17 Sep

The Future of Waste Management in South Africa

2020 set to bring further innovation to the future of waste management in South Africa

Kate Stubbs, Director Business Development and Marketing, Interwaste

The South African waste management industry is evolving and is one of the most efficient on the continent. However, the country is still generating large amounts of waste annually, with 108 million tonnes being disposed to landfills – fast approaching full capacity – equating to about R25.2 billion.

These statistics reflect an urgent focus on diversion from landfill, finding alternative uses and revenue streams, and a commitment to adhering to legislative frameworks.

Zero waste to landfill

SA is recycling only 10% of its waste – making the zero waste to landfill goal by 2020 ambitious.

However, by recycling, reuse and recovery of waste (as well as beneficiation technologies), we will be able to build a circular economy with the potential to create numerous environmental, social and economic opportunities. Central to this is the diversion of 90% of waste from landfills.

The key to this is creating facilities that can deal with valuable waste in a more efficient manner – and 2020 will be the year of rapid change in this space.

Digitisation of waste management

Digital disruption has the potential to reshape South Africa. Those organisations that do not drive their own digital business transformation will be left behind. The same applies for the waste sector, where the industry will see digitisation of waste collection coming to the fore, providing important benefits given that complex industrial processes can now be automated.

Waste to energy

While nuclear power remains debated, there are alternative solutions, such as the conversion of waste to energy through repurposing waste that can’t be recycled or reused into an alternative energy source.

Think of the benefit: 500-tonnes of waste being converted to 12.6-megawatts of energy. This goes a long way to reducing reliance on landfill and helping solve South Africa’s energy crisis. If we consider that by 2050 the country’s energy needs will be more than double, alternative solutions are critical in meeting demand and development in this space over the next year will be crucial.

The waste sector provides room for not only environmental effectiveness but large-scale innovation. In 2020, waste producers and managers working together have an opportunity to reduce waste to landfill, drive a circular economy and increase waste profitability. Some real focus and a change of mindset towards waste will drive this sector into 2020 – a sector that is ripe for the taking!

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