Colourful bins with different types of waste

South Africa is fast running out of landfill space and this, apart from the relatively low cost of waste disposal, should be reason enough for every company to include sustainable waste management into their operational strategy. It is  still relatively inexpensive to dispose of waste at a municipal landfill, however there simply is no more room for non-recyclable waste let alone recyclable and organic waste. and this, amongst other things,  is threatening to push up the costs of waste disposal for companies and individuals alike.

Additionally, if a company is seen to be irresponsible with their waste management, they might incur damage to their reputation in addition to fines or even imprisonment for more serious infractions (National Environmental Management: Waste Act 59 of 2008).

The majority of sustainability strategies fall short, not only due to a lack of information to assist in key decision making, but also because there may be additional costs involved.

It’s all about the numbers

It seems that more often than not there is limited information regarding the cost of a waste management system resulting in a lack of dedicated budgets to support sustainability strategies. The fact is that nothing in business comes without a cost. In order to pursue any objective, including effective waste management goals, there needs to be an understanding of the financial impact of these plans that then informs a dedicated budget to ensure its success.

For example, if a company planned to dispose of its waste at a diversion plant, such as a waste-to-energy or composting facility, as opposed to the closest landfill site, there would be logistic costs associated with this decision. Ongoing funds would need to be made available for this plan to be followed effectively and without detailed knowledge around the financial aspects of operationalising any sustainability goals, the follow-through is often difficult.

Understanding your waste streams

The second most common obstacle is the issue of accurately understanding the waste streams that a company produces and being aware of what technology is available to deal with it. When it comes to waste, a large portion of the contents of a company’s waste stream is consistent but there will always be variable waste components. It’s important to understand the details of your waste stream so that plans can be put in place to deal with it sustainably.

You can only manage what you measure and to do this properly there needs to be an understanding of a company’s overall waste generation. This, coupled with an understanding of disposal/recycling technologies available, could mean that your business decisions may change.

For example, a few years ago, liquid packaging was not recyclable. However, thanks to Mpact’s Liquid Packaging Recycling Plant located at its Paper Mill in Springs, today it is recyclable. This means that companies that manufacture this type of packaging material can now encourage the collection and recycling of their products.

There are no short-term solutions to long-term challenges

Waste management is an ongoing function and, as such, requires dedicated resources to ensure that it’s done effectively. In fact, if all organisations partnered with a reputable waste management company to operationalise their sustainability strategies, both the short- and long-term effects would be significantly positive. In the short-term, we would see more room in landfills for materials that can’t be diverted and a much-needed relief for the environment so that it can start to heal. We would also see the financial benefit of affordable municipal disposal rates for a longer period.

Looking at the broader picture, the solutions that we implement now will certainly impact future generations. Without implementing change strategies, we will be on the verge of creating a disastrous canvas for future businesses, consumers and industries that will undoubtedly negatively impact South Africa’s economy and environment. In operationalising our planet-first strategies, we give the earth a chance to regenerate, we give future business leaders an easier environment to step into and we give the future a chance to unfold.

 

About the author:

Marinus van Vollenhoven is the Operations Manager at Remade Onsite and spends a significant portion of his time working with companies to develop the right solutions to succeed in their path to sustainable waste management.

Marinus has been with Remade for the past six years, guiding and developing the Remade Onsite team to become a major contender in the waste management services industry sector. During this time, he has gained in-depth knowledge and understanding of the recycling industry and its implementation in business, which brings a wealth of insight to this necessary topic.