30,000 new jobs in South Africa’s R15 billion Waste Management sector

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THE waste management industry estimated that billions of recyclable waste products can lead to more than R9 billion in savings for businesses annually and provide thousands of jobs for the Western Cape if carefully monitored.

Director of waste management in the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Saliem Haider said close to 30 000 people would get employed in South Africa.

Haider was doing a presentation for the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning on waste management.

He said waste management was estimated to be worth R15bn and could contribute up to R700 million in savings for landfill airspace annually.

The executive officer of Van Der Schyff plastics scrapyard, Bajunet Van Der Schyff, who specialises in recycling plastics and making granular materials, said a scrapyard business depends on the performance of the economy.

“The challenge is that we depend on the market. If the economy is not good, the waste will not be good. If customers are not buying in the retailers, it means there will not be manufacturing and as a result there will not be recycling,” he said.

Van Der Schyff said another problem they faced was customers fighting on their premises over the theft of material.

“Our customers always fight over the scraps. You find the one stealing other customer’s things,” he said.

Ryan Fredericks, 29, from Delft survives by selling plastic materials. He said he could make as much as R200 per day to buy himself groceries and clothes. But he said the competition was tight.

“You need to wake up early in this business because the others are quick. I start when it is still dark because if they arrive first they will take all these plastic bottles,” he said.

Musa Chamane, campaigner at the South African Waste Pickers Association, noted the industry’s importance in the economy and that the waste pickers need support from their municipalities.

“It is important to support the waste pickers and create an enabling environment for them. Waste picking and recycling go hand in hand and help to clean the environment and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” he said.

He said the municipalities need to build fully fledged containers in the communities, with dustbins where people could dispose of plastics separately from glass and other waste products and this must be accompanied by awareness campaigns.

“That means they will make sure that waste pickers wear protective clothing – masks, gloves and boots. That way their health will not be impacted that much. The government needs to work with them in making sure that recycling does happen and enabling a good environment for them,” said Chabane.

Epidemiologist and health expert from Stellenbosch University Dr Jo Barnes said the plastic recycling was important to keep microplastic fibres out of the environment as they cause health and environmental problems.

“Microplastics can cause cancers, they enhance the risk of antibiotic resistance developing among organisms coming out of landfills, etc. We already have a huge problem with antibiotic resistant organisms hampering treatment in the health services. Landfills are notorious for being one of the main sources of such organisms,” she said.

Haider said there was a need to create opportunities across the value chain from collection, sorting and processing to treating waste to create a circular economy and to improve information management.

“The circular economy should be at the heart of planning within a citizen-centric framework, looking at the economic opportunities on re-use, refurbish and repair,” he said.

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