Status of Waste Management in South Africa

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

18 February 2022
Chairperson: Ms F Muthambi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video (Part 1)

Video (Part 2)

In an extended virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee received briefings on waste management from the National Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, the Gauteng Provincial Government, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government, the City of Johannesburg, the City of Cape Town, the City of Ekurhuleni and the City of eThekwini. Other stakeholders included Plastics SA and the South African Waste Pickers Association.

The national, provincial and metropolitan governments set out how they handled waste management and what their responsibilities were. They detailed the challenges they faced in providing new landfill sites and in funding and integrating waste management plans. They highlighted a lack of law enforcement against illegal waste practices.

The Portfolio Committee was concerned about landfill sites in Mpumalanga operating without licences. Members asked how asbestos waste was handled by Ekurhuleni. The Committee also enquired about the effects of single-use plastics and wanted to know whether a levy on plastics had had an impact in curbing plastic pollution.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed Portfolio Committee Members, local government representatives, private sector and civil society stakeholders and officials from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). She said a lot of interest had been shown in the meeting and everyone invited was present. This would affect how long the meeting would run but everyone would get a chance to present. This meeting followed previous meetings on waste management. She asked presenters to stick to their allocated time and highlight matters they thought were critical.

The Chairperson noted that the Minister and Deputy Minister of the DFFE had sent apologies. They were attending a Climate Change Commission meeting led by the President. The Director-General, Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, would lead the Department’s response. She invited Ms Mamogala Musekene, Deputy Director-General: Chemical and Waste Management, to make a presentation.

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment: Waste management in South Africa

National Waste Management Strategy

Ms Musekene told the Committee that the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) had been developed in terms of Section 6 of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (NEMWA).  The NWMS was implemented over a period of five years. This was the third NWMS that the DFFE was implementing. The revised 2020 NWMS was gazetted for implementation on 28 January 2021. All holders of waste in the state, civil and private sectors were obligated to implement the strategy. The strategy incorporated a waste management hierarchy and circular economy principles in accordance with the following themes:

  • Waste minimisation: Forty-five percent of waste diverted from landfill within five years; 55 percent within ten years; and at least 70 percent within 15 years, leading to zero waste going to landfill.
  • Effective and sustainable waste services: All South Africans to live in clean communities with waste services that were well managed and financially sustainable.
  • Compliance, Enforcement and Awareness: Mainstreaming of waste awareness and a culture of compliance, with zero tolerance of pollution, litter, and illegal dumping.

Role of national government

Members were told that the national government’s role was to set legislative and other measures to protect the environment from the impacts of waste. These measures included but were not limited to:

  • Identifying products for extended producer responsibility.
  • Developing regulations, norms and standards, including the National Waste Management Strategy; guidelines for the integration of waste pickers; and the Waste Recycling Enterprise Sport Programme.
  • Preparation of an integrated waste management plan for South Africa along the 4R principles - reduce, reuse, recycle and recover.  
  • Licensing of hazardous waste facilities.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC) had an interest in the socio-economic impact of  Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes. They had a critical role to play in promoting waste minimisation and the circular economy through cleaner production and industrial symbiosis. The DTIC and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) worked on standard-setting, labelling and consumer awareness of products. The DFFE also worked with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Technology and Innovation Agency (TIA) in relation to the Waste Research, Development, and Innovation Roadmap (Waste RDI Roadmap).

Another partnership was with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), which had responsibility for regulation of waste-to-energy projects as they pertained to energy generation. The Department of Agriculture was an important partner in developing a strategy to reduce food losses and manage agricultural waste. There was a significant volume of organic waste with beneficiation opportunities.

The DFFE also worked with the Department of Health. Food safety regulations potentially affected handling of food as a waste prevention measure. There were also regulations concerning risky waste from health care facilities. The Department of Basic Education played an important role in raising awareness around waste and recycling through the school curriculum. The Department of Transport (DoT) was responsible for regulating the transportation of goods and services and tracking and tracing transboundary waste. Lastly, the DFFE worked with the South African Police Service and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in investigations and prosecutions in terms of the NEMWA.

Role of provincial government

The Committee was told that the role of provincial governments was to:

  • Prepare integrated waste management plans (IWMPs)and report on their implementation.
  • Set provincial norms and standards and designate waste management officers.
  • Act as licensing authorities for municipal solid waste facilities and the environmental management inspectorate that regulated provincial aspects of the NEMWA.

