pelican.jpg (333200 bytes)   A Bird's Eye View on Waste

Waste Management

Conference Programme

Challenges in Implementing a New Integrated Waste Management Strategy
by Larry Eichstadt
Assistant Director, Water Quality, Dept. of Water Affairs and Forestry
South Africa

In developing an integrated waste management strategy, be it within a specific tier of government, or primarily to deal with a specific waste problem within a certain industry, it is critical to consider the necessary support mechanisms, the availability of resources, and the commitment of the entire population, political roleplayers, management or workforce. The prime objective of such a strategy being to prevent and minimise waste generation in order to meet our constitutional responsibilities.

Integrated waste management is broadly defined as the use of a combination of complimentary waste management techniques to manage waste in an environmentally sound and cost effective manner. It is therefore important that in developing a strategy, integrated planning, waste minimisation, waste recycling, waste collection and transportation, waste treatment and waste disposal as important components and their related methods are given due consideration.
As previously stated the focus of an integrated strategy need not only be on a national or provincial level but also can be directed on an industrial level where mono - or multiple waste types are generated.
This paper will concentrate on assessing the perceived movement of hazardous waste within the small business/industrial sector and medical waste generated within industries or at the appropriate institutions. It will conclude by highlighting the challenges faced, should an integrated approach be followed.
This paper does not ignore the fact that a National Waste Management Strategy has already been drafted and finalised for South Africa, and at this stage only requires the approval of the Minister of Environment Affairs and Tourism and Cabinet before implementation thereof. The paper therefore recognises the NWMS as the " national guide. "
Small businesses / industries amongst others include printing works, paint manufactures, solvent recyclers, metal plating workshops. These types of activities are commonly found in areas zoned for light industry. These activities generally produce small volumes of hazardous wastes on a consistent basis. The types of waste generated by such industries would vary from paint , chrome and cyanide sludges to waste ink and poor quality solvents (not recyclable) which are often stored in containers or drums on site if not discharged (legally or illegally) to the sewerage reticulation system.
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Illegal dumping or storage of drums (containing hazardous waste) on a vacant industrial site – Environmental impact of having no waste manifest system i.e. cradle to grave control of waste generated by specific industries within the small industrial sector.
It is clear from the waste flow chart examples and photographs that the movement of waste from the source of generation where it is initially stored to the "middle man" in the cycle and then finally to the point of disposal cannot be adequately controlled if there are/is:
1. No or a poor waste manifest system (cradle to grave system).
2. Poor regulatory mechanisms or procedures in local authority
3. Lack of enforcement within relevant CMC departments and other tiers of government
4. Disposal or treatment fees are perceived to be excessive (lack of understanding why?)
5. Lack of environmental and business ethics within industrialists and certain contractors
6. Lack of transparency
7. Lack of education
8. Lack of reliable information to plan
In cases where skips/bins or other environmentally acceptable means of waste storage facilities are provided by the industry itself or acquired from reputable waste contractors the degree to which illegal dumping takes place is reduced significantly. The main reason for this is that the correct administration procedures have in most cases been developed and implemented to safeguard the client (generator), the collection and transport company and the eventual disposal site owner. These procedures would include the issuing of safe disposal certificates to the generator for his records to ensure environmental compliance in terms of company policy (ISO 14001 , international accreditation etc.).This system still falls short of an effective waste manifest system.
Although the illegal disposal of liquid hazardous waste into the sewerage system does not pose direct visible aesthetic problems, the accumulation of heavy metals in the sludges from the sewage works considerably reduces the opportunities for composting. The obvious end result should the sludge be considered unsuitable for composting is disposal at a waste site.
The definition of medical waste is broadly referred to as any solid waste which is generated in the diagnosis, treatment , or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in the production or testing of biologicals. This definition includes sanitary waste. Sanitary waste is collected mostly by private contractors from industries where a large workforce is employed.
