Minister Barbara Creecy lays claim to waste reclaimers

26 Aug 2022

Minister Creecy officiates at handover of biodegradation testing and research laboratory at the council for scientific and industrial research

“Good morning and thank you for the invitation to be part of this auspicious occasion which celebrates two important milestones in our quest for more sustainable solutions to Waste Management namely: support for Waste Reclaimers who are the cornerstone of waste recycling in our country; and new laboratory equipment to assist us in testing and ensuring verifiable standards for bio-plastics.

Inadequate waste management poses a significant threat to our environment, causing pollution to soil and ground water and undermining ecosystem functions and services. Marine plastic waste is a global problem that threatens biodiversity and wildlife. Marine plastic litter originates mostly on land from single-use plastics. When these products and packaging are not properly disposed of, they leak into the environment. 

To improve waste management in South Africa we have to progressively increase the number of  households with access to weekly waste collection; improve landfill compliance and look to the future of waste disposal beyond landfilling. In this regard the reduction and recycling of waste plays and important role.

Government is aiming to divert  forty percent of waste from landfill within 5 years through reuse, recycling, recovery and alternative waste treatment.  We aim to reduce the current amount of waste by about twenty five percent over the same period and ensure a further twenty percent of waste is reused in the economic value chain.  

Government has over the past year introduced Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for the packaging, eWaste and lighting sectors. We are currently consulting on extending these schemes for batteries, pesticides and lubricant oils.

Regulations for organic waste treatment, as well as the composting of organic waste, were published earlier this year for implementation. This will help ensure that organic waste, including  food waste, is diverted from landfills and used in composting and other sustainable technologies

Consumers are increasing conscious of the impact of their choices on the environment  and consequently, constantly in search of products that are more environmentally friendly.

At present, bio-plastics represent less than one percent of plastics produced annually. However, rising demand, and an increase in more sophisticated applications means  production capacity is set to increase. Bioplastic alternatives exist for many current plastic products, and we expect consumer choice to drive their mainstreaming and increased uptake over time.

And so regulators are challenged to ensure that the certification systems for these products protect both consumers and the environment. The Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations include a transitional timeframe which affords industry time to prepare for the enforcement of environmental labelling obligations. So that producers can provide assurance in accordance with approved SABS standards,  laboratory facilities with necessary equipment are much needed. 

The services that will be on offer through today’s donation will broaden transparency and ensure product claims can be  tested in accordance with environmental labelling standards. At the same time, the South African Bureau of Standards is currently in the process of developing local standards for biodegradable packaging.

It is estimated that there are between sixty and ninety thousand informal waste reclaimers working at the heart of South Africa’s recycling economy, recovering mostly paper and packaging waste from households and businesses.

Data published by the packaging sector prior to the Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations coming into effect, estimated that waste reclaimers collect 80-90% of  post-consumer paper and packaging for recycling.  

Government, industry and civil society recognise the important role waste reclaimers play in the diversion of valuable resources away from landfill and the need to formalise and protect these livelihoods and the circular economy they promote.

A notable feature of the agreement between UNIDO, the Government of South Africa and the Government of Japan, is the recognition of the informal sector’s role in waste management and the critical link they provide between households and recycling enterprises.

I am excited that the CSIR plans to partner with waste reclaimer organisations  to further integrate them into circular economy waste streams. The planned training and awareness  programmes will make a great contribution to the formalization of this often under recognised and under-valued sector.

Actors in the informal sector need to educated on the differences between recyclable and compostable material, as well as the best practice with regards to identifying, collecting and storing the different materials.

Allow me to conclude by saluting our partners Unido, the government of Japan and our sister Department of Science and Technology  for this important initiative that does so much to promote a more sustainable approach to waste management. Today you demonstrate your commitment to making our world a better place: we all know there is no Planet B!

I thank you!”

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Averda Ink Landmark Deal to Support Waste Management in South Africa  

International Finance Corporation (IFC) is providing a $30 million loan to Averda, one of the largest privately-owned integrated waste management companies in Africa and the Middle East. 

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Discussing the economic opportunities and practicality of the Norms and Standards for Composting

A ‘circular economy’ has become somewhat of a buzzword, not only for the waste management sector but also for retail and hospitality.

