SA tightens landfill laws

Waste management companies are urged to get to grips with legislation that outlaws the disposal of liquid waste at landfills

Experts agree: landfills the world over represent a significant waste-management problem – and the good news is South African legislation has recently been tightened to prohibit the disposal of liquid waste at dump sites.

The new legislation came into effect two months ago, signalling a massive shift in regulations, according to Kate Stubbs, director of business development and marketing at Interwaste. “Over the past several years, regulations have been developed to improve the disposal of waste to landfill, and more importantly, encourage the waste industry to seek alternative and sustainable solutions.

“The new legislation became effective on August 23, when the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries banned all forms of liquid waste, as well as hazardous waste with a calorific value greater than 20 MJ/kg, from landfill disposal.

“With additional waste streams shifting towards this prohibition on an annual basis, it becomes essential that our industry embraces the legislation, while also taking the necessary steps to comply,” she says. “The prohibitions provide opportunities for alternative and more sustainable waste-management solutions, while also creating a more efficient waste economy in South Africa.”

Previous regulations held that hazardous liquid waste with high calorific values – such as refinery waste, chemical processed paint waste, hydrocarbon-contaminated liquids, sludges and chemical solvents – had been progressively banned from landfills as from August, 2017. However, Stubbs says that now all liquid waste has been prohibited, along with reactive wastes, recyclable waste oils, whole waste tyres, lamps and lead-acid batteries.

“To best manage the new regulations, it is central for waste producers to understand that there is ample room for new innovation in this space, and that there are successful innovations already in practice that are driving legislative compliance,” she says.

She points out that solutions exist for hazardous liquid waste to be repurposed into an alternative fuel source for energy production. Now, she says, there is an opportunity to start looking at resources offered by the additional liquid-waste streams to add value to the country’s economy – reducing dependence of fossil fuels, for instance.

“While many businesses may not have prepared for the new legislative framework, there are already available solutions targeted towards complying with the legislation,” she says. “Interwaste spent much time considering and planning for the impact of the legislation to ensure we were prepared.”

According to Stubbs, the company has developed significant capacity over the years for the treatment, recycling or recovery of qualifying wastes at its licensed facilities at Germiston, which already produces waste-derived fuel for industrial use.

“Waste management is one of the critical elements of sustainable development, primarily because sound management practices contribute to sustainability. Legislation regulating waste management is an important instrument in the control of environmental hazards to health. It also creates a reformative system.

“As government aims towards a circular economy and improving our environmental standards, there will no doubt be further stringent legislation down the line. As such, it is up to waste-management companies to take a proactive approach by seeking relevant investment and technology-development opportunities for alternative waste-disposal solutions – ones that are commercially viable,” she says.

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