Informed by the Constitutional assignment of powers and functions to the different spheres of government, the Waste Act assigns clear responsibilities for waste management activities to each sphere. Some of these responsibilities require partnerships between government, communities and the private sector.

Local government must provide waste management services, which include waste removal, storage and disposal services, as per Schedule 5B of the Constitution. Municipalities must work with industry and other stakeholders to extend recycling at municipal level. Municipalities must provide additional bins for separation at-source, and are responsible for diverting organic waste from landfill and composting it. Municipalities must facilitate local solutions such as Material Recovery Facilities and buy-back centres, rather than provide the entire recycling infrastructure themselves.

Municipalities must designate a waste management officer from their administration to coordinate waste management matters. They must also submit an IWMP plan to the MEC for approval. The IWMP must be integrated to the municipal integrated development plans (IDPs), and the municipal annual performance report must include information on the implementation of the IWMP. Municipalities must also register transporters of waste above certain thresholds on a list of waste transporters.

At their discretion, municipalities may set local waste service standards for waste separation, compacting, management and disposal of solid waste, amongst others. Local standards must be aligned with any provincial and national standards where these exist.

Provincial government is the primary regulatory authority for waste activities, except for activities for which the Minister is the authority. It must promote and ensure the implementation of the NWMS and national norms and standards. Similar to local government, it must designate a provincial waste management officer responsible for coordinating waste management matters in the province. It must also prepare a Provincial IWMP and an annual performance report on its implementation, both of which must be submitted to the Minister for approval. Provinces have a number of discretionary powers, some of which may only be exercised in consultation with the Minister. These powers include setting provincial norms and standards, declaring a priority waste, listing of waste management activities, registering waste transporters, requesting the preparation of industry waste management plans, identifying contaminated land and establishing a provincial waste information system. To provide a nationally harmonised regulatory environment for waste management, the provinces will only exercise these discretionary powers where clear and compelling reasons exist, after consultation with DEA.

National government, and in particular DEA, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the Waste Act is implemented and that the various provisions are harnessed in the most appropriate and effective way. The Waste Act specifies various mandatory and discretionary provisions that DEA must address.

In terms of mandatory provisions, DEA is responsible for:

  • Establishing the National Waste Management Strategy.
  • Setting national norms and standards.
  • Establishing and maintaining a National Contaminated Land Register.
  • Establishing and maintaining a National Waste Information System.
  • Preparing and implementing a National Integrated Waste Management Plan.

As discussed earlier, the Minister is the licensing authority for hazardous waste, activities performed by a provincial environmental authority or statutory body other than municipalities, or an activity that takes place in more than one authority or that traverses international boundaries. The Minister is responsible for international obligations relating to waste.

The Minister must designate a waste management officer from the DEA's administration to co-ordinate waste management matters.

DEA has numerous discretionary responsibilities that it may invoke. These include developing national norms and standards for waste minimisation, re-use, recycling, recovery and tariffs. DEA can declare priority wastes; identify products for extended producer responsibility programmes, list waste management activities, request industry waste management plans, register transporters of waste and initiate investigations of land that may be contaminated.

Other national departments play important regulatory and supportive roles in implementing the Waste Act, and waste management more broadly. The following table summarises the main national departments and their areas of responsibility:

Table 5: Roles of government departments

Department Area of responsibility Description
Department of Cooperative Governance Waste services planning, delivery and infrastructure
  • Support municipalities to prepare IWMPs and integrate with IDPs.
  • Make MIG funds accessible for development and upgrading of municipal landfill sites.
Department of Trade and Industry Industry regulation and norms and standards
  • Manage the overall system of industry regulation.
  • Apply Consumer Protection Act.
  • Develop norms and standards using the Technical Infrastructure.
  • Support the development of markets for recycled materials.
  • Support the establishment of SMEs for waste collection services and recycling.
National Treasury Fiscal regulation and funding mechanisms
  • Oversee financial integrity of intergovernmental transfers to provincial and local government.
  • Manage the overall system of taxation and implement tax measures that support the goals and objectives of the NWMS.
  • Determine budget allocations for waste management functions at national level.
Department of International Relations International agreements
  • Give effect to Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
South African Revenue Services Import and export control
  • Ensure waste management measures are aligned with the product codes in the Schedules to the Customs and Excise Acts.
Department of Water Affairs Water quality and licensing
  • Collaborate with DEA in issuing integrated waste disposal licences.
Department of Mineral Resources Waste management in the mining sector
  • Regulate waste management in the mining sector that falls outside the ambit of the Waste Act (including residue deposits and stockpiles), and remediate land that mining activities have contaminated.
Department of Health Health care risk waste
  • Address health care risk waste and advise DEA and provincial departments on the appropriate standards and measures for the sector.
Department of Defence Contaminated land
  • Remediate land contaminated by explosives waste.