The following is a press release issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs on behalf of Honourable Minister Edna Molewa:
The Department of Environmental Affairs is constitutionally mandated to ensure the protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources, balanced with sustainable development and equitable distribution of the benefits derived from these processes.
The recent developments in the waste tyre management space are a reflection of the department’s commitment to our constitutional imperatives, as well as our commitment to ensuring fruitful engagement with industry and affected stakeholders.
In our quest for an inclusive waste tyre management regime, Minister Collins Chabane, with my full support and acting on my behalf as the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, withdrew the approval for the Integrated Industry Waste Tyre Management Plan (IIWTMP) of the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of SA (Redisa). The Redisa plan was approved by notice in the Government Gazette Notice (No 983 published in Gazette No 34796) published on November 28.
The withdrawal of the plan will afford the department the opportunity to attend to procedural requirements stipulated in the tyre regulations. Thus the withdrawal is a reflection of the government’s willingness and commitment to due process as well as engagement with all stakeholders. The withdrawal of the plan does not in any way display less commitment by the government to SA’s waste tyre problem.
The government remains committed to dealing with the millions of waste tyres that lead to pollution. In fact we are preparing ourselves for a rerun of the public participation process in respect of the Redisa plan. We anticipate there will be constructive and valuable input into the IIWTMP. Why does SA need a waste tyre management plan? Over 200 000 tons of tyres become waste tyres in SA annually. This figure will increase every year by 9.5 percent.
If not managed properly, waste tyre stockpiles provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Tyre stockpiles can easily ignite, so this presents a major fire hazard. There is significant air pollution arising from burning tyres as people seek the wire in tyres, which is currently fetching a better price than tyres.
We also face the problem of depletion of airspace fast in landfill sites as tyres are bulky and do not biodegrade. This is of particular concern given the fact that existing landfill sites in municipalities are fast reaching their end (the City of Joburg is left with a couple of years on its landfill sites).
Land availability for the establishment of new sites is not easy, as land is contested for a wide range of other uses, which take precedence, for example housing, industry and agriculture.
All of this highlights the need for an IIWTMP. SA requires a plan, which engages all the relevant stakeholders and speaks to the empowerment of communities and small to medium enterprises in the tyre recycling space.
The Waste Act has a range of tools available to the government for managing various waste streams. These tools fall into two main categories: command and control, and co-regulatory tools.
In the case of waste tyres, the government opted not to use the command and control instruments where, in the main, the government would dictate to industry exactly how the waste stream should be managed. We have chosen the co-regulatory approach, and work with and rely on industry in crafting a plan to manage waste tyres.
All this is based on a simple assumption that the tyre industry is responsible enough to collaborate with the government and find solutions to environmental problems.
Even though the development and implementation of a waste tyre management plan is still the way the government wishes to address the waste tyre problem, command and control tools are available to us for use in dealing with waste tyres, and these may be used if necessary.
We aim to use all legislative instruments at our disposal to address problems we have had for decades with our waste by instituting mechanisms of waste avoidance, minimisation, re-use, recycling, recovery, collection, transportation and storage, as well as environmentally sound treatment and disposal of problematic waste streams.
The government is committed to ensuring that South Africans take as little waste as possible to landfill sites. Thus the withdrawal of the Redisa plan’s approval is not in any way a reflection of inadequacies in the plan. The withdrawal has nothing to do with the merits of the plan, but instead is intended for the department to ensure that all the requisite procedures are followed to the letter, as prescribed in the tyre regulations.
There are allegations about creating a monopoly with the approval of the Redisa plan. I considered two plans before approving the Redisa plan last year, and I approved the Redisa plan based on its merits. I rejected the SA Tyre Recycling Process (SATRP) plan as it did not meet the requirements of the regulations in respect of the contents of a plan. Last week Minister Chabane issued a letter to the SATRP, granting their request to resubmit their plan.
The SATRP plan will go through the same process of public consultation as the Redisa plan, and all South Africans will have an opportunity to interrogate it. If it meets the standard of the regulations, it should be approved; if not, it won’t.
The waste tyre regulations require the tyre plan to pay specific attention to social responsibility, inclusion of previously disadvantaged individuals, job creation, training and development.
Notwithstanding the importance of the other requirements in terms of the regulations, these requirements are very important aspects in view of our socio-economic status and past as a country, and should not be taken lightly.
The tyre sector already has over 5 000 people (largely previously disadvantaged) operating on an informal basis; these individuals must be incorporated.
We all have a responsibility to act in line with the programme of action developed by this government. Thus I will ensure that the department, through its policy initiatives, programmes and plans, implements the broader mandate of this administration.
We will always support ways of contributing towards sustainable livelihoods. We will actively pursue any environmental management solution that creates jobs. These issues are best addressed when the decision-making structures are free from the influence of industry interests.
Thus the department wishes to see a very clear separation between industry stakeholders making input into and provision for the waste tyre management plan, and a governing body that must implement the plan and be accountable for the requirements that the department puts in place.
These are critical aspects in view of SA’s socio-economic status and this department’s constitutional mandate to strike a balance between economic, social and environmental development.
I have been taking note of the allegations in newspaper articles against the department, and my office and I will act accordingly, within the ambit of the constitution, to deal with these.
The department therefore welcomes and looks forward to productive engagements with all stakeholders in dealing with the management of waste tyres.