South Africa’s waste management challenges include a growing population and economy, increasingly complex waste streams and a limited understanding of waste flows. “The policy and regulatory environment does not promote waste hierarchy.” This is according to United Kingdom based waste specialist, Sarah Edwards, from RWS Environmental Consultancy.

Edwards was opening the debate around waste management lessons that could be learnt from the UK’s experience as one of the industry experts lined up to share knowledge on how to be more sustainable at the much anticipated Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) Eastern Cape Conference, entitled the “Green Revolution”, which took place on Tuesday 10 September 2013 at the Boardwalk Conference Centre in Port Elizabeth.

Edwards notes that from her 15 years of experience in waste management, the cornerstones of effective waste management include data collection and analysis, strategy development, collection systems planning and delivery and infrastructure planning and delivery.The absence of recycling infrastructure and the informal nature thereof was a challenge Edwards also noted. According to Edwards, there is much that South Africa can learn from the UK, especially in respect to formalising recycling streams and infrastructure. “Look for quick wins in recycling collections.”

Other speakers included John Hunt and Richard Harper from South African based Mpact Recycling, who discussed how to convert the enthusiasm for the “green revolution” into sustainable recyclate collection projects. “We have public awareness and enabling legislation. How do we convert this into successful recycling projects?”

In addition, Dr Chris Mulder introduced the concept and design of Crossways Farm Village, an innovative new “rural town,” which has been conceived and planned to inject a sustainable economic boost into the rural Eastern Cape. Other speakers included Prof Maarten de Wit, professor at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), focused on ‘How to get earth back on track’ through a new discipline called ‘Earth stewardship science’. Peter Neilson also discussed renewable energy challenges and opportunities for municipalities, strongly emphasising that great opportunities abounded in the renewable energy field in the Eastern Cape, while Lisa Parkes from PETCO offered an introduction to PETCO and PET recycling in South Africa, emphasising the multiple means of assistance and support they offer communities.

The next conference in the IWMSA’s calendar is Landfill 2013, presented by the IWMSA’s Landfill Interest Group Central Branch in association with the Geosynthetic Interest Group of South Africa (GIGSA). The Conference takes placeon 16 and 17 October 2013 at the Misty Hills Conference Centre in Muldersdrift, Johannesburg.

The theme of the conference is “Effective environmental protection from the residues of modern civilization”. Landfill 2013 sessions will include the following topics: legal aspects, general waste, materials and design, coal ash facilities, waste and tailings facility case studies, monitoring, landfill failures and responsibilities, as well as feedback from Sardinia 2013 and an interesting initiative. Both international and local speakers will be presenting papers on these topics at this technical conference.

Sarah Edwards image

Waste management industry expert Sarah Edwards from RWS Environmental Consultancy, United Kingdom.