Role of local government

Local governments were responsible for:

  • Preparing IWMPs for municipalities and reporting on their implementation.
  • Integrating IWMPs with broader development plans and providing services at an affordable price in line with the  Municipal Systems Act
  • Passing by-laws on waste services to regulate removal, storage, and disposal and designating a Waste Management Officer
  • Providing receptacles for recyclable waste and enforcing by-laws on pollution and waste.

Role of the private sector

  • Avoid the generation of waste; minimise the toxicity and amount of generated waste; reduce, reuse, recycle and recover waste; and dispose of waste in an environmentally sound manner.
  • Prepare industry waste management plans when called to do so and establish or join an EPR scheme to fulfil 4R measures linked to prioritised products.

Role of the informal waste sector

Informal waste collectors contributed to 4R by collecting recyclable waste. They had to register on a national database for collection services that aimed to compensate waste collectors, reclaimers or pickers as part of EPR schemes in order to integrate informal collectors into the post-consumer value chain.

Challenges for waste services

The Committee was told that IWMPs was a key planning tool for municipalities and provinces to provide universal access to waste collection services. About 50 percent of municipalities and provinces had IWMPs.

Waste collection services in metros ranged from 70 percent to just over 90 percent. The challenge was in the informal settlements. Waste collection was below 60 percent in provinces that were mostly rural. Waste collection in traditional areas was just below 40 percent because municipalities had limited influence in those areas.

Average access to waste collection services across the country had remained steady at just over 70 percent over the years.

Waste management suffered from pervasive underpricing, which meant that the costs of waste management were not fully appreciated by consumers and industry, and waste disposal was preferred over other options.

Ms Musekene took Committee Members through slides 21,22,23 of the presentation which gave a breakdown in figures and graphs on waste management and services per province. She said communication of roles and responsibilities was critical in an ever-changing environment. Provinces must assign responsibility for EPR schemes. There should be integration and cooperation among the spheres of government on institutional planning and implementation of waste management.

The Chairperson invited Members to engage with the presentation.


Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked about programmes to achieve zero landfills. South Africa was running out of space for landfills and needed more space for industry and human settlements. Was the DFFE working on turning human waste into sustainable energy? These programmes were already happening in other countries. The use of plastics was very high in South Africa and the disposal of it had become a problem. Did the DFFE have a programme to mitigate the problem of plastic?

Ms A Weber (DA) said although there was a waste management plan, districts and municipalities did not implement it. Why would a district or municipality that did not deliver on their services implement waste management plans? 20 landfill sites operating in Mpumalanga did not have licences. Why were they operating? She asked if the DFFE had information on whether districts, towns and municipalities had waste management plans, whether they were operational, whether they were licensed and how much land site was available. She asked when the  DFFE would phase out plastics.

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) asked about Mpumalanga’s unlicensed landfill sites and how they were able to operate. In other provinces, all sites were licensed. Why was this not the case in Mpumalanga?

The Chairperson referred to a slide that set out the various roles of departments. She asked who was coordinating these departments and whether the DFFE followed up with them on progress in implementing their objectives. How did the importing of mercury affect the DFFE and how was that waste handled? This was a big concern for the Portfolio Committee, given that people had actually died from mercury waste. What criteria did the DFFE use to screen waste imports?


Ms Musekene said some of the questions required the DFFE to do further studies and get back to the Committee in writing. She said there were programmes for waste minimisation and recycling and these were implemented by municipalities. There had been progress in this area and the DFFE had invested in infrastructure and buy-back centres.

The private sector had also invested in diverting waste away from landfills. This included composting facilities, mostly for organic waste. The DFFE had recognised that human waste made up the biggest portion of waste that ended up in landfills. New norms and standards had been developed for the generation of electricity through biogas, but this was happening on a small scale.

She said a levy on plastic levy had been implemented and it had been increasing to discourage consumers from buying plastic bags. From 2023 the DFFE would look at product design. All plastics would have to have 50 percent recyclable content. It would eventually increase to 75 percent in 2025 and to 100 percent in 2027. 

There was significant cost in waste management. The DFFE was considering regional waste systems where municipalities could pool their funds to establish world-class waste centres, but municipalities did not have the necessary funds.

