National Environmental Management Waste Bill [B39-2007]: public hearings


21 November 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

21 November 2007

Mr L Zita (ANC)
Acting chairperson: Mr D Maluleke (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Standard Bank submission
Business Unity South Africa written submission
Business Unity South presentation
Habitat Council and Cape Environmental Trust written submission
Zini Mokhine presentation
H, I & J submission
Bobby Peek: “Why say no to incineration” presentation
Desmond D’sa submission
Dr Mandla Buthelezi: “African Stockpiles, Agricultural Waste” presentation
Moleleke Fantasi : Landfill Legislation presentation
Mark Wells: “Zero Waste Gaps and opportunities missed” presentation
Andy Gubb on the National Environmental Management Act submission
Musa Chamane: “Ground work” presentation
Dr E Schultz submission
PETCO submission
PACSA submission

Metal Recyclers Association submission
Eskom submission
Commercial Waste Services submission
Debra Broughton submission
South African Breweries Limited submission

Audio recording of meeting [Part 1] [Part 2]

The Committee heard a range of public submissions on the National Environmental Management Waste Bill, which all agreed was a very important piece of legislation since issues of waste had not previously been dealt with in any legislation.

The Banking Association called for a limited exemption in regard to contaminated land. Sometimes the banks would repossess land as a result of failure on the part of the mortgages to repay, and would then be held liable for redressing contamination that they had not bee responsible for, nor could control. The banks stated that they did already carry out due diligence that included environmental impact studies, but could not control contamination caused subsequent to granting the mortgage. Foreign precedents were cited.

The Habitat Council and the Cape Environmental Trust raised concerns about the interpretation of Clause 5, believing that the precautionary principle should be reintroduced. The duty of care should be given more prominence. The term ‘recover’ should be defined, as it could have two opposing meanings. Recovery of energy from waste should not be accepted in South Africa. There was a need to define incineration, separation at source and landfill sites. Further suggestions were made to clarify the consultative process and municipal waste. The appeal procedure as set out in NEMA should apply to this Bill as well.

Metal Recyclers Association submitted that metal was already being recycled, because of its high value, and there was no necessity to introduce legislation to cater for this industry. The metal recyclers in all categories contributed hugely to the South African economy. The Association believed that the definition of waste should not include scrap metal once it was collected for recycling. Huge financial burdens would be placed on the industry unless exemptions were granted, that would lead to closure of businesses and failure to collect scrap. Members raised concerns around the purchase of stolen pipes or hijacked vehicles and pollution by scrap metal dealers in the past, as also its global reach, and asked what would be done with scrap not recycled. 

The National African Farmers Union emphasized that waste should not be dealt with by incineration and suggested that stockpiles should be shipped back to their home countries for disposal there. Use of cement kilns to burn waste was unacceptable. Agricultural waste should be mentioned specifically in the Bill.

Business Unity South Africa tabled their document briefly, mentioning a number of concerns around definitions, alignment with other legislation, the role of the private sector, transfer of facilities and land, implementation, transitional provisions and compliance with international obligations.

Ward Committee Members from Tshwane, New Brighton, Port Shepstone, Ditsobotla Municipality and Mafikeng raised problems that their communities were experiencing already with the effects of the cement manufacturing companies in their areas. Health problems, agriculture and water pollution were all raised. They all pleaded that the cement companies should not be permitted to continue with their proposals to incinerate waste to generate energy for the production processes, as this would compound the problems. It was noted that incineration was already taking place in New Brighton.
The suggestion was made that independent environmental impact assessments be done on the activities of the companies, and that the Committee should pay a visit to affected areas. The Department confirmed that there were already mechanisms in the Bill to address these issues, but there was a problem historically with inconsistent provincial decisions being made.

Groundwork was suggesting that there should be a strong link between the Air Quality Act, as an example, and the Waste Bill, and there was a need for regulation.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance noted the
severe health risks from mining dumps, including chrome dumps in its area. The Bill was regarded as too discretionary, and did not oblige industries to clean up their mess, nor make waste companies accountable for their actions. It proposed that hazardous landfill sites in communities must be closed, that the transportation of waste through the communities should be forbidden and that the onus was on government to take action.

The Greenhouse Project addressed the Committee on zero waste, suggesting that South Africa must take the opportunity to phase in source separation, responsibility of the producer and the “polluter pays” principle.
 It should support public education and consumer awareness, and compel producers to demonstrate that the package or container could be recycled.

The GAIA Cooperative explained the concept of a full-cost accounting economy, and explained that product life cycle assessments should be used from inception to final disposal of any product, examining
social, environmental, and health risks and impacts. It recommended compulsory use of these assessments, not discretion by the Minister. The producer highlighted the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals and noted the economic benefits of a zero waste approach to such chemicals. Agricultural waste and use of pesticides was discussed, and the concept of digesters was explained. Members questioned how these could best be marketed, used on a wider scale, and why they had not been rolled out. 

