Author: Annie Cebulski

Posted on: Mail & Guardian | May 17th, 2018

The Western Cape aims to ban landfills in the province within 10 years.

The local government has started implementing alternate, environmentally friendly solutions.

“We have a serious waste problem in the Western Cape. We are running out of landfill space,” warned the province’s MEC for environmental affairs, Anton Bredell.

More than half of the landfills are already closed and 61% of waste management facilities require “major improvements”.

The Western Cape generated about three million tonnes of waste in 2017, according to the provincial government. The City of Cape Town alone produced almost 7 000 tonnes of waste a day last year, or 85% of the total waste.

According to Rudolf van Jaarsveldt, head of communication for the province’s environmental affairs department, the Western Cape is having trouble keeping up. “The growth in waste quantities is placing a strain on the limited waste management infrastructure.”

Population and industrial growth are driving up waste production.

James-Brent Styan, spokesperson for the provincial MEC for environmental affairs, said that 93 out of 164 landfills had closed because they had reached the end of their natural lifespan.

An audit found that, in 2015, 61% of waste management facilities it studied required “major improvements”. A Western Cape government report lists as concerns a “lack of cover material, windblown litter, fencing maintenance, stormwater management, limited machinery and a lack of suitably qualified staff”.

Van Jaarsveldt said political instability in some municipalities also played a role in noncompliance with regulations.

Most landfills in the study had less than five years of use remaining. In response, the department will open new regional waste facilities instead of opening more local landfills, which Van Jaarsveldt said was being resisted by residents and are expensive.

The strategy of regional landfills was a short-term solution but a good one, said Ika Pietersen, national operations director for WastePlan, a national on-site waste management company specialising in recycling and reducing waste sent to landfills.

“[With a regional landfill] you only have one landfill, one big place, that you can manage properly instead of local landfills that can’t handle operations because of lack of resources.”

Van Jaarsveldt said the Western Cape plans to have nine regional landfills. Facilities are in planning stages in the districts of Eden, Central Karoo, West Coast and Overberg. District landfills in the winelands and in the Cape Town area have been delayed by long legal processes.

The West Coast has two existing facilities and the Overberg has one.

The new waste management sites are expensive and Styan says the solution is to increase recycling and thus minimise waste.

He said some projects already in the works include using bacteria to break down garbage to turn it into energy, using high temperatures to decompose organic material or turn it into gas, mulch and compost.

The Western Cape government estimates that the province recycled 1.8-million tonnes of waste material “via municipal and private recycling activities and alternative waste treatment and beneficiation of waste material” in 2017.

Styan said the provincial government aims to divert half the organic materials from landfills in five years’ time and implement a landfill ban within 10 years.

“This is a national crisis and we [Western Cape] are trying to be proactive,” said Styan. —

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