Circularity, industrial symbiosis and carbon reduction will drive waste management in 2022

The South African waste management sector in 2021 saw some interesting regulatory developments being discussed, such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and the upcoming 50% landfill ban on organic waste in the country. Western Cape.

Brian Küsel, director of BioBin SA.

To ensure the successful implementation of these regulatory mechanisms, the waste industry will need to adopt technological and data-rich systems to monitor material flows (including solid and organic waste streams) to ensure that companies are compliant. and promote a circular economy.

Promoting a circular economy will continue to be the theme of the New Year. Here are some trends we need to watch for in 2022:

Apply the 50% reduction in organic waste going to landfill

The discussion around reducing organic waste to landfill by 50% by 2022 and a complete ban in 2027 seemed to be receiving more attention. We have already seen AWT technology such as on-site composting units being used more frequently. Every business that produces large volumes of organic waste must maintain a waste inventory to track the volumes produced and processed.

Over the next few years, on-site AWT technology will become the preferred method of treating organic waste, especially as we move towards a complete ban on the landfill of organic waste. The use of the AWT on site makes it easier to monitor the volumes of waste produced and processed.

SA's largest metros face looming landfill crisis

Integrated waste management towards an “industrial symbiosis”

Landfills will face increased pressure in terms of available airspace and compliance. As a result, many municipalities have started to explore the feasibility of integrated waste management systems (IWRM). An IWM system uses various methods and technologies to prevent, treat, reuse, and eliminate waste streams.

A typical IWM system may have source reduction measures, composting systems, a solid waste recycling facility, digestion plants, a material recovery facility (MRF) and possibly a heat treatment plant. Although IWM is not a new concept in the waste sector, the development of IWM models has been slow at the municipal level.

However, there appears to be a more promising progression with IWM in industrial parks and environments. This brings us to the concept of “industrial symbiosis,” which implies that companies and industries should work together to use by-products or unused resources as secondary resources.

These secondary resources could take the form of waste, energy, captured emissions or water. Industrial Symbiosis has gained a lot of ground in South Africa over the past five years, with four major Industrial Symbiosis (ISP) programs currently underway in the country. With the ability to save on resource costs, collaborate with other companies, and reduce landfill waste, industries across South Africa are joining ISPs.

As industrial symbiosis develops in the country, material supply chains and waste treatment will look into technology that creates secondary resource opportunities. According to the most recent data, since 2015, 215,000 tonnes of waste has been diverted from landfills through the current ISPs in South Africa.

Data-driven circular economy

To fully understand the efficiency of material flows and supply chains, waste management service providers need to focus on collecting more and better data on waste flows. For the most part, the collection of data on waste generation and treatment has been fairly manual, leaving room for human error and oversight. Using technology to collect accurate, high-quality data can enhance the economic value of a waste stream by positioning it as a secondary resource.

If we look specifically at how this would apply to organic waste, knowing full well the volumes of raw materials (food waste, for example) that would go into a composting unit will give us a good idea of ​​the volumes of product leaving (compost). This level of understanding helps create an accurate business case for a secondary resource produced at a specific site.

Put more emphasis on carbon and emissions management

Following COP26, South Africa was honored with our carbon-intensive economy. With the production of carbon and emissions, the waste sector has a role to play. Disposal of the organic waste stream in landfills is still responsible for a large part of South Africa’s carbon and methane emissions. This makes the diversion of organic waste a priority in 2022 and in the years to come.

Sources: South Africa’s National Center for Cleaner Production: 2020 Impact Report