2.2 Approach - waste hierarchy and regulatory model

Figure 1: Waste Hierarchy, NWMS 19992.2(1)
The Waste Act, 2008 provides a range of waste management measures that can be deployed to achieve the objectives of the Waste Act and that are applicable to the plethora of waste management challenges in the country.

The conceptual approach to waste management is underpinned by the waste hierarchy, which was introduced into South African waste management policy in the White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management. It was a hallmark of the 1999 NWMS, as represented in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Waste Hierarchy, NWMS 1999

The essence of the approach is to group waste management measures across the entire value chain in a series of steps, which are applied in descending order of priority.  The foundation of the hierarchy, and the first choice of measures in the management of waste, is waste avoidance and reduction.  Where waste cannot be avoided, it should be recovered, reused, recycled and treated.  Waste should only be disposed of as a last resort.

Figure 2: Waste Hierarchy, NWMS 20102.2(4)
The Waste Act, and consequently the NWMS, in addition addresses those situations in which the waste hierarchy is not implemented successfully, through providing additional measures for the remediation of contaminated land to protect human health and secure the wellbeing of the environment.




Figure 2: Waste Hierarchy, NWMS 2010

Implementation of the waste hierarchy requires changes in the way products are designed and manufactured in order to promote their re-use and recycling, giving effect to the concept of ‘cradle-to-cradle’ waste management. This is an important advance on the previous “cradle to grave” approach, which entailed producer responsibility for the entire lifecycle of a product until its final disposal. Cradle to cradle management ensures that once a product reaches the end of its life span, its component parts are recovered, reused or recycled, thereby becoming inputs for new products and materials and this cycle repeats itself until the least possible portion of the original product is eventually disposed of.

To achieve the goals and objectives of the NWMS, a tiered and consensual model has been adopted, which seeks the optimal combination of regulation and compliance measures with self regulatory components, voluntary initiatives, economic incentives, and fiscal mechanisms. This model aims to establish a level of baseline regulation for the waste sector, as a foundation for a co-regulatory system that relies on industry initiative and voluntary compliance. In instances where industry response proves insufficient for dealing with waste challenges or a market failure prevails, more interventionist regulatory tools will be utilised. In line with this model the various mechanisms and measures set out in the Waste Act are viewed as a “tool box” of instruments to be used systematically and strategically in addressing specific issues.

The foundation of the tiered and consensual model is the development of a system of national norms and standards, which creates a common national platform for waste management activities to be undertaken by both public and private sectors. The Waste Act also provides for the development of provincial norms and standards as well as local waste services delivery standards, provided they do not contradict the national standards. The consequences of jurisdictional variation in norms and standards will have economic and administrative implications which need to be carefully evaluated.

Figure 3: Type of Industry IWMPs requiring Ministerial approval

Figure 3: Type of Industry IWMPs requiring Ministerial approval
























In addition to norms and standards, the Waste Act creates a system for listing and licensing waste management activities, which is the other key element of the baseline regulatory system.  Listed waste management activities above certain thresholds are subject to a process of impact assessments and licensing.  Furthermore, in order to promote the reuse and recovery of waste, certain waste stream activities will be registered as an acceptable use depending on the outcome of an impact assessment, and will not require licensing. This provides a primary level of regulatory control over activities along the waste management value chain.

The Waste Act places a large emphasis on Industry Waste Management Plans (IndWMPs), which are the central element in the co-regulatory system. The diagram above presents an overview of the four different types of industry waste management plans that may be considered. The plans differ in respect to who develops them; the purpose for their development, which will affect their content; whether they need to be approved by the Minister or not; and the benefits for industry. These criteria are discussed in greater detail in Section 3.4.

The Waste Act also contains a suite of more interventionist regulatory measures that form the last tier of the regulatory model.  These include provisions for the declaration of priority wastes and extended producer responsibility, which are regulatory tools which will be invoked in instances where specific regulatory gaps needs to be addressed, if necessitated by the accession to MEAs, or where there is persistent non-compliance or failure or inability by a sector or industry to address waste management issues. Priority wastes may also be declared where government seeks a solution to a persistent waste problem where multiple players and partners are involved, and where the process will assist government in developing the most suitable solution involving all relevant role-players. These measures will also be backed up by economic incentives and fiscal mechanisms.

In developing an overall strategy for the NWMS, this regulatory model is applied to each phase of the waste hierarchy.