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Sustainable solutions to South Africa's waste challenges

Waste management

An interview with Nick Mannie – Technical Director, Waste 

What challenges does South African face in terms of waste?

Ever increasing population totals, increased demands on existing resources, and the pressure to provide basic needs has placed significant pressure on South Africa in terms of waste management. Coupled to this, the rejection of common waste management practices by environmental lobbyists has made the disposal of various waste streams a lot more difficult. The impact of waste on the environment and on people’s health is also a critical point of concern. 

How does our handling of waste compare to that of other countries?

Although South Africa’s waste legislation is in line with global trends, enforcement and monitoring have proven difficult due to both a lack of suitable waste expertise and practices. The South African Government has, however, mandated waste management as one of the critical areas it needs to address in terms of service delivery and sustainability. 

What is needed to address this gap?  

There is an urgent need to adopt a holistic view of waste management. Total system planning, which involves considering a total waste system, and then developing the most appropriate mix of infrastructure and services to manage that waste stream, is an effective way of ensuring that waste management solutions are comprehensive, practical and encompass the wide variety of processes involved in each waste stream. 

Aurecon’s waste team is unique in that we are able to draw on our global skills pool to provide best-in-industry, multidisciplinary support which spans the entire waste life-cycle. This includes utilising the fields of wastewater, environmental and process engineering to address each and every phase of the waste management stream, from planning and design, right through to the meeting of legal requirements and industry standards, as well as the transportation of waste, and even the safe decommissioning of waste projects. 

Importantly, waste management needs to be considered at the very beginning of a project, and not as an ‘after-thought’. This will see the integration of effective waste management into projects from the outset, as opposed to including it as an add-on.

What are some of the latest trends in the field of waste? 

There is a definite trend towards reducing landfill and finding alternative disposal methods, such as recycling and alternative treatment methods. In terms of waste prevention, education and awareness, too, is a growing trend and is vital if we are to build a common understanding of the importance of waste management. The integration of different waste management streams is also a hot topic. This involves the alignment of initiatives, legislation and administrative systems. In South Africa particularly, the ability of the waste management industry to create the opportunity for livelihoods is one which is gaining momentum. 

How is Aurecon contributing to the safe handling of waste is South Africa?

Particularly in South Africa, Aurecon is building relationship with the Government to understand its policies with regard to waste, and aims to partner with these stakeholders to determine sustainable waste strategies. These strategies need to be easy to implement, and measurable in terms of what they achieve. Our pursuit of innovation in this field, too, as well as our global reach, will contribute to ensuring international best practice is applied on South African shores.

Nick MannieAbout Nick Mannie

Nick Mannie, Technical Director, Waste, Aurecon, has a multi-disciplinary range of experience which includes leading teams of specialists, supervising sub-contractors, assessing financial plans and quality checks, liaising with clients, business management, maximising efficiencies, flora-mapping and developing biodiversity action plans in relation to diverse waste streams. He believes in finding long-term environmental and economic benefits through tailor made solutions that keep the surrounding community in mind, and uphold our clients’ commitment towards sustainability at all times.

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