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Diversion Of Municipal Solid Waste Away From South African Landfills

JG Afrika

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is by far the biggest greenhouse gas pollutant by quantity.

On a global scale, the solid waste sector contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is relatively minor compared to that of other industries such as power generation, industrial process, transportation fuel, and agriculture. Nevertheless, major opportunities exist to mitigate the negative effects of the greenhouse gases produced by landfill sites.

A World Bank report entitled “What a Waste” by Hoorweg and Bhada-Tata (2012) on waste management and climate change estimates that current waste management methods, specifically landfill disposal, account for almost five per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions and 12 per cent of the world’s emissions of CH4. The GHG emissions in the waste sector come primarily from the decomposition of organic waste in landfills and fortunately the implication of this is that a holistic approach to waste management can have positive consequences for GHG emissions, particularly CH4, which has a greater global warming potential than CO2.

A number of international organisations recognise that considerable climate benefits can be achieved through improved waste management, and to this end the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety has commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to implement the project: “Diversion of municipal solid waste away from landfills in six municipalities in South Africa”. The local project partner is the National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

JG Afrika, together with RWA (UK), was appointed to undertake this massive, consolidated, interactive task over a short period, so as to allow for implementation without delay.
A total of six municipalities – five local municipalities and one metro – have been selected for the pilot study. The local municipalities are: Rustenburg (North West), City of Mbombela (Mpumalanga), Emfuleni (Gauteng), Msunduzi and uMhlathuze (KwaZulu-Natal). The Mangaung Metro in the Free State makes up the sixth case study.

The DEA is in the process of implementing the waste management near-term priority climate change flagship programme, which includes identifying areas for strategic interventions that advance the objectives of both the National Climate Change Response Policy and the National Waste Management Strategy.

There are multiple technological options to reduce GHG emissions from post-consumer waste. The DEA identified a need to promote and demonstrate proper implementation of the waste management hierarchy.

The JG Afrika/RWA Project involves:
• Developing a strategy that will outline possible interventions to improve the Integrated Waste Management Strategies (IWMS) with the emphasis on waste diversion away from landfills, per municipality;
• the formulation of detailed scenarios, based on the outlined short and medium-term interventions, to improve the IWMS with the emphasis on waste diversion away from landfills, per Municipality,
• project preparation based on selected scenario(s) for each municipality, inclusive of the development of a Bankable Business Plan and an Implementation Plan; and
• the compilation of “Lessons Learnt” from the project preparation processes (before, during and after the project) with a view to developing recommendations for the uptake of similar projects across the country.

JG Afrika and RWA had to institute an innovative holistic scenario evaluation tool (originally developed by RWA for the United Kingdom but now adapted to the South African environment) to identify various interventions applicable to solid waste management and integrate them into system interventions and subsequently into scenarios. This tool takes into account how applicable, appropriate and affordable (AAA) the scenarios are in relation to the municipality. A complete AAA evaluation outcome is fully informed by the comprehensive assessment of technical, environmental, legal, institutional and financial evaluations, as well as other soft interventions.

This project offers an opportunity to make a step change in the development of integrated solid waste management practices in the partner municipalities and aims to achieve effective waste management, proper climate change response and the development of a green economy.