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Applying circular initiative to e-waste solutions

In order to tackle South Africa’s rising e-waste challenge, key local and international stakeholders have joined forces to launch an ambitious project which is set to bring about economic opportunities while ensuring workable and safe solutions for the management of e-waste.

Rooted in the global Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) programme (2020 – 2023), the local chapter of the SRI project aims to build capacity for sustainable e-waste recycling, by supporting related national initiatives and implementing pilot ventures. The SRI project in South Africa involves various stakeholders including The Appliance Bank (TAB), a training programme for unemployed men that gives them the technical skills needed to repair damaged and customer- returned small appliances.

In support of the circular economy, TAB prevents damaged appliances from being disposed of in landfills.

Job creator assisting in training

TAB came onboard to create training materials which will support the collaboration and help scale the intended impact of the SRI project in South Africa. The pilot project is kicking off in iLembe, KwaZulu-Natal which will see TAB working with waste pickers and providing technical appliance repair training.

Commenting on the initiative Tracey Gilmore, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of TAB says, “We are extremely excited to be onboard and honoured that the SRI team reached out to us to join the conversation and be part of this wonderful initiative. South Africa can only benefit from projects like the SRI that will create a more inclusive economy and contribute to sustainable growth.”

Bringing new opportunities for sustainable economic growth

The SRI project South Africa is part of the global SRI programme, with participation of Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Colombia and Peru. SRI aims at building capacity for sustainable e-waste recycling by supporting national initiatives and implementing pilot projects. The first phase of the SRI programme was implemented between 2013 – 2018 and is now in its second phase (2019 – 2023). The overall development objective of the SRI programme (Phase 2) is to create favourable framework conditions, which enables the development of a sustainable recycling industry for e-waste and any related waste streams.

In all its activities, the SRI programme strives for an inclusive approach of enabling beneficial economic conditions for both the formal industry stakeholders and the informal sector. Therefore, the programme leverages steps and strategies leading to both a resource preserving circular economy transition and contributing to actions on climate change mitigation through the recovery and reintegration of secondary raw materials into industrial processes.

The SRI programme is funded by the Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO) and is implemented by the Institute for Materials Science & Technology (Empa) and the World Resources Forum (WRF).

Key outcomes and deliverables envisaged for South Africa

The national SRI project team aims to develop an e-waste policy (on national and local level), define minimum working conditions for the formal e-waste value chain partners, and facilitate strategic informal sector integration. It will also assist with the development of both auditing skills and capacity to assess e-waste value chain operators and oversee the development of a national e-waste learner curriculum.

The pilot project in iLembe will see the team work with the informal waste sector to collect e-waste via a newly developed app.

South Africa among the most guilty of e-waste pollution on African continent

E-waste is the fastest-growing domestic waste stream in the world. According to the e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWasa), each individual in South Africa generates about 6.2kg of e-waste and the Department of Environmental Affairs estimates an annual national tally of 360 000 tonnes. A technology economy study in 2014 revealed that more recycling of e-waste could bring notable benefits to South Africa. If the country manages to increase its recovery for recycling rates (currently hovering around 10%) up to 30%, it will yield an additional 32 million Rands per year injection into the weak South African economy.

One man’s waste is another man’s gold

TAB, which forms part of the award-winning non-profit organisation, The Clothing Bank (TCB), provides a two-year training programme for unemployed men to establish their own sustainable businesses. The men, most of whom are fathers, repair the donated household appliances and sell them for a profit in their communities.

Last year, TAB had 89 active businessmen who sold goods for a profit of R5,4 million and around 22 000 units / e-waste materials were recycled. Piloted in 2015 as a result of a strategic partnership with The Clicks Group, TAB has grown to have operations in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

TAB provides beneficiaries with extensive financial, business and life-skills training, as well as coaching and mentoring to help them on their journey to self-determination. In 2018, the TAB programme formalised its technical training and developed a comprehensive modular-based curriculum covering all aspects related to electricity and appliance repair. “Apart from all the research learnings we will obtain from the SRI project, it provides an essential platform to build on our programme through improving our training material, continuing our contribution to improving our country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and aiding job creation,” concludes Gilmore.

