Alternative Waste Background

Waste Management in South Africa
Only waste that cannot be reduced, re-used, recycled or treated should go to landfill.


The National Waste Management Strategy mandates all local authorities to develop an Integrated Waste Management Plan (IWMP) which promotes: reduce, reuse and recycling of waste. Municipalities are encouraged to move away from traditional "end of pipe" solutions that focus on waste after it has been generated, i.e. collection, transport, treatment, or disposal of waste material.

Instead, they should move towards a service which focuses on the reduction of waste as well as the reuse of waste. As a further priority, recycling schemes should be established, completing the 3Rs of good waste management i.e., Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Only after these activities have been applied should the remaining waste undergo treatment, and thereafter any residual waste should be landfilled.

The delivered service should maximise efficiency (optimising systems and processes) and minimise costs and environmental impacts, including climate change, with the ultimate aim of improving the quality of life for community members.

Waste management best practice

The following conditions should be met before a municipality embarks on an alternative waste treatment project:

  1. Know your waste: volumes and composition
  2. Apply 3 Rs of waste management and raise awareness

Waste Hierarchy
  The Waste Treatment Guide addresses these levels.

The reduction of waste is the most vital point in the waste hierarchy. Reduction usually results in the least environmental and economic life cycle costs. It requires no collecting or processing of materials.

The re-use of waste is the next option. Re-using waste often requires collection but relatively little or no processing. It involves sorting, cleaning, repairing, and/or refurbishing items or spare parts.

Recycling involves sorting and processing the recyclable products into raw material and then remanufacturing the recycled raw materials into new products.

The treatment of waste is separated into two parts: the treatment of materials, and the recovery of energy. Whichever of the two options is better for the environment and human health is the preferred option.

The last resort is disposal and is only considered once all other possibilities have been explored. Disposal is any operation that involves the dumping and treatment of waste without energy recovery.

Benefits of Integrated Waste Management

  • Minimising resource extraction
  • Provide improved air and water quality
  • Contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improved land care through using compost that leads to increased water holding capacity
  • Creation of new jobs and new business opportunities (e.g. recycling, composting etc.)
  • A longer life for existing landfills as a result of reduced waste volumes
  • Improved health and quality of life for communities
  • Formalisation of waste management practices will result in new and safer jobs for illegal reclaimers on the landfill sites

Environmental sustainability

Sustainable waste management and recycling systems should aim to reduce the quantity of natural resources consumed, while ensuring that any resources already taken from nature are reused multiple times, and that the amount of waste produced is kept to a minimum. The processing of waste plays a key part in this process as well as positive impacts on social development and cohesion.

Greenhouse gas

It is important that the carbon impacts of waste management activities are measured and monitored so as to allow effective and robust decisions to be made regarding different waste management routes. Using appropriate metrics for the GHG impacts of different waste management options will allow carbon impacts to be tracked, and maximise the potential for the efficient reduction of the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

GHG Calculator