Section 18 of the NEMWA geared to increase Recovery and Recycling

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

Waste management and plastics recycling are significant challenges in South Africa and recent amendments to Section 18 of the National Environmental Management and Waste Act (NEMWA) regulations call for Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) to cooperate with municipalities to increase the recovery and recycling of identified products.

The current practice is that municipalities collect waste and landfill it. Given that 34% of the country does not have waste management services, the responsibility to recycle and reduce waste falls onto the shoulders of municipalities.

Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs)

With PROs not intended to do this work on behalf of municipalities, the amendments to the NEMWA Regulations – published earlier this month – give PROs two years to compile feasibility studies for the use of new and existing infrastructure, and an additional three years thereafter for the implementation thereof. It is expected that the number of producers will will grow and expand as more producers become members of the PROs.

“PROs are in the process of developing their plans based on the current context with regard to the number of members and products they will be working with.“

Amendments to the National Waste Act (NEMWA)

Section 18 of the NEMWA refers to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) aspect of the NEMWA and replaces the Section 28 industry waste management plans, which the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) called for industry to submit in 2017. The big challenge with the Section 28 regulations was that it was a government-managed model and that the industry was pushing for an industry-managed model “for obvious reasons”.

The Section 18 amendments, published on May 5, allow for the industry-managed model to be implemented, meaning that the obliged plastics industry, or extended producer responsibilities (EPRs), will now be able to determine, raise, manage and pay fees themselves and not work through somebody else.

EPR refers to the producer’s responsibility to identify how and where a by-product’s recycling responsibility can extend from the producer to the post-consumer stage.

Put plainly, it is permissible to put the product on the market and expect somebody to collect and recycle it. The whole value chain is now getting involved in the process and, if you think about designing a new product, you need to think throughout the value chain and the lifecycle of that specific product and already start thinking about the end-of-life solution.

Collecting, reusing and recycling the involved paper and plastic products will provide an integrated approach throughout the value chain, creating an opportunity for new end-markets and technologies to be developed. With a lot of expectations dependent on the legislation’s implementation, and the ability of the PROs to deliver on the return scheme, one should remain weary that the programme is certainly still in its infancy.

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