3.4 Licensing Waste Management Activities

The purpose of licensing is to ensure that specific conditions regulate identified waste management activities (as currently listed47) that may have a detrimental effect on the environment. Chapter five of the Waste Act provides for licensing waste management activities. Licence conditions are monitored and enforced to ensure environmental protection.


  1. Department of Environmental Affairs (2009) National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act 59 of 2008) List of waste management activities that have, or are likely to have a detrimental effect on the environment. Government Notice No.718, 3rd July 2009.

3.4.1 Listing of waste management activities

The requirement for licensing applies to a range of listed waste management activities including the storage of waste; recycling, recovery; treatment of waste; disposal of waste; and the construction or decommissioning of facilities and associated structure and infrastructure. The list has Category A and B and what differentiates the activities in A & B is the threshold.

The Waste Act requires that the notice listing the waste management activities must indicate whether a waste management licence is required for that activity or, if not, the standards or requirements that govern the activity. Where a standard or requirement has been set, listed waste management activities that are exempt from licensing requirements must comply to that standard. In addition, they must register with and report regularly to the SAWIS.

Applications can be made to the Minister through the process identified in the Waste Classification and Management regulations for activities to be exempted from requiring a licence on the grounds of its contribution to waste minimisation or diversion of waste from landfill.

3.4.2 Licensing process

The Waste Act provides for a licensing regime specific to waste management activities. It replaces the historical system of permits issued in terms of the repealed section 20 of the Environment Conservation Act, 1989 (ECA). Transitional arrangements allow existing permits granted in terms of ECA to be regarded as licences in terms of the Waste Act until the Minister requires a licence application as per the Waste Act.

The category of the waste management activity (A or B as explained in the previous section) determines the environmental assessment procedure (which is the equivalent of the EIA regulations' requirements) required to obtain a licence.

Category A activities need a basic assessment as defined in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) regulations provided in NEMA. A basic assessment is appropriate where the environmental impact of a particular activity is well understood and limited in scope. Category B activities require a full assessment report in terms of the EIA regulations. A full assessment is appropriate where the potential scope and extent of environmental impacts is not well understood, or is likely to be significant.

The waste management licence applications will be captured in the National Environmental Authorisation System (NEAS).

An independent Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) will manage all licence applications. The independence of the practitioner will be established through a formal disclosure of interests by that person in the waste management licence application form. The Minister is the licensing authority with respect to hazardous waste, international obligations, activities performed by a provincial environmental authority or statutory body other than a municipality, or an activity that takes place in more than one authority or that traverses international boundaries. National EMIs will monitor compliance with licences for which the Minister is the licensing authority.

The MEC is the licensing authority for waste activities for which the Minister is not the licensing authority. The Minister is also empowered to delegate licensing authority for a particular waste management activity to the MEC and the MEC can request the Minister to be a licensing authority for activities which the MEC is the licensing authority. Provincial EMIs will monitor compliance with licences for which the MEC is the licensing authority.

DEA integrated environmental information systems will provide the capacity to address the significant number of new licence applications. The framework will use a workflow engine that will automatically route licensing applications and the relevant documentation along the chain of approvals and authorisations. Furthermore, the applicant will be able to track their application online and reporting tools will assist DEA to identify and resolve bottlenecks in the system.

DEA's overall intention is to simplify and expedite the licensing process as well as promote the streamlining and integration of multiple licensing processes. DEA has implemented an integrated permitting system for activities that require both a waste licence as well as an environmental authorisation per the EIA regulations. Furthermore, a standard operating procedure for integrated permitting has been established to facilitate integrated permitting at provincial level.

In the long term, DEA's goal is to provide integrated licensing systems for activities requiring environmental authorisation in terms of NEMA and other sectoral statutes. This will require an adjustment to the National Environmental Authorisation System (NEAS) so that it can accommodate the licensing requirements of activities that may require authorisation by other organs of state.