Draft National Environmental Management: Waste Bill [B39-2007]: Department briefing


08 August 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

8 August 2007

Mr L Zita (ANC)

Documents handed out;
Draft National Environmental Management Waste Bill: Parliamentary briefing by Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism

Draft National Environmental Management: Waste Bill

Audio recording of meeting

The Department briefed the Committee on the draft National Environmental Management: Waste Bill. It was noted that the lack of prohibition on dumping had created a number of illegal disposal sites, compounded by the "throw-away" mentality that did not recognise the need to recycle. The Bill proposed that waste be reduced, recycled and hopefully turned into an economic resource,and aimed to reform the law on waste management by providing reasonable measures for the prevention of pollution and ecological degradation. It would promote economically viable recycling and ecological development. It provided for specific waste management measures, licensing of waste management activities, ways to remedy contaminated land and compliance and enforcement measures. The Department described the ambit and scope of the Bill, providing background to certain clauses. Norms and standards would regulate waste management, and there would be enforcement and responsibility at national, provincial and local level.

Members raised questions on the necessity for plants to recycle waste, who bore responsibility for recycling, funding of waste management, plans for historically hazardous sites, the desirability of also amending other legislation to bring it in line with this Bill, and the possibility of setting up a management Council to enforce the Bill, rather than imposing further duties on the Minister. Other questions addressed levels of waste separation in South Africa, quarries, rural waste, sanctions for illegal dumping, the problem of waste from the 2010 World Cup matches, the monitoring of waste disposal such as incineration, and the necessity to change habits of the population in regard to waste. Members also asked about the section 21 company dealing with recycling of plastic bags, and noted the necessity for funding to municipalities to assist with plastic disposal.

National Environmental Management: Waste Bill: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) Briefing

Ms Pam Yako, Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, provided an overview of the development, consultation, and contents of the National Environmental Management: Waste Bill (the Bill). It was hoped that this legislation would make significant strides into the establishment of provincial norms and standards. The historical situation relating to waste management resulted in problems now, such as the lack of legislation prohibiting dumping, which meant that South Africa had over 639 unauthorized disposal sites. South Africa was a ‘throw away society’ and this mentality needed to be rectified in order to achieve effective waste management. The Bill proposed that waste be reduced, recycled and hopefully turned into an economic resource. It aimed to reform the law regulating waste management in order to protect health and the environment by providing reasonable measures for the prevention of pollution and ecological degradation, and for securing ecologically sustainable development while promoting justifiable economic and social development. It would provide for specific waste management measures, license waste management activities, remedy contaminated land and further provide for a national waste information system, compliance and enforcement.

Chapter 1 of the Bill contained broad definitions of waste. The Department noted that the public submissions focused heavily on the problem of defining waste. The wording sought to provide an all encompassing set of definitions. This Chapter also dealt with the objectives of the bill, which attempted to set out a holistic and continuing approach to waste management, which the Department made frequent references to throughout the presentation. Furthermore the objectives set out that waste management would eventually prove to be an economic resource. Conflicts with other legislation had been reduced, as this Bill only dealt with waste that was not dealt with in other pieces of legislation. In the event of conflict with any other legislation, this Bill should prevail.

Chapter 2 of the Bill addressed a National Waste Management strategy. The Department noted that it had had substantial assistance from the Danish Government, and that in order for the strategy to be effective the framework needed to be established at a national level. These topics led on to the National, provincial and local standards that were contained in the Chapter. The Bill had vested power in the Minister to ensure that national uniformity was attained.

Chapter 3 dealt with Institutional and planning matters. It set out the appointment of waste management officers and integrated waste management programmes. The Department believed it was important to have a waste management officer who could be held accountable, and identified by the public. The Bill took a proactive and upfront approach to integrated waste management, which the Department believed was the only way to effectively combat the problems of waste management.

Chapter 4 dealt with Waste management measures. It provided for segmentation of priority wastes, which were those that were particularly hazardous and required special attention, such as asbestos, plastic bags and electronic waste. It was hoped that effective regulations could be passed under this Bill to ensure safe removal of these products. It was noted further that such regulations required consultation with those industries whose economic interests would be affected. This Chapter also contained clauses that dealt with reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery of waste, ensuring that the recycling was less harmful than discarding. Certain powers were given to the municipality to create bylaws ensuring effective waste disposal and recycling. The Chapter further provided for accurate labelling of waste, and sought to align the Bill with existing legislation. These provisions sought to successfully close the existing loopholes on the illegal dumping of waste by giving renewed power to the municipalities and provinces to ensure that all participants in dumping were held accountable, and that not only government but also industry could participate in waste management and control. Contaminated land, and its identification, testing and remediation, was also dealt with in this Chapter. The Minister was given certain powers and duties in this regard. Recognition and incentivisation of land remediation were covered, although the Department noted that tax incentives, although desirable, were unfortunately outside of the budgetary allowance.