The issue around licensing was that licences would be suspended after audits had found that sites were not using the correct processes. The licences had conditions and the DFFE checked compliance regularly. Sites needed to be fully compliant to have their licences reinstated. The DFFE would provide further details on this in writing.

City of Ekurhuleni

The Executive Mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni, Ms Tania Campbell, thanked the Chairperson and the Committee for the opportunity to attend the hearing. This was her first time in a Portfolio Committee meeting and she had found it very interesting. She would refer some of the things raised in the meeting to the management of the metro. She said Mr Daniel Masemola, Deputy Head: Waste Management, would lead the presentation.

Operational Landfills

The Committee heard that the City of Ekurhuleni (CoE) owned five landfill sites - Rietfontein, Rooikraal, Simmer & Jack, Platkop and Weltevreden. The Rooikraal, Weltevreden, Simmer & Jack and Platkop sites were classified as GLB- and Rietfontein as GLB+. This meant that all the landfill sites accepted domestic waste, non-hazardous business waste, non-infected carcasses and garden waste. In addition to this, the Rietfontein landfill site also accepted Class A and B waste. Platkop also accepted asbestos. No hazardous waste was accepted by the City’s landfill sites.

The landfill sites were operated in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, waste management licences issued by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) permits issued by the DFFE. The landfill sites were run by contracted site operators, but the CoE remained the permit holder.

 Although waste pickers were not allowed onto the site workfaces, they were active at all sites. The responsibility of the City was to work alongside the pickers and provide a safe operating environment because they helped increase the percentage of waste recovered from landfill sites.

Compliance profile of the landfill sites

Four of the five landfill sites were operational. The average compliance level was 70 percent. The main cause of the variance was the quality of contractors previously engaged. This matter was being resolved through tighter specifications and the sites were expected to be fully compliant by the end of the 2021/2022 financial year.

Among the challenges facing the CoE was a scarcity of land for landfill airspace in the Gauteng City region. Another was the effect of climate change on landfill sites and, therefore, the waste collection operations.

Opportunities were seen in the green economy and green job creation through the development of a waste treatment facility. An agile solution was being sought to address urban growth dynamics and contribute to climate change mitigation.

The City did not have a landfill facility to its north. It relied on privately owned landfills. High financial investment would be required to establish a new landfill site and authorities were reluctant to issue licences for one. The CoE had limited landfill airspace available and this was rapidly depleting.

Mr Masemola took Members through figures on slides 11, 12,13,14 on the City’s alternative waste management model.

Plastics processing plant – partnership with Oxfam SA

Members heard that the CoE had a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Oxfam South Africa on implementing programmes for waste minimisation and recycling. The partnership was aimed at assisting the city to develop a waste management model to cover service delivery gaps.

One of the programmes identified was the development of a recycling facility for High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). The HDPE would be converted into plastic pellets and sold to companies such as  Unilever and Tiger Brands. Oxfam South Africa had started sourcing the investors. Investment of R6 million had been acquired for the validation phase in which waste pickers would supply their HDPE to a central point to see if the recycling plant would have enough material to function fully. The biggest beneficiaries of the plant would be the waste pickers and the municipality.

 City of Cape Town

Mr Rustim Keraan, Director: Solid Waste Management, City of Cape Town, gave the presentation on behalf of the city. He took the Committee through pictures and figures on slides 2,3 and 9.

City of Cape Town airspace availability

The Committee was told that the figures showed that airspace availability would reach capacity between 2032 and 2033. With additional interventions in progress, this could extend to 2035/36. Additional interventions, such as increased organic waste diversion and establishment of additional materials recovery facilities, could extend the timeframes.

Current interventions

Interventions underway included planning for a regional integrated waste management facility.  Feasibility and environmental studies were being procured.

 Alternative methods of waste treatment included materials recovery facilities, organic waste diversion for composting and other purposes and special waste streams to avoid landfilling.

 Another initiative was the separation of waste at source through collection of recyclable dry waste and recycling of waste by entrepreneurs at drop-off facilities.

Public awareness and education programmes were conducted. 

Challenges with rail access to transport waste

Mr Keraan took Members through a diagram on slide 7 which outlined challenges in transporting waste.

