With environmental protection topping the global agenda, the South African Government has been and will continue introducing new regulations that could have far reaching implications for local businesses.
Producers and handlers of hazardous waste face a period of adjustment and investment to ensure they are compliant, while the waste sector is having to re-think the waste chain in partnership with its clients.
“One of the ways in which this thinking is reframing our attitude towards waste is the need to build an integrated waste cycle – commonly referred to as the ‘circular economy’,” says Johan van den Berg, Managing Director of Averda, a leading integrated waste management company with decades of experience in safely handling the most hazardous of waste.
He added that a successful circular economy designs, manufactures, uses and reuses products for as long as possible. And the ideal scenario is for only truly spent items to be discarded as waste.
This endeavour is taking on greater urgency with the introduction of new prohibitions next month that prohibit the disposal of hydrocarbon-based materials at local landfill sites.
This could have far-reaching consequences for producers within the petrochemical industry, as significant investment will be needed to ensure that their liquid waste is correctly processed.
“The new regulations should be applauded for helping to improve how all waste, but particularly liquid hazardous waste is handled,” van den Berg says.
“The more stringent measures will undoubtedly reduce the threat of waste seeping into the natural environment, but in the short term this will require investment to get facilities to the necessary standards.”
There are, however, a number of positives to be taken from this new regulatory environment.
For one, certain liquid waste can be converted, after processing, into speciality fuels that are of interest to other sectors – such as manufacturing plants that are looking for alternatives to replace the coal used within kilns.
Producing such fuel from waste is no small feat and requires considerable investment to do so in ways that comply with the new Waste Classification and Management Regulations.
This is precisely what Averda has done to ensure that selected hazardous waste facilities are able to receive, store and blend hazardous waste sludge (liquids and solids) to produce fuel by-products with the new blending facility.
These high-tech factories are where all liquid waste is blended together and transformed into the special fuels mentioned before.
“Currently, options like refuse-derived fuel and anaerobic digestion are only available in selected regions, whereas bio-drying and gasification are not available at all,” van den Berg says.
“Investing in compliance will drive vital funds into an industry that’s plagued by under-pricing – increasing the ability for waste experts to invest in much-needed alternative technologies.
“Our Vlakfontein high-hazardous-class landfill site in the Vaal Triangle is an example of the design and engineering required to meet the standards set in the regulations.”
Built at a cost of R250 million, the site has the capacity for six cells that will offer 6.5 million cubic metres of landfill capacity. This will be home to a high-tech blending facility able to process Averda’s clients’ waste responsibly and to the high standards set in the new regulations.