Waste Management Bureau fees and taxes were published for comment in February 2015, as waste law continues to multiply. Mining waste also became a Listed Activity.
The Waste Amendment Act has presented a few more challenges than solutions, but the main problems are in the Waste Regulations, said Business Unity SA (Busa) general business convenor, Dr Laurraine Lotter, at a Chemicals and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) update seminar in Johannesburg.
Waste Management Bureau plans grow larger
The DEA’s newly established Waste Management Bureau (WMB) was set up to review, approve and monitor the implementation of Industry Waste Management Plans (IWMPs), municipal waste disposal tariffs, proposed new national disposal taxes, EPR schemes, incentives and disincentives.
However the Waste Management Bureau is now also earmarked for massive tax funding, to run a range of Product Responsibility Organisations (PROs), recycling subsidies, tax rebates, and SADC jobs schemes; all to be co-funded by waste volumetric tariffs, waste disposal taxes, material and input taxes, virgin material taxes, hazardous material taxes, product taxes, deposit refund schemes, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) fees.
The waste bureau has already run ahead of Treasury provisions, and looks set to become something similar to the Seta scheme. There is even talk of a R500-m annual budget just for its proposed retail product responsibility and jobs scheme.
The ‘southern African’ mandate of the South African waste bureau is also raising eyebrows.
Recycling is expensive
Similar state schemes based on waste management, such as the plastic bag regulations, and the waste tyre scheme Redisa, have passesd their costs to consumers.
Redisa appointed small companies to collect and cut up waste tyres. It claims to have created 1600 jobs in return for the recycling levy that consumer have to pay, a model that may be followed by the new bureau.
Meanwhile relatively unlegislated recycling such as glass, metal, and paper, is running moderately well, even in the absence of enforced commercial or domestic waste separation.
Employers are groaning under the weight of environmental impact assessment (EIA) law, national provisions in the Waste Amendment Act (that incidentally failed to resolve some older impracticalities), dis-harmonious provincial environmental and waste requirements, and reporting to the Waste Information System (WIS).
Provisions such as the declaration of priority wastes; extended producer responsibility (EPR); waste management plans; and licensing of a range a waste management activities, including an EIA process of up to two years; are also a burden to the environmental minister, whiles DEA officials are not keen on implementing the letter of the elaborate law.
The DEA minister may even stop production of certain materials, raising the possibility of monopolism or favouring certain imports.
Business proposes standards instead of agencies
Norms and standards are easier to implement and enforce, said Dr Lotter. Compliance to existing standards for waste storage, motor vehicle scrapping, landfill gas flaring, and forthcoming standards for conversion of waste to fuel, would eliminate the need for cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming licensing procedures.
Fluorescent tubes and CFL recycling plan
Fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) waste may be prohibited at waste landfills in 2016, and waste law may then enforce a proposed takeback and recycling process via certain suppliers, expected to double the cost of disposal of bulbs.
New waste generation streams would be classified according to the globally harmonised system by 2016, while existing streams would retain their current classification.
Contaminated land procedures remain contested, and the long-planned contaminated land register has not yet been established. A proposal under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations wanted transfer of contaminated land to be approved, but business did not agree.
Waste Regulations Guidance 2015
A waste law or Waste Regulations Guidance is expected this year to clear up some problems in the Regulations for operators and employers, and it is expected that some aspects of the guidance would contradict the Regulations and even the amendment Act.
Business bodies such as BUSA and CAIA continue regular meetings with the DEA, asking for environmental law to be rational; based on scientific principles; and the regulating authorities to raise their capacity to implement law consistently.
Dr Lotter warned affected operators to comment on several aspects of the Waste Management Bureau Pricing Strategy without delay.
Mining environmental licences in 300 days
Mining residues and stockpiles were made a Listed Activity in February 2015, while the industry was still in discussion with the Department of Environmental Affairs, and while the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act (MRPDA) was referred back to parliament after a year in the President’s office.
Meanwhile the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) Waste Act Amendment came into effect on 8 December, when the departments of Mineral Resources, of Environmental Affairs, and of Water and Sanitation, launched the ‘One Environmental System’ for licensing of mining, environmental authorisations, and water use.
Only DMR will issue environmental authorisations and waste management licences for mining and related activities, with DEA minister Edna Molewa as appeal authority.
The National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act, Nemla 3, relies on some sections of the MPRDA. Permits will be issued simultaneously by DEA, DMR, DWS, within 300 days, so the first permits are expected to be awarded by October 2015.
DMR minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi is appointing mineral resource inspectors (Mining Scorpions), with the same powers as environmental management inspectors (Green Scorpions), to enforce environmental law. The Financial Provision for Rehabilitation Regulations are expected to follow.
* Sources; CAIA. SA Info. Sheqafrica.com.
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