This draft is intended to garner the thoughts and opinions of concerned South Africans, as well as further information that they may have available to them. This document is in the nature of a kickstart, so that there is something to build on. The contents are not final. By Muna Lakhani.

The policy platform presents policy work in progress for purposes of information sharing and provoking further contributions. These are not official positions of civil society, although they are positions taken by groups in civil society after debate and discussion. They may, after further discussion, become part of a South African civil society position.

Draft Paper on Waste and Chemicals


It is critical that waste be a key component of WSSD - it is the waste to air, water and soil that are the main challenges that face people and the environment today.

South Africa has made many steps towards the responsible management of waste in many areas; however, it seems that some of the gains achieved are in the process of being reversed. The number of applications for new incinerators is on the increase; there is even talk of "energy from waste" systems, a new inroad into our country. Recycling has been neglected; no provisions are being made for waste minimisation, other than a few isolated programmes generally funded by the North. The laws in this regard have yet to be promulgated, and where they have been, are not being implemented. There is still reliance on "voluntary" environmental practice, and very little in the way of standards or enforcement. There seems to be an aversion to restrain polluters in general.

a) Targets and Timeframes.

South Africa is committed to a Zero Waste future, as mentioned in the Polokwane Declaration of September 2001.

" GOAL: Stabilize waste generation and reduce the waste disposal by 50% by 2012 and develop a plan for ZERO WASTE by 2022. "

This sets the timeframes. The targets are another matter. It would be logical to begin with an analysis of current waste streams, and all the various methodologies that could be utilised in managing after their generation. This must include all environmental and other external costs, i.e. a full life cycle analysis must be carried out. When all such streams have been analysed, those that are not amenable to safe treatment that does not add to the environmental or social / health load, should be phased out within, at most, 5 years of being identified. It is patently clear that these are unsustainable.

Target 1.

An immediate moratorium on products and processes that contribute to the formation POP's, with a view to closing down such processes by 2005.

Target 2.

Mandatory waste minimisation programmes within business and industry, aiming for CLEAN production, not cleaner production. The time for small changes over time has passed - it is time to implement step changes in the way we produce products, and this would be the ideal opportunity.

Target 3.

A programme of education for all sectors, as envisaged within the National waste Management Strategy, to be in place and working by 2004.

Target 4.

Research and analysis of products and processes than contribute to an eco-economy, designed around Zero Waste principles - examples of such could include:

  • replacement of plastic packaging with starch based compostable alternatives
  • an increase in the production and use of energy generating and energy saving appliances
  • an increase in the production and use of bicycles
  • an increase in the manufacture and use of wind turbines, with all the associated fields, such as meteorologists
  • greater emphasis on Green technologies and professions, such as environmental architects, geothermal technologists, ecological economists, aquacultural veterinarians, recycling engineers, hydrologists, etc.
  • increases in the replacement of single trip packaging with deposit based containers
  • a drop in the amount of non-re-usable packaging, aiming for Zero.
  • the phasing out of products and processes that will never be able to contribute to the goal of Zero Waste
  • the phasing out of chemicals that cannot be managed safely or simply.
  • etc

Basic Principles of implementing a Zero Waste programme for South Africa.

We need to develop clear "extended producer responsibility" goals and policies which require that manufacturers develop take-back strategies for all products that currently end up in landfills or incinerators. These policies are intended to force the emphasis "upstream" to stimulate new product designs and material selections which facilitate the reuse and recycling of products. We also need to improve the "downstream" reuse and recycling of end-of-product-life materials through improved waste management infrastructure, waste exchange programs, recycled material market development and other steps; and foster and support waste-based businesses as economic development and jobs creation opportunities, especially in low income rural communities or urban neighborhoods.

(b) Means of implementation and financial resources

It would be most practical to empower civil society, especially local affected communities, in delivering the information they require to support implementation, and are capacitated to ensure that monitoring and evaluation skills are available to such communities. Financial resources must include, as a major component, application of the "polluter pays" principle - without this, communities and their environments will continue to subsidise unsustainable development.

