Joburg generates R4 285 tons of waste a day: soon there’ll be nowhere for it to go, writes Musa Jack.
The City of Joburg is fast running out of landfill space. If residents don’t change the way they handle rubbish, in seven years’ time, there won’t be a place to dispose of such waste.
But it would be naive to confine the challenges of waste disposal to Jozi residents alone, as the city is a beacon of hope not only for ordinary South Africans; it attracts an inflow of people from beyond our shores who are seeking a better life.
These patterns of migration put pressure on the service offerings of the City of Joburg, particularly on the management of waste disposal.
According to the statistics recorded at four landfill sites managed by the city’s waste management company, Pikitup, Joburg generates about 4 285 tons of waste daily.
Close to 90 percent of this mixed waste ends up being disposed of at these landfill sites.
Disposing of waste at landfills isn’t the only option. In fact, it isn’t the preferred option, because waste isn’t rubbish, but a resource.
The waste being generated by households, businesses and industries is valuable material that can be re-used, recycled or recovered in one form or another.
Pikitup has developed plans to ensure a radical transformation in the manner in which waste is perceived by those who generate it.
This transformation offers ways of managing how domestic waste (paper, glass, plastic, cans, garden waste, food waste, e-waste and builders’ rubble) is handled.
The interventions articulated in the plan include the promotion of recycling, processing garden waste to make compost, using food waste to generate biogas, recycling construction material, and using residual waste to generate electricity which, in the future, will be critical in contributing to the power challenges being experienced countrywide.
This further emphasises the point that domestic waste is a resource that can be re-used or recovered for use as an alternative by-product.
Some of the interventions require changing consumer behaviour towards waste; a behaviour that requires a revolutionary mindset that embraces an attitude that business as usual is irresponsible, particularly towards the well-being of future generations.
The path that Pikitup and the city are embarking on in terms of a transformed relationship with waste will be a fruitless journey without the citizens of Joburg coming on board and viewing themselves as partners.
Two of the areas residents need to take responsibility for are littering and illegal dumping.
We need to move to a point where throwing a piece of paper or a cigarette butt on the ground and, certainly, dumping illegally in open spaces is frowned upon because this questions the extent to which we, as citizens, take pride in our beautiful city.
Most people don’t realise waste is linked to climate change.
The manufacture, distribution and use of products as well as the management of the resulting waste all use energy that results in greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change.
Separation at Source, a recycling programme, has been rolled out by Pikitup in selected parts of Joburg.
In the course of this year and next, the plan is to give all the city’s suburbs an opportunity to separate their recyclable waste at their homes.
Pikitup does acknowledge that, in this regard, it has a responsibility to make it convenient for citizens to recycle and also to help them understand why they should recycle.
In collaboration with communities through its [email protected] programme and private sector players, Pikitup aims to continue rolling out the necessary infrastructure to make it easy for residents to join the recycling crusade.
Still, all the infrastructure in the world will be pointless unless the households, businesses and schools of Joburg make a conscious decision to change their behaviour towards waste.
Embracing responsible waste management practices, as our collective responsibility, will contribute tremendously to enabling Joburg to foster its world-class African city status.
It will also help us to achieve the target of diverting 93 percent of waste from landfills by the year 2040 in line with our plan to minimise waste.
* Musa Jack is Pikitup’s executive director for waste minimisation strategy and programmes.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.