The promulgation of the Waste Act is a milestone in the evolution of environmental policy and legislation and gives effect to the principles of the Constitution, NEMA and the White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management. Apart from providing a coherent regulatory framework for sound waste management practices, it presents a great opportunity to ensure that the country’s approach to waste management contributes to environmental wellness as well as support the country’s economic and social priorities. Waste management has an important role to play in mitigating climate change or “bending the curve” and the successful implementation of the waste minimisation hierarchy would be a part of a range of responses aimed at reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. A transition to a low carbon “green” economy as anticipated in a coherent national response to climate change would see a proliferation of green jobs in the waste sector ranging from life-cycle engineering to informal waste recovery.
The 1999 NWMS has laid the foundations for a coherent waste management regime with the development of a comprehensive Waste Information System, an integrated waste management planning system with the development of draft regulations and guidelines, significant advances in approaches to waste minimisation and recycling, innovations in the sphere of waste collection, and improvements in the way in which different forms of waste are disposed of and the regulation thereof.
The greatest challenge to its successful implementation was the absence of a coherent regulatory framework, a factor that has now been addressed through the promulgation of the Act. The revision of the NWMS is needed to align it with the provisions of the Act as well as reflect changing needs and emerging priorities such as the process of greening the economy. This document has set the context and imperatives for that revision and represents the framework for guiding the development of the NWMS in an engaging and consultative manner.