1.6 Problem statement

Waste management in South Africa faces numerous challenges and the NWMS sets out plans, targets and measures to address them. The main challenges are:

  1. A growing population and economy, which means increased volumes of waste generated. This puts pressure on waste management facilities, which are already in short supply.
  2. Increased complexity of the waste stream because of urbanisation and industrialisation. The complexity of the waste stream directly affects the complexity of its management, which is compounded when hazardous waste mixes with general waste.
  3. A historical backlog of waste services for, especially, urban informal areas, tribal areas and rural formal areas. Although 61%10 of all South African households had access to kerbside domestic waste collection services in 2007, this access remains highly skewed in favour of more affluent and urban communities. Inadequate waste services lead to unpleasant living conditions and a polluted, unhealthy environment.
  4. Limited understanding of the main waste flows and national waste balance because the submission of waste data is not obligatory, and where data is available, it is often unreliable and contradictory.
  5. A policy and regulatory environment that does not actively promote the waste management hierarchy. This has limited the economic potential of the waste management sector, which has an estimated turnover of approximately R10 billion per annum11. Both waste collection and the recycling industry make meaningful contributions to job creation and GDP, and they can expand further.
  6. Absence of a recycling infrastructure which will enable separation of waste at source and diversion of waste streams to material recovery and buy back facilities.
  7. Growing pressure on outdated waste management infrastructure, with declining levels of capital investment and maintenance.
  8. Waste management suffers from a pervasive under-pricing, which means that the costs of waste management are not fully appreciated by consumers and industry, and waste disposal is preferred over other options.
  9. Few waste treatment options are available to manage waste and so they are more expensive than landfill costs.
  10. Too few adequate, compliant landfills and hazardous waste management facilities, which hinders the safe disposal of all waste streams. Although estimates put the number of waste handling facilities at more than 200012, significant numbers of these are unpermitted.

The rest of this document explains how the NWMS will address these challenges.


  1. Stats SA Community Household Survey 2007 refuse removal data on 'kerbside' collection.
  2. Michael Goldblatt of Palmer Development Group, "Macroeconomic trends, targets and economic instruments", paper prepared for Department of Environmental Affairs as part of NWMS process, August 2009
  3. DEAT (2007), Assessment of the Status of Waste Service Delivery and capacity at Local Government level. Directorate: General Waste Management, August 2007, Draft 3.