       

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Johannesburg is threatening to sideline informal waste pickers. Why this is a bad idea

Like all cities in the world, Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial capital, has a waste management problem. In 2018/19, more than 290 000 tons of waste was illegally dumped in neighbourhoods across the city. Illegal dumping will likely increase, as the four legal landfills will be full in less than three years. Various efforts have been made over the years to try and manage the problems better. A contentious, and politically sensitive issue in all of these efforts has been the role of waste reclaimers, the informal actors who earn a living by salvaging and selling recyclables.

Like their counterparts across the country, reclaimers in Johannesburg play a crucial role in waste management and recycling. According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, reclaimers collect 80%-90% of all used packaging and paper that is recycled. They also save municipalities up to R748 million a year in landfill space. Without them, South Africa’s recycling economy would not exist, and Johannesburg’s landfills would have closed long ago.

Pikitup, the private company created by the City to provide municipal waste management services, only started promoting recycling just over a decade ago. Instead of partnering with the real recycling experts, reclaimers, Pikitup designs charity-style projects for them and gives the official recycling work to unemployed people with no experience in the sector and private companies.

In mid-2018, Pikitup started a separation at source pilot project that pays two private companies to collect recyclables separated from trash by residents in some suburbs.

Now the city wants “affluent” households to pay a new R50 monthly recycling levy to extend the pilot.

But evidence from my three-year research project shows that Pikitup’s pilot has failed to collect significant amounts of recyclables. It has also been far from cost-effective. And it has profoundly negative consequences for reclaimers.

Unintended consequences

There are approximately 8000 reclaimers in Johannesburg. Some have been collecting recyclables for more than 30 years and there are families with several generations of reclaimers.

Working with 13 post-graduate students, my research project interviewed and surveyed reclaimers, residents and officials to see how they were affected by Pikitup’s recycling programmes between 2016 and 2019.

We found that Pikitup’s pilot had a number of negative consequences.

As the contracted companies started collecting the same materials that reclaimers depended on, reclaimers struggled to access recyclables, which decreased their incomes. It also led to increased harassment as reclaimers were accused by residents and security of “stealing” Pikitup’s bags.

The pilot also made life harder for reclaimers in other ways. They had to start sleeping in suburban parks to get to the materials before the private recycling trucks arrived, as otherwise there would be nothing to collect and their children would go hungry.

Poor track record

Pikitup’s approach to recycling has a poor track record.

In 2018/2019, the most recent year for which Pikitup has released complete data, Pikitup planned to collect 50 000 tonnesof recyclables. It then lowered the goal to 32 550 tonnes, but still missed this new target by about 6500 tonnes.

In the first 12 months of Pikitup’s separation at source pilot – which the levy is set to expand – an internal Pikitup presentation reported that Pikitup diverted only 27 277 tonnes of recyclables.

This is only a fraction of what reclaimers divert in a year. Data from a “resident-reclaimer” recycling pilot project led by the African Reclaimers Organisation in two Johannesburg suburbs shows that participating reclaimers collect an average of 128.18 kgs per day. If the City’s approximately 8000 reclaimers salvage similar amounts, they need a mere 27 days to divert as many tonnes of recyclables as Pikitup did in the first year of the City’s pilot.

While the companies in Pikitup’s pilot only collect bags of separated materials, reclaimers in the African Reclaimers Organisation pilot do the same, but also continue to salvage recyclables from rubbish bins. They do this because many residents still throw away recyclables. As a result, reclaimers provide a more effective service, because they ensure that recyclables that residents put in the trash don’t end up at landfills. And they do it for free.

Pikitup’s pilot has a number of inbuilt inefficiencies. For example, Pikitup pays the private contractors between approximately R20 – R25 per household per month to collect separated recyclables. The companies are paid even if a household does not put out a bag of recyclables or a reclaimer collects the bag. The reclaimer is not paid anything.

As Pikitup expands its pilot, the private companies will get the cleanest materials. More reclaimers will lose access to bins, and the recyclables in those bins will end up at landfills.

This is not just bad for reclaimers. It is bad for the environment as landfills will fill up faster and more virgin materials will be used to produce new products. While the companies use trucks to collect recyclables, reclaimers’ trolleys are a low carbon alternative.

