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LOOK - Cape Town organic waste ban: businesses need to play ball

The Western Cape dumps around 7.7 million tons of waste every year, according to a report. Picture: Hermes Rivera/Unsplash

The Western Cape dumps around 7.7 million tons of waste every year, according to a report. Picture: Hermes Rivera/Unsplash

Published May 12, 2022

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More than 40% of all waste delivered to Western Cape landfills is organic waste. It includes food, paper, wood, fat, abattoir and industrial wastes, and compostable packaging.

Thankfully, this will soon end as businesses, municipalities and households are forced to change their approach to waste management in order to be ready for the landfill ban coming into effect later this year.

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“Organics recycling has the power to significantly reduce the rate of climate change, and it is so easy to achieve,” says Melanie Ludwig, the representative of the Organics Recycling Association of South Africa.

According to GreenCape’s 2016 Market Intelligence Report, the Western Cape dumps around 7.7 million tons of waste every year, with 2.9 million ton of that being organic, compostable waste. That is the equivalent of herding 483 fully grown African elephants into a landfill every year.

This organic waste then lies compressed under the weight of yet more waste, slowly breaking down and producing methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas many times more efficient at capturing heat than carbon dioxide.

Leachate is another by-product of organic waste decomposition and is a pollutant that can seep into local water sources close to landfills if not managed properly.

This has led the Western Cape government to put together an ambitious plan to eliminate organic waste from the province’s landfills by 2027. The plan aims to halve organic waste dumped in landfills before the end of this year. This plan was adopted partly in response to the ever-decreasing availability of landfill space within urban areas.

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According to the City of Cape Town, 22 495 households have received free home composting bins and are composting food and garden waste in their own backyards.

Although this has diverted a significant amount of organic waste from landfill sites, the real impact will be felt by how large organic waste generators such as retailers, restaurants, hotels and big food producers source and separate their food waste and sign up to have the waste collected and processed into compost.

Businesses and big industries need to take a responsible role in ensuring that their organic waste is being properly transported and processed. Picture: Fuzzy Rescue/Pexels

The City of Cape Town Integrated Waste Management By-law 2009 implores that all waste-producing businesses are required to register and submit an integrated waste management plan to the City of Cape Town.

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The plans are required to include how organic waste will be separated at the source, transported and processed into new products. Organic waste can be separated into food waste and non-recyclable paper waste such as tissue paper and soiled cardboard.

Businesses and big industries need to take a responsible role in ensuring that their organic waste is being properly transported and processed, by contracting waste companies to collect source-separated organic waste and process it into compost or other valuable by-products such as biogas or animal feed.

If you require assistance with compiling a waste management plan and finding organic waste service providers, you may contact The Organics Recycling Association of South Africa at 083 696 5138 or email [email protected]asa.org.za.

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More information on the landfill ban and current members can be found on the City of Cape Town website here.

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