Waste management in South Africa is based on the principles of the White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management (IP&WM) and the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) published by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in 1999 and 2000.
South Africa supports the waste hierarchy in its approach to waste management, by promoting cleaner production, waste minimisation, reuse, recycling and waste treatment with disposal seen as a last resort in the management of waste.
Introduction to Waste:
Definition of Waste
Waste is currently defined as “an undesirable or superfluous by-product, emission, or residue of any process or activity which has been discarded, accumulated or been stored for the purpose of discarding or processing. It may be gaseous, liquid or solid or any combination thereof and may originate from a residential, commercial or industrial area. This definition includes industrial waste water, sewage, radioactive substances, mining, metallurgical and power generation waste.” (White Paper of IP&WM, 2000) or as “any matter, whether gaseous, liquid or solid or any combination thereof, which is from time to time designated by the Minister by notice in the Gazette as an undesirable or superfluous by-product, emission, residue or remainder of any process or activity.” (Environmental Conservation Act, Act 73 of 1989).
Waste is divided into two classes based on the risk it poses – general waste and hazardous waste.
General waste is defined as “waste that does not pose an immediate threat to man or to the environment, i.e. household waste, builder’s rubble, garden waste, dry industrial and commercial waste. It may, however, with decomposition, infiltration and percolation produce leachate with an unacceptable pollution potential.” (White Paper on IP&WM, 2000).
Hazardous waste is defined as “waste, including radioactive waste, which is legally defined as “hazardous” in the state in which it is generated. The definition is based on the chemical reactivity or toxic, explosive, corrosive or other characteristics which cause, or are likely to cause, danger to health or to the environment, whether by itself or when in contact with other waste.” (White Paper on IP&WM, 2000).