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​Turn waste into a valuable commodity

It was time Johannesburg residents and other key stakeholders looked at waste as an opportunity and a valuable commodity, Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau said on the first day of the two-day Johannesburg Waste Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre yesterday.

The summit, aimed at consolidating innovative waste management solutions, was organised by Pikitup, the City of Johannesburg’s waste management company. The summit has attracted several international and local environmental and waste management experts to exchange, debate and discuss best practices and innovations in the waste management sector.

Delivering his opening address, Executive Mayor Tau said: “Through this summit we aim to reorientate people’s views on waste and waste management. With finite landfill space, we as a City need to relook at waste and see it as an opportunity, a valuable commodity.”

His views resonated with those of waste management experts attending the summit. These included Henry Roman, Director of Environmental Services and Technology at the Department of Science and Technology, who said waste had both social and economic value.

“There is an economic loss every time resources are utilised in a way that results in them being discarded as waste,” he said.

Other speakers said for the sake of future generations, it was time South Africans changed their mindset on waste management.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Environmental and Infrastructure Services Councillor Matshidiso Mfikoe said Johannesburg’s rising waste generation was a result of increased urbanisation.

“Johannesburg is not just a city of bricks and mortar. It’s about real people living real lives with real issues. As our resources become ever increasingly restrained, we need to push for change and encourage all our residents to become involved,” said MMC Mfikoe.

She said since the inaugural waste summit in 2013, Pikitup had implemented several interventions to minimise waste in Johannesburg. These included:

The launch of the eco rangers initiative;
Development of green waste reduction efforts through separation at source education;
Development of waste to biofuel and waste to energy infrastructure; and
The establishment of buy-back centres and cooperatives, and the significant investment in waste management infrastructure such as rubble crushers, trucks and mobile recycling bins.
Pikitup chairman Dr Trish Hanekom said Johannesburg residents produced more than 6 000 tons of waste a day, most of which ended up in landfill sites.

“As a City, we have seen a 300% increase in per capita waste generation. Ten years ago waste generated per capital per year was an average of 146kg. This has spiked to 385kg per capita per year. We urgently need to reverse and change trends and behaviours,” said Hanekom.

Organisations sharing their knowledge and latest developments at this year’s waste summit include Waste to Food, South African E-Waste Alliance, C40 Climate Leadership Group, Packaging Council of South Africa, Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, Sustainable Solid Waste Network and Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa.