3.7 Reduction, re-use, recycling, and recovery

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Sections 2.3 and 2.4 of this strategy provided an overview of the waste avoidance, reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery strategies for South Africa. These sections account for the first two levels of the waste management hierarchy, and are the foundation for waste management activities. This section focuses specifically on section 17 of the Waste Act, and provides further detail in relation to reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste.

Section 17(1) of the Waste Act states that unless otherwise provided for in the Act, any person who undertakes an activity involving the reduction, re-use, recycling or recovery of waste must, before undertaking that activity, ensure that it uses less natural resources and, to the extent possible, is less harmful to the environment, that the disposal of such waste.

Section 17(2) of the Waste Act states that the Minister may, after consultation with the Minister of Trade and Industry and by notice in the gazette, require any person or category of persons to provide for the reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery of products manufactured by that person. The Minister may also determine a percentage of recycled material for a product that is produced, imported or manufactured by that person.

Products for which recycled content will be considered include items which are discarded in large quantities, items which have a high impact on health and the environment, and items which can be produced from a closed loop system, i.e. could be made completely from recycled materials and would themselves be 100% recyclable. Examples include metal cans and glass bottles, items produced from certain plastics, and lubricating oil.

The National Cleaner Production Centre, established by the dti in response to the 2004 Cleaner Production Strategy, has undertaken a number of demonstration projects, which aim to investigate the viability of various cleaner production initiatives and mechanisms.

Projects to date include: waste exchange pilot programmes; the effects of extended producer responsibility models on waste reduction; and the viability of recycling cooperatives. Further research is required on these projects in order to develop tailored measures aligned to specific industries or circumstances.

Whilst cleaner production and product design fall within the areas regulated by the dti, the Waste Act provides for DEA to identify suitable products according to their contribution to the waste stream, and liaise with the dti in terms of the appropriate response. The interdepartmental committee to be established between DEA and the dti will consider specific proposals in relation to different products, and agree on the appropriate regulatory response.


Reduction, re-use, recyclables and recovery

An imposed solution by government for glass which can be produced from a closed system is not practical. Further, the issue of 100% of new glass being manufactured from recycled glass is flawed. One needs to take the following into account - Glass can be recycled infinitely and does not lose any of its inherent characteristics in the process. Hence, in theory glass is 100% recyclable and if we could recover 100% of glass containers and separate all of the different colours, the glass manufacturers could return this glass to the furnace it was manufactured at. However, in practice the situation is far more complicated due to various factors: Approximately 1 million glass containters are produced locally in the following colours - approx. 40% flint, 40% green and 20% amber. Should the 1 million tons be recovered and processed through automatic cullet sorting plants, it would generate about 170 000 tons of flint, 300 000 tons of green and 100 000 tons of amber and the balance of 430 000 tons would remain as "mixed" cullet. (Comments incomplete due to space shortage)