Public submissions on the National Environmental Management Waste Bill (the Bill)
Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) Submission

Mr Ian Sampson, Attorney from Shepstone and Wylie, representing Standard Bank, noted that the presentation would focus on Chapter 4, which dealt with the issue of contaminated land.

Mr Sampson explained that banks had an interest in the Bill, because when banks provided credit to customers, they all required some form of security. This could take the form of -bonds over fixed assets, or, in the event of default, running a business until amounts were paid, or acquisition of equity within an organisation or entity. Contaminated land created a predicament if-the land foreclosed upon by the banks due to non-payment by customers was contaminated land. In this case, the security would be compromised, since the land would have diminished in value due to the contamination. The effect of Clause 40 was that banks would be required to notify the relevant official of the contamination of the land prior to being able to transfer the land. In the event of foreclosure, the banks were anxious to sell in order to recover the outstanding loan, and could be prejudiced by the requirement of notification and compliance with further procedures as set out in this Clause. It was suggested that in these cases there should be immunity.

The banks were not seeking blanket immunity from the Bill. Where banks owned land for purposes other than security, they too would have to comply with all the provisions of this Chapter. Where banks foreclosed on property, they were not in fact responsible for the contamination of the land, as such pollution would have been effected by the customer or previous owners. The banks were therefore not involved in the contamination of the land and their involvement only extended to the protection of their interest in recovering the loan amounts.

Mr Sampson noted that precedent on this matter could be found in foreign law. In the European Union, banks who were not in operational control over the customer’s business or land were not held liable. In the United States the Asset Conservation, Lender Liability, and Deposit Insurance Protection Act of 1996 was promulgated to ensure that if banks took ownership purely for the purposes of security and did not delay transferring the land, they would not be liable for environmental issues.

It was important to note that if banks did not receive the assistance they sought, they would have to re-examine their requirements for granting loans. This would prejudice the banks themselves, their customers and the economy as a whole, as they would be unwilling to give ready access to finance. In addition, South Africa also enjoyed the benefit of hindsight as these issues had already been raised and addressed in other countries.

Mr M Kalako (ANC) argued that there was a need to hold someone accountable for the contamination of land financed by the banks. He understood the predicament facing banks as creditors, but felt that perhaps legislation should indicate the role of the financial institutions concerned.

Mr Sampson reminded the Committee that the banks were merely asking for narrow protection and exemption in circumstances where contaminated land had been provided as security for loans.

Mr G Morgan (DA) asked if the Banking Association had done an impact study on the effects of the contaminated land on the banking sector. He asked how banks were affected by this issue in foreign jurisdictions.

Mr Sampson explained that in the United States where the environmental authorities failed in getting the owner to pay for remediation of the contaminated land, it had originally become easier simply to wait for the banks to foreclose on the property and then to hold these banks liable. This pertained when banks did not enjoy limited liability under the environmental legislation.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked if the banks were currently in possession of contaminated land. She suspected that this contamination would most likely have occurred in the mining sector. She asked if there were large amounts of land that could not be sold owing to it being contaminated.

Mr Sampson responded that what represented contaminated land to one person, would represent an opportunity to another person. Banks were merely asking for protection in this process. People often bought land, knowing that it was contaminated, for the purpose of remediation.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) suggested that banks should conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (IEA) study as part of the rigorous application process to which they already subjected applicants applying for loans. This was best dealt with at the application stage instead of seeking relief from the legislators once they had already approved loans. He was sympathetic with banks in cases where the land was free from contamination at the application stage, and where the customer only proceeded to contaminate the land after approval of the loan.

Mr Sampson replied that the studies currently formed part of the due diligence process exercised by the bank prior to approving the loan. They would continue to do so going forward. This would serve the banks’ interests as well, since it was not in their interests to own contaminated land.

Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) referred to the situation where the pollution of land might have occurred during the previous regime, for instance due to mining activities. The result was that inhabitants now, through no fault of their own, lived on contaminated land. She asked if the inhabitants would therefore be unable to access loans to effect improvements to their property, despite the fact that the contamination had not been caused by them.

Ms Dorea Parsons, Senior Manager: Safety, Health and Environmental Risk; Group Compliance, Standard Bank, said that banks were still focused on serving their customers. Banks did not want to reject people’s loans, although the process had to occur in an environmentally friendly way.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) asked if banks had a framework in place to protect clients where contamination occurred, or if they were only interested in recovering the outstanding loans.

Mr Sampson responded that the banks were not requesting protection for contamination that they themselves had caused. They were only seeking assistance for cases where land was being provided as security for loans by the banks before the land was transferred to third parties. Failure to provide the banks with such protection would result in liability deliberately being passed on to the banks, as had been often the case in the United States. Usually Government would suffer, since the remediation of land could cost millions. It was not appropriate to hold parties responsible for damage where they clearly were not responsible. He reiterated that banks were just seeking a very narrow area of protection.

The Chairperson asked how prevalent this problem was in the banking sector.

Mr Sampson replied that no study had thus far been conducted to determine what percentage of land held by banks was contaminated. In the United States a large amount of land had been affected. In South African there was an opportunity to introduce laws to prevent the problems that had arisen overseas, for example by working with a departmental enforcement arm.