The City had since 1995 used Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) to transport waste by rail from the Athlone Refuse Transfer Station (ARTS) to the Vissershok Landfill Site (VHLS). The waste by rail operation was a successful part of the city’s strategic waste management system for some 23 years up to 2018, when illegal occupation of the rail line occurred at Dunoon. The strategic plan had been for the train to cover longer distances once a regional landfill facility had been secured. However, TFR had not been able to reinstate the service because relocation of the communities had not been achieved. The city would require assistance from the government to reinstate this service.


Mr Paulsen asked if Members could engage on the presentations made so far as some of the issues raised in them were different.

The Chairperson said it had been agreed that Members would engage once everyone had presented, but she would seek consensus from the Committee.

Mr N Singh (IFP) said Members should ask each municipality maybe one or two questions. Matters might be cross-cutting and the Committee should stick to the proposal agreed earlier.

Ms Weber agreed with Mr Singh.

The Chairperson asked the City of Johannesburg to proceed with their presentation.

City of Johannesburg 

Ms Makhosazane Baker, Acting CEO of Pick-It-UP , led the presentation on behalf of the City of Johannesburg (CoJ).

Landfill Management

The Committee was told that preliminary design for the expansion of a landfill cell at the Ennerdale landfill site had been completed. Detailed design was in progress. The project had been delayed by the subdivision and consolidation of the new land which had to be carried out by Johannesburg Property Company (JPC).

With regard to the Marie Louise landfill site, consultants had been appointed to design a materials recovery facility, transfer stations and integrated waste management facilities. The purchasing of a piece of land adjacent to the landfill site was in progress.

With regard to the Linbro Park landfill site there were plans to construct a sorting facility and ablution facilities for waste reclaimers,  upgrade the boundary wall, install high mast lights and construct an integrated waste management facility. The projects were at the detailed design stage.

Alternative waste treatment technologies

A landfill gas-to-energy project harvested methane and produced 5.2 MW of electricity which was fed to the grid and distributed to households.

A feasibility study was being done on the treatment and disposal of solid waste through mass burn technologies. The completed project would treat 500 000 tons of waste per year.

Another project was the treatment of organic waste through bio digestion. The appointment of engineering, procurement and construction service providers was currently being finalised. The biofuel would power about 30 Metro buses per day.


Challenges included population growth, the provision of unfunded waste services, the depletion of landfill airspace and inadequate waste diversion.

Proposed solutions were:

  • To improve forward planning, research, and development, to integrate the informal waste sector and to secure sustainable funding for improved waste collection, storage, treatment, and disposal.
  • To consolidate the waste budgets of relevant CoJ entities.
  • To extend landfill airspace at the Ennerdale, Goudkoppies, Robinson Deep, Marie Louise and Linbro Park landfills. Design and construction were in progress.

City of eThekwini

Mr Morgan Moodley, Deputy Head: Cleansing, City of eThekwini, made the presentation on behalf of the Municipality. He referred Members to key points in the slide presentation:

These included a shortage of landfill airspace. Closures of landfill sites were imminent and there were delays in obtaining approvals from authorities. There was a poor market uptake for alternative waste treatment.

The waste fleet was ageing, there had been budget cuts and there was a backlog in the replacement programme. 

Infrastructure was under strain. Asset management was required. There was degradation and lack of capacity at depots and facilities needed upgrading.

As part of alternative waste management, separation of waste at source was currently being rolled out. 

Mr Moodley took the Committee through the diagram on slides 8 and 9 which explained how the city would aim for financial sustainability in waste management.

Gauteng Department of Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development

Ms Matilda Gasela, Head of Department, Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD), thanked the Committee for the opportunity. She said Ms Dora Modise, Deputy Director General: Natural Resources Management, would lead the presentation.

Ms Modise told the Committee that, according to the 2018 State of Waste Report, South Africa generated 55 million tons of general waste in 2017, with only 11 percent being diverted from landfills. In the absence of aggressive strategies to avoid waste generation, greater effort in waste diversion would be required simply to maintain the current rate at which landfill airspace was depleted. South Africa was experiencing severe constraints in the availability of landfill airspace, as well as challenges in operating and decommissioning landfill sites in a manner that was compliant with licensing conditions. Commissioning and operating new landfill sites was a significant cost to municipalities and often faced resistance by communities neighbouring potential sites. Furthermore, once disposed of at a landfill site, waste was no longer economically viable and, in the absence of landfill gas capture, the sites generated, stored and released methane gas, which was a greenhouse gas.

