An analysis of municipal solid waste management in South Africa using the Msunduzi Municipality as a case study.
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Municipal Solid Waste generation has become an inevitable consequence of lifestyles and daily living. However, the nature (quantity and quality) of this waste stream can vary and is largely dependent upon the manner in which waste production is managed, by both government and the public. The increasing practices of littering, dumping and burning of solid waste by households (and industries though not extensively dealt with in this study) in South Africa has led to the finding that municipal solid waste is being irresponsibly managed. In this regard, it becomes necessary to investigate the attitudes and behaviour of individuals and households toward solid waste practices, which further include mitigating measures such as reduction, reuse and recycling for the generation of solid waste. The role of the South African government in providing a refuse removal and safe disposal service to all citizens is suggestive of the responsible role of government to ensure that solid waste is being effectively managed by all sectors of society. The aims of this study in light of the above were to review the municipal solid waste policies and strategies of local government authorities in South Africa, highlighting the shortcomings and discrepancies that exist between legislative policies and actual management practices; which is also reflective of the attitudes and approaches to solid waste management by households. This was achieved by focusing on the case study of the Msunduzi Municipality and included investigations into socio-economic and cultural influences on solid waste disposal practices. The objectives of the study were achieved by means of a questionnaire survey that elicited specific responses from 650 sampled households in five suburbs of differing socio-economic status. A further analysis to identify the nature of household municipal solid waste for landfilling from three suburbs of differing socio-economic status was conducted by categorizing 25 tons of garbage at the New England Road Landfill Site, leading to inferences about consumer purchasing power and disposal practices. Further, key personnel in the Msunduzi Municipality’s waste management division were interviewed to ascertain the solid waste challenges faced at local municipal and national levels of government. The study revealed several significant findings of which the most important is that the implementation of South Africa’s national municipal solid waste legislation policies and strategies are inconsistent with local government practices and procedures; thus compromising equity, efficiency, effectiveness and the sustainability of municipal solid waste disposal. Factors contributing to this are shown to be inadequate management and service delivery. The research has shown that monitoring and control systems which purported to ensure environmental sustainability are lacking and inadequately address issues where the implementation of municipal solid waste regulations are in contravention with national solid waste policies. The outcomes of the questionnaire survey and the assessment of household municipal solid waste for landfilling reveal that socio-economic status and culture do in fact influence the nature of solid waste and the disposal methods used by residents. The receptiveness of households towards adopting suggested municipal solid waste disposal practices was also investigated. The non-compliance of residents with municipal solid waste legislation and policies points towards a lack of monitoring and control measures, thereby not providing for a sustained and adequate service delivery which is environmentally sound. The research further suggests that all sectors of the South African public and the government are inadequately informed in terms of aspects of municipal solid waste. This has led the researcher to recommend that further education and awareness campaigns and its role in environmental sustainability are needed so that a sharing of responsibility between government and the public can be effected to aid municipal solid waste management in the country. It is argued that the insight into the roles of socio-economic status and cultural influences over solid waste practices provide a platform from which municipal authorities can work to specifically address the problems associated with municipal solid waste at a community level. It is the task of the national government to ensure that South Africa’s municipal solid waste is being responsibly managed at the local municipal levels so that the health and safety of the environment and its citizens are suitably addressed, hence the focusing on solid waste legislation and national policies (which have been recognized internationally as being environmentally sound and sustainable) must be translated in terms that local municipalities can adopt, assuming that they have been sufficiently empowered in terms of both knowledge and adequate budgeting.