An assessment of waste management practices in South Africa : a case study of Mariannhill landfill site, eThekwini Municipality.
A number of environmental, social and economic problems are associated with waste disposal in landfill operations. The potential hazards associated with landfill operations are numerous and include fatal accidents, infrastructure damage, pollution of the local environment, harmful air emissions, to simple nuisance problems – such as dust, odour, vermin, and noise pollution. Further challenges include the availability of land and lack of municipal or other financing in the face of rising operation costs. Landfilling is, however, seen by many as an environmentally responsible and cost-effective solution to waste disposal. It is acknowledged however to lead to waste of resources by burying valuable materials that could have been reutilized. Careful engineering can resolve this shortcoming, yet the associated challenges and costs can become prohibitive. The regulatory environment also affects the prospects for adopting this approach to landfill site management in different contexts. The Mariannhill landfill site in eThekwini Municipality, South Africa, provides an opportunity to investigate both the range of challenges which these type of sites encounter, and the solutions which have been developed as a response. The central questions which this research seeks to answer are whether the practices adopted by the Mariannhill landfill site are replicable in other solid waste landfills around eThekwini and whether it can be viewed as an example of best practice in landfill site management more generally. The research finds that the main barrier to easy replication of systems followed at Mariannhill in other landfill sites is the difficulty in replicating the specific structures and character of management. Another key determining factor found is the prevailing attitudes to recycling and the environment in general in the society. Consumers choices are seen to be critical to the prospects for recycling of solid waste, including the size, degradability and recyclable potential of products purchased. In considering the potential for replication of the Mariannhill model as an example of best practice, it becomes clear that the technical aspects of operations at Mariannhill are the most easily replicable, yet other and equally important determinants of success are not easily replicable. These include the existing regulatory environment and prevailing societal attitudes towards recycling.