The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa announced that South Africa will soon have a Paper and Packaging Industry Plan, which will bring a significant change in the current waste management regime.
“Through this plan we hope that we can commence with separation at source from household levels. This will not only minimise the amount of waste going to landfills but will also unlock the economic potential of this waste stream,” Minister Molewa said during the official launch of the Ekurhuleni Clean City Programme at Tsakane Stadium yesterday, Saturday 24 October 2015.
The Paper and Packaging Industry Plan will follow the Waste Tyre Management Plan which has seen 31% of waste tyres are being diverted from landfill for re-use, recycling and recovery purposes, while approximately 3 000 jobs and 200 Small Medium and Micro Enterprises and Cooperatives have been established through the implementation of the waste tyre management plan.
It is through such Industry Waste Management Plans that the government continues to work towards realisation of the right to an environment that is not harmful to the health and wellbeing of people in South Africa.
The Waste Information baseline study that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) conducted in 2011, revealed that approximately 108 million tons of waste was generated, of which 97 million tons were disposed to landfill. Only 10% of the generated waste in South Africa was recycled in 2011.
Minister Molewa urged all spheres of government to uphold the environmental right by adhering to the prescripts of relevant legislation, particularly the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act No. 59 of 2008) (NEMWA). “The general duty of government with regard to upholding this environmental right as contained in the Waste Act is that all relevant organs of state must put in place measures that seek to reduce the amount of waste that is generated and ensure that waste is reused, recycled and recovered in an environmentally sound manner before being safely treated and disposed of,” she said.
The NEMWA has been enacted to amongst other matters give a clear division of roles, responsibilities, and mandatory obligations for the three spheres of government, private sector and civil society. This legislative alignment governing waste demonstrates the government’s ambition for a clean environment and a healthy society in South Africa.
It is therefore not only the responsibility of government to create a clean environment, but the society is also equally responsible to protect and sustain the cleanliness of the environment. “The Act has further placed a general duty to citizens to ensure that they avoid the generation of waste, but where such cannot be avoided, they should minimise the toxicity, promote re-use, recycle and recover the waste. This should be done in the context of achieving sustainable consumption and production pattern, thereby shifting towards a resource efficiency trajectory. It will further promote our green economy initiatives as outlined in a set of legislations and strategies that we have put in place,” said Minister Molewa.
In an effort to fast track effective implementation of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act No. 59 of 2008) (NEMWA), the DEA has developed the National Waste Management Strategy, which promotes waste minimisation, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste. It is in accordance to this strategy that at least 77% recyclable waste is diverted from landfill sites by 2019.
“The implementation of an industry plan for the paper and packaging waste stream will put value to this waste stream and facilitate the establishment and operation of businesses within this sector. In doing so we hope we will in future not see all this waste in our streets as it will move from being “waste” to being a “resource,” said Minister Molewa.
As such, government and waste industry are exploring the notion of recycling economy, which is an exciting approach that will not only eliminate threats to environmental quality and its integrity, but also positively contribute to the growth and development of South Africa’s economy.
Minister Molewa commended the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality for initiating the Clean City Programme, and called upon other municipalities throughout the country to embark on a similar journey to ensure that the right to a clean environment is extended to all South Africans.