The plight of SA’s waste crisis

Posted on 7 November 2019

South Africa’s landfills have been dubbed a ticking timebomb. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) says 98-million tonnes of waste is deposited across South Africa’s 826 landfill sites every year.

According to the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) on average, each person of our total population of 57 million generates up to 2 kilograms of waste per day (more than 125 million tonnes of Hazardous and General waste, per year).

The major issue with this waste generation is that the majority of it goes to landfill. South Africa is running out of landfill space.

In Rome, people can recycle plastic bottles to get money off their metro ticket. In Istanbul, people can commute and recycle at the same time. Sweden either recycles or converts its trash into energy.

The technology is available to create a sustainable way to reuse plastic and other harmful items. Creating another landfill shouldn’t even be a consideration. It’s time for industry leaders to step up and make a real change in how South Africa’s waste is managed.

Correct waste management plans need to be implemented instantaneously, as recycling is no longer a viable solution to reducing waste. According to Stats SA, in 2018 only 10% of waste was recycled. What is viable, is to reduce the amount of plastic that is purchased and to avoid single-use plastic completely. It is important for citizens to educate themselves and try make an effort to shop for groceries at zero-waste plastic shops (listed at the end of this article).

According to a report, ‘Environment, in-depth analysis of the General Household Survey 2002–2016′, released by Statistics South Africa, 12,9% of metropolitan households self-reported that they recycled, followed by 10,8% of households across urban areas and 3% of households in rural areas. Of the rural households, recycling was more common in households on farms than households in traditional areas.

According to a report titled ‘South African State of Waste Report‘ from 2018, of the 42 million tonnes of general waste generated in South Africa in 2017, around 11% (4.9 million tonnes) was recycled. This is not taking into account the 38 million tonnes of hazardous waste – like batteries and other waste that contains hazardous chemicals – produced in the same period, where only 7% was recycled.

It’s important to know the difference between what can and can’t be recycled from home. Here is a beginner’s guide to recycling in South Africa.

KwaZulu Natal

The Refill Den, Suite 102, 68 Adelaide Tambo Drive, Durban

House of Bravo, Shop 1, 295 Florida Road, Durban

Azikho, Unit 15 Gregory Park, Garlicke Drive, Ballito

Good Source SA, 42 Old Main Road, Hillcrest

Market in the Midlands, Highgate Wine Estate, next to Piggly Wiggly

Founder Foods, 2 Village Road, Kloof

Cape Town

Low Impact Living, 12-24 Glen Road, Glencairn

Nude Foods, 5 Constitution Street, Zonnebloem, Cape Town

Nude Foods, Shop 22, Montebello Design Centre, 31 Newlands Ave, Newlands

Shop Zero SA, 403 Albert Road, Woodstock

The Unpacked Pantry, 4 Sol Cohen Drive, Heathfield

Zero Waste Store, Earth Fair Market, Tokai (every 2nd Saturday)

Zero Waste Store,  Daily Goods Store, 29 Palmer Rd, Muizenberg

Aum Health Hub, Cnr of 6th Avenue and Mostert, Unit 4 Gerfa Centre, Melkbosstrand

Victoria’s Pantry, Shop 6, Victoria Square, Main Road, Hermanus


The Refillery, Cedar Square, Fourways.

Replenish Zero Waste Store, (various markets)

The Unwrapped Co, Blairgowrie, Randburg (online)

The SEK Collective, The Real Mackay Building, 7 Mackay Ave, Blairgowrie, Randburg

Port Elizabeth

Waste-Not Groceries, 21 Bain Street, Richmond Hill, PE


Waste Me Not Sustainable Living,  Zimbabwe


Zero Waste Store, 30 Stein Street, Paulannic Centre Shop 3, Windhoek

(List: Life Lived Simply)

IWMSA will be hosting Landfill 2019 to bring waste management professionals together to discuss the issue at hand. The Landfill 2019 Conference & Exhibition will be held at The River Club in Cape Town on 06 and 07 November 2019.

Landfill 2019 will seek to bring the Landfill and Alternative Waste Treatment industries together to learn about the latest techniques and developments, and to provide a forum for the exchange of knowledge and ideas.

Chris Wiid, Landfill 2019 chairperson from the IWMSA, said: ‘On average, each person of our total population of 57 million generates up to 2kg of waste a day (more than 125 million tons of hazardous and general waste a year). The major issue with this waste generation is that the majority of it goes to landfill.’

Vice-chairperson of Landfill 2019, Reon Pienaar, said: ‘Government has placed increased pressure on landfill operators. There’s a strong drive by the Department of Environmental Affairs to drastically reduce waste to landfill.’

Image: Unsplash


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