Ms Modise took the Committee through slides 7,8,9,10,11 showing maps of where the province’s land sites were and explaining their make-up.

 Key Interventions

Key provincial interventions were to support struggling municipalities with planning, monitoring and technical expertise. Legal instruments were used to enforce compliance by means of prosecutions, licence reviews, landfill ban programmes and regulation of waste separation at source.

At the municipal level, there should be adequate planning and budgeting for waste management services and landfill compliance. There should be urgent development of alternatives for waste diversion including waste separation at source, alternative waste treatment technologies and Extended Producer Responsibility ( EPR) collaborations with the private sector. Waste tariffs needed to be cost-reflective and revenue collection had to be improved. Bylaws should be developed and enforced to alleviate the costs of activities such as illegal dumping.

Diversion of waste from landfills

The Committee was told of a master plan to attain zero waste to landfill, with a target of 25 percent diversion by 2024. 

Plans included:

  • A regionalisation approach for addressing waste management challenges and the development of regional waste management eco-parks.
  • Developing strong partnerships with the private sector and EPR collaborations with producers.
  • Improvement of waste information management in the province.
  • Formalisation and support of existing waste enterprises in the province and commercialisation and scaling up of buy-back Centres for recycling and processing of waste
  • Development of existing waste diversion infrastructure, such as materials recovery facilities, composting facilities, and C&D crusher plants, and green jobs creation.
  • Development of waste minimisation regulations mandating waste separation at source and effective systems for proactive compliance monitoring. 
  • Reviews of waste permits and licences and development of a standardised tariff model to ensure cost-effectiveness of waste facilities as well the application of incentives and disincentives.

Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Ms Lulama Daniels, Chief Director: Waste Management and Air Quality, Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT), gave a presentation on the province’s perspective on metropolitan municipalities’ waste management facilities.

There were no municipal materials recovery facilities (MRFs), only a private MRF. There were two formal municipal recycling drop-off centres at Kragga-Kamma and Blue Horizon Bay. There were no municipal two bag systems or buy-back centres. There were private buy-back centres.

Ms Daniels said there was insufficient staff at local, district and provincial level to ensure effective waste management in the province. At municipalities, there was a lack of staff with planning skills, experience and understanding of the planning implications of changing waste legislation. There was also a lack of funding for municipalities to address future planning.  Municipalities did not implement best practice guidelines in their day-to-day management of waste facilities and long term planning. There was a failure to include integrated waste management plans in broader integrated management plans, resulting in uncoordinated waste planning. The DEDEAT focussed on compliance and not on supporting municipalities.


The Chairperson said no presentation had been received from Tshwane and asked Gauteng Province to ensure the Committee received one. She also asked the Eastern Cape Province to ensure that the Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City municipalities submitted presentations.

 Mr Paulsen asked the City of Ekurhuleni and City of Johannesburg about the state of their waste infrastructure. He said many countries used waste materials for road maintenance and construction and asked if the cities were considering adopting these practices. He asked what happened to landfill sites at the end of their lifespan.

The City of Cape Town had always given better services to more affluent areas and, given that the City of Ekurhuleni was now governed by the same political party as Cape Town, would the same happen there. Areas that were predominantly black had no infrastructure and there were sewage spills throughout the year. What was the City of Cape Town planning on doing on this matter? He also asked what the city was doing to deliver housing for the poor.

There had been many reports in eThekwini about illegal dumping in the city. What was the municipality doing about this? Johannesburg was a dump and always dirty and nothing was being done about this. There needed to be better action in keeping South African cities clean.

Mr Singh said he would not ask specific questions about metros as there was no time for it. Other districts and municipalities should be the ones to answer on specific details. These structures should also be asking the DFFE and provinces critical questions.

Besides the DFFE and its partners, which other stakeholders were forced to implement the waste management plan? Was there legislation around this and to what extent was that legislation implementable at lower levels of government? What were the challenges and factors that hindered implementation of this legislation from a resource point of view?

There were pockets of excellence when it came to waste management, but there was also real failure in some cities. Some told a tale of two cities, where one side was clean and beautiful, but the other side would be so dirty that it was unlivable.

