Durban, South Africa Waste Minimisation and Recycling

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Durban, South

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Type: Policy

Status: Ongoing

Source File:


The Waste Minimisation and Recycling division was set up in May 1995 with the overall object of saving valuable landfill site space by promoting different ways of managing waste known as techniques of integrated waste management.

A secondary objective is to promote the provision of income to collectors of recyclable materials, by their collection and selling of reusable waste to recycling companies.

Why promote Integrated Waste Management?
The importance of implementing different methods of Integrated Waste Management as opposed to the sole technique of recycling is recognised, as only a limited amount of waste produced is recyclable and has markets for resale in South Africa and Durban at present. Integrated Waste Management can be divided into four areas:

  1. Waste minimisation - to avoid creating waste in the first place, or excessive waste.
  2. Composting - valuable organic materials are diverted from the waste stream, before collection, to compost heaps and vermiculture farms. Compost and the arisings from earthworms can be used to enrich soils.
  3. Recycling - glass, cans, paper, cardboard, plastic and a growing number of items are collected after use, and returned to recycling companies who reprocess them into articles which are resold to consumers.
  4. Incineration - special wastes such as medical waste are destroyed by fire to ensure safe disposal, and the ash is landfilled.
  5. Landfilling - waste that is not reused, composted, recycled or incinerated is put into engineered cells in the ground, compacted and then covered with a layer of soil.

Is education about, and access to information on waste management important?
This division's activities have been formulated with two specific clauses of South Africa*s Constitution in mind:

Section 24 of the Bill of Rights guarantees environmental rights for the people of South Africa.

Section 32 covers the Constitutional right concerning access of the public to information held by the state or persons concerning the state of the environment, and how it effects their health and well being.

Coupled with these, the *Discussion Document Towards a White Paper on Integrated Pollution Control and Waste Management* (brought about by the Departments of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and of Water Affairs and Forestry in May 1997) has the stated vision:

To ensure sustainable and equitable use of air, water, and soil/land by empowering all South Africans to participate through a holistic approach to the creation, maintenance and management of a clean and healthy environment as envisaged by the Constitution.

In order to manage waste correctly (optimally), people need to have access to information to enable them to participate from a base of knowledge and expertise. A culture of waste avoidance or minimisation, must be adopted by all citizens of South Africa, in order to create the context within which waste reduction can be achieved to ensure sustainable use of natural resources. Environmental education and capacity building are vital to create the context within which the need for waste reduction and correct disposal can be understood, promoted and practised.

In what activities is the division involved?

For schools...
A teachers' - manual known as the "Let's Reduce and Recycle Manual for Solid Waste Awareness" is distributed free of charge. It contains over 50 lesson plans and activities for high and primary schools on waste management. The distribution is exercised through a workshopping system in each suburb, with a group of teachers from the area. The primary section is available in English and Zulu, and the high school section in English only.

The manual is accompanied by a bi-monthly newsletter, additional information and a teaching aid in the form of a poster which illustrates the techniques of Integrated Waste Management in English and Zulu. There are over 700 manuals in circulation at present.

A bilingual English/Zulu bi-monthly general newsletter goes to all schools in the Durban Metropolitan area, and members of the public requesting copies. It invites teachers to participate in the manual workshops, and gives information on integrated waste management.

A competition for teachers is being devised whereby teachers will be invited to submit their own waste management activity lesson plans to the division for selection and inclusion in a special manual which will be compiled and distributed, free of charge.

For community groups...
A practical manual on the techniques of Integrated Waste Management is available for community groups, and is distributed via a workshop system similar to that of the teachers manual.

The division is developing, in conjunction with the Association of Clean Communities Trust, a series of solid waste audits for schools, communities, business and industry and local government. It is essential for any organisation getting involved in recycling and waste minimisation to first establish a data base or understanding of what waste is produced and how it can be prevented or minimised.