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South Africa’s Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to live in a clean, healthy environment.

As responsible corporate citizens, therefore, organisations are spending increasingly more resources on ensuring that their impact on the planet is positive. To ensure that they do so in as short a time frame as possible and with optimal benefits to the environment, legislation provides guidance as to best practice and also specifies who in the value chain is to take responsibility for which waste management and environmentally protective actions.

Many recent South African environmental legislative changes, particularly those that deal with waste and waste management, have “sustainable development” at their core.  In line with this approach, legislation is drafted to ensure that:

  • Reduction of waste at source becomes a priority
  • Recycling and recovery become critical if reduction is not possible.

Of significance in this context is the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (No. 59 of 2008). The Act’s objectives are:

  • To protect health, wellbeing and the environment by providing reasonable measures for:
    • Minimising the consumption of natural resources
    • Avoiding and minimising the generation of waste
    • Reducing, re-using, recycling and recovering waste
    • Treating and safely disposing of waste as a last resort
    • Preventing pollution and ecological degradation
    • Securing ecologically sustainable development while promoting justifiable economic and social development
    • Promoting and ensuring the effective delivery of waste services
    • Remediating land where contamination presents, or may present, a significant risk of harm to health or the environment
    • Achieving integrated waste management reporting and planning.

    Other key environmental legislation in South Africa includes: