The National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) is a legislative requirement of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act No. 59 of 2008), the "Waste Act". The purpose of the NWMS is to achieve the objects of the Waste Act. Organs of state and affected persons are obliged to give effect to the NWMS.

Waste management in South Africa faces numerous challenges and the NWMS provides a plan to address them. The main challenges are:

  1. A growing population and economy, which means increased volumes of waste generated. This puts pressure on waste management facilities, which are already in short supply.
  2. Increased complexity of waste streams because of urbanisation and industrialisation. The complexity of the waste stream directly affects the complexity of its management, which is compounded by the mixing of hazardous wastes with general waste.
  3. A historical backlog of waste services for, especially, urban informal areas, tribal areas and rural formal areas. Although 61%1 of all South African households had access to kerbside domestic waste collection services in 2007, this access remains highly skewed in favour of more affluent and urban communities. Inadequate waste services lead to unpleasant living conditions and a contaminated, unhealthy environment.
  4. Limited understanding of the main waste flows and national waste balance because the submission of waste data is not obligatory and where available is often unreliable and contradictory.
  5. A policy and regulatory environment that does not actively promote the waste management hierarchy. This has limited the economic potential of the waste management sector, which has an estimated turnover of approximately R10 billion per annum2. Both waste collection and the recycling industry make meaningful contributions to job creation and GDP, and they can expand further.
  6. Absence of a recycling infrastructure which will enable separation of waste at source and diversion of waste streams to material recovery and buy back facilities.
  7. Growing pressure on outdated waste management infrastructure, with declining levels of capital investment and maintenance.
  8. Waste management suffers from a pervasive under-pricing, which means that the costs of waste management are not fully appreciated by consumers and industry, and waste disposal is preferred over other options.
  9. Few waste treatment options are available and so they are more expensive than landfill costs.
  10. Too few adequate, compliant landfills and hazardous waste management facilities, which hinders the safe disposal of all waste streams. Although estimates put the number of waste handling facilities at more than 20003, a significant number of these are unpermitted.

The objects of the Waste Act are structured around the steps in the waste management hierarchy, which is the overall approach that informs waste management in South Africa. The waste management hierarchy consists of options for waste management during the lifecycle of waste, arranged in descending order of priority: waste avoidance and reduction, re-use and recycling, recovery, and treatment and disposal as the last resort.

The NWMS is structured around a framework of eight goals, which are listed in table 1 together with the targets for each goal that must be met by 2016:

Table 1: Summary of NWMS Goals

  Description Targets (2016)
Goal 1: Promote waste minimisation, reuse, recycling and recovery of waste.
  • 25% of recyclables diverted from landfill sites for re-use, recycling or recovery.
  • All metropolitan municipalities, secondary cities and large towns have initiated separation at source programmes.
  • Achievement of waste reduction and recycling targets set in IndWMPs for paper and packaging, pesticides, lighting (CFLs) and tyres industries.
Goal 2: Ensure the effective and efficient delivery of waste services.
  • 95% of urban households and 75% of rural households have access to adequate levels of waste collection services.
  • 80% of waste disposal sites have permits.
Goal 3: Grow the contribution of the waste sector to the green economy.
  • 9 000 new jobs created in the waste sector
  • 2 600 additional SMEs and cooperatives participating in waste service delivery and recycling
Goal 4: Ensure that people are aware of the impact of waste on their health, well-being and the environment.
  • 80% of municipalities running local awareness campaigns.
  • 80% of schools implementing waste awareness programmes.
Goal 5: Achieve integrated waste management planning.
  • All municipalities have integrated their IWMPs with their IDPs, and have met the targets set in IWMPs.
  • All waste management facilities required to report to SAWIS have waste quantification systems that report information to WIS.
Goal 6: Ensure sound budgeting and financial management for waste services.
  • All municipalities that provide waste services have conducted full-cost accounting for waste services and have implemented cost reflective tariffs.
Goal 7: Provide measures to remediate contaminated land.
  • Assessment complete for 80% of sites reported to the contaminated land register.
  • Remediation plans approved for 50% of confirmed contaminated sites.
Goal 8: Establish effective compliance with and enforcement of the Waste Act.
  • 50% increase in the number of successful enforcement actions against noncompliant activities.
  • 800 EMIs appointed in the three spheres of government to enforce the Waste Act.

Details of the objectives, indicators and targets to achieve each goal are in Section 2 and actions to achieve the goals (with the responsible actors) are in Appendix 1.

To achieve these eight goals, the Act provides a toolbox of waste management measures:

  • Waste Classification and Management System – provides a methodology for the classification of waste and provides standards for the assessment and disposal of waste for landfill disposal.
  • Norms and standards – establishes baseline regulatory standards for managing waste at each stage of the waste management hierarchy.
  • Licensing – lists activities that require licences (with conditions) and those that do not if undertaken according to conditions or guidelines.
  • Industry waste management plans – enables collective planning by industry to manage their products once they become waste and to collectively set targets for waste reduction, recycling and re-use.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) – regulates that industry is responsible beyond point of sale for particular products that have toxic constituents or pose waste management challenges, particularly where voluntary waste measures have failed.
  • Priority wastes – identifies categories of waste that, due their risks to human health and the environment, require special waste management measures, particularly where a solution requires the involvement of multiple role-players.
  • Economic instruments – encourages or discourages particular behaviour and augments other regulatory instruments.

Section Three describes these measures in detail.

The NWMS is an institutionally inclusive strategy because its achievement relies on participation by numerous role-players in the public sector, private sector and civil society.

To implement the Waste Act, government must:

  • Draft legislation, regulations, standards and Integrated Waste Management Plans.
  • Regulate waste management activities through licences and enforce their conditions.
  • Implement the South African Waste Information System (SAWIS).
  • Coordinate waste management activities using a system of Waste Management Officers.
  • Give effect to multilateral agreements and ensure proper import and export controls.
  • Progressively expand access to at least a basic level of waste services and plan for future needs.
  • Facilitate the establishment of a national recycling infrastructure.
  • Provide the framework for the remediation of contaminated land.
  • Work in partnership with the private sector and civil society.

The private sector must:

  • Take responsibility for their products throughout the products' life cycles.
  • Institute cleaner technology practices and minimise waste generation.
  • Establish systems and facilities to take back and recycle waste at the end of their products' lifecycle.
  • Develop waste management technologies to ensure that all the waste produced in the country can be managed according to the waste management hierarchy.v
  • Prepare and implement Industry Waste Management Plans.
  • Comply with licence conditions and regulations.

Civil society must:

  • Separate waste at household level.
  • Participate in waste awareness campaigns.
  • Participate in recycling initiatives.
  • Comply with waste regulations, prevent littering, and help to monitor compliance.

Section Four describes these obligations (and the instruments used to meet them) in more detail, as well as the extra capacity needed to implement the Waste Act.


  1. Stats SA Community Household Survey 2007 refuse removal data on 'kerbside' collection.
  2. Michael Goldblatt of Palmer Development Group, "Macroeconomic trends, targets and economic instruments", paper prepared for Department of Environmental Affairs as part of NWMS process, August 2009
  3. DEAT (2007), Assessment of the Status of Waste Service Delivery and capacity at Local Government level. Directorate: General Waste Management, August 2007, Draft 3.