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“It is up to all South Africans to educate themselves fully about recycling and separation at source to ensure a healthy environment for all,” says 600SA’s Sonia Pretorius

Effective waste management plays a pivotal role in our daily lives. From reducing unsightly garbage strewn across the country’s streets to reducing environmental contamination, it is a critical element in preventing the spread of diseases and promoting public health.

According to Sonia Pretorius, National Sales Manager at 600SA, a division of CFAO Equipment SA, effective waste management is crucial to a healthier and cleaner South Africa, particularly given that the country generates an estimated 122 million tonnes of waste annually.

“To mitigate the harmful impact of this waste, government implemented the South African National Environmental Management Waste Act of 2008, which, to date, has significantly controlled the country’s waste,” she says.

Some of the developments of the Act include the establishment of the Waste Management Bureau; the implementation of waste management plans across all municipalities; the introduction of waste reduction and recycling initiatives; increased enforcement of waste management regulations; and the integration of waste pickers and an informal waste management system.

Pretorius adds that while many people are apprehensive about waste pickers, they are instrumental in achieving the country’s 57% overall recycling rate. So much so that insights from Future Earth suggest that informal waste pickers collect 80% to 90% of used packaging and paper that is recycled. In addition to saving municipalities millions of rands each year in landfill costs, the waste picking practice supports the entrepreneurial livelihoods of almost 100 000 people.

With a population growth rate of around 1.06% annually, the need for effective and safe waste disposal solutions in South Africa will increase and will bring with it several challenges that are compounded by a lack of funds and infrastructure and a need to increase public awareness.

“The mismanagement of waste can lead to significant and irreversible environmental, economic, and social impacts, such as land degradation, resource depletion, surface and groundwater pollution, and an increased risk to public health,” explains Pretorius.

And most municipalities are doing their part, with the industry seeing an increase in refuse compactor truck orders for wheelie bins for all domestic use.

This has reduced curbside refuse and the need for refuse bags. Furthermore, many of these wheelie bins are manufactured using recycled plastics, further increasing the sector’s circular economy.

In recent times, refuse compactor trucks have been adapted to deal with South African conditions such as uneven road surfaces and overhanging trees, and boast several features such as metal plates to protect trucks’ hydraulics and bin lifters that are safer and more efficient, bypassing the need for operators having to lift heavy bags or place their hands or arms into the hoppers.

To further promote increased safety and efficiency standards, 600SA is investigating the possibility of introducing a fully autonomous refuse compactor truck to the market. Utilising GPS and sensors, the truck will allow operators to safely walk beside the truck and focus on collections rather than climbing in and out of the vehicle. This, the company believes, will offer the agility and performance required to steer the industry into the future.

With the current compound annual growth rate in the South African waste management industry estimated to be worth over R30 billion, the industry is growing year by year and is set to continue on its growth trajectory as government continues to introduce legislation to reduce waste and increase recycling.

“Overall, the National Environmental Management Waste Act of 2008 has facilitated the development of a more sustainable and formalised waste management sector in South Africa. It is up to all South Africans to educate themselves fully about recycling and separation at source to ensure a healthy environment for all,” concludes Pretorius.

Sonia Pretorius is the National Sales Manager at 600SA, a division of CFAO Equipment SA.