Towards a zero waste South Africa : a case study on post-consumer solid waste management in rural and urban areas.
Matete, Ntlibi O.
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Through the National Environmental Management Act (No. 107 of 1998), the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) introduced the concept of the Waste Hierarchy (Reduce - Reuse - Recover - Dispose) as the only possible road towards sustainable development. This concept of sustainable waste management was extended into the Polokwane Declaration on Waste Management which identified Zero Waste as the ultimate goal for sustainable waste management systems in South Africa. Zero Waste is defined as the concept of using all waste produced in a certain area for production activities in that area when it is environmentally acceptable, socially equitable and economically viable, with unavoidable residual waste going to landfill. The aim of this thesis is to test the applicability of Zero Waste to post-consumer waste arising from rural and urban areas. The primary reason that this study has been attempted is that little research in South Africa has focused on the demand-side management of post-consumer waste, and that whatever research that has been undertaken has focused almost exclusively on waste management in urban areas. In order to realise the aim of this thesis, two case studies were selected and analysed: one rural and one urban. These case studies were selected due to differences in characteristics of the waste arising from households, existing waste management systems and socio-economic indicators for households in these areas. In each case study, a proposed Zero Waste Scheme was assessed for application based on four sustainability criteria: environmental, social, economical and institutional. The Zero Waste Schemes are based on the conceptual Zero Waste Model (ZWM) that has been specifically developed as the main tool for conducting this research. The development and use of the ZWM in assessing waste management systems in South Africa is a significant contribution of this thesis to knowledge. Generally, the results showed that the proposed Zero Waste Schemes could meet three of the evaluation criteria used in the investigation, but could not meet the fourth: institutional sustainability. For this reason, the Zero Waste Schemes could not be implemented since the municipalities responsible for waste management in those areas did not have the capacity administrative, financial resources and political will - to implement them. Thus, institutional sustainability has been shown to be the main constraint in the application of Zero Waste Schemes in post-consumer waste management systems in South Africa. This is another significant contribution of this thesis to knowledge.Other significant findings from this study reveal that rural areas lack basic waste collection and disposal systems; hence this lack in service delivery prevents full implementation of Zero Waste Schemes in these areas. In contrast, households in urban areas are served by integrated waste management systems that extend to most households, and most of these households are able to finance the waste management services provided. The existence of the integrated waste management systems was used as a basis for introducing waste minimisation and at-source separation of recyclables in order to reduce the amount of waste needing disposal. Education of households in urban areas has been identified as a key factor in establishing Zero Waste Schemes in the case study areas. In conclusion, it has been shown in this thesis that although Zero Waste Schemes are theoretically applicable to rural and urban areas of South Africa, institutional constraints that will have to be overcome in order to make Zero Waste a reality. Implicit in this conclusion is the extension of waste collection services to rural households and the full participation of rural and urban households in Zero Waste Schemes, participation which can only be verified by actual implementation of the schemes. This is the next step in the approach towards Zero Waste within post-consumer waste management in South Africa.