Waste Management – Why Does it Matter?

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Waste-Management

Waste not, want not

For anyone in the FM or property management professions, waste management is a big deal. From generation to disposal, waste management entails the collection, transport and treatment of solid and wet waste. In the past, once trash hit the bin, it was out of sight, out of mind. Recycling slowly gained traction, with most offices having a paper recycling bin sat handily next to the office printer, and possibly even a glass bin in the canteen if your company was really forward-thinking.

But with climate change a reality and the current focus on green buildings, eco-friendly practices and sustainable solutions, that just doesn’t cut it anymore. In the article How much rubbish we dump in South Africa each day on the Business Tech website, it was stated that: “A report by the World Bank details which countries produce the most garbage every day – and where South Africa fits into the picture. According to the report, South Africa produces 54,425 tonnes of trash every day – the 15th highest rate in the world.” Add to that the fact that many of South Africa’s landfill sites are nearing or have already reached capacity, and you start to realise why sustainable waste management is an absolute necessity.

Sustainable Waste Management

In his presentation, Sustainability for Facilities and Waste Management, Aurecon’s Nick Mannie stated that sustainable waste management could be defined as significantly cutting down on the amount of waste produced and then dealing with it in a way that contributes to sustainable development. Mannie went on to define an Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) solution as “a comprehensive waste prevention, recycling, composting, and disposal programme. An effective ISWM system considers how to prevent, recycle, and manage solid waste in ways that most effectively protect human health and the environment.” Your waste management choices need to take the environment, both socio-economic and physical, into account, with the ultimate aim of reducing, rethinking, recycling and reusing.

“We are limited to relying on waste generators, and their mindset is to throw away, not immediately recycle,” says Mannie. “We need to segregate and recycle properly, and this cannot be placed solely in the hands of the generators, we can only facilitate a point for waste to be thrown away in in the public realm.

“Once that waste is in the bin, the opportunity to customise your handling of waste is great. But creating a culture of recycling is important,” he adds.

Getting paid for your waste probably won’t offset your FM-spend dramatically, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the bottom line either. Recycling companies can and do pay for materials, but remember that compression ensures the highest rebate for recyclable material. This means you’ll need an on-site waste management solution to see any real return on your recyclables.

There are many waste management companies operating in South Africa. Finding one that offers a tailored, sustainable solution that suits your property or business requirements will require some research, but will be worthwhile in terms of cost savings, waste reduction, and reducing your carbon footprint.

WastePlan is just one such on-site waste management company that offers a range of solutions to ensure efficient and effective separation, sorting, weighing and reporting of waste. The facilities management professional is able to monitor the type and amount of waste generated, being provided information for recycling and waste reduction initiatives.

Waste water management

Grey water recycling is already being incorporated in both new and existing buildings as an important component of Green Building certification. By harvesting rain water and using grey water for irrigation, heating and cooling, and even flushing toilets, water conservation and waste management are being addressed at a business level, but the call is for more businesses and even government to step up.

Food waste in South Africa

According to CSIR studies, 13 million people go hungry every day, 20% of households are food insecure, South Africans throw away almost 10 million tonnes of food per year (more than the UK), 30% of all agricultural production ends up as waste to landfill, and the total cost of food waste is estimated at R61.5 billion per year. On a global scale – if food waste were its own country – it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, behind China and the USA.

In a remarkably successful programme based in Beaulieu, Johannesburg, Carmen Nottingham of Fertilis is using the common earthworm to tackle one of the country’s biggest wet waste issues – food waste. Nottingham says, “The Eisenia Foetida, a humus earthworm, can process food waste, vegetative and garden waste, animal waste, and even toxic wastes. The waste these earthworms ingest is converted into the highest quality, pathogen-free, micro-organism rich, pH-balanced organic fertiliser.” The earthworms have also been noted to improve the air quality around them, and early signs even point to them being able to safely ingest the highly absorbent (and therefore harder to recycle) paper handtowels used in public bathrooms.

Nottingham’s focus is two-fold. Providing a sustainable food waste disposal solution is obviously important, but Fertilis also works to train and upskill farmers and youth in earthworm waste management and composting, thus creating an entire recycling industry. The by-product of organic fertiliser and a healthier environment, also aiding in the production of healthy crops – a truly sustainable solution to a somewhat sticky problem.

Can we really make a difference? The answer is absolutely yes, although education is imperative and entrepreneurship necessary for success.

Know what is recyclable

You’d be surprised to discover just how much of what you throw away is actually recyclable – including those polystyrene food trays. There are several informative local websites you can visit, including:

www.polystyrenepackaging.co.za
www.recycling.co.za
www.treevolution.co.za

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