WATCH: 'Better waste management can create jobs'
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Top scientist Professor Rinie Schenck has lamented the fact that at least 90% of waste material in South Africa was still being disposed of at landfills.
She suggested that a change in mindset on how to use waste differently can create economic opportunities and reduce the levels of unemployment.
Speaking on Tuesday during the launch of South Africa's first research chairs on waste management at the CSIR, she said: "If we divert waste from the landfills it will create more job opportunities."
Schenck, an academic from the University of the Western Cape, was introduced as the research chair in waste and society while Prof. Cristina Trois from the University of KwaZulu-Natal was awarded the research chair in waste and climate.
The two research chairs formed part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARCI), an initiative by the Department of Science and Technology led by the National Research Foundation (NRF) to attract and retain research excellence and innovation at universities, science councils and national research facilities.
The launch marked the beginning of a 10-year roadmap for government's initiative into research, development and innovation within the waste sector.
SARCI has been established in collaboration with the CSIR, which was the implementing agency of the country's waste research, development and innovation (RDI) roadmap.
The roadmap was implemented by national government to support more effective decision-making, faster insertion of context-appropriate technology, and strengthened capability and capacity.
Manager of the Waste RDI Roadmap Implementation Unit at the CSIR Professor Linda Godfrey, said the waste sector was in desperate need of change.
"If mismanaged, waste directly impacts on the health of communities, yet it also provides opportunities for improved livelihoods and reducing poverty – simply by changing the way we think about waste as a resource," said Godfrey.
Dr Nana Boaduo, director for Research Chairs and Centres of Excellence at the NRF, said the two chairs would make a palpable impact in their respective communities and society at large.
He said the impact would be made through human capacity development, including the production of high-quality graduates that can readily be absorbed within the national system of innovation.
The department's director for Environmental Services, Dr Henry Roman said: "Given the challenges and opportunities facing South Africa with respect to waste, and the role of research, development and innovation in supporting the sector's transition we are proud to launch the first two research chairs in solid waste management in South Africa, in partnership with the NRF and the CSIR.