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

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Conference Index 
The Extent of the Problem
Waste generation and the management of it is fast becoming a global problem.
According to a recent United Nations report:
  • Per capita waste generation in the developed world has increased threefold over the past 20 years.
  • Waste generation in the developed world is now approximately five to six times higher than in the developing world.
  • In the developing world, waste production is expected to double during the next decade.
  • By 2025, it is estimated that there will be a five-fold increase in global waste generation.
  • Roughly 30 to 40 percent of local authorities’ budgets in developing world cities are consumed by the provision of waste management services. Despite this enormous financial outlay though, most cities are unable to keep pace with the growing demand.
  • The greatest impacts are felt on the urban poor, with people in informal settlements suffering a lowering of their quality of life, an increased burden of health care due to waste-related diseases, and the pollution of urban water resources.
Paul Harrison in his book the The Third Revolution: Population, Environment and a Sustainable World describes the situation more graphically:
Over the average lifetime of sixty-three years, a typical Third World city dweller will confer to the earth 149 times their bodyweight in combined municipal and industrial waste.
But this is modest compared to a typical European. After their allotted sixty-six years, they will bequeath 971 times their own bodyweight in debris to the biosphere. Piled into a cube this would measure eight metres tall and square – equal to the volume of the average small starter house.
Towering over the rest will be the memorial left by present day North Americans. Each one will endow the globe with a vast mausoleum of litter 3900 times their own wieght. This would form a cube more than fourteen metres on each side.
According to Luis Diaz, one of the speakers who will be presenting a paper at the upcoming GLOBE conference, " In order to provide sustainable solutions to solid waste management issues, professionals should also deal with a number of non-technical aspects. Some of the most important ones are: development of a sound, achievable and reliable national policy; preparation and implementation of adequate institutional arrangements; issuance and enforcement of appropriate and modern regulations; and motivation and training of human resources."
"Solid waste management is a complicated process that not only requires the proper selection and application of approaches for the storage, collection, transport, transfer, processing and final disposal of the material, but also depends upon the close cooperation between the users, the private sector, and governmental and non-governmental organizations."
The GLOBE Southern Africa Conference on Integrated Solid Waste Management is an attempt to bring together just such actors in a regional forum that allows for a stimulating exchange of ideas in tackling the sub-continent’s pressing waste management problems. Divided into four sessions of four speakers each it will present the ideas of parliamentarians, academics, NGO’s, waste practitioners, government departments and private sector interests. Legislators from all over Southern Africa will be attending this event with the objective of formulating integrated waste management strategies and policies.
The South African Context
Developing Countries, such as South Africa, have dynamic and complex environmental problems because of their unique political, social, environmental, economic and technical circumstances. Even within individual countries the challenges to waste management are so diverse that problems cannot be solved by merely scaling up or transplanting existing levels of services; even if these seem succesful in their existing contexts. New strategies are required to handle the dynamics of rapid urbanisation.
The development of a waste management policy for South Africa must relate to the country’s economy, ie. Its economic wealth in terms of resources, the quality of life enjoyed by its people and its potential for industrial growth. South Africa’s growth is expected to take place in the urban areas and rapid urbanisation will place heavy demands on resources in particular the allocation of funds to services as menial as waste management. If the required economic growth rate is achieved industrial activity will grow to meet demand, standards of living will rise and more waste will have to be managed. The challenge for waste management in South Africa is to manage the situation with all its constraints and opportunities in such a way that the environment is not threatened unnecessarily.
Ray Lombard – Head of the National Recycling Forum of South Africa.

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Recycling and Anti-Litter Programme (RAP) - A Zimbabwean NGO Perspective
The Recycling and Anti-Litter Programme (RAP) was established in 1995 in close co-operation with the recycling industry in Zimbabwe with the aim of minimising the amount of watse that ends up on our landfills and also developing a recycling and reuse culture in Zimbabwe.
RAP started in four schools where structures called RAP pads were set up. These pads are informal return centres for recyclables complete with panels illustrating the type of waste that are accepted and a colour code to go with it. The programme has now expanded to over 100 schools throughout Zimbabwe. We felt that the school system is an invaluable tool for increasing public awareness of the soild waste management problem. Teachers are in an excellent position to enlighten our younger citizens about how waste management problems relate to them and how they can contribute to a solution.
RAP centres have also been set up in shopping areas where the public is invited to either donate their recyclable waste or sell it on a buy-back system.
On the household level a pilot scheme has been instituted in the small mining town of Bindura, where the waste collection system is almost non-existent. Ten widows in the Bindura Widows Association collect and separate the waste from households before selling the recyclables on to the recycling industry. In this way they generate income for themselves as well as help their local community in waste collection.
RAP is constantly expanding and next year will see it grow into a bigger urban environment programme looking at air pollution and waste management on a broader scale.
Evelyn Murevanhema - The Co-ordinator for RAP will be giving a presentation of all their activities at the conference
Over four million items are washed into False Bay every day. Fifty percent of these are plastic. The 1998 Cape clean up extended from Alexander bay to East London. Over seven tons of litter were picked up, 70% of this was plastic of one sort or another.
South Africa’s unofficial "National Flower" – The Plastic Shopping Bag
Facts of plastic shopping bags in South Africa include:
  • South Africa produces 3 billion bags per year - (60% are used by retailers).
  • Lined up the South African production would wrap around the world more than 50 times.
  • Local governments have to pay R2.7 million a year to dispose of plastic shopping bags.
  • South African consumers are paying more than R200 million a year for their "free" bags.
  • Before the 1995 Rugby World Cup Cape Town spent R6700 per kilometer clearing the verges of freeways - the most common type of litter removed was supermarket carrier bags to the extent of 3000 bags per kilometer.
Past workshops on the issue have viewed the best solution as one of taxing all shopping bags by 20 - 50 cents per bag or a best scenario of 1 cent per bag - thus applying the principal of "the polluter pays". Unfortunately since the majority of these bags have no value after use, they would still eventually also end up in the environment.
Current thinking in waste management revolves around the three "R's" (Reducing, Re-using and Recycling). The best option is reducing production - an option that seems most unlikely due to an ever-expanding population as well as from an economical production point of view. As mentioned above the South African consumer seems extremely reluctant to re-use plastic bags because of the established convenience e.g. impromptu shopping. Banning bags would seem the best possible solution, but all efforts by retailers to convince their customers to forfeit the convenience of shopping bags or bring reusable bags has been to no avail.
According to Jason Nolan, creator of the Terra-Cycle concept and one of the speakers at the conference, "most efforts by major retailers to convince their customers to return shopping bags for recycling have failed dismally."
He believes this failure can basically be attributed to one reason - "a used shopping bag has absolutely no value attached to it and no one wants to accept product ownership." The Terra-Cycle solution is to add value to the bag by giving the customer, retailer and recycler a financial incentive. This is achieved by making the used bag an entry form for a national competition. The bags are sold for 40c each with two identical numbers printed on them. The consumer then detaches one of them, and places the bag with the same number in one of the nationwide competition bins. Each month a draw is taken with the prize money of R1 million rand being won by some lucky individual. Terra-Cycle will be one of many ideas put forward at the GLOBE Southern Africa Conference on Integrated Solid Waste Management in dealing with the problem of plastic bags.