The cost to the polluter must be in direct relation to the toxicity / difficulty of managing the waste produced by that company. This will incentivise companies to move upstream to modify product design and materials use, to help avoid waste and toxic outcomes. It is estimated that as little as 1% of turnover would be an adequate incentive for this process.

c) Institutional requirements to ensure and effect implementation

The relevant powers must be delegated to the level applicable - the general principle should be: "To the lowest level of government possible, to the highest level of government necessary to implement successfully."

The various levels of government must be empowered to fund their environmental monitoring and enforcement activities from monies collected from polluters within their jurisdiction - this must be common to the entire country, so that certain areas are not environmentally sacrificed, to the detriment of the inhabitants.

The monies could be related to their turnover or profits.


d) Monitoring and reporting

Other than empowering the relevant level of government to carry out these tasks, it is critical that civil society be involved in such processes. Community monitoring and reporting has already proven successful in our country, and must be extended. The costs attached to such programme must form part of the monies collected by the relevant organ of government as outlined above.

Full mass balance should be the minimum management approach to materials analysis, as this will facilitate the development of a correct picture of the actual state of affairs with regard to each product or process. This must be supplemented with adequate and detailed information regarding worker safety, community partnerships, internal monitoring, and regular reports on improvement plans leading to clean production, with results achieved in this regard.

Training centres must be set up in as many areas as possible, as envisaged in our National Waste Management Strategy; however, business and industry must cover the full cost of such centres. Care must be taken that such process does not lead to a bias within the system. It would make sense for the National fiscus to collect such monies, and support the local centres to be autonomous units.

1) Principles, Vision and Strategy. The principles contained in Agenda 21, including the precautionary, sudsidiarity and polluter pays principles need to be further operationalised.

2. Poverty Eradication, Human Security and Human Development. Concrete programmes for action and partnership to tackle poverty need to be established, focusing on key target areas including water and sanitation, health, employment creation, food security and energy.

3. Globalisation: Setting Trade and Investment to Sustainability. The Johannesburg Summit should send a clear message to the trade and investment community to ensure that the trade round delivers on the legitimate aspirations of developing countries for better balance in the North / South divide in an equitable manner.

4. Sustainable Production and Consumption. Johannesburg should establish a programme of measures for promoting this.

5. Natural Resources: Integrated Management and Regulation. The Summit should be the occasion for the ratification and entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, the Biosafety Protocol, and further steps on implementing the Conventions on Hazardous Wastes and Chemicals, Desertification, and Straddling fish stocks.

6. Health and Environment. Further national and international commitments should be made to address critical issues related to health and environment.

7. Finance for Sustainable Development. There should be specific discussions about how the decline in Official Development Assistance can be reversed. There needs to be debate on how debt relief and debt cancellation can be extended.

8. Technology Transfer, Capacity Building and Education Johannesburg should establish strategies and programmes for enhancing exchange of environmentally sustainable technologies and capacity building.

9. Governance and participation. UNEP and the CSD should be strengthened, and sustainable development built more securely into the mandates of other international agencies.

10. Global Deal. At Johannesburg heads of state and high-level ministers will need to set out a strong statement of global commitment, endorsing the key steps to make the shift towards Sustainable Development. The decisions of the Summit should be encapsulated in a new Global Deal, based on key elements, including:

  • Equity eradicating poverty through equitable and sustainable access to resources;
  • Rights securing environmental and social rights;
  • Limits reducing resource use to within sustainable limits;
  • Justice recognition of ecological and social debts and cancellation of financial debts;
  • Democracy ensuring access to information and public participation; and
  • Ethics rethinking the values and principles that guide human behaviour."

Background information, that informs the above:

Based on the Principles of the Rio Declaration.

  1. Human beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

    This is not, as a rule, adhered to - environmental and social justice is ignored, in the name of development.

    The negative impacts of waste, including but not limited to, landfills sites, air emissions, water based effluent, land degradation, and the extremely carcinogenic wastes from incineration, harms our people greatly. In fact, all life is threatened by these impacts.

    It is true to say that the vast majority of persons harmed by such wastes processes are Black, poor, and unable to defend their rights.