The Chairperson asked if banks had an oversight unit to conduct audits to determine if activities were having a potentially harmful impact on the environment.

Ms Parsons responded that banks would conduct an Environmental Impact study to determine any possible negative impact on the environment. However there had to date been no studies to determine if banks were already in possession of such land. At Standard Bank (and probably all other banks) there was indeed a risk unit. At the moment this unit was only focused on bigger projects. They would in future extend this focus to other projects too.

The Chairperson said that if it became clear that banks were prepared to take steps to address the environmental impacts of the issue, the Committee would perhaps be more willing to support their proposals.
Habitat Council and the Cape Environmental Trust Submission
Ms Marie-Lou Roux, Executive Officer: Habitat Council and Secretary: Captrust, commended the Bill as being sound in respect of the cumulative effects of licensing, and introduction of incentives and disincentives

However, there were some clauses of concern. Under Clause 5 she noted that it was not sufficient for the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) to guide the interpretation of this Act. Instead it should be clearly set out that all interpretation of this Bill should be bound by NEMA principles. The precautionary principle should be reintroduced. The duty of care should be given more prominence. The term ‘recover’ should be defined. Used in the positive sense, this term referred to the recovery of materials to retrieve or salvage resources. However it could also apply to the destructive practice of recovering energy from waste, which should be avoided, due to its harmful impact on health. It was unclear in various clauses which interpretation was intended by use of this term. She highlighted the extremely harmful toxic substances that emanated from the use of burn technologies, and particularly the practice of incinerating waste for energy. It was thus important to define the term to allow only for ‘recovery’ in the positive sense, where it was to be re-used or salvaged for use as a resource. Recovery of energy from waste should not be accepted in South Africa. She highlighted all the clauses in which the term ‘recovery’ was mentioned in the Bill.

Ms Roux added that “incineration”, “separation at source” and “landfill site” should also be defined in the Bill.

With regard to the consultative process, Ms Roux questioned the use of the words ‘as may be appropriate’ and asked who would decide when consultation was appropriate. This process appeared to be discretionary.

Municipal waste should be dealt with by ensuring that wet and dry waste did not go to landfills. Instead, only toxic waste should go to landfills after a process of detoxification.

Habitat Council found it inappropriate that the issue of appeal was being dealt with in regulations instead of in the principal legislation. They felt that the appeal procedure as set out in NEMA should apply in this Bill as well.

With regard to the request to vary licenses, it was submitted that third parties too should be allowed to request such variation.

Metal Recyclers Association (MRA) Submission
Adv Paul Kennedy, Advocate representing Metal Recyclers Association, noted that the Bill sought to optimise recycling in order to ensure that waste did not lie around or end up in a landfill site. Metal fell into a different category because of its high value, and it was already frequently being recycled.  He submitted that there was no necessity to introduce legislation to encourage further recycling in this industry.

Adv Kennedy outlined the huge contribution of the metal recycling industries to the economy. Much of the huge volumes of scrap metals collected were exported. He noted the impact of the metal recycling industries on the economy of South Africa.

Point 15 of the presentation document dealt with the types of operators in the scrap metal industry. These were described as falling into the categories of peddlers, bucket shops, scrap merchants, scrap processors and large operations. The activities of each were summarized.

The Association, while strongly supporting the principles behind the Bill, expressed concern that the definition of ‘waste’ in the Bill went too far by including scrap metals. The purpose of the Bill was to promote recycling of anything that was truly waste in order to minimise waste ending up at landfills. He reiterated that scrap metal was already being recycled and the industry was already organised to do so. He referred to the exclusions to the definition of ‘waste’ in the Bill. The objective of the drafters was to show that waste ceased to be regarded as such when it was reused to achieve value. The Association agreed with this definition, but believed that the exclusions should be extended specifically to scrap metal, once collected for the purpose of recycling.

If this was not done, the effect of its inclusion in the definition of waste would be that huge financial burdens would be placed on large and small members of the Association, and could even affect their continued participation in the industry. The consequences would be both economic and environmental, as there would be fewer people collecting scrap metal. Another requirement set out in the Bill was that vehicles used would have to be registered, licensed and tracked. The cost per vehicle would be R12 000,00. In addition, each operator would have to pay an annual registration fee of R125,00. Further costs would include the need to conduct an environmental impact study, which could cost approximately R50 000,00. There would most likely be a need to employ additional people to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Bill.

The consequences of these increased costs to the operators would be dire, since the industry was cost-sensitive. Larger operators would have to recover the increased costs by reducing what they paid the peddler or bucket shop for the scrap metal. This reduction in price would result in the industry no longer being viable for many peddlers and bucket shop operators, thereby impacting negatively on the economy and the environment. Including this industry in the Bill would defeat the objective that the Bill sought to achieve, namely, the promotion of recycling. This would lead to an increase in the use of virgin metals in industries, which would in turn lead to heavier reliance on mining, as well as increase in pollution. Scrap metal that was not collected by the industry would have to be collected by the authorities, and he predicted an increase in the amount of scrap metals ending up on landfill sites.

