnerships with the marine fraternity’s programme on quantifying and understanding the drivers of marine litter through support for coastal clean-ups and various research initiatives.”
The event was officially opened by the Honourable Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture and previously Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, who said that she greatly supported the Summit as this was where innovative solutions can be identified and promoted so that, over time, we could see less marine debris entering our scenic and much loved coastal areas.
“Marine debris such as plastic items, fishing gear, food packages, glass, metals, medical waste and cigarette filters are an international concern, not only because it washes up on beaches and shorelines worldwide and looks unsightly, but also because debris can be transferred from one country to another via ocean currents. International cooperation is therefore necessary to create public awareness, while developing ways to decrease the amount of debris in oceans around the globe,” Mabudafhasi said.
Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics|SA agreed with this sentiment and highlighted the importance of supporting platforms where different countries, industries and experts can share lessons learned, strategies and best practices to reduce and prevent the impact of marine debris. The exchange of innovative ideas on topics such as plastics recycling initiatives and communications strategies contribute to scaling up successful approaches to reducing marine debris.
“As delegates and experts who are interested in the topic, you are meeting once again to continue to exchange ideas and seek appropriate solutions to the problem… in line with the theme for this year’s World Oceans Day which reads, “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet: Enabling Sustainable Ocean Economy Development.” Our efforts to rid our marine environment of marine debris will contribute towards the health of our oceans and our people who rely on it,” Mabudafhasi encouraged the audience.
“The 2nd African Marine Debris Summit once again highlighted that most of the litter that reaches our marine environment originates from our actions on land. Plastics|SA is a committed and key partner in efforts aimed at understanding the issues around marine debris within the South African context. The summit forms part of this growing partnership and it enables us to share and learn from our fellow African coastal countries.
In conjunction with Packaging SA we support the aims of the PPIWMP to increase packaging recycling rates and promote the importance of discarding packaging waste in an environmentally responsible way. In conjunction with the Plastics Industry Global Action Team on Marine Debris actions, Plastics|SA remains committed to turning the tide on marine debris.”
A new Italian machine appears set to bring about a revolution in the treatment and disposal of infectious and dangerous medical waste – and it may soon also prove to be a vital weapon in the fight against Ebola.
The Newster NW10, imported to South Africa by Alloro Africa Enviro Services, may well be the final solution to the problem of illegally or accidentally dumped infectious medical waste and the dangers it poses to people, especially children.
It already promises to dramatically ease the task of handling infectious waste at large health care facilities, including any materials and waste products that had been exposed to lethal organisms such as the Ebola virus.
Handling and disposing of items such as bedding, clothing and used medical supplies that had been exposed to deadly infections have become one of the greatest challenges facing medical personnel engaged in combating outbreaks.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa clearly illustrated the problem of dealing with such items.
The illegal dumping of medical waste has also taken on serious proportions in the country, costing local authorities millions to clean up. Last year, it was estimated that there had been 985 illegal dumps in Cape Town alone according to a report published in the Cape Argus last year.
Over the past decade, there had been numerous reported incidents of medical waste dumped illegally, even in places to which children had access.
Cleaning up illegal dumps was costing the city as much as R200 000 a day, a city spokesperson said at the time.
The first Newster NW10 machine, imported from Italy, has been undergoing extensive testing in Cape Town and the results appear to have borne out the manufacturer’s claims.
The machine has now been independently certified in accordance with the national Department of Environmental Affairs, said Alloro Africa Enviro Services director Carlo Bovetti.
“The response to the machine has been overwhelming and, in conjunction with top South African scientists, we are currently discussing doing feasibility studies for the destruction in loco of medical waste from isolation wards where patients could be treated for deadly infections such as Ebola,” Bovetti said.
“This waste definitely cannot be transported on our public roads.
“The World Health Organisation has assumed a new aim and slogan in their approach to the handling of infectious waste – ‘zero kilometres from the cradle to the grave’. This means they do not want the waste to be transported in an infectious state. The Newster system offers exactly that.”
The machine has been designed for hospitals and other health care facilities where medical waste is produced in large quantities. It is powered by three-phase electrical power obtained from the health care facility’s own power supply and is simple to use, requiring basic operator training.
Medical waste is placed in the machine according to the capacity of the specific model of machine and after a period it is automatically discharged, completely shredded, unrecognisable and sterilised.
The machine turns waste into homogeneous dehydrated granules, reducing initial volume by 75 percent approximately and its weight by 15 to 25 percent, depending on humidity in the waste to be treated.
“The Newster NW10 is environmentally completely safe. It is not an incinerator, it does not burn waste and independent environmental tests have proved that it does not give off harmful vapour,” Bovetti said. “It uses the friction of a high-speed blade to finely shred the waste and heat it uniformly to a temperature of exactly 150°C, which completely sterilises it and destroys any pathogens and/or viruses.
“Any medical waste, from used bandages, to syringes, cotton, everything, can be treated by this machine and the waste that comes out is a completely neutral, sterile shredded mass.”
Bovetti said the system was already in use in many parts of the world and was widely used in Europe.