A more sensible approach

It makes more sense to pay reclaimers to collect recyclables as is done in cities in ColombiaIndia, and Brazil. The African Reclaimers Organisation pilot has shown that reclaimers can provide an efficient, effective, low-carbon service that positively transforms relationships between residents and reclaimers.

Prior to the pandemic, reclaimers in this pilot were paid a service fee based on the kilograms of recyclables collected.

More than 2 400 residents have signed the African Reclaimers Organisation’s petition that calls on the municipality to stop the R50 levy and create a reclaimer-based recycling system through consultation with reclaimers.

It is time the city recognised reclaimers’ central role in Johannesburg’s recycling economy and work with reclaimers to build on what exists to create a recycling system appropriate for the South African context. Expanding African Reclaimers Organisation’s pilot would be a great way to start.

Courtesy: The Conversation

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Beyond infrastructure plans – SA needs action, regulation to overcome water and waste crises

Major long-term infrastructure plans are necessary, but South Africa also needs to take immediate action to overcome current water and waste management problems and looming crises.

Stakeholders across the water, wastewater and waste management sectors report growing frustration at the lack of progress in averting crises, despite years of discussion and planning. Pointing to critical failures in water and wastewater service delivery and a looming crisis in landfills and waste management in much of the country, experts say South Africa appears to lack the will to take real action.

The experts emphasize that sustainable action plans must be implemented as a matter of urgency, with the government committing to enabling these plans, and independent regulators assigned to enforce their implementation. By moving now to address water and waste management problems, South Africa has an opportunity to delay or even avoid crises, and also to spark much-needed job creation in many sectors.

Urgent action needed on Water Master Plan

The National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, designed to guide the water sector with investment planning for the development of water resources and the delivery of water and sanitation services, does address key issues, but falls short in some respects – notably that it is built on outdated data, that the situation has changed since it was drafted, and that little or no progress has been made in implementing it, stakeholders say.  

They urged the government not to delay further, and instead of attempting a massive and costly effort to address all challenges at once, to immediately start rolling out ‘quick win’ initiatives. Independent regulators to oversee the environments would be key to overcoming the current challenges, they noted.

“A plan without action is nothing really. If the goals of the water plan were achieved, we would see employment, empowerment, an improvement in the quality of water as a natural resource. But you need the political will and intent to start the process, and the funding will follow.”

Wayne Taljaard, Managing Director at WEC Projects.

Progress in the water and waste sectors are foundational to driving investment, economic progress and job creation, say stakeholders. Benoît Le Roy, Environmental, Technology & Project Alchemist, says: “Water is a fundamental economic enabler, so to attract investment you need to address the water challenges. A real problem is that all of our infrastructure is ageing, and by a decade ago our water reserve was 98% allocated. Investors know this and without water security, they won’t invest.”

“Government at the national level understands the realities, but addressing all the challenges is a massive task and we need to see all stakeholders working together, as well as the introduction of an independent regulator.”

New approach to PPPs needed

To help fast-track progress, traditional Public-Private Partnerships models should be re-programmed to create more collaborative and viable partnerships, they say. These new models could include outsourcing maintenance contracts, enabling private sector stakeholders to implement, own and manage key technologies, and bringing in independent water and waste providers as subcontractors to state entities.

The private sector approach in moving quickly, and applying new technologies and industry best practice can address problems quickly and efficiently, say the experts. In contrast, traditional government consultation and procurement processes tend to slow progress down to a virtual standstill. Frustratingly, they say, government departments seem reluctant to accept offers of assistance from the private sector – even when it is offered for free.

Says Dean Mulqueeny, Group Executive – AECI Water: “We have made offers to some municipalities to give them certain pieces of technology without any cost to them, which was unfortunately declined. During the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, we went directly to schools and a clinic at Hammanskraal to offer our assistance and fortunately the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality agreed. We invested around R3-million and got clean running water to 5 000 people within two months.”

Delays to drive skills out of SA

“There really is a lot of work in the pipeline in future – the Master Plan states R900bn which is R90bn per annum, that is more work than the water-related industry in South Africa could handle over the next ten years.”