Mr P Modise (ANC) said there was no mention of job creation in the waste management sector. There was also weak explanation on support given to waste pickers. He asked each of the municipalities to outline what support they had in place for waste pickers. There should be an integrated waste plan. All municipalities must have the same plan and strategy so that there could be unison. He asked whether there were forums where municipalities could share notes. Could municipal landfill sites be used as energy sources?

Mr D Bryant (DA) said none of the municipalities in the country were perfect and had the issue of waste management completely under control. He said DFFE must consider how to solve this issue by working with provinces, municipalities and other stakeholders. The Portfolio Committee must also consider what role it would play as an oversight committee in ensuring these issues were pointed out. He commended the City of Cape Town on how they had dealt with waste as shown by basic statistics. The real issue for Cape Town was waste in informal settlements, and the city needed to be more proactive in dealing with the issue.

The Chairperson asked DFFE about the process for approving landfill sites and asked why it took so long. The Gauteng presentation had referred to 11 cases lodged for environmental offences. Were there any successful prosecutions in these cases, or did it just end on referral?

She asked Ekurhuleni how they received and managed asbestos and ensured it did not cause harm to the environment and to humans at landfill sites. What was the lifespan of asbestos on landfill sites? She asked the Gauteng Province what its expectations were for the city of Ekurhuleni regarding asbestos.

How much waste separation happened at Cape Town landfills and how much profit did the city make from its waste management programme? What best practices and guidelines did the city follow?


Mr Keraan responded for the City of Cape Town. He said some of the questions are related to other directorates and did not address issues raised in the presentation. However, they were still important questions.

The City of Cape Town had challenges in terms of sewage infrastructure in townships. These issues involved ageing infrastructure and repairs. There was a problem, but the recent city budget had allocated funds for maintenance of this infrastructure. 

The city did not adequately outline job creation suggestions in its presentation, but there are 21 pilot projects which would boost job creation in 21 communities. These projects would create a couple of thousand jobs and had the potential to be implemented city-wide. The aim was to change dumping sites into working sites, where communities could actually participate in the infrastructure development and maintenance. The city was looking at moving away from contractors and involving communities more.

Insourcing was done according to the Municipal Systems Act and the city took a legal perspective when embarking on this. There was some outsourcing in certain areas of service, but the city was looking to drawback on outsourcing. The city had created 9 000 jobs in the waste management sector in the last financial year and, in this financial year, the city had already created some 6 000 jobs.

The cost involved in separation at source was R22 per household paid for collection. A new site would enable the city to bring an additional 40 000 households into the programme. He said the city is headed in the right direction, even though it was happening at a slow pace. 

For eThekwini, Mr Moodley responded that illegal dumping happened mostly in the Durban CBD and the city was developing a different model to handle this. Three teams would be deployed - clean up teams, ambassadors to promote an awareness campaign on the benefits of a clean city and a third team to monitor and prevent illegal dumping.

There was large-scale illegal dumping from the private sector and there was no law enforcement to prevent this. SAPS and metropolitan police needed to be more proactive in not only investigating this issue but actively trying to prevent this from happening.

For Gauteng, Ms Gasela, responded that the province had an overall waste management plan in place which served as a guideline to municipalities. The province mostly monitored compliance of municipalities with the waste management plan but planned to increase support given to them.

There were various initiatives to ensure the cities in Gauteng adopted strategies to improve waste management and the provincial department was working more and more with municipalities to address challenges they faced.

For the City of Johannesburg, Ms Baker responded that Pick-It-Up had created over 2 000 jobs in the last financial year. Pick-It-UP ran programmes that aimed to support informal waste pickers, but there was always an issue of waste pickers not having the correct papers since most of them were illegal immigrants. That prevented the city from supporting them but nonetheless, the City did give them limited support. The city supported and funded 43 cooperatives which gave support to informal waste pickers and the city planned to increase the number of cooperatives to tackle illegal dumping and boost clean up campaigns.

The issue of illegal dumping was pervasive because of a lack of law enforcement and the city was working together with SAPS and the metropolitan police to show more visibility and encourage people to report illegal dumping.

