New Norms and Standards for Organic Waste Composting came into effect on 11 February 2022, introducing important measures that will help to divert this waste stream from landfills
On 11 February 2022 the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment amended the list of activities that require a waste management licence ("WML"). The amendments usher in a new regime for the treatment of waste.
They specifically exclude