The proposed Waste Management Bill will act as a legal framework to provide a basis for the regulation of the country’s major waste management problems. The gist of the bill is given here and outlines how, what and where you can tip your trash.
The Bill, which appears in General Notice 1832 of 2007 in Government Gazette 29487, sets out measures on storage collection, transportation, recovery, reuse, recycling, treatment, disposal of waste, a greater producer responsibility and contaminated land.
The Bill states that the Minister of Environmental Affairs or the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) may declare a waste to be priority waste. Once this has been done, the minister may require an industry waste management plan to be produced by the manufacturer of the priority waste.
A prohibition on the generation of the priority waste can be declared and measures for supervision of the priority waste can also be imposed. Measures may also be imposed on the transportation, storage, reuse, recycling, treatment and on the disposal of the priority waste. The Bill states that no person will be allowed to import, manufacture, process or sell a priority waste or a product that will result in the generation of priority waste, unless the product complies with measures prescribed by the minister or the MEC, or if an industrial waste management plan, which has been previously submitted, is approved. It also prohibits the recycling, reuse, recovery, treatment or disposal of priority waste, unless it is in accordance with the measures prescribed by the authorities.
Listing of waste management activities
The minister or the MEC must publish a list of waste management activities that have a detrimental effect on the environment and whether or not a waste management licence is required to conduct the activity, or to ensure that the prescribed standards are adhered to. The listing may exclude certain quantities or categories of waste or categories of persons from the listing if the waste in question is of such a small quantity or temporary nature that it is unlikely to cause pollution to the environment or is harmful to human health, the Bill states.
To acquire a waste management licence the applicant must apply for one from the licensing authority. An application for a waste management licence should be accompanied by a processing fee and any other documentation that might be required by the licensing authority. Once the application has been submitted, the licensing authority will take into account the need for the waste management activity, similar management activities already licensed, pollution likely to be caused, and whether the applicant is a fit and proper person. Any submissions from the organs of State or the public, along with the guidelines issued by the minister, will also be taken into account.
Under the Act, the licensing authority must review a waste management licence at intervals specified on the licence. The authority may by written notice revoke or suspend the licence if it is of the opinion that the licence holder has contravened a provision of the Act. The authority may, however, not revoke or suspend a licence before it has afforded the holder an opportunity to make a submission in respect of the intended revocation and the licensing authority has considered the revocation.
Storage, collection and transportation
The Bill declares that any person who stores waste must, at the very least, take steps to ensure that the containers in which any waste is stored are intact and not corroded, or in any other way rendered unfit for the safe storage of waste. It states that no person may drop, throw, deposit, spill or discard any litter into any public place or any area which has public access, except in a container or a place specifically provided for that purpose.
Waste management plans
The Bill states that the minister or the MEC may require any person, industry or organ of State that produces waste to prepare and submit an industry waste management plan. It states however that such a plan may not be requested if one had already been submitted within the preceding five years.The Bill states that when the minister demands such a report, the impact, or potential impact the waste has on the environment, should be considered. The natural resources consumed in the manufacturing or production process that results in the waste, and the manner in which an industry waste management plan could contribute to the reduction of waste generation, the reduction of negative impacts on human health and the conservation of natural resources. The minister may give direction that an industry waste management plan must be prepared by an independent person for which the ministry will recover the costs.
The content of the waste management plan should include the measures used to prevent pollution or ecological degradation, targets for waste reduction through recovery, reuse and recycling and measures or programmes to reduce the consumption of natural resources and the final disposal of the waste. Waste management measures, phasing out of specified substances, waste reduction through changes in packaging, product design or production process should also be included in the report. The extent of any financial contribution to consumer-based waste reduction, the period required for the implementation of the plan, the identification of laws that may have a bearing on the implementation of the plan, and methods for monitoring and reporting should also be included.
Once the waste management plan has been given over to the ministry, the minister may approve the plan in writing with conditions and give directions for the implementation of the plan. Additional information may also be required and a revised industry waste management plan may be submitted. Amendments to the plan could also be required within a certain time frame or the plan can be rejected if it does not comply with the requirements. In such a case the plan may be amended and resubmitted.
The Act applies to contaminated land if the contamination occurred before the Act, originated on land other than the identified areas, arises at a different time from the actual activity that caused the contamination, or contamination that arises through an act or activity of a person that results in the change of pre-existing contamination. It can also be identified as land on which specified high-risk activities take place or have taken place.
Once an area has been classified as contaminated land, the owner must organise for a site assessment to be conducted within a specified period of time to determine whether the land is actually contaminated and whether the contamination presents a significant risk. The site assessment report must be submitted to the minister within 30 days of the site assessment being conducted.
The site assessment report, once handed over to the ministry, will dictate whether an investigation area presents significant risk. If the risk is deemed to be significant, the area will be declared a remediation site in which case the ministry must take action to neutralise the harm. The site assessment report can declare that the investigation area does not present a significant risk, or that it does present a risk, but that limited measures are required to address the risks which are present.
If a person or company fails to submit or prepare an industry waste management plan when required to do so, or fails to submit the report in the time and manner as specified, undertakes a waste management activity without a licence where one is required, or fails to comply with the conditions or requirements of that licence, the person or company is liable to a fine not exceeding R10 million, or imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years, or both. Other offences include failing to comply with a remediation order issued by the minister, supplying false or misleading information in any licence application, or failing to comply with a condition subject to which exemption from a provision of the Act was granted.