Mr Mokoena said that he was not certain whether one could accept the position that scrap metal ceased to be waste once it was picked up for recycling; he thought this interpretation was too wide. While he was sympathetic to the position of peddlers, it was necessary to find another way to deal with them.

Adv Kennedy said that the Bill itself identified a ‘magical moment’ at which scrap ceased to be waste. There was in fact nothing in law that would prevent the naming of such a moment, and it was in fact necessary to ensure that a set of consequences followed from that moment. Scrap metal would cease to be waste as soon as it was collected for the purposes of recycling.

Ms Chalmers said that there were those who believed that there was no such thing as waste, since everything had value to someone.

Adv Kennedy responded that while this could be true, the monetary value of scrap metals far exceeded that of plastic or cardboard. It was therefore appropriate that the Bill should apply to waste that was generally not recycled, due to its lack of value.

Ms Chalmers asked what would happen if other collectors felt that their scrap should also be excluded from the definition of ‘waste’. She asked how the Association felt peddlers and bucket shops should be regulated, if not under this piece of legislation.

Ms Ntuli asked what the policy of the Association was with regard to the purchase of stolen pipes or hijacked vehicles or their parts.

Adv Kennedy said that he understood the members’ concerns regarding the purchase of stolen goods, and concurred that this did occur in the scrap metal industry. He understood regulation of these practices. However, it would not be appropriate for this Bill to deal with that problem, which was already addressed in the Second Hand Goods Act. It was a safety and security issue and not an environmental issue. Environmental legislation should deal with environmental issues.

An ANC member referred to certain members of the scrap metal industry who had for years been causing huge amounts of pollution. The Bill sought to deal with those businesses that had no regard for the environment. In addition he referred to businesses transporting scrap metal in uncovered trucks, which was a road hazard.

Adv Kennedy replied that there were ‘bad eggs’ in the business, but the issue was already dealt with in other environmental legislation. He explained that transporting in uncovered trucks was a traffic violation and was already dealt with in other legislation.

Ms Ntuli referred to the situation where an old broken car might be left standing on a person’s property for years. She asked how this car would be classified, if it was not waste.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) also referred to the purchase of vehicle parts and asked how the MRA valued old metal items as opposed to new items.

Adv Kennedy responded that it made no material impact whether the metal was from an old car wreck, or whether it was new metal. The price was determined by grade and mass and not by the age of the metal.
The Chairperson asked if the main problem with the metal recycling industries being included in the Bill was the registration cost. He asked, should the cost be reduced, whether the problem would remain.

Adv Kennedy responded that costs were not the only cause for concern to the MRA, although these would impact negatively on the entire industry. MRA was also concerned about the added burden on the environment if the Bill were to be enacted in its present form.

The Chairperson asked how the industry was performing in terms of its global reach.

Adv Kennedy said that the volumes of scrap metals generated and recycled in this country were substantial. In South Africa ferrous scrap generated 2.5 million tons annually, while non-ferrous scrap generated 300 000 tons.

The Chairperson noted the proposal that metal was no longer waste as soon as it was collected for the purposes of recycling, but asked what happened if it was collected but not sold. He enquired whether everything that was collected was definitely sold.

Adv Kennedy replied that the demand for scrap metal was huge and that this was almost always the case. Anything not sold would be regarded as waste.

Joanne Yawitch, Deputy Director General-Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), said that small collectors were already excluded from the Bill, as it contained a list of activities to which this piece of legislation would not apply.

Adv Kennedy replied that even if the exclusions applied to the small operators, they too would be negatively affected by the cost distortions. If the bigger scrap merchants had to have their profit margins reduced due to regulations in the Bill, the costs would be passed down to the peddlers and bucket shop operators. As a result they would go out of business, leaving large amounts of scrap metal uncollected.

National African Farmers Union (NAFU) Submission
Dr Mandla Buthelezi, National Vice President, National African Farmers Union, read through the presentation document titled “African Stockpiles”. He emphasised the fact that agricultural waste should not be dealt with by incineration. Stockpiles should be shipped back to the country from which they were donated and disposed of there. The use of cement kilns to burn waste was unacceptable due to the fact that the African cement industry did not have the appropriate proven expertise to ensure the safe storage and processing of hazardous waste. Dr Buthelezi proposed that agricultural waste should be mentioned specifically in the Bill.

Business Unity (BUSA) South Africa Submission
Ms Laurraine Lotter, Chairperson of Standing Committees, Business Unity South Africa briefly read through the presentation document, due to shortage of time. She noted that BUSA had concerns around:
-Alignment with other legislation and policy
-The role of the private sector
-The transfer of facilities and land
-Implementation of the Bill
-Transitional provisions
-Compliance with international obligations
-The Regulatory Impact Assessment

The Chairperson asked Dr Lotter about the manner in which surplus clothes at retail stores, which could not be sold the next season, would be disposed of. He asked whether she considered such items to be waste and whether she thought they needed to be regulated.

