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CSIR Articles : CSIR waste experts contribute to landmark regional waste report

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CSIR waste experts contribute to landmark regional waste report

Anton Nahman
Anton Nahman

Contributing to the landmark Africa Waste Management Outlook report is a feather in the cap for the CSIR.

The Africa Waste Management Outlook report was launched during Sustainability Week earlier this month at the CSIR, in Pretoria, and is available here. The report, which is a joint initiative between the CSIR and United Nations Environment, is the first of its kind, and provides analyses of the state of waste management in Africa. The report is the result of contributions by waste experts and researchers across the region.

An expert on waste governance, CSIR waste for development research group leader, Prof Suzan Oelofse, contributed a chapter advocating for good governance to enable sustainable materials management. "The current governance environment in most African countries is not supportive of sustainable and effective waste management," she said. "The regulatory framework in most countries assumes that what works well in one municipality will work well in others, but this is not always the case," she continued. The report warns that the growth in waste generation in Africa is expected to be so significant; that any decrease in waste generation in other regions globally will be overshadowed by Africa.

Suzan also contributed to a chapter on unlocking opportunities for waste in Africa. This chapter was co-authored with CSIR sustainability science and resource economics research group leader, Anton Nahman; and CSIR principal researcher, Prof Linda Godfrey. In this chapter, the authors emphasise that unlocking opportunities associated with waste as a secondary resource will unlock social and economic opportunities, alleviate poverty, create jobs, empower women and improve livelihoods and environmental health. But, the authors warn that these and other benefits for Africa will depend on whether or not, and the extent to which, the opportunities associated with secondary resources are realised within Africa or exported beyond the borders of Africa. They recommend that a regional approach to secondary materials management be followed to maximise the benefits for Africa.

"Reuse, recycling and recovery of waste in Africa could inject at least US $8billion every year into the African economy, create much needed jobs and improve the livelihoods of many people living in Africa," says Suzan.

"There is an urgent need for African countries to address the current waste management challenges and prepare themselves for the expected growth in waste generation in the coming century. This will require social and technological innovation, as well as investment in services and infrastructure in the waste and secondary resources sector never seen in Africa before," said Linda, who is also the coordinating author and editor of the outlook report, during the launch.

Back home, the CSIR's Waste for Development Research Group, led by Suzan, continues to work closely with government and the private sector to integrate the informal waste sector into municipal waste management programmes. The group is also working with municipalities to characterise their waste streams to enable better and informed waste management decision-making. CSIR resource economists are hard at work quantifying the cost of food waste to enable better decision-making regarding waste management alternatives. The team has also collaborated with Pikitup to investigate interventions that will encourage the separation of waste at household level, while collaborations with the higher education sector have led to the development of postgraduate degrees in waste management being offered in South Africa.

The breadth of research undertaken in waste management is a reflection of the long-term investments made by the CSIR and the Department of Science and Technology, through the Waste Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap, led by Linda, enabling the group to develop strategies to manage waste in South Africa and the region effectively.

Linda Godfrey Suzan Oelofse
Linda Godfrey
Suzan Oelofse


By Reyhana Mahomed