A critical analysis of the challenges in implementing the South African Waste Information System (SAWIS)
Sehaswana, Masilo Donald
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Since the South African Waste Information System (SAWIS) formally came into effect in January 2013, the SAWIS has failed to produce credible and timely information on waste generation and management in South Africa, notwithstanding the National Waste Management Strategy’s (2020) aim to “improve the collection, reporting and dissemination of information on SAWIS” by 60% by 2022. This research focused on critically identifying challenges in implementing the SAWIS, with a view of making practical recommendations for improvement to the system. The research followed a mixed-methods approach, using a combination of a literature review and evaluation, survey questionnaires, and interviews to gather data. The document or literature review included the analysis of key South African milestone reports. These reports included the 2011 and 2020 National Waste Management Strategies, the 2012 National Waste Baseline Information Report, the 2018 State of Waste Report and the SAWIS databases used to determine the status of the SAWIS reporting. 152 SAWIS users responded to the survey and completed the survey questionnaire (quoted later). Some were later excluded. A total of 116 SAWIS users completed the survey questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with the nine provincial SAWIS administrators to identify the challenges in implementing the SAWIS. The results of the SAWIS database analysis revealed an average reporting rate of only 33% by its users, with the majority of 67% not reporting to the SAWIS and therefore not being compliant with the National Waste Information Regulations (NWIR). The issues related to non-reporting or non-compliant reporting are widely reported in the secondary literature reviewed. The study also found that the SAWIS users' and administrators' perceptions and expressions varied. The findings point to systemic challenges in implementing the SAWIS. Identified challenges related to data-capturing, a lack of equipment for determining waste quantities (i.e., scales or weighbridges), high staff turnover of waste management facilities, lack of capacity in provinces, and access to the internet, to name a few. The findings also clearly show that the SAWIS challenges and the dire need for system improvements can neither be ignored nor postponed. It is recommended that the next amendment to the NWIR consider waste transportation activities, update SAWIS user manuals, align the SAWIS with the existing provincial waste information systems, and regular verifications of the waste data.