Waste reclaimers and South African environmental law
In South Africa thousands of unemployed people earn a living by recovering recyclable materials from the municipal stream, garbage bins and garbage dumps. In so doing their activities are also beneficial to the environment because raw materials and energy are saved and pollution is reduced. However, waste reclamation in South Africa seems not to be adequately regulated, supported nor formally recognised by authorities. This study aims to investigate the extent to which South African Environmental law enables and regulates waste reclamation, whether directly and/or indirectly, with a view to improving the regulatory policy and legislative framework pertaining to waste reclamation. In this regard the study considers key policy and legislation pertaining to waste management in South Africa. To this end the Minimum Requirements for Waste Disposal by Landfill as published by the then Department of Water Affairs and Forestry serve as a guideline for the formalisation and control of waste reclamation at landfills. However, there is a need to formulate regulations under NEM: WA to regulate waste reclamation inside and even outside landfills. Moreover, the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs also needs to formulate standard model waste reclamation by-laws which would be adapted by municipalities to suit local circumstances. The long term view of government is to phase out waste reclamation at landfills in favour of waste separation at source. In order to realise this objective it is important for government, especially at local level, to integrate waste reclaimers in the formal waste management programmes by virtue of their experience in recovery of recyclables from the waste stream, and these programmes must be included in municipal IWMPs and IDPs for implementation.
- Law