  2. The right to exploit their own resources, with the concurrent responsibility not to cause harm outside their borders.

    This is patently being flaunted. Technologies that have failed, or been rejected by the North, are being touted in South and Southern Africa. No cognisance is taken of these facts when decisions are being made with regard to their deployment within our borders. Waste treatment technologies that destroy resources are favoured over those that retrieve them.

  3. The right to development that meets developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

    POP's and the Nuclear Industry are a direct contravention of this principle, hence at least the Stockholm Treaty. We are happy that the South African government has seen fit to sign this treaty. We urge the government to ratify the treaty as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this has not translated into action on the ground. There appears to be a rush to build incinerators prior to the coming into force of this treaty in 2004. This defeats the object of this treaty.

    The fact that toxic and hazardous wastes are being considered for treatement in such plants is further evidence of problems in this regard. The reluctance to either ban or phase out incineration must be seen as reluctance to harm relations with the North, yet those very same countries have rejected many of the technologies being dumped here.

  4. Environmental protection is an integral part of the development process.

    The attempt to divorce environment from development is seen by many cynics as further evidence that government is unwilling or unable to rein in polluters, all in the name of development. It must be made clear that much "development" actually causes more harm than any benefits that may be derived.

  5. Eradication of poverty is an indispensable requirement of sustainable development.

    SA Civil Society cannot agree more - it is patently clear that the proposed development path of our government has increased poverty, in the rush to generate "development" at all costs. Changing the economic structure in a vain attempt to attract foreign investment has led to the loss of approximately 2 million jobs, with the general health of our population dropping, making them even more vulnerable to negative impacts such as POP's and other waste.

  6. Developing countries shall be given special priority.

    This is sometimes misinterpreted to mean that, as developing countries, we do not have the same need for a high level of environmental protection, that somehow polluting industries unacceptable in the North are acceptable here. The opposite should be true, as our people are less able to afford the negative helath impacts of such development.

  7. Conserve, protect and restore the ecosystem, with countries acknowledging common but differentiated responsibilities.

    It would be true to say that companies locating in the South are not bound by the same standards that they would be in their country of origin. Again, the South subsidises the wealth of the North, through export of our environment and quality of life, including the vast negative health impacts experienced by our people.

  8. Reduce unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.

    Although our government has seen fit to place a ban on thin plastic bags, other types of plastics, chemicals, and related products are not even a concern at this stage. There is a continuing reluctance to call to order various industries who produce extremely hazardous waste, in the name of protecting jobs - the fact that more long term harm is created that outweighs any potential short term impact from jobs is ignored. It is necessary that this issue be looked at critically, assessed, and a way forward mapped as a matter of urgency, as world experience shows that consumption patterns are crucial to minimising negative impacts on sustainable development. Product and process bans should be included in the programme - it is not true to say that all products have a right to exist. Advertising (media) , perverted subsidies, "sin" taxes, luxury goods taxes, are all issues that fall within the ambit of this principle.

  9. Improve endogenous capacity building for sustainable development, through exchanges of information, technology transfers and innovative technologies.

    The opposite is taking place - technologies that have failed in the North are being sold / dumped in South Africa, be it in the field of thermal waste treatment; unsustainable energy generators or unproven agricultural products, such as genetically modified maize. The precautionary should be paramount in these cases. Rather, South Africa should look to forward thinking and cutting edge technologies, that hold vast potential for our country and her people.

  10. Public participation, access to information, and decisionmaking power of communities, as well as effective access to judicial and administrative measure.

    Given the watered down legislation that is currently operating, the definition of public participation is entirely inadequate. Communities that will be impacted upon by proposed waste management processes, such as incinerators, are ill informed, and often unaware of both the proposal and / or its potential impacts. Information must be made available in more than one language, as well as oral communication. The onus on public participation consultants should include door to door leafletting / canvassing for a clear radius around the proposed development, as well as being legally required to take on board previously identified key stakeholders. The requirements of the Environment Conservation Act does not ensure that the National Environmental Management Act is applied, nor international best practice.

