A Case for Municipal Solid Waste Management

This is a technical Paper focusing on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management in the context of its contribution and financial implication to cities’ transition to the green economy through this sector. The South African Cities Network (SACN) intends to use this input into the chapter on Green Economy for the upcoming State of City Finances publication, 2015. The Paper is one of three, commissioned during the 2013/2014 financial year with the same objectives but with a different area of focus, which is energy and climate change adaptation.


There is a global trend in the waste sector – a shift from a collection and disposal dominated waste hierarchy to a waste hierarchy dominated by waste minimisation and recycling. The common waste management evolution trajectory follows a path from landfilling to a mix of recycling and incineration, gradually substituting the practice of landfilling. Several industrialised countries have successfully implemented policies and regulations reducing landfilling to levels below 20% and increasing recycling to levels above 45% while the remainder is covered by incineration.


Most countries within Africa are still have only begun making the shift and rely almost fully on landfilling with a small percentage of recycling achieved mainly through the informal sector. Against this background, South Africa is performing well, with relatively good handle on conventional waste collection and disposal. Approximately 10% of all its waste generated is recycled. While this forms a good basis moving forward to green MSW management practices, it also illustrates that when looking for examples of good practice one should also look beyond the continent.