The very nature of a city is that it represents a dense concentration of a large number of people and industries, and South African cities are no different. This dense concentration of people and industries inevitably produces a great deal of waste, which can be solid, liquid or gas and can be generated from industrial, biological and household sources.
Waste management refers to the process of collecting, transporting, processing, treating and disposing of waste. In South Africa, the most common method of solid waste disposal is currently by using landfills, but this is not a sustainable form of waste management.
Cities in South Africa could take steps to reduce the amount of waste they generate by actively promoting what is known as the “Waste Hierarchy”. This refers to the “three Rs” of “reduce”, “reuse” and “recycle”. It is described as a “hierarchy” because its initial aim is to reduce the amount of waste generated in the first place. Its second aim is to reuse products as often as possible before disposing of them as waste. And its third aim is to recycle as
much waste as is feasible.
In addition, by investigating alternative, properly managed waste management services, South African cities could provide the following opportunities:
Job creation, especially in the informal sector (known as “waste pickers”)
Energy generation at specialised waste-to-energy plants.
Value addition through recycling.
Provision of resources for other sectors (e.g. plant waste can be used as compost for agriculture).