Landfill site audit: 81,5% of sites do not meet minimum standards

AfriForum today released the organisation’s annual landfill audit report, after landfill sites in towns and cities where AfriForum’s branches are located were audited earlier this year. This report will be discussed with Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environmental Affairs, as an ongoing conversation that started already in 2019 and will also be handed over to the Green Scorpions for further investigation. Only 18,5% (30 of 162) of these landfills meet the minimum requirements of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (No. 59 of 2008).

By law, a landfill site must meet certain requirements. A list of 33 questions was compiled with these minimum standards as a guideline and these questions were used to conduct the landfill audit.

“The poor percentage can be attributed to various problems experienced by municipalities that lead to the poor and illegal management of our landfill sites. Misappropriation of funds, poor maintenance and a lack of competent personnel are just some of the problems we face daily. The biggest problem is that there are officials in municipalities who do not have the will and/or the knowledge to manage the sites,” says Lambert de Klerk, Manager of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum.

“The obstacles are endless, such as the fact that there are officials in municipalities who know that their poor management has no repercussions for them. It is worrying to know that most landfill sites in South Africa do not even meet the minimum requirements, but at the same time it is understandable as no municipalities are held accountable for the mismanagement.”

The environmental management inspectors, better known as the Green Scorpions, are also overloaded with investigations whilst also being a time-consuming process to complete. An example of this is where AfriForum followed this process with sewage pollution in 2018 and the conviction was only successfully implemented in 2022.

As in the past, AfriForum is also aware of several landfill sites that have closed down this year and at the same time it has also been observed that some operational sites should have already closed according to their licenses. This is of concern because it means that there are no more landfills in certain towns or cities, which is likely to lead to illegal dumping.

“We’ve met with Creecy since 2019’s landfill audit, and we’ve been in constant communication with her and her team since then. Six sites have been identified that we have attempted to restore. The first meetings were held at the end of 2021 at the respective municipalities and possible solutions were discussed. It was agreed that AfriForum would draw up a memorandum of understanding and then send it to the municipalities for discussion on improved co-operation. From the meetings it was clear that there was insufficient communication between national, provincial and local authorities,” continues De Klerk.

According to De Klerk, AfriForum has also become aware of the latest issue that is now beginning to emerge at ground level, where many sites that still have sufficient air space receive notifications to close. It is then intended to open joint district sites for between three to four towns.

One success story is that of the J.B. Marks Local Municipality in Potchefstroom which made a real turnaround and appointed a competent private company to help at the landfill. This is evident in the audit results of the last three years (16% in 2020, 46% in 2021 and 82% in 2022).

De Klerk believes municipalities should start looking at these types of solutions to get South Africa’s waste management to an acceptable standard. “AfriForum would like to assist with the implementation of solutions and also encourages municipalities to contact the organisation. It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that our environment is not polluted and that is why we also want to contribute to a cleaner South Africa.”

This is how the landfill sites per province performed with regard to the minimum requirements:

ProvinceNumber of landfills auditedNumber of landfills that meet more than 80% of the minimum requirementsNumber of landfills that don’t meet the minimum requirements
KwaZulu-Natal 918
Northern Cape18117
North West23320
Eastern Cape606
Free State25025
Western Cape251213
National total 16230132

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  • Read the audit report here.

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