Municipal Waste Management in South Africa

Living in a capitalist society which depends on the selling and purchasing of products in order to live by the sayings “more is better” or “bigger is better”, leads to an increase in waste disposal, where people would dispose of the “not so old” for the new. Then the increase of South Africa’s population growth is one of the many major factors which influence the waste management system. It is stated that the average South African produces about 0.7kg of waste per day. This blog discusses the environmental issue regarding waste management through discussing the challenges as well as possible solutions regarding this issue, with reference to multiple online media sites and academic article, of Holms, “Humanities for the environment – A manifesto for research and action”, where the concepts of the “Great Acceleration” and “The New Human Condition” are elaborated according to Municipal Waste Management in South Africa.

The following table gives an overview of the main points discussed in the article.

What’s happening? Who and what are the drivers of change? What can be done? How to get it done? What are the means to do so?  
On a daily basis the population, economy in South Africa is constantly growing. There is an increased demand on existing resources and pressure to provide for the basic needs. The South African landfill sites are filling up fast. A holistic view of waste management needs to be developed.


This suggests that a system plan should be developed which involves:

·         A total waste system.

·         Develop the appropriate infrastructure to support this waste system.

·         Create services to manage the waste stream.

There are currently a few trends in the world of waste management which can be used to help with the successful control of the waste system. There are no set organisations to join in regards to waste management. The government can however encourage people to recycle.

·         Place different coloured bins around busy areas to divide waste into different categories such as paper, plastic, glass and metal.

·         Mondi paper recycling project

·         One needs to try and reduce the amount which ends up at landfills. Instead one needs to find alternative disposal options.

·         The South African government should educate and create an awareness to build a better understanding amongst South Africans.

These challenges lead to South Africa experiencing challenges regarding the waste management of the country.  


Overview of the waste management systems in South Africa

South Africa currently makes use of the “end-of-pipe approach” waste management system. This approach meaning that the waste collected by the municipality gets disposed of at landfill sites. The rate of consumption in the 21st-centuary is partly the cause of an excess of waste unable to keep up with municipal refuge removals. Through this failure and incompetence of waste disposal environmental issues have been brought forward shaping “public concern and environmental awareness”, in an effort to change the behaviour and thoughts concerning the environment in communities.

South Africa has a refuge disposal plan which is sufficient however infrastructure problems become one of the downfalls of incompetence. Recent example is the Pikitup strike where the workers of this refuge disposal company striked for five weeks demanding salary increase and the removal of Amanda Noir. Events like this become problematic as South Africa now needs to catch up on government services- with a system that is already under stress leads to causing external factors such as unsanitary streets, diseases caused by waste which have not been removed.

The Drivers of Change regarding waste management in South Africa

The drivers of change is the ”human preferences, practices and actions are the main drivers of change of global environmental change”(Holm, 2015:977). Drivers of change refer to the cause of the problem. The drivers of change regarding South Africa’s refuge removal system are the lack of services to dispose of the refuge as well as the stagnant landfills. The drivers of change relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technology, powers and consumption. The “Great Acceleration” can simply be defined as the way in which humans have over more than half of the last decade, used technologies and other powers to increase their levels of consumption in such a way that has caused it to be a key driver of Global Change (Holm, 2015:980). The increased levels of consumption leads to the increased levels of waste disposed of on a daily basis. This leads to landfills becoming stagnant and new sites are required to dump waste.

Increased human consumption has resulted in adverse changes to the planet’s atmospheric gas distribution, further extinction of species, climate change, water pollution and more. These negative impacts on the environment will continue to haunt the health and lifestyles of humans on earth for centuries to come unless dramatic changes in production and consumption are implemented (Holm, 2015:980).


How does the absence or presence of solutions relate to “The New Human Condition”?

The “New Human Condition” is a concept of European decent (HfE Observatory), which identifies challenges of the 21st-centuary. This refers to humanities focus on a much shorter time scale and with greater urgencies of perception and action. This looks at how humans will cope with the responsibilities and consequences of being a major factor of the drivers of global change (Holm, 2015:293). The overpopulation of people causes an increase in economic growth which means that people consume more on a daily basis; this also means that factories have to supply the business/consumer sector with more products. One then realises that it is a basic ripple effect of consumerism leading to the greater issues impacting the Climate and more specifically our future generations to come which comes into play.


Do the proposed solutions engage with the business/corporate sector?

The refuge removal has proposed solutions which do engage with business and corporate sectors where we see Mondi, a private refuge removal company working towards recycling paper, they are a major employer, landowner and producer. Mondi’s headquarters, based in Johannesburg as a dual-listed company. Mondi focuses on recycling paper and cardboard which they then use to convert into recycled containerboard creating an economical and sustainable alternative to paper waste. Mondi is active in the community providing institutes with educational programmes teaching the youth of the implication of climate change with direct reference to recycling and waste products. This active involvement encourages communities of the severity of failed waste removal problems.

The CSIR is another independent organisation which is committed to supporting environmental innovation in South Africa. CSIR is one of the leading scientific and technology researchers in Africa providing solutions in support of various stakeholders. They create opportunities where technologies can be developed for commercial and social benefit. They aim to educate communities on what materials can and cannot be recycled in order to start change in homes.

Do the proposed solutions and means to do so stem from collaborative processes of research, stakeholder engagement and public participation?

South Africa does have the means to recycle, but this is inaccessible to the lager public of our country. Those in rural areas do not have the necessary services to their disposal to be able to engage with recycling projects. A large portion of the public is unable to engage with the primary solutions of waste removal putting more pressure on the municipality as the larger public relies on selected sites allocated for waste removal. However even though the public is unable to engage primarily, we are still able to assist rural communities in educational programmes where solutions are taught and active participation of recycling to keep the streets clean are put to action. Increased awareness results to more possible solutions to aid the waste management system.


Throughout this article the crises of waste removal throughout South Africa has been expressed with reference to online media sites and academic articles identifying how technologies, powers and consumerism all contribute towards the “Great Acceleration” and the downfall of South Africa and its failure to meet South African Constitution (Act No. 108 of 1996), waste management service delivery is a local government function.


Sources Consulted


Aurecon. 2015. Sustainable solutions to South Africa’s waste challenges. [O] Available:

Accessed: 28 March 2016


CSIR. 2011. Municipal waste management – good practices 1-80.


Grant, S & Lawhon, M. 2014. Reporting on rhinos: analysis of the newspaper coverage of rhino poaching. Southern African Journal of Environmental Education 30:39-52.


Holm, P et al. 2015. Humanities for the Environment – A manifesto for research and action. Humanites 4:977-992.


Mondi. 2016. Ecological and economical solutions. [O] Available:

Accessed: 01 April 2016.


S.H.H. Oelofse; L. Godfrey. 2015. Defining waste in South Africa: moving beyond the age of ‘waste’. [O] Available: Accessed 28 March 2016.


One thought on “Municipal Waste Management in South Africa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s