Taljaard notes that if water and waste projects do not start soon, South Africa also risks losing key skills. “But we need to do something before all of these businesses shut their doors. The economy is in crisis, cash reserves are running low, there is no envisaged new work in the short- to medium-term, and people are downsizing their businesses or closing down. What happens next is the experienced people and the up-and-coming expertise goes abroad, so when the situation does turn in a few years’ time, we will have a major skills crises and we will have to import skills.”

Private sector approach needed to address waste management

Waste management consultant Kobus Otto says metros in parts of the country are facing a health and environmental crisis, as they are running out of landfill space and no progress has been made in developing new landfill sites.

“We have beautiful plans and pieces of legislation in South Africa, but little in the way of implementation and enforcement. Unless legislation and policies are enforced, they aren’t worth the paper they are written on,” he says.

Instead of current approaches that involve lengthy planning without sufficient research, the public sector should model its efforts on the private sector approach, which seeks to identify sustainable quick wins that are appropriate for the market or community they are deployed in. “For example, it would be far more cost-effective to make well managed landfill and public dumping facilities available within easy reach of communities, instead of continually having to clear illegal dumping – which is a huge expenditure annually,” he says.

Otto believes private sector approaches can go a long way toward solving the problem:

“We need to use Africa’s brainpower appropriately. We need to formalise informal systems and create markets and opportunities, which could create many new jobs and businesses.”

No room for further delays

Mulqueeny says: “The longer we wait to address the issue, the harder it is to fix. We need to start somewhere and work more closely together to make improvements. There are systems and technologies that could make significant improvements very quickly, and the private sector has the expertise and will to help the government deploy them.”

Suzette Scheepers, CEO of IFAT Africa presenters Messe Muenchen South Africa, says: “Collaboration and communication is the only way to address these challenges in a sustainable way. IFAT Africa is a platform designed to bring together key stakeholders across public and private sectors to do exactly that.”

IFAT Africa, the continent’s leading trade fair and forum for water, sewage, refuse and recycling industries, will bring together public and private sector stakeholders from across Africa to discuss challenges and solutions for the water and waste sectors.

For more information, go to https://ifat-africa.com/

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Key appointments and promotions made at waste management company Averda

Waste management company Averda has appointed two rising stars, Mariam Ansari and Brindha Roberts, as Director of Plastics Recycling and Group Director of Sustainability, respectively.

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SA urged to support responsible waste management efforts

The holiday season is here and while many of us are starting our holiday shopping, wrapping gifts for family and friends, or finalising our travel plans, the waste sector is preparing for an increase in the amount of both waste and recycling material.

South Africa alone produces approximately 95-million tonnes of waste per year, of which less than 40% is recycled. In an industry currently worth over R25 billion[i] – local businesses, homeowners and the general public can help to not only demonstrate corporate social responsibility but also assist with giving back to an already struggling economy. In addition to generating income, for example, the creation of jobs, recycling also saves money by reducing fees spent at landfills, which charge tipping fees and require significant amounts of land.

“Although the necessity to recycle has been around for some time many are still not well informed about which items can be reused and understand the different waste streams that are created,” says Joey Barnard, operation manager at waste management company Averda.

There is also a lack of understanding amongst the general public on recycling correctly and how they could be assisting around 300 recycling companies which vary in the size and scope of the facilities they operate. The recyclability of an item, Barnard further explains, is dependent on its ability to reacquire the properties it had in its original state before it entered the process of recycling.

“Even though we receive materials from residents and commercial enterprises at a number of specialised facilities that use a combination of equipment and manual labour to sort and densify materials, we still require the assistance of all waste generators,” says Barnard.

Averda has two ‘Materials Recovery Facilities’ (MRF) that operate from 07h00 to 23h00 in two shifts. At the Cape Town facility Barnard oversees 46 employees who all come from local communities. The site receives on average 700 tonnes of waste a month, from this 80% is recovered and prepared for shipment downstream to recyclers.

The role of these facilities is to sort as much waste as possible and reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill sites. M

More waste ending up at landfills means more methane and carbon dioxide released into the air, resulting in higher temperatures and a likelihood of natural disasters globally.

How can businesses and the public help these MRF’s in the long run?

