South African law firm Webber Wentzel is calling on businesses to double check their general waste management areas to ensure that they are compliant with the new National Norms and Standards if they want to avoid prosecution.  

In an attempt to simplify licensing processes, the Department of Environmental Affairs removed the requirement to obtain a waste management licence for waste facilities where sorting, shredding, grinding, crushing, and screening or baling of general waste is undertaken.

Assessing new obligations

According to the law firm this activity is now regulated through the National Norms and Standards for the sorting, shredding, grinding, crushing, screening or baling of General Waste, published on 11 October 2017.

The firm points out that the National Norms and Standards contain various registration, design and operational requirements for these kinds of waste facilities.

“We have recently assisted two clients: a construction company that manages building rubble at its construction sites; and a retailer that manages large volumes of packaging waste at its operations.  Both were concerned about the new obligations imposed by the Norms and Standards and whether they needed to register their waste management areas, the firm notes.

Ensuring full compliance

The definition of a ‘waste facility’ in the National Norms and Standards is broad, referring to a “commercial place, infrastructure or containment of any kind“.  “In both cases, our opinions assessed the nuances of each client’s business and the intention behind the National Norms and Standards to consider whether compliance was required,” the firm explains.

According to Webber Wentzel this is a good example of how seemingly subtle changes in law (which have laudable goals) must nevertheless be properly assessed to ensure full compliance and avoid prosecution.

“Many of our clients operate on-site waste sorting, shredding, grinding, crushing, screening or baling facilities and we have just one question for businesses like theirs: Have you checked that your house is in order?”