Moving the waste into resource
The Department of Environmental Affairs recently announced that South Africa will soon have a waste management plan for the paper and packaging industry. THATO TINTE looks at the impact of this plan and what it requires from businesses
The announcement of this plan, which the Minster of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, says will bring significant change in the current waste management regime, followed the regulations published under the National Environmental Management Waste Act, 2008.
In addition to the paper and packaging industry, the electrical, electronic equipment and lighting industries were also mandated to prepare and submit industry waste-management plans for approval.
Molewa notes that a household-level “separation-at-source” mandate will be included in this industry plan, so that the department’s five-year, national waste-management strategy can be reached.
Separation at source _ which is a requirement of the Waste Act _ is the practice of ordinary citizens sorting their recyclable waste material (plastics, metals, paper or glass) at home before disposing of it.
Molewa reiterates that the department’s goal is to work at improving the minimisation, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste. Objectives required to attain this include: diverting 25 percent of waste away from landfills; ensuring that all metropolitan municipalities, secondary cities and large towns drive and promote separation-at-source initiatives; and achieving the industry-specific objectives of reducing waste and attaining the set recycling targets for the paper and packaging, pesticide, lighting and tyre industries.
The waste-management plan for the tyre industry was introduced in late 2012 and has seen 31 percent of waste tyres being diverted from landfills for re-use, recycling and recovery purposes. According to Molewa, through this plan, 3 000 jobs and 200 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME) and co-operatives have been created to date _ a feat she is hoping will be replicated in the other identified industries.
It is hoped that the plan will change the current state of waste that is seen in the streets. Through this plan and the commencement of separation-at-source initiatives, the department hopes that the amount of waste going to landfills will be minimised. It also hopes that the economic potential of this waste stream will be unlocked _ ultimately facilitating the establishment of businesses in the sector and changing waste into a resource.
In a notice issued by the department to the identified industries, in July 2015, “producers” of waste were required to register with the minister within 60 days of the notice. They were then given 12 months (after registering) to prepare and submit an industry waste-management plan to be approved by the minister.
Producers are identified in the notice as “any persons or institutions engaged in the commercial manufacture, conversion, refurbishment or import action of new and/or used paper and packaging materials, lighting equipment or electrical and electronic equipment, which is intended for distribution in South Africa”.
Content requirements of industry waste-management plans are specified in the Act, the regulations and the notice. These include: providing annual projections over a five-year period on quantities and types of waste re-used, recycled, recovered and disposed of; providing the best measures to be implemented for best environmental management practice; indicating how the plan will raise national awareness of management of each waste stream; and identifying incentives that will be applied to encourage end-users to practise good waste management.
Failing to comply with the department’s requirements will result in hefty penalties and convicted offenders may face fines or imprisonment.
According to a presentation by Charles Muller, executive director of Packaging SA, the pricing strategy discussion document, which was gazetted for comment earlier last year, suggests that there will be a collected waste-management charge or tax imposed on the industry.
Noting some industry concerns, Muller says this double taxation (voluntary levy and the mandatory waste-management charge/tax) could negatively impact the packaging sector _ highlighting that the industry may seek to recover these costs through increased automation and job reduction.
Another concern raised by the packaging sector in their comments to the minister’s notice, was the severity of the penalties that would be imposed on the offending producers.
Muller says other issues on which the sector still requires clarity include who in the value chain will be obliged to pay the mandatory charges; for example, whether this will be the raw material producers, converters, brand owners, retailers _ or a combination of all of these. The sector also needs to know how the tax or levy will be calculated, and whether financial and operational support will be provided to municipalities.
Despite these uncertainties, Muller concludes that success is crucial, as the industry has no option but to ensure that the country becomes a better place for current and future generations.