Chapter 5 dealt with licensing, co operative governance and waste management control officers.

Chapter 6 dealt with the provision of waste information. Once again reference was made to the Danish government's funding to investigate  information in connection with waste management.

Chapter 7 covered compliance and enforcement, offences and punishment.

Chapter 8 dealt with the general matters, such as public participation, the consultation process and costing and budgets relating to this bill for the municipal management, compliance and infrastructure.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) queried whether there was a time frame for the recycling of waste, not only the collection and compacting of waste. He believed that this was an issue as plants could still be in line with regulations without undertaking recycling, as they would simply store large compacted waste.

Ms Joanne Yawitch, Deputy Director General, DEAT, stated that the Bill had provided that there would not be a loophole, that there would be no such loop hole, as the waste management strategy specifically provided for compliance and monitoring.

Mr G Morgan (DA) acknowledged that the Bill was comprehensive, but wanted to query the role that waste would play as an economic resource in South Africa. He queried whether the Bill would have the desired effect as he believed that there was large scope for small businesses to become involved in recycling.

Ms Yawitch confirmed that there were measures within the Bill to facilitate the creation of small recycling enterprises. She noted that unfortunately South Africa had far to go before it could achieve anything substantial. She noted that there was a necessity for public participation in achieving the goal.

Dr I Cachalia (ANC) asked who was responsible for the recycling and recovery at local level as he believed that it was at local level that the waste was primarily produced, and therefore this was the only area where management could effectively be carried out.

Ms Yawitch noted that much work had been done on the waste management plans, and this Bill would put into force the results of the research by way of practice that was required to combat waste at a local level.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked where the funding for all the implementation of waste management strategies would come from, as she noted that municipalities were already hampered by a constant funding struggle even without further pressure being put on their limited resources. She also asked if there was a time frame for the regulations and how the Bill intended to deal with historically hazardous and damaging waste sites.

Ms Yawitch noted that there were two important aspects to consider when discussing this topic; municipal services and funding. She stated that there were many different problems in many different areas and a blanket funding approach would not benefit the provinces. Further investigation was needed before an approach could be made to the National Treasury on behalf of the provinces for funding. She concluded with a comment that funding of municipalities was a general problem in all areas.

Mr Mokoena (ANC) queried the conflict clauses in Chapter 6, suggesting that it would be preferable, instead of insisting that this Bill would prevail in the event of conflict with other legislation, rather to correct the mistakes in other litigation to avoid the conflict.

Advocate Linda Garlipp, Director, Litigation and law reform, DEAT, addressed the conflict of laws, stating that this particular Bill dealt with compliance with international obligations. Conflicts often need to be regulated internationally.

Mr Mokoena queried the role of the Minister, and wondered whether, in light of all the other obligations resting on the Minister, it was wise also to load him further with duties that had the danger of making him "court-bound" as there would no doubt be substantial litigation preceding the establishment of norms and standards. Mr Mokoena suggested rather the election of a management council.. Finally he asked what budgetary considerations had been made for 2010, and called for the costing to be redone as he felt that the existing figures were unrealistic.

Ms Pam Yako, Director General, DEAT, asserted that the creation of a management council would result in centralizing of power and this would take power away from the individual municipal councils. She noted that the Department could certainly consider the suggestion, but felt that the Department should rather be  focusing on strengthening the existing structures and ensuring their accountability.

Ms Yawitch stated that the funding might indeed be conservative, but that the Department needed to address what else must be done in addition to this Bill, in considering the large scale of waste management to be dealt with. She further asserted that funding would be reduced after enactment, since the Bill provided for  streamlining of licensing, which would in the long run lead to the ability to save money and resources.

Mr Mokoena (ANC) noted that he understood the explanation on the conflict of laws given by Advocate Garlipp. However he argued that the establishment of a council would not create a stronghold of power. He also believed that further attention needed to be paid to the funding. South Africa had never had anything like this piece of legislation and the fiscal implications of this Bill were vast, particularly in regard to enforcement to ensure compliance. He noted that the budget was a national issue, and suggested that the implementation agency be at local government level. He commended the public hearings but asserted that the Department needed to apply its mind more closely to the costing and the setting up of the measures of the Bill.

Ms Chalmers noted that these types of regulations took time to set up, and were not always enforced. She asserted that the penalties for non-compliance should be more realistic and tougher.

Ms Yawitch noted that norms and standards must be set in relation to compliance regulations, and said that the simple implementation of the Bill was the elementary building block for this process.

The Chairperson acknowledged that his question did not directly relate to the brief, but asked what the scope of development was in South Africa in relation to Green and Clean. He noted that there were a number of definitions relating to waste, and asked for further clarity. He finally queried the levels of waste separation in South Africa and the issue of quarries and rural waste.