For the City of Ekurhuleni, Mr Masemola responded that the city was not perfect and still had a long way to go in terms of waste management, but it was making strides. He said clear guidelines were published by the city on how asbestos should be handled and those handling it received training. The city adopted a process that ensured there was no threat to people in the disposal of asbestos. He said some of the questions would be responded to in writing as he did not have the exact numbers or details in front of him.

South African Waste Pickers Association

The Committee heard a presentation by Mr Simon Mbata, chairperson of the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA).

He told Members that SAWPA, the private sector and government had agreed to pilot a separation at source project. Metsimaholo Local Municipality in Sasolburg was engaged to host the project and a  waste pickers’ cooperative was formed.

There were business opportunities in waste recovery and sorting. Waste pickers had the potential to do better recovery than most companies and municipalities and had the capacity to help municipalities at lower rates.

Over the years, waste processing had become sophisticated. There was a lack of investment in informal waste pickers. Funding mostly came from the United Nations. Waste pickers were unable to get funds from local municipalities and the DFFE. There were long processes that included paperwork.

Plastics South Africa

Mr Anton Hanekom, CEO, Plastics SA, made a presentation.

He saids Plastics SA was the umbrella organisation for the South African plastics industry. It was registered as a non-profit company (NPO) and was funded by membership fees. 

The South African plastics industry involved an estimated 1 800 companies, mainly SMME s and family-owned businesses. Recycling operations stood at 276 and the industry employed 60 000 people. Per capita plastics consumption was 29 kg.

Mr Hanekom took Committee Members through slide 8 of the presentation which explained which industries used the most plastic and what type of plastic. Slide 9 presented a graph that outlined domestic consumption of plastic. He continued to show members various graphs and diagrams which spoke on plastics and changes that were being made to the design of plastics. A flow chart showed the life cycle of plastics at landfills.


Mr Bryant agreed that plastics played a major role in the economy and provided important products for industry. The industry also creates a lot of jobs for South Africans. He said there were a number of significant concerns around plastics in the environment and single-use plastics.

He said there was a much higher percentage of plastic waste in urban areas. Not only was it visible but it ended up in oceans and rivers. What steps were being taken to reduce the amount of plastics in rivers and oceans? What chemical compounds were being used in the production of plastic in South Africa and what research was being done on plastic waste in South Africa?

What steps were Plastics South Africa taking to discourage South Africans’ throw-away culture and had the plastic bag tax reduced the number of plastics produced?

Mr Singh said everyone knew why plastics were a problem and people knew how to reduce and reuse them. What recycling initiatives did Plastic SA support, and did it try to reduce the impact of plastic in the work it did?

 He asked if the industry supported a ban on single-use plastics. The challenge with replacing single-use plastics was that it needed to make economic sense and environmental sense.

Ms C Phillips (DA) asked what could be done to foster a better relationship between informal waste pickers, waste pickers in municipalities and Plastics SA and how a great partnership could be formed.

The Chairperson asked what the impact was of the ongoing calls to limit the use of plastics in South Africa. Were there better ways of using plastics in South Africa?

Apart from funding from NGOs and international donors, was there anyone else that funded the activities of informal waste pickers?  What could the government do to better support waste pickers?


Mr Hanekom said that the plastics levy had caused a lot of factories to close down and had halved South Africa’s plastic producing capabilities. There was also an agreement that the levies collected would be used for better waste management and finding alternative sources, but the money had gone straight to the SA Revenue Service and become part of the fiscus.

Various recycling campaigns were being run by Plastics SA and it ran educational campaigns on single use plastics. He said South Africa was currently importing straws because it did not have the factories or capabilities to produce paper or non-plastic straws.

Mr Mbata said policy still made things hard for waste pickers and communities, including the government, needed to do a better job at recognizing the role waste pickers played. The breakdown in the relationship between stakeholders was because the private sector and government were engaging about waste pickers without involving waste pickers. There needed to be more collaboration between waste pickers and the government.

Ms Musekene responded on behalf of the DFFE. She said the plastics levy was administered by the National Treasury, and it became part of the national budget.  Treasury did not ring-fence it but a small allocation was made to the DFFE to run recycling programmes and enforce compliance within the industry. Plastics needed to be more environmentally friendly. The DFFE would improve the standards for bags. There were consultations with industry stakeholders, but the current rate of plastics being produced and ending up in landfills was simply unsustainable.

The Chairperson thanked everyone who had presented and ended the hearing. 

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