Rural areas face biggest waste backlogs

RURAL areas and informal settlements are faced with the biggest waste collection backlogs in the country, a report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) revealed today (June 1).

Briefing media in Pretoria on the country’s waste management systems, senior researcher Suzan Oelofse flagged poor road access and infrastructure as obstacles for municipalities in providing a sustainable waste collection service.

“In certain areas road infrastructure is limited and collection vehicles cannot reach all the households,” she said.

“Where road infrastructure exists the streets are often inaccessible to conventional waste collection vehicles due to steep slopes and narrow roads with deep potholes and dongas.” Another obstacle was the long distances required to travel to service rural areas and this led to rampant illegal dumping.

Oelofse said the solution lay in making households responsible for transporting their own waste to central collection points which were easily accessible to municipal waste collection vehicles.

Innovations that emerged during the three-year study are: having walk-in communal skips at informal settlements to avoid a situation of waste being disposed next to the waste bin. “Bypass” centres could collect items for re-use or, or the community can collect waste in return for food parcels.

In some smaller municipalities, problems build up as result of an unqualified waste manager.

But, she said, no municipality in the country gets “everything right”.

“Not a single one.” They also found that there was no “quick fix” to the problem of illegal dumping.

Local government had no budget for illegal dumping, which meant that municipalities have to hire equipment away from a different job to clean up a particular illegal dumping site.

Municipalities could not recover these costs.

Fining for illegal dumping, as covered by municipality bylaws, was also not effective.

“Look at sites where illegal dumping is — it is evidence that there is a problem in many municipalities.” What could work was to instil a sense of pride among communities so that they go as far as reporting such cases. Although waste management was a local government function, partnerships with industry were also necessary.

The CSIR had released a toolkit which municipalities could use to better their waste disposal systems and this would be available on its website.

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