Dr Lotter responded that in terms of the Bill, she did think that these were waste and needed to be regulated.

The Chairperson stated that the matter must be regulated by legislation because if something had not been purchased that did not mean that it could not be used by someone else in the community who needed it.

Jan Willers, Ward Committee Member- Tshwane-Pretoria: Submission
Mr Jan Willers, Ward Committee Member, Tshwane, tabled and read from a copy of a report, which mainly addressed incineration. He noted that the cement industry wanted to incinerate waste in kilns as an alternative fuel. This was motivated by the fact that the industry would then have to pay less for real fuel and that they were paid to take on waste.

Mr Willers said he had
interviewed local physicians and all of them attributed the high incidence of community health problems to cement operators PPC. He said that there was a very high level of absenteeism from schools. People were being treated for lung and sinus problems. Some were asthmatic, and others suffered from skin problems. He stated that Hercules community clinic in 2006 saw 55 000 patients for the year – double the Pretoria average - mostly for respiratory related problems. He pointed out that many rooves corroded in the area, that cars were covered in cement dust regularly, and swimming pools needed constant repair and maintenance. Cement dust problems were experienced on a daily basis.

He spoke about the PPC Consultants’ Drafting Report and stated that there was uncertainty about what the emissions would consist of, when waste was burnt. He stated that the quality of the cement to be produced from the burning of waste could also be affected. He highlighted that there were potential health risks to the community, and stated that present emissions were unacceptably high.

He said that the PPC had not been responsive to the concerns of the community and there had been no responses from health institutions. He said that the community could not trust PPC because it did not acknowledge the concerns of the community. He added that waste burning would only benefit the PPC and it would be detrimental to the community. He thus asked the committee to help his community reject the burning of waste in cement kilns.

Celia Mtathi, Ward Committee member, New Brighton Area Port Elizabeth, Submission
Ms Mtathi, Ward Committee Member, New Brighton, stated that she lived in the community in Port Elizabeth that was next to the PPC plant. Rooves were affected by the fall out from PPC; asbestos used for the rooves was turning green, and windows and doors could not be left open because of the dust. The houses were becoming discoloured inside. The area had a high rate of TB and other respiratory problems.

In 1994 a community forum had tried to arrange a meeting with the PPC to discuss these problems but PPC had not returned to them with meaningful solutions. Peoples’ homes were right on the fence line of the industry, not even across the road from it.

She stated that her community did not want PPC to be allowed to burn waste. This cement company had not responded to their existing problems and now it sought to create new problems. The company had lost the trust of the community. Community members wanted independent chemical research to be done, and wanted to have meetings in their communities. The community did not feel that the government was protected it.

Chandrakrishna Nulliah, Local Farmer Representative, Port Shepstone: Submission
Mr Chandrakrishna Nulliah was representing the Umzimkulwana Farmers Forum outside Port Shepstone. All farmers in the area had problems with cement dust, which was affecting agricultural crops. He said that there were grave health concerns. He pointed out that the cement company was paying the environmental consultants who were doing environmental assessment studies on the burning of waste in cement kilns, that there was lack of transparency and that the community was not being told what was being emitted.

Mr Nulliah stated that Natal Portland Cement wanted more land, such as the school property in the area. He added that in the past the area was well known for production of tropical fruit such as paw paws and bananas. However there was hardly any fruit there now because of the impact of the cement dust.

He stated that the farmers were requesting that independent research take place, not sponsored by the cement company. The community wanted to know what NPC was emitting. They did not want waste to be incinerated or imported into the area. He invited the Portfolio Committee to visit the area and to assess the situation for itself.

Onicca Dipholo- Member of Executive Committee of Ditsobotla Municipality-North West
Ms Onica Dipholo, Executive Committee Member, Ditsobotla Municipality, stated that the North West government had refused to grant Holcim Cement permission to burn waste for health reasons. However the company had reapplied, whilst using the services of a new consultant.

She spoke about the problems in the community. She said there was an illegal landfill site, which was located 2km away from the community. She stated that there were women and children scavenging at this landfill site. Children were dropping out of school to join their parents at the site. She recommended that the municipality should formalise scavenging at the site and should provide protective clothing and a basic salary for the people. She stated that farmers complained about the contamination of the water in their boreholes, and dams were also contaminated by plant activities from the dust from Holcim Cement.

The waste bill should ensure that waste separation took place at the source of the waste.

She invited the Committee Members to visit their community so that they could assess the situation for themselves.

Sindile Nojila, Representative of Mafikeng community,North West
Mr Sindile Nojila, Mafikeng Community representative, stated that the people in his communities were living in homes composed of planks, with rooves made of plastic. 800 people were still waiting for the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses to be built. Most people were unemployed because the PPC in his area preferred to hire people outside the community. Every five to six months people received food parcels from the government. They had no basics such as water and sanitation. There was only one borehole, which serviced the entire community.

He stated that people were dying from tuberculosis and that many had sore eyes as a result of the manufacturing of cement in the community. He added that they needed a clinic in their area as they currently had to wait for a mobile clinic so that they could get treatment.

PPC wanted to burn waste, resulting in a lot of smoke in the area, and that would further affect the health of people in the community. The environment, which included plants and animals, would be affected by waste burning. Even when it was raining or windy the smoke would be blown in their direction. It would pollute the soil and cause more disease. He pleaded that government should not allow PPC to burn waste because of the harm inflicted on local people, and asked for the Committee’s assistance.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) made a general comment. She suggested that since waste burning seemed to be a part of the cement industry operations, perhaps it was time for the Committee to go around the country to assess the situation and its effects for themselves. She stated that she was particularly concerned with the health and agricultural problems, and she asked whether the Bill would be addressing some the issues. She said she would also like to hear comment from Bobby Peek, who had also mentioned the cement industry in his submission.

Ms Yawitch said that there were mechanisms in the Waste Bill, which she believed would make a difference in the long run. She said that the cement plants could be asked to do waste impact reports. They would have to produce a comprehensive assessment of the management of their waste streams and what the impact of the waste streams was on the adjacent communities. She felt there was a need for a cement industry waste management plan across the country. This was another tool that could be used via the Bill. In regard to burning of waste in cement kilns, there had only been one EIA in the country that had given approval for such activities, and that was in the Northern Cape. There were a number of EIAs around the country and a policy process was under way from the National Department’s side. The individual provinces were all doing EIAs and making inconsistent decisions, which in some cases were not adequately informed on what should or should not be burnt in kilns. The provincial assessments would have to be reviewed by the Department, but this had to be done voluntarily, as there was no law which sanctioned such a procedure.

Ms Chalmers said that she felt that there was strong oversight needed from the Committee to say to the industries and to PPC in particular that its actions were being noted and that a parliamentary report would be produced on their findings. She said that this would possibly have the effect of making them adopt a route that would have less devastating effects on the health of the people and the environment. 

The Chairperson said that he was not certain whether the concerns of the communities were related to the dust and its effect on the air, in which case surely the legislation on Air Quality could be invoked. He asked if there was further concern around toxic water.

Groundwork Submission
Mr Bobby Peek, Director, Groundwork, said that Groundwork was suggesting that there should be a strong link between the Air Quality Act, as an example, and the Waste Bill. He said that the main concerns of the communities related to the incineration of hazardous waste, and they were therefore stating that the PPC and cement companies not be granted such permission. It could not be left to the industry itself, as they could not be trusted not to undertake such dangerous activities if they were not governed. The cement industry was so far only subject to governing for dust, yet some incinerators, for instance in New Brighton, were already burning hazardous waste.

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) Submission
Mr Desmond D’Sa, Chairperson, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance,
stated that there were five hazardous dumpsites in Umlazi. There were chrome dumps, and chrome 6 had already been detected in their water. He highlighted that chrome could cause cancer. He also informed the Committee that there were hazardous ash dumpsites in Mondi, and that hazardous waste was transported through their communities.

The Bill needed to deal with the legacy of what he referred to as environmental racism. He elaborated by stating that there was a history of creating dumps in areas where blacks had lived. Section 24A of the Constitution gave everyone a right to an environment that was not harmful to health or well being. The waste dumping in Umlazi was in violation of this constitutional principle. He stated that in South Durban, research undertaken showed that there had been an increase in cancer and mental deficiencies, and he believed that these grave health concerns should inform the Waste Bill.

Mr D’Sa considered that the Bill was too discretionary. It did not place a responsibility on government to challenge industries to clean up their mess, nor were officials given the responsibility of ensuring that waste companies were accountable for their actions. He said as a result the bill fell short of ensuring that there would be a healthy and clean environment. 

He stated that companies should be made to pay for the real cost of contaminating the lands. He said that they should use the best technology practices. The research undertaken by SDCEA in 1998 had produced the result that Mondi ash was actually hazardous waste. He said that independent research undertaken in 1996 proved that there were large amounts of hazardous waste dumped in Umlazi by Wastetech.

He concluded by stating that all hazardous landfill sites in communities must be closed, taking the precautionary principle into effect. He said that the transportation of waste through the communities should be forbidden and that the onus was on government to take action.

The Greenhouse Project Submission
Mr Zini Mokhine, Branch Coordinator, The Greenhouse Project, addressed the Committee on the notion of zero waste. Zero waste was a process undertaken to attain four goals. The first goal was to prevent waste generation at production (upstream), right throughout the supply chain to the end user (downstream). The second goal was to recreate the type of society that existed 20 to 30 years ago, free from high volumes of waste generation and adverse impacts of exposure to toxic synthetic chemicals. The third goal was to restore the sustainable use of limited natural resources. The fourth goal was to reduce waste generation by redesigning production processes and products that were reusable and recyclable.

Mr Mokhine stated that the current waste challenge in South Africa presented an opportunity to create an environment that was clean, safe, and healthy, as long as the Bill enforced the phasing in of the lifecycle of assessment products, full cost accounting, producer responsibility and the “polluter pays” principle. He stated that additionally the bill needed to support the decentralisation of waste management services to communities. It was also meant to support the notion of public education and consumer awareness, and compel producers to demonstrate that the package or container could be recycled.

