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The City of Johannesburg is to embark on an aggressive campaign to promote recycling as it is running out of landfill space.
The low levels of household waste recycling, coupled with increased urban migration, were putting a strain on the City’s waste disposal efforts, Councillor Matshidiso Mfikoe, Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee for Environment, Infrastructure and Services, said at a media briefing at the Robinson Deep Landfill in Turffontein, south of Johannesburg, on Tuesday.

In a statement read on her behalf by Pikitup acting Managing Director Suren Maharaj, MMC Mfikoe said to respond to this and other challenges, the City had, through its waste management company Pikitup, developed an aggressive waste minimisation strategy.

She said the strategy was “geared towards moving away from the traditional waste hierarchy whereby 93% of waste is disposed at landfill sites towards a new paradigm whereby only 7% of waste will be disposed at landfills by 2040”.

She said the management of waste disposal was of great concern to both the country and the city. “According to data from the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africans disposed of 41 683 249 tons of waste in 2013,” she said.

"The City has its own unique challenges in managing the disposal of waste from our homes, schools, office complexes, informal trading centres. Notwithstanding the fact that Johannesburg is the beacon for local and foreign nationals for economic opportunities, this movement of people into the city has added an extra burden on the capacity of our landfill airspace."

She said there was evidence that landfills, if not managed properly, could be a public health and environmental hazard. Gases emitted could also result in climate change. “The presence of waste is an indication of overconsumption and that materials are not being used efficiently. The capacity of the natural environment to absorb and process these materials is also under stress. It cannot be business as usual. We had to look at new ways of managing waste from source until it reaches the landfill sites. I am happy to announce that as the City we have embarked on new interventions to address these new challenges posed by irresponsible disposal of waste,” MMC Mfikoe said.

The City and Pikitup were partnering with communities and the private sector to address waste management challenges, she said.

Different waste management streams include raising awareness around recycling through the Separation at Source Programme. This financial year, 14 000 tons of recycled waste was successfully diverted away from landfills. Though the current participation rate was only 25%, the City hoped to raise it to 70% by 2016, the MMC said.

This will be done through Jozi@Work initiatives. Alternative waste treatment is a project that will use technology to treat residual waste. Pikitup is awaiting delivery of mobile Builders’ Rubble Machinery to tackle the growing problem of rubble disposal. Food waste has also been identified as a growing problem.

MMC Mfikoe reassured residents that services would not be affected during the holidays, except on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. “I urge all residents to become active participants in preserving and protecting the environment by applying the basic principles of waste management: reduce, reuse and recycle when disposing waste during the festive period,” she said.