Waste Management Act in South Africa

With the introduction of the new “NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT WASTE ACT”  in March 2009 (Act No 59 , 2008) South Africa now has a fixed set of rules that waste generators and disposers have to comply with.

Contact The Old Oil Man for advice on how to ensure that your company complies with the legislation in the Waste Management Act.

Purpose of the Waste Management Act

“To reform the law regulating waste management in order to protect health and the environment by providing reasonable measures for the prevention of pollution and ecological degradation and for securing ecologically sustainable development; to provide for institutional arrangements and planning matters; to provide for national norms and standards for regulating the management of waste by all spheres of government; to provide for specific waste management measures; to provide for the licensing and control of waste management activities; to provide for the remediation of contaminated land; to provide for the national waste information system; to provide for compliance and enforcement; and to provide for matters connected therewith.”

Amongst other things the Act gives us some very specific definitions of words and phrases that are commonly used in the industry. Here are two examples.

  1. "general waste" means waste that does not pose an immediate hazard or threat to health or to the environment, and includes:
    • domestic waste
    • building and demolition waste
    • business waste
    • inert waste
  2. "hazardous waste" means any waste that contains organic or inorganic elements or compounds that may, owing to the inherent physical, chemical or toxicological characteristics of that waste, have a detrimental impact on health and  the environment;

Objectives of the Waste Management Act

Some of the objectives of the Waste Management Act are:

  • to protect health, well-being and the environment by providing reasonable measures for:
    • minimizing the consumption of natural resources
    • avoiding and minimizing the generation of waste
    • reducing, re-using, recycling and recovering waste
    • treating and safely disposing of waste as a last resort
    • preventing pollution and ecological degradation
    • securing ecologically sustainable development while promoting justifiable economic and social development
    • promoting and ensuring the effective delivery of waste services
    • remediating land where contamination presents, or may present, a significant risk of harm to health or the environment
    • achieving integrated waste management reporting and planning

General Duties in Respect of Waste Management

  1. A holder of waste must, within the holder's power, take all reasonable measures to :
    • avoid the generation of waste and where such generation cannot be avoided, to minimize the toxicity and amounts of waste that are generated
    • reduce, re-use, recycle and recover waste
    • where waste must be disposed of, ensure that the waste is treated and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner
    • manage the waste in such a manner that it does, not endanger health or the environment or cause a nuisance through noise, odour or visual impacts
    • prevent any employee or any person under his or her supervision from contravening this Act
    • prevent the waste from being used for an unauthorized purpose.
  2. Any person who sells a product that may be used by the public and that is likely to result in the generation of hazardous waste must take reasonable steps to inform the public of the impact of that waste on health and the environment.
  3. The measures contemplated in this section may include measures to:
    • investigate, assess and evaluate the impact of the waste in question on health or the environment
    • cease, modify or control any act or process causing the pollution, environmental degradation or harm to health
    • comply with any norm or standard or prescribed management practice
    • eliminate any source of pollution or environmental degradation
    • remedy the effects of the pollution or environmental degradation.

Other Issues Covered in the Act

  • Extended producer responsibility
  • General requirements for storage of waste
  • Listed waste management activities
  • Waste collection services
  • Littering
  • Duties of persons transporting waste
  • Industry waste management plans
  • Contaminated land register
  • Application for waste management licences
  • Waste management control officers
  • Establishment of national waste information systems
  • Penalties for offences in terms of the Act.