Applicability of waste minimization clubs in South Africa (2001)

Funded by: Water Research Commission

Partner organisations: Partners in Development, eThekwini Water and Sanitation

Project description
The concept of sustainable development stresses the interdependence of economic growth and environmental quality. Industries are challenged to produce higher levels of output while using lower levels of inputs and producing less waste. Cleaner Production is recognised as an important approach to reducing environmental impact and leading industries in the direction of sustainable development. Cleaner Production is a general term that describes a preventative approach to industrial activity. It encompasses concepts such as pollution prevention and waste minimisation, but there is also emphasis on a change in attitude in the manner in which products are manufactured. In addition to achieving a lower level of pollution, Cleaner Production results in economic benefits as there is a more efficient use of raw materials and less waste being produced. One method of promoting Cleaner Production in industry is through the formation of waste minimisation clubs.

Waste minimisation is a systematic approach to reducing waste at source. It is applicable to all inputs (e.g. water, energy, chemicals, raw materials etc.) and outputs (products, emissions to water, land and air) of a process. The implementation of a waste minimisation programme results in a number of benefits, such as improved process efficiency, reduced operating costs, reduced environmental impact and improved public image. Waste minimisation is achieved through the implementation of a number of steps. The first steps include obtaining commitment to the programme from senior management, appointing a project champion to manage the programme and selecting a project team to assist in data collection. All process within the factory are then investigated and data collected on all inputs and outputs in terms of quantity and value. At the end of this phase, the project team should target those processes, operations or waste streams that require more detailed assessment. Targeted processes can be based on the hazardous nature of the waste, the value of the waste, the large volumes of water consumed or the use of excessive energy. These areas can then be assessed in more detail and options for improvement identified. A feasibility analysis is then conducted to determine if the option is economically, technically and environmentally feasible. Those options that are found to be feasible can then be implemented. It must be remembered that waste minimisation is not a once off activity and the programme should be continuously monitored and targets reassessed and reset at regular intervals.

 A waste minimisation club is a concept that was first developed in the Netherlands in the early 1990’s to encourage industries to reduce pollution. It involves a small number of companies, generally within the same geographical area, working together to exchange ideas and information on waste minimisation, and in this way, encourage one another to improve process efficiency, save money and reduce their environmental impact. It has shown to be a successful concept, with over 80 clubs established in the United Kingdom and similar initiatives in New Zealand and India.

Based on the success of this concept in other countries, it was felt that this could be a feasible method of promoting sustainable industrial development within South Africa, especially within the small, micro and medium -sized enterprise (SMME) sector. International experience has indicated that cumulatively these organisations use excessive amounts of energy and are significant sources of pollutants (air, water and solid waste). Waste minimisation practices not only promote the efficient use of recourses such as water and energy, but also leads to a reduction in emissions. By forming a club, companies are able to work together to reduce waste and save money through discussions, training and the combined use of outside consultants.

Project Aims
The waste minimisation club project was initiated in February 1998 with the primary aim of improving water quality through the prevention of water pollution by industries and reducing the demand for industrial water. The secondary aims of the project were to:
  • develop the concept of waste minimisation clubs in South Africa,
  • contribute to the establishment of competitive industrial small, micro and medium sized enterprises (SMME’s),
  • promote the concepts of cleaner production, waste minimisation and sustainable development amongst SMME’s, and 
  • promote energy efficiency.

These aims were to be fulfilled through the establishment of 3 pilot waste minimisation clubs in kwaZulu-Natal.