Waste carries true potential for South Africa

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Kate Stubbs | Director | Group Marketing Director | Interwaste | mail me |


If we really want to encourage the ‘nothing wasted’ mindset, investing in a circular economy model must be taken seriously. Whilst still a relatively new concept, in Africa, this model offers significant opportunities to truly deliver far more inclusive growth for the economy and includes an increase in job opportunities as well as positive environmental practices – all of which is needed for sustainable growth – a dire need for South Africa.

When we consider that South Africa generates 122 million tonnes[1] of waste per annum and with 90% of this waste being disposed of to over-capacitated landfill sites and only 10% of this waste recycled, we have a looming waste crisis on our hands and need to urgently adapt our behaviours towards and practices around managing our waste.

The Circular Economy Model is a global model being adopted to re-design processes to enhance environmental, social, and economic factors. It plays a key role as a reformative system that aims to strip out all unnecessary waste materials, energy losses and related carbon emissions across supply chains. Furthermore, through integration and innovation, promotes closing these gaps to allow materials, energy, and resources to be ‘fed’ back into the cycle. The consensus is that a more sustainable eco-cycle can be achieved through long-term design and planning, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and upcycling.

Waste is a universal issue given the broader social, economic, and environmental challenges it brings, affecting both human health and livelihoods. It has a negative impact on the environment, society and ultimately economies, when not examined and managed correctly. If we take that over 90%[2] of waste in low-income countries is merely being discarded or burned, not only are we seeing valuable resources being lost, but the environment is affected as well. This means it is now crucial for industries to look at exploring innovative and sustainable solutions, where resilience is at the forefront of its decisions.

While adoption of this thinking is still in its infancy in Africa, there are success stories that can be seen in pockets where, through innovation, we are also seeing new business streams and even new industries come to the fore supporting this type of thinking.

Reimagining South Africa’s waste crisis using the circular economy model can play a fundamental role in combatting waste issues and if we use the country’s energy and water crises as an example, we can quickly see just how well it can work. They say one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure – this statement couldn’t be truer when it comes to South Africa’s waste streams.

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Read the full article by Kate Stubbs, Group Marketing Director, Interwasteas well as a host of other topical management articles written by professionals, consultants and academics in the April/May 2021 edition of BusinessBrief.


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