National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Bill [B32-2013]: deliberations

Water and Sanitation

10 February 2014
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with the legal drafters of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to go over amendments to the National Environmental Waste Amendment (NEMWA) Bill which was now in the final stages of deliberations. The Committee were extremely pleased with this draft of the Bill and the sections which had been redrafted and reworked particularly on the definition of waste and the waste management agency. Apart from noting a small number of grammatical and wording amendments which needed to be made, the Committee felt amendments needed to be made to two sections of the Bill although these amendments were also relatively minor in nature. These sections included:

(1) Definition of waste: the Committee were content with the redraft to this definition. The Schedule of the Act now listed two categories of waste, namely, hazardous and general waste, and furthermore each kind of waste was defined and listed under these two categories. This made the definition clear and neat and definitively stipulated the powers of the Minister. The Committee sort minor amendments to the definition and listing of wastes under the Schedule.

(2) Waste Management Agency: the Committee was not happy with the term “agency” and its accompanying legal connotations and suggested the Department come up with an alternative name. The Committee wanted the progressive realisation of the creation of municipal waste management capacity to come across clearer in the section dealing with the functions and objects of the agency. With the funding of the agency and donations and bequests, the Committee was concerned about corruption and wanted the reference to the Public Finance Management Act to be made clear under this section. 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks and Summary of Processes

The Chairperson apologised for the much delayed start to the meeting due to him being part of an ANC strategy meeting on the processing of bills.

He informed Members that they would soon be voting on the Protected Areas Bill but he was just waiting for the tagging to be sorted out. He asked the Committee Secretary to write a polite letter to the Speaker’s Office to enquire whether the tagging of this Bill, which had already been debated in Parliament, had been done so that it could be voted on and assented to. 

The Chairperson said that depending on how far the Committee got today, it could potentially hold hearings on the Water Research Bill; however it was not his highest priority but was still hanging in the air.    

As a means of a summary of the process thus far, he explained further amendments were made to the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill:3  (NEMLA: 3) and this would be sent to Members.

On the National Water Amendment Bill, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) had fixed the Bill. Once the Department had sent him the latest version he would circulate it to Members. Included would be the letter to the Speaker asking for permission, the memo and legal opinion, which he had read out at last week’s meeting. Once the Committee Secretary had the document pack ready, he would sign the letter to the Speaker. He had also been given a long draft slide presentation which he had looked at and this would be mailed to Members to allow them to present something to their caucuses.

Waste Amendment Bill

The Chairperson noted the Department had drafted a “magnificent piece of work” on the Bill. The Chairperson and the Department had discussed the Bill and the latter had come up with solutions to all issues worrying him. He had sent the Department further notes to clean up some areas after a second round of deliberations and the results of that would now be discussed by the Committee. The two most important issues of the Bill included the definition of waste, which he was now exceedingly happy about, and Members would be pleasantly surprised at the section drafted for this definition. The other issue was on the levy relating to waste streams and the agency. The trigger for the levy was also missing from the Bill because authority was needed for government to set the levies. The Department had now drafted a brilliant section on that issue with really good detail on how the process would work. One outstanding tricky issue was on the transition. He was concerned about what happened to the waste streams particularly the ones where people had been allowed to raise levies and the unconstitutionality of that? How would the existing streams be regularised? These kinds of things would need to be in the transitional arrangements. If the Committee went through all these amendments and were happy with them they could then vote on them already. The Department could then compile a draft slide presentation for Members to take to caucuses on this Waste Bill.

He proceeded to take the Committee through the Bill to go over these changes. During this reading the Chairperson highlighted minor grammatical, wording and numbering amendments still needed to be made.

The primary areas of focus during this reading of the Bill included:

Amendment of section 1 of Act 59 of 2008

The Chairperson noted, under section 1 (h) (a) and (b) an overall definition for waste had been kept to be used as a catch-all but there was also specific reference to Schedule 3 of the Act as outlined in 1 (h) (a). The Schedule now listed all categories of waste.  Everything which was not waste was now covered under 1 (h) (i) – (iv). This had made the definition clear. The Department had also looked at the UNs and the EUs definitions of waste which they kept very short and was comprised of three elements as defined in section 1 (h) (a) “any substance, material or object, that is unwanted, rejected, abandoned, discarded or disposed of, or that is intended or required to be discarded or disposed of…”. The powers of the Minister were also clearly spelled out in 1 (h) (i) – (iv).

Under Schedule 3, the Department divided waste into two categories- hazardous waste and general waste. A definition for each type of waste was then provided which were largely of a technical nature. This was also now much clearer and would help local governments and everyone more to understand.

The Chairperson noted that a definition for “inert waste” was missing from category B, “general waste”, and any “hazardous waste” classified as “non-hazardous waste” in terms of the regulations made under section 69, had also not been discussed. 

Ms M Wenger (DA) noted that for some types of waste, the definitions/wording were exactly the same for “hazardous waste” as they were for “general waste”, for example, waste from the photographic industry. She found this confusing.

The Chairperson agreed that it could not be the same.

Mr Alf Wills, DDG: Environmental Advisory Services, DEA, explained there were processes which produced both general and hazardous waste. 

Mr Mark Gordon, DDG: Chemicals and Waste Management, DEA, added that out of the photographic process, some chemicals could be hazardous while other chemicals could be another kind of general waste. In this case, broad categories of waste were listed.   