In the Cape Metropolitan area medical waste is generated by approx. 910 facilities with clinics, day hospitals, dentists, medical practitioners, old age homes, pharmacies, physiotherapists, labs, provincial and private hospitals and vets comprising 97% of the total. Medical waste (excluding sanitary waste) is collected and transported by a limited number of private contractors, whereas sanitary waste is collected and transported by 10 private contractors. Tygerberg and Cape Town City generate 82% of the total medical waste in the Metropole. The accepted method of disposal of medical waste is by incineration at the Sanumed facility at Vissershok or the BCL Envirocare facility in the Delft area. Alternative methodologies for the sterilisation of sanitary waste prior to disposal on a waste disposal site (HH) are considered by DWAF.
In general medical waste appears to be reasonably well managed in the Cape Metropole at present. The Provincial survey showed that 86% of the medical waste generators dispose of their waste in a safe and accepted manner. The generators (14%) who do not comply with accepted standards dispose of their waste by burning or burial on premises, discharge to sewer , into the municipal waste stream or other illegal means need further attention and cannot be ignored. The random illegal disposal of small volumes of medical waste in specific areas is an area of great concern and reinforces the above statement.
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Uncontrolled and illegal disposal activities in addition to poor services creates an ideal environment for the random dumping of medical waste
The management of sanitary waste (cradle to grave) was however well below standard prior to the DWAF initiating a survey and audit in March 1999. This audit concentrated on identifying contractors active in this particular field and assessing why there was such a high level of non - compliance with national policy. The flow chart on the next page outlines the problem areas and challenges faced in dealing with the above medical waste streams.
From the text, flow chart and pictures the following challenges can be identified :
1. What waste is stored at the hospitals and how ?
2. Are the staff adequately trained to deal with medical waste ?
3. How is waste stored and managed on the contractors premises. The DWAF survey revealed that sanitary waste was stored in garages, in the open yard of a contractors premises (allowed to dry) and open skips with no cover to the environs.
4. Screening of waste collected from medical institutions
5. Accreditation of contractors (70% of the persons involved in sanitary waste were not aware or did not agree with national standards, policy)
6. Illegal dumping and poor services
7. Auditing of nationally approved methodolgies – disinfection of sanitary waste prior to disposal
8. Enforcement
In order to address the challenges (problems) posed to the small business sector and medical institutions, a local or metropolitan authority in partnership with the Provincial authorities will have to develop, and implement an integrated waste management strategy, which caters for the dynamics of the relevant industrial and medical institutional sectors.
The first step in this strategy being the drafting of an integrated waste management plan. In drafting an integrated plan, not ignoring the basic steps of reviewing current legislation, setting objectives and determining appropriate and complimentary methods for the specific system components it is critical that an effective partnership between the Cape Metropolitan Council, the Provincial Government , specific local authorities and waste generators is established. This partnership must play a pivotal role in ensuring that the proposed outputs in the NWMS (Treatment and Waste Disposal Action Plan) becomes reality. Outputs which form part of the foundation to address the general challenges are:
1. Development of a System for Safe Collection and Transportation of Hazardous Waste.
2. Development of Guidelines for the Safe Management of Medical Waste.
3. Development of a Medical Waste Awareness and Education Campaign
The general challenges are summarised as follows:
1. Understanding the reasons for the small industrial sector and certain medical waste generators not complying with statutory requirements.
2. Preparation of stricter policies and by-laws at a local authority level.
3. Make well trained and committed resources available (significantly lacking in the CMC in this regard – too heavily reliant on National Government).
4. Educate the uninformed (all sectors) – NWMS
5. Establish effective planning committees to develop specific integrated plans
6. Create effective public participation mechanisms
7. Service delivery – to reduce illegal dumping - NWMS
8. Enforcement ?
9. Province must become more actively involved and play a lead role.
The key to the development of any integrated waste management strategy as has already been mentioned is the availability of resources and the commitment of all concerned. The challenges briefly stated in the text highlight only some of the areas where attention is necessary. The Cape Metropole faces an enormous challenge in moving towards an integrated waste management system for the sectors (medical and industrial) discussed and an eventual holistic integrated plan which where possible will encompass the needs of all roleplayers and the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism with regard to the NWMS (Integrated Planning Action Plan).


1. National Waste Management Strategy : Action Plan for Waste Treatment and Disposal - September 1999

2. National Waste Management Strategy : Action Plan for Integrated Planning – September 1999

3. Medical Waste Survey : Metropole Region – September 1999