If the Bill did not cover these issues, then South Africa would miss out on an opportunity to phase in source separation to reduce waste generation, reduce the loss of limited resources to waste, reduce the further contamination of land and pollution of air and water, and to create jobs.

He stated that in 2002, South Africa was generating between 532 and 566 million tonnes of waste a year. He stated that waste disposal cost R85 a ton and that litter had cost Johannesburg R25 million for 2002. He mentioned that the government and the public were responsible for paying these costs. Using landfilling led to a loss of limited natural and financial resources and to the contamination of precious land. Incineration transformed solid materials into gases and particulates, and these were released into the air. He stated that since the South African Constitution was reputed to be the best in the world, it was important for constitutional provisions to be reinforced.

GAIA Cooperative Submission
Mr Mark Wells, representative of the GAIA Cooperative,
noted that GAIA cooperative promoted the adoption of a full cost accounting economy. He explained that a full cost accounting product was one where the full cost accounted product is one where the ecological, and social costs were disclosed as well as the financial cost.  Its main tool was the use of product life cycle assessments (LCA) over the entire lifecycle of the product from cradle (extraction) to the grave (disposal). Such an assessment would examine all social, environmental, and health risks and impacts during the life of a product, including manufacture or extraction, transport, storage, warehousing, distribution, sales and marketing right through to use by the end consumers, as also to disposal or recycling.

50% to 75% of annual resource inputs to industrial economies were returned to the environment as wastes within the year. Without legislation on LCAs South Africa would never achieve the goal of a zero waste economy by 2022, in line with the Polokwane Declaration of 2001, that was agreed to by government, industry and civil society.

He noted that there had been extensive representations from civil society to have full cost accounting included into the National Framework for Sustainable Development, but these were largely ignored. Similar representations for the inclusion of full cost accounting and full life cycle assessment in the Waste Bill had led to the inclusion of LCAs as an exception at the Ministers discretion. He stated that the consequences of marginalising LCAs were that major waste streams consisting of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) would continue unchecked and unabated. These chemicals interfered with the development or functioning of body systems in humans, wildlife, and their offspring, and possibly led to irreversible adverse health effects. Extremely low-level exposure of these synthetic EDCs, even in concentrations as low as one drop in 25 Olympic-size swimming pools, could lead to diseases such as cancers (including trans-generational cancers), immune system suppression, and birth defects. They could impact sexual, cognitive and physical development and cause numerous other diseases such as asthma and endometriosis. He drew the attention of the Committee to a list of well-known EDCs, which were noted in his presentation.

Mr Wells stated that there would be economic benefits of a zero waste approach to EDCs. These were the creation of jobs in research and development of safe alternative products and technologies, the creation of new jobs in the manufacturing sector required for the production of EDC-free products and materials, and the reduction in foreign expenditure linked to the importation of toxic EDC-containing chemicals and materials into the country. Further benefits were highlighted in the presentation.

Mr Wells spoke about agricultural waste and highlighted pesticide waste as a major issue. He stated that Dr Johan Minnaar had produced evidence of serious illnesses and disorders among his patients in Groblerdal, where commercial farmers sprayed large amounts of agrochemicals on crops. Symptoms included breasts on a five-year-old girl, teenage boys temporarily "growing breasts" during spraying seasons, miscarriages, partial facial paralysis, cancers and ear malfunctions. Milder poisoning symptoms were manifest through asthma, sinusitis, headaches, dizziness and depression. His presentation showed the kinds of chemicals that had been found in mother’s milk.

He added that Professor Leslie London of the University of Cape Town stated that premature puberty and other hormonal abnormalities were symptomatic of contamination by pesticides containing endocrine disruptors, and there was a view that those choosing to live in rural or agricultural areas simply had to accept this as a way of life. Mr Wells added that the majority of towns in the Western Cape had their groundwater contaminated, and many towns had their drinking water contaminated with unsafe levels of pesticides. He said that similar studies in the Eastern Cape showed that major drinking water reserves were contaminated above safe levels with pesticides. He added that the problem of EDC pollution of water did not extend to only pesticides but also to other industrial endocrine disrupting chemicals.  Recent studies showed that the city water in Pretoria was contaminated with unsafe levels of phthalates.

Mr Wells said that the zero waste alternative involved thinking laterally, and would lead to a different kind of farming that was already practised around the world. He defined the concept of zero waste as the optimum use of nature, in the form of plants, animals, bacteria, fungi and algae, to produce biodiverse food, energy and nutrients in a synergistic integrated cycle of profit making processes where the waste of each process became the feedstock of another process.

