Cities are challenged with increasing amounts of waste and the associated environmental consequences. Globally, solid waste generation rates are rapidly increasing and are projected to exceed 11 million tonnes generated globally per day by 2100. Experts believe that this growth will eventually peak and begin to decline in different global regions at different times. This depends on population growth, waste reduction efforts and changes in consumption. Thus, responsible waste management is fundamental in ensuring the sustainability of cities worldwide. More sustainable and integrated waste management practices are vital in order to mitigate pressures on environmental and human health. Waste materials have the potential to be extremely useful resources, if used in effective and innovative ways.

Definition of waste

Solid waste consists of waste products generated by households, businesses and industry and includes general waste, green waste, builders’ rubble and hazardous waste.

Waste is classified into the following broad categories:

  • General waste: Waste that does not pose an immediate hazard or threat to health or to the environment, and includes domestic waste, building and demolition waste, and business waste.
  • Hazardous waste: Any waste that contains organic or inorganic elements or compounds that may, owing to its inherent physical, chemical or toxicological characteristics, have a detrimental impact on health and the environment, for example, medical waste, batteries, pesticides 

Waste management in Cape Town

Municipalities are responsible for ensuring that public areas are clean and that basic waste collection and disposal services are provided. They are also responsible for enabling the diversion of waste from landfill where possible, and managing and minimising the negative impacts of waste on human and environmental health. 

The City of Cape Town is a leading municipality in the integration of sustainable waste management. The City’s goal is to improve access to basic waste management services, cleaning, collection and disposal, while significantly diverting waste from landfill. To guide better delivery of waste management services to residents, the City has developed an Integrated Waste Management Plan (IWMP) to implement the Integrated Waste Management Policy (CCT-IWMP) within the overarching Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for Cape Town. This ensures that integrated waste management is a priority on the local government agenda. This policy and plan make provisions for key actions to be taken to ensure waste minimisation. The CCT-IWMP prioritises a variety of methods to achieve waste minimisation and sets ambitious waste-minimisation targets for the city, such as developing a plan for Zero Waste by 2022. Methods are as follows:

  • Provision of new infrastructure
  • Educational programmes
  • Public and private sector participation
  • Facilitation of a working recycling market, job creation and implementation of waste minimisation legislation

The City enforces the sustainable waste management principles outlined in the IWMP and the CCT-IWMP through the Integrated Waste Management By-law that was implemented in 2009. The by-law sets out a process that regulates and controls waste to ensure that environmental resources are not adversely affected by waste. It was amended in 2010 to include further control of waste management by specifying that littering, dumping, spilling, and leaking hazardous waste is an offence and provides for impounding vehicles involved in illegal waste management activities and defining the ownership of waste.

The City currently has 24 public waste drop-off sites, developed for the free disposal of small loads of non-domestic waste. The waste types accepted at drop-off sites include garage waste (used batteries, oil paint and brushes), clean garden waste, clean builders’ rubble, and recyclable material.

Domestic waste collected by the City is either diverted from landfill through one of the City’s waste-minimisation programmes, or disposed of at one of the three City landfills. This waste in some instances is initially taken to one of three different transfer stations in Athlone, Swartklip and Kraaifontein. Two of these transfer stations (Athlone and Kraaifontein) include Materials Recovery Facilities where recyclable waste is separated and diverted to the recycling industry.  Currently, the remainder of the waste is compacted at the transfer stations and transported to landfills via train or truck. The City has operating licenses for four landfill sites, Bellville South, Coastal Park, Visserhok North and Visserhok South. However, the City views Visserhok North and Visserhok South as one landfill site, called Visserhok.  The City also operates a compost plant where a percentage of the household waste is composted and sold to the public.

Coastal Park and Bellville South landfill sites are used for general waste. Hazardous waste is landfilled at either a low-risk (Hh) facility or a high-risk (HH) facility, depending on the nature of the waste. Visserhok is a low-risk hazardous waste facility operated by the City. Another privately managed facility is located almost adjacent to Visserhok and deals with high-risk hazardous waste.

Drop-off sites can be found on the CCT website.