  11. Effective environmental legislation, standards, etc.

    South Africa is blessed with the National Environmental Management Act, overall a good document. However, the political will to implement it is low, and moves are afoot by polluters to ensure that key principles and sections of the Act are watered down. This must be resisted at all costs.

  12. Supportive and open international economic system.

A key component of environmental degradation and associated health and social costs is based on the current unsustainable economic model. Some key changes that are required as a matter of urgency include, but are not limited to:

  1. Full cost accounting, that internalises all environmental, health and social costs, with full life cycle analyses, and environmental, social and economic impact assessments.

  2. The balancing of current trends to give extra weight to economic benefits to the proponents, with the external costs borne by our communities. For example, air pollution in Johannesburg costs the local economy almost R1.5 billion per annum - these costs are not reflected within any of the processes contributing to the pollution.

  3. Trade policy tends to support over developed nations - the flow of unpaid and unaccounted for environmental resources to the North must be balanced in some way.

  1. Liability and compensation

    This is a particularly problematic - South Africa is littered with ineffectual examples of this. The proposed settlement in the asbestosis case, which may see the South African government waive all future claims against the polluters, even though they have been found guilty in a court of law.

  2. Discourage and prevent relocation and transfer of activities and substances that are harmful

    The proposed Thermopower incinerator is a clear case in point. This technology has been rejected at home in the USA, and is now being touted here as "best technology". Specific guidelines need to be developed in this regard, so that failed technology from the North particularly is not dumped in Africa.

  3. Precautionary principle

    This is being flaunted more than it is being implemented. The various agencies responsible, togehter with Civil Society, must work on a set of clear guidelines and plan of implementation. This principle is binding to South Africa under current law.

  4. The internalisation of external costs.

    Almost none of the waste management process in South Africa internalises its external costs. It is imperative that a programme of full Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) be carried out for each waste stream, and where those streams are found to be of such a nature that they cannot be safely handled, a process of bans should be implemented. The full cost of waste must be internalised. Some costs, such as radiation and POP's are far too high. Therefore, those must be excluded from being generated in the first place.

  5. Environmental Impact Assessments

    EIA's are not carried out according to International Best Practice, neither are the needs of the previously disadvantaged, the poor nor the illiterate, catered for. It is imperative that the current EIA regulations empower communities to both have fair and equitable access to information, in language of choice, including verbally, as well as fair and accessible capacity building of the relevant issues by non-proponent parties. All potential impacts, with detailed scenarios and information regarding those impacts, must be made available. The time required by communities to participate is far in excess of what they are currently allowed. This must be rectified.

  6. Transboundary notification.

The transboundary movement of waste, be it toxic, hazardous or otherwise, is simply unacceptable. The transboundary movement of POP's , particularly from incinerators, is impossible to measure or direct, so this method must be phased out.

19) Notification of potentially affected states.

limited applicability to waste, other than radioactive waste and POP's from incineration.

  1. The role of women

    It would be true to say that women are not generally considered when issues around waste are discussed, and that no special process or effort is made to include women.

  2. Youth

    Other than the impacts felt by all, the applicability of youth here is limited.

  3. Indigenous people's

    There are impacts of waste on poverty generically, and limited access to services around waste, are probably the key challenges facing our indigenous peoples.

  4. Protection of the environment of people under oppression.

The key challenge here would be to ensure that the environment of the San people's should be protected for their benefit. Disturbing signs of them being moved of traditionally occupied land for mining and other commercial purposes are being seen.


There is limited, if any, capacity within the SA armed forces for environmental protection. This should be rectified. The harm that war does to sustainable development is immense - ways must be found in which the threat of war diminishes, and the resources saved thereby moved to programmes of sustainable development.

  1. Peace and development.

    Without access to resources, which should be conserved and utilised rather than wasted, peace and development will remain pipe dreams.

  2. Peaceful resolution of environmental disputes.

    This is taking place within South Africa - to date, no conflict over environmental resources has yet been identified.

  3. Cooperate in good faith

In the determining of a Zero Waste future for South Africa, the good faith of proponents and their consultants is often questionable. This requires addressing.

To comment or suggest changes contact [email protected]. Civil society organizations can also forward proposed policy positions and declarations to the same address.