The Chairperson said this could not be done. An alternative was to say, under the hazardous waste category, some waste from the photographic industry was hazardous and the under the general waste category, exclude the waste which was hazardous. He asked that the Department checked if there were any further definitions like this and to tighten this up. 

Overall the Chairperson thought the definition for waste was not much better than what they had previously even though he expected that in future there would be further amendments but at least now there was a much more specific framework for the debate on waste. 

Establishment of Waste Management Agency

The Chairperson was not keen on the use of the term “agency”. He thought maybe “unit” or something else might be more appropriate. He thought the term “agency” had too much baggage.

Objects and Functions of Agency

Mr Wills explained, when looking at 34D (e) and 34E (c) and (g), the municipal waste management capacity, there were two aspects – one directly relating to integrated waste management plans, which was raised by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) during public hearings. The other aspect was to build the technical capacity of municipalities to actually manage the waste from pick-up to the storage and separation point to recycling or the disposal going to the landfill and then the management of the landfill. This was a hierarchy of waste.

The Chairperson asked where the building of capacity was within this waste management agency.

Mr Wills replied that it was in the recruitment of staff.

The Chairperson felt that if money was to be spent on this agency, its role would have to be spelt out in the functions and objects. Without this, a business plan for the agency for funding would be thrown out. He had specifically brought this up before. He wanted the capacity to be progressively built into this agency for assistance and oversight. The way 34E (1) (c) was currently drafted meant that specialist support would be created outside of the agency.

Mr Wills understood there were two parts of progressive realisation of capacity– one relating to capacity within municipalities progressively being built up to fulfil their mandate in terms of waste management which was skills development, support services and help with the integrated waste management plans etc. The Chairperson was referring to, in the process of appointing experts into the agency, there was a need to progressively increase the number of staff dedicated to the function of building local government capacity. He thought the objects and functions of the agency should describe the outcome to be seen from the agency which was to increase municipality capacity to manage waste. 

The Chairperson was clear that he was in support of SALGA’s view - the only area of difference was that municipal capacity could not immediately be made a main function but it had to be created progressively as a secondary function of the agency.

Mr Wills suggested an insertion of the “progressive realisation of waste management capacity”.

The Chairperson said this would be needed in the objects and that both aspects were discussed in the functions. He questioned what 34E (1) (c) was referring to.

Mr Wills indicated it was the specific specialist interventions the agency would put in place in terms of industry waste management plans, integrated waste management plans and other tools this Act provided for. This also included support for legal norms and standards. He indicated alternative wording for 34E (1) (c).

The Chairperson said it could be amended. This applied to 34E (1) (g) also and should also be reflected in the objects.

Funding of the Agency

The Chairperson was concerned about “donations and bequests” in 34F (1) (d). He asked if it was dealt with anywhere else.

Mr Wills said most of the biodiversity entities had the ability to deal with bequests.

The Chairperson was worried that was a place for corruption or a place for undermining. He wanted to ensure these things were done in a proper prescribed manner.  

Ms Linda Garlipp, Chief Director: Law Reform and Appeals, DEA, added that the rules of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) also applied to bequests.

The Chairperson said the reference to the PFMA should just then be added. This was a big problem for him in government departments. The attaching of conditions to donations to provide government services was an absolute problem.

Transitional provisions in respect of any industry waste management plan

The Chairperson was concerned about the timelines outlined in the transitional provisions. Some amendments were needed for these provisions for the timeframes to make things very clear.

Outstanding Issues

The Chairperson asked that Members give him the mandate to look at the amendments, which were largely minor, made from today’s discussion which the Department would provide to him in colour. He would then send it to Members for their caucuses along with the slide presentation.

The Committee was happy with this.

The Chairperson asked the Department to think of alternative names for the agency. The term “agency” had huge legal connotations for acting on behalf of someone. 

Some suggestions were unit, directory, bureau, institute, office and centre.

The Chairperson noted that the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment (NELMA) Bill was ready as was the National Water Amendment Bill, the National Environmental Waste Amendment Bill and two slide presentations. The Department was to ensure that all other related documents were also accompanied.  The Committee would potentially vote on the Waste Management Bill next week Tuesday or Wednesday which meant the issues on the Water Research Commission would have to be delayed. The parties who did not yet have a mandate could simply abstain from the vote as he knew their views because there would still be a quorum.

Ms Wenger was concerned that the minutes of the Committee had not been adopted in a long time and Parliament would soon rise.

The Chairperson said this would be done in the next two weeks. He recommended Mr J Skosana (ANC) convene a team of Members to go through the minutes already handed out last year together with new minutes the Committee staff would put together by the end of next week. He asked the Committee Secretary to facilitate this meeting of Members and to ensure they had the relevant documents.

Mr Wills thanked the Committee, on behalf of the Minister and DG, for all the hard work put into the Bill. It was most appreciated and was essential for the enabling of job creation in growing the environmental sector.

The Chairperson did not want to be disparaging but noted that if people were able to carry out the instructions of the Committee, he was prepared to go the extra mile and work after hours. The problem was when there was no reciprocation which made him furious as with the Department of Water for which there would be consequences. He also thanked the DEA for their hard work.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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