Mr Wells noted that if a digester was used the nutrients would not be lost. He stated that digesters were mostly found in India and China. He said that he and his family had managed to produce methane for their digester. Seven cows would be able to produce R11 000 worth of gas per year. This was free energy, as it ran on bacteria. The digesters were cheaper than installing septic tanks. Biogas could be used for many things, such as heat and power to make electricity, or for making gas for vehicle consumption. Methane was not impure, nor did it contain benzine, which could alter people’s genes. Benzine was contained in car petrol, although BP, in its report, did not acknowledge that there was benzine in their fuel. Without the LCA the large corporations were misleading people, as they would not acknowledge the truth. It was possible to free the community from this; for instance SASOL could produce methane from coal. With biogas digesters there would be less pollution.

Rural biogas digesters would be beneficial because people would be safe from fires that could result from paraffin stoves. They would be subjected to less indoor pollution and related respiratory diseases from reduction of wood usage. If South Africa adopted zero waste and LCAs it would actually be focusing on profitable solutions for families and leaving the big corporations out. There were 41 million hectares of land available for redistribution and as a result eight million families would have land stewardship. Millions of jobs could be created through the zero waste concept in farming communities. The kraal waste from a typical rural household in Tsomo with 5 hectares of land, 5 cattle, 6 sheep, 7 goats and 2 pigs could make a significant amount of money, and he tabled sample documentation. He noted that in ten years 80% of all food production could be reached organically, as long as there were LCAs.

The Chairperson commended Mr Wells on the presentation.

Ms Ndzanga said that it was well known that use of gas canisters in the home could lead to accidents, particularly if the gas were left on by accident and someone were to walk in with a lighted cigarette. She asked how safe the digester was. Many shacks had been destroyed by gas, and she asked if it was intended that digester gas could be used in rural areas only. She believed that people needed electricity, and asked if Mr Wells used gas solely in his home, without any electricity.

Mr Wells responded that he had not ever heard of a digester exploding. He stated that the gas was held in low pressure and small quantities were released at a time. He said the digesters were perceived as safe all around the world. They were much safer than using paraffin, because a person would open the tap, light the gas, then close it to switch off the gas.

Ms Zikalala noted that Mr D’sa had spoken about better technology, and she asked him to expand on that.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) was impressed by the presentation though she had heard it before. She said that she knew that the concept spoken of had been used by small farmers, and questioned whether there was any way to enable it to be used on a wider scale. She said that she knew that the only people who would make a profit would be the ones using it, and asked what the blockages had been against wider use of the product, and also asked what had been done to make the concept more intellectually appealing to government, as it seemingly had not reached a policy point.

Mr Wells responded that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry had commissioned Rhodes University, the leader in research for biogas and algae technology, to prove that the biogas digesters worked. They had done so, and although they had met the standards of the department the concept had not yet been rolled out. The reason was that when civil engineers were commissioned to design matters, for instance for sanitation, more money was earned if the project was more elaborate. There was a very tight knit engineering fraternity and it was not easy to break into it, so that was one of the institutional blockages.

Mr Wells also stated that there was a study commissioned by an energy company, which showed that the programme was feasible, but nothing had been done for over two years.

Mr Morgan asked whether Mr Wells would like to see LCAs becoming mandatory in the Bill, since at the moment the Minister had a discretion whether to call for them. He asked him if there was merit in continuing with that discretion.

Mr Morgan asked Mr Wells to give his assessment whether the different sectors of the economy could implement the LCAs in a short time frame.

Mr Wells responded that a standard, ISL 14040, applied to LCAs.  He said that South African companies were quick to make use of ISL 9000, then had shifted to ISL 14000. Those companies who had ISL 14000 could implement it within a few years. There was no real block in that regard.

The Chairperson wanted to be informed of the costs of moving towards the LCA form of accounting, and whether these costs would not be too exorbitant.

Mr Mokoena (ANC) believed that there should be an emergency meeting held so the Committee could travel to Durban to observe the digester in action. The challenge lay with commercialising the digester to avoid the impression that it was for poor people only, and beneath the dignity of everyone else. He asked Mr Wells how this could be done.

Mr Wells responded that biodigesters were being used in Sweden, and it was not just a rural matter. He stated that in Constantia, some families wanted digester technology because they considered it to be trendy.

Mr D’sa said that the standards that had been proposed by DEAT were so weak that they could never bring about change. Strong legislation was needed to bring about change. He said that the Portfolio Committee should urge DEAT to bring about change. The big companies operated differently in Europe because there was a belief that African lives were cheap and therefore they continued to dump toxic chemicals harmful to local people in Africa, whilst sending their large profits to New York and London.

Mr D’Sa said that there had been an accident in Durban, because of Engen, and he questioned why the Green Scorpions had not gone to Durban to handle the matter since they were quick to respond to fishermen in the Western Cape. He said he wanted to invite the Department to visit Durban and see what had transpired. The local municipality fined Engen R10 000 two years ago but this time far harsher action should be taken in regard to the recent fires.

Mr Mokoena asked about the cost of the digester.

Mr Wells responded that the digester cost less than R3 000 to install, and less than R3 000 to put the algae in. It was thus a low cost solution.

PMG left the meeting at 18:30, although according to the Committee programme there were still to be further submissions.



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