Both sectors need to dispose of their waste correctly so that more can be recycled and less is discarded. For example, items such as bubble wrap, holiday ribbons and bows, cellophane, and foam packaging cannot be recycled at MRF’s but can be reused or repurposed at home and in business spaces. Cardboard packaging that contains plastic can only be recycled once it has been separated, if not they pose a potential hazard to the recycling equipment and an increased health risk to employees.

“We have seen some interesting items come through on our conveyor belt from used needles, medical waste, disposable nappies to dead pets and live snakes,” adds Barnard. He also advised that cigarette butts are not recyclable and food containers need to be cleaned out before they are placed in one’s recycling bin.

“We all need to take waste prevention into consideration, with an emphasises on avoiding and reducing waste before substances, materials and products are discarded.”

Barnard says all South Africans must start engaging in responsible waste disposal and management practices. “We are optimistic that MRFs are already receiving great support from local businesses, residential estates, and municipal authorities around South Africa, but we believe more can be done. The benefits to the environment and to the economy are many, and this can be further amplified if more industry players make use of MRFs.”

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4IR and its positive impact on waste sector

Covid-19 has spearheaded the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) during 2020. This transformation has become essential to not only help businesses be at the forefront of global trends but is being used to help them expand and retain clients within all sectors and at the end of the day to support with economic transformation.

“This is evident as South Africa’s newly formed Presidential Commission on the 4IR hopes to increase the influence of digital on the economy by working on infrastructure and resources, research, technology and innovation, capital and industrialisation to name a few,” says Ablé van der Merwe, National Logistics Manager at waste management company Averda.

“We realised that there is no better time to implement change and prioritise digital transformation to ensure growth and safety within the waste sector and that we keep moving forward,” he says.

Being the first in the industry, Averda South Africa has been rolling out their new Delivery Management System (DMS), which entails equipping each of their vehicles with onboard mobile technology, and each crew member with their own digital log-in. This means that Averda knows the exact location and the real-time progress in service of all vehicles and of all staff on the ground.

This kind of digitisation within the waste management industry has been around for two years with Averda having deployed ‘TruTrak’ which specialised in medical waste services.

Averda’s healthcare clients have benefited from end-to-end visibility in the collection, transportation, and disposal of potentially infectious medical waste with every container of medical waste traceable from collection through to final safe disposal.

“From our years of experience, we are aware that not only medical waste can be hazardous, and now want to give all our clients the same level of assurance that their waste is being transported and handled correctly. The adoption of these digital technologies and systems will change the way we serve and interact with our clients,” says Van der Merwe.

“Making sure clients have peace of mind is essential within our industry knowing that their waste could be a negative contributor to the environment if not handled correctly from start to finish. This is vital in making sure we help to curb climate change and keep our communities safe. So, this new system will be able to log each collection, check against the collection schedule and will raise any issue, for example with blocked access to roads or entries can be identified immediately.”

These newly digitised landscapes will bring the general waste management sector closer to the required level of oversight and vigilance.

These systems improve staff safety and business accountability by providing faster and more accurate reporting. South Africa is well known for illegal dumping and smaller cheaper but unreliable waste collectors taking shortcuts, with many not knowing if their waste has been handled and disposed of correctly. It’s important for all waste generators to keep and monitor these reports so that they stay within government regulations.

Also, many businesses and manufacturers are still unaware of the kind of waste they may be producing and the harm this could be causing to the communities and environment.

Through constant and accurate reporting waste management companies and government are able to implement the best waste management practices for all.

Dynamic oversight and control of these real-time systems will be managed from two ‘mission control’ rooms, one for Western Cape based in Cape Town and the other for Gauteng, KZN, and inland regions, based in Johannesburg. In addition to providing real-time oversight and support to Averda crews, the data collected by these technologies will allow for smarter, more efficient routes to be developed.

They will also permit intelligent route optimisation which has the potential of minimising our fuel consumption and maximising our efficiencies.

In other countries where Averda has deployed these technologies, we have found they led to an average 15% reduction in fuel use and means less time on the road.

“Waste is not just the responsibility of the waste management sector but of waste generators and making sure they implement a responsible end-to-end waste management regime and partnerships with waste management companies that have everyone’s best interest at heart,” concludes van der Merwe.

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