South Africa’s Ticking Time Bomb The Looming Landfill Crisis Threatening to Engulf Its Cities in Waste

Author:  Akashni Ashok Latchanna

South Africa is currently facing a critical landfill crisis, a situation that has been brewing over the years and has now reached a point where drastic measures are needed to avert a waste management disaster.
The crux of the issue lies in the rapid filling of landfill sites across the country. Despite having some of the best waste management legislation in the world, such as the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA), enforcement has been lacking. This has led to issues with the South African Waste Information System (SAWIS), where users are not submitting required reports on waste generated, recycled, and disposed of.

Annually, about 20 million and 10 million tons of waste are produced, most of which ends up in landfills. The necessity for approximately 10 million cubic meters of landfill space annually highlights the severity of the crisis.

The concept of a circular economy presents a promising solution. This model aims to minimise waste and maximise resource efficiency, turning waste into a resource that can be reused, recycled, or repurposed. South Africa has set an ambitious goal to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2030, aiming to divert 90% of waste from landfills through recycling, reuse, recovery, and benefaction technologies. This approach not only protects the environment but also creates economic opportunities.

However, achieving these goals requires more than just legislation. It demands a shift in mindset towards waste management, starting from individual actions to systemic changes. This includes improving waste collection services, integrating informal waste pickers into the waste management process, and promoting public-private partnerships for innovative waste management solutions. Moreover, the private sector can play a crucial role in implementing globally proven technologies and fostering innovation in waste management.

In conclusion, South Africa’s landfill crisis is a complex issue that requires immediate attention and action from all stakeholders. The successful implementation of a circular economy, coupled with effective legislation enforcement and collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors, could pave the way towards a sustainable waste management future for the country.