No Food waste Source: Google Images

Companies across a host of different industries are at risk of falling foul of new legislation that has come into effect as from 23 August this year. The Waste Classification and Management Regulations have introduced far stricter prohibitions on the disposal of materials in a bid to reduce contamination of the environment from landfill sites.

These prohibitions will have especially wide-ranging consequences for producers of wet waste, which is a category that includes organic and biodegradable waste.

“The extent of the impact from the new prohibitions becomes apparent when one considers that even restaurants might need to reconsider how they manage the waste from their operations,” Averda South Africa MD, Johan van den Berg, says.

“The prohibitions aim to reduce the amount of waste diverted to landfills without first being treated or repurposed. Discarded foodstuffs and ingredients from restaurants fall into the category of wet waste that can no longer simply be dumped in a bin.”

While these materials are certainly not hazardous, the new regulations are very clear that if waste has the ability to seep into the ground, it must be treated first to prevent possible contamination of the environment.

“And even once treated, certain materials must then be deposited into suitable, special-purpose landfills” added Van der Berg

Materials classified as wet waste in the Waste Classification and Management Regulations not only include food but oils and fats for cooking, paint, wet building site waste, hazardous materials, wet factory waste, flowers and vehicle oils.

Naturally, hazardous wet waste requires special care and treatment to comply with the regulations.

This extends from the initial classification of the waste type, which determines the extent of the treatment required before it can be stored in a landfill. Depending on this classification, wet waste is then required to be stored in a particular class of landfill, which specifies the measures needed to prevent contamination of the surrounding environment.

Averda, an integrated waste management company, has developed a landfill facilities site at Vlakfontein that is certified to handle the most hazardous of materials.

The Waste Classification and Management Regulations that come into effect in August are an addendum to the National Environmental Management Waste Act. The intention is to more clearly define how certain materials are classified, and then how materials need to be treated or disposed based on those classifications.

By doing so, South Africa could hopefully move toward a circular economy able to extract maximum value from waste products rather than simply discarding them in landfills.

“The new prohibitions certainly simplify the process of correctly identifying waste and how they should be treated or disposed. That also means that businesses cannot say they were unaware that their waste is subject to these new guidelines,” Van den Berg says.

He says the fairly broad classification of materials that are harmful, but not necessarily hazardous, is likely to be a challenge for businesses that may not previously have had to take special care in the disposal of their waste.

“Companies will have to adjust to a new era in which they will have to take far greater responsibility for how their waste is handled. This is not a passing fad, and the demand for specialised waste management services is only going to increase.”