Ms Yawitch stated that further research was needed into the levels of waste separation within South Africa. However, even on the basis of the information that the Department already had, South Africa seemed not to be far off international benchmarks. There was, however, a need to look further at the role and separation and composting of organic waste. Large recycling stations had been set up in Johannesburg and Cape Town, but the Department was looking at expanding this into the larger voluntary networks, since unfortunately the recycling currently remained in small sectors of the community. With regard to quarries Ms Yawitch noted that these were dealt with as mines, and were not specifically addressed in this Bill. There was a problem with rehabilitation of quarries. On the issue of rural waste, she noted that although this was a problem, rural areas produced fifteen times less waste than urban areas, so the threat of rural waste was not as ominous.

The Chairperson noted that there was a need for a careful programme to be put in place involving research to ensure that there was proper allocation of waste, particularly organic waste.

Mr Morgan mentioned the issue of illegal dumping being a significant problem, compounded by the fact that the fines for dumping were so low that they did not act as a deterrent. He asked the maximum amounts that were anticipated as fines.

Advocate Garlipp noted that there were already some sanctions but it was intended that regulations to this Bill would provide for substantially heavier fines to be imposed and, in addition, criminal sanctions in addition to civil claims for loss and damages. She asserted that the new Bill would effectively deal with the problems of compliance and policing.

Ms Yawitch added that work needed to be done with the municipalities to train environmental inspectors to attempt to combat the issue of illegal dumping. She noted that an enforcement programme would be put in place by the Bill, and noted that the Department had allocated a budget to do this.

Mr Mokoena again referred to 2010, and asked how South Africa was going to deal with the avalanche of waste that would result from the 2010 World Cup. He suggested that the delegation find out from Germany how waste was effectively dealt with there.

Ms Yawitch noted that a greening plan was in the process of being put into place in the major host cities for 2010, and that a focus area was social responsibility. However she noted that although the work was starting, much more needed to be done.

Ms Chalmers questioned the management of incineration, noting that the incinerators at present did not all comply with international standards.

Ms Yawitch noted that there were specific regulations in the Bill that required compliance, such as certain licenses, and noted that the monitoring of such licenses would be done by stakeholders. She further noted that it was unfortunate, but it was a fact that South Africa had a wide range of different methods of waste disposal, all of which had their own problems. The Bill would be trying to address these issues to ensure a reduction of waste.

Mr G Maluleke (ANC) addressed the social awareness issue, asking how the delegation intended to deal with the changing of habits. He noted that littering was second nature in South Africa and asked how to ensure effective policing, and where the necessary funding would come from.

Ms Yawitch believed the social mentality was already beginning to change, and this needed to be encouraged. She confirmed that it was important to make people aware that they needed to change, and asserted that the Bill would give greater powers to the municipalities to ensure effective change.

Mr Mokoena asked whether the Bill was intended to be retrospective, and how far the regulations could deal with past issues.

Ms Yawitch noted the difficulty of retrospectivity, and said that the only part of waste disposal that could be handled retrospectively would be land contamination. This was covered in the Bill.

Dr Cachalia asked about collection of funds from plastic bags. He further asked about storage of high level nuclear waste.

Ms Yawitch stated that the money raised by the tariff on plastic bags was collected by National Treasury and then allocated to start up a section 21 company, which was dealing solely with plastic bag recycling. This Bill did not directly deal with nuclear waste, but other legislation did cover it already. Currently high level nuclear waste was kept in large pits at Koeberg, in compliance with international policies. She added that nuclear waste was a global problem.

Ms Chalmers queried the money invested in the section 21 company by National Treasury. She noted that this was the substantial sum of R20 million, and she enquired how much recycling was being done and how much of the proceeds were being returned to National Treasury.

Ms Yako responded that the money from the plastic bag recycling was reinvested, and that in addition to the R20 million start-up the Department was due to reinvest a further R20 million from the recycling this year. She noted the importance for the recycling industry to recruit smaller companies and industries into recycling practices.

The Chairperson asked if there was enough reconciliation between this Bill and other pieces of legislation that dealt with environmental issues, to ensure common standards across the board.

Ms Yawitch stated that in regard to the reconciliation between various pieces of legislation there was no overlap. She felt that the Bill would be sufficient to create common standards.

The Chairperson asked if there was any mechanism for recourse by people who had suffered harm due to exposure to waste.

Ms Yawitch stated that the aspect of recourse was dealt with under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Although this Bill did not directly deal with the issue, there would be some impact on the recourse, since this Bill would deal with norms and standards and would be setting benchmarks dealing with regulation and provision of licensing.

Ms Chalmers asked how to access the money in the constituencies, noting that every constituency had plastic waste, and was in need of money to assist in its eradication.

Ms Yawitch noted that an application to National Treasury would be required and that assistance could be given after the necessary information had been collated.

The meeting was adjourned.


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