TOUGH new legislation banning all liquid waste from landfills is now in effect and, while they will reduce the threat of toxins seeping into the natural environment, in the short term this will require some adjustment and investment from local industries if they wish to stay on the right side of the law.
That’s according to Reg Gerber, National Landfill Manager for waste management company Averda South Africa, who was in Durban recently to brief key local industry players on the prohibitions, which came into effect on 23 August 2019.
Previous regulations state that hazardous liquid waste with high calorific values – such as refinery waste, chemical processed paint waste, hydrocarbon contaminated liquids, sludges and chemical solvents – ought to have been progressively banned from landfills as from August 2017.
Now, all liquid wastes will be banned from landfill, as well as reactive wastes, recyclable waste oils, whole waste tyres, lamps, lead acid batteries, and waste with a calorific value of greater than 20MJ/kg, amongst others.
“The new regulations should be applauded for helping to improve how all waste, but particularly liquid hazardous waste is handled,” Gerber said.
But they will have far-reaching consequences for many producers in many sectors, particularly producers within the petrochemical industry, as significant investment will be needed to ensure that their liquid waste is correctly processed.
There are, however, a number of positives to be taken from this new regulatory environment, said Gerber.
For one, certain liquid waste can be converted, after processing, into speciality fuels that are of interest to other sectors – such as manufacturing plants that are looking for alternatives to replace the coal used within kilns.
Producing such fuel from waste is no small feat and requires considerable investment to do so in ways that comply with the new Waste Classification and Management Regulations.
According to Gerber, this is precisely what Averda has done to ensure that selected hazardous waste facilities are able to receive, store and blend hazardous waste sludge (liquids and solids) to produce fuel by-products with the new blending facility.
These high-tech factories are where all liquid waste is blended together and transformed into special fuels.
“Currently, options like refuse-derived fuel and anaerobic digestion are only available in selected regions, whereas bio-drying and gasification are not available at all,” Gerber said.
“Investing in compliance will drive vital funds into an industry that’s plagued by under-pricing – increasing the ability for waste experts to invest in much-needed alternative technologies.
“Our Vlakfontein high-hazardous-class landfill site in the Vaal Triangle is an example of the design and engineering required to meet the standards set in the regulations.”
Built at a cost of R250 million, the site has the capacity for six cells that will offer 6.5 million cubic metres of landfill capacity. This will be home to a high-tech blending facility able to process Averda’s clients’ waste responsibly and to the high standards set in the new regulations.
Interwaste is another waste management company that has been gearing up for the legislation. Its Business Development and Marketing Director Kate Stubbs said that while many businesses may not yet have prepared for this new legislative framework, there are already available solutions targeted towards complying.
“Interwaste has spent much time considering and planning for the impact of pending and potential legislation, ahead of implementation, to ensure we were prepared and have developed sustainable solutions for our clients that meet the very needs of sound compliance.
“We have also developed significant capacity over the years for the treatment, recycling and / or recovery of qualifying wastes at our licensed waste management facilities through the recycling of qualifying liquid and hazardous sludge wastes through our waste blending platform in Germiston, Gauteng which produces a waste derived fuel (WDF) for use as an industrial fuel.”
She warned that as government aims towards a circular economy and improving the country’s environmental standards, further stringent legislation was almost certainly in the pipeline.
“As such, it is up to us as waste companies to take a proactive approach by seeking relevant investment and technology development opportunities for alternative waste disposal solutions to not only meet legislative requirements but, very importantly, find solutions that are commercially viable and provide the producer with environmentally sound alternatives,” Stubbs said.