James-Brent Styan of the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs said space was fast running out.
“In some areas we have less than a year, before landfills fill up, in others up to 55 years. Some areas are in critical condition and require intervention.
“A constraint is opposition towards new initiatives like regional waste disposal sites and waste-to-energy plants.”
Styan said the province had 16 landfill sites with the rest being at various stages of rehabilitation.
“The public can help by reusing and recycling. Look at what you buy and the way it is packaged. Speak to your retailers if packaging is excessive.
“Consumers have a lot of influence and can help reduce the amounts ending up on landfill sites.”
Styan said the problem was not just a Western Cape issue.
Things such as utensils and appliances can be repaired or reused instead of being dumped or thrown away.
“Develop a long-term recycling methodology and behaviour change.”
In his budget vote, Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell cautioned against what he called the next crisis, saying the private and public sector had to come together to assist in ideas to tackle the problem proactively.
“Our vision is to see macro recycling works in all our towns and communities and to partner with big corporates that produce a lot of the waste items like plastic and glass and paper to see about partnerships to make the program work.
“The fact is we are running out of landfill space and we all need to reduce our waste.
“Recycling must become more than a nice to do. It must become a way of life.”
Bredell said he was considering his options with regards to ongoing management of plastic bags and straws in the province.
“We would like to see some of the plastic bag levy, that has been increased by 50% this past year, get allocated to creating proper recycling initiatives in the Western Cape.”
Sam Smout, spokesperson of GreenCape, an NGO that drives the widespread adoption of economically viable green economy solutions, said South Africans were getting on board with recycling.
“Recycling is taking place, more so than people realise, with the informal sector playing a massive role in extracting and aggregating.
“Most (by tonnage) of the waste that ends up in a landfill is not recyclable. The largest proportion being builders rubble, for example.
“However, to tap into greater recycling, developing the infrastructure, the networks (logistics), putting the legislation in place, and education and awareness all take time and cost money.”