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Waste a big problem

Hazardous waste is becoming, well... a hazard in South Africa.

The reason for this is most municipalities do not have enough facilities in place to deal with this specialised waste.

This then leads to these hazardous materials being dumped irresponsibly and illicitly, causing a rising hazard to the environment, including rivers.

According to law hazardous waste must be placed in specified disposal sites where it will not land in nature again for at least 100 m years.

One of the only municipalities in the country (recently named the top municipality in the country), Mossel Bay Municipality, ticks all the boxes when it comes to disposal of hazardous waste.

Among other things, this municipality often has open days when the broad public is invited to various sites to get rid of their hazardous waste legally.

These include such things as motor oil, oil filters, brake fluid, used antifreeze, paint and paint thinners, turpentine, pesticides or herbicides, household batteries, old TV sets, computers and other electronic devices, tyres, fluorescent tubes and light bulbs and household medical waste (needles and old medicines). These are then disposed of in a correct and safe manner by Mossel Bay Municipality. But what is happening to such waste in the Drakenstein municipal area?

Marius Wüst, Director of Engineering Services at the Drakenstein Municipality, says the municipality has facilities at the Wellington Landfill as well as the Paarl Transfer Station in Distillery Street, where small amounts of household hazardous solid waste can be disposed of.

Such waste includes poison bottles, old medicine bottles, electronic equipment, obsolete batteries of household appliances, and so on.

Residents are, however, limited to a maximum of two small shopping bags per disposal.

No asbestos or any other bulk hazardous substances may be dumped at these sites, as Wellington Landfill is classified as a Class B site. This means only household waste may be dumped there.

In the past the municipality charged tariffs for the reception of asbestos, tyres and plastic on the site, which was then stored separately in buildings, but this specialised service is extremely expensive to provide.

Furthermore, the storage, transport and dumping of this type of waste must also be monitored and carried out very strictly.

That is why Drakenstein Municipality no longer provides such a specialist service.

Businesses or private individuals who want to dump large volumes of hazardous household waste (such as asbestos sheets, gutters, tyres, plastic buffers, and so on) must, according to very strict legislation, dump them at a hazardous dumping facility. The only hazardous dumping facility in the surrounding area that provides for this is the Fisherman’s Cage Hazardous Landfill, near Cape Town.

During the previous financial year, Drakenstein Municipality safely disposed of all hazardous substances stored in stores with the help of an approved contractor registered with the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

Drakenstein Municipality provides only for the collection, transport and safe dumping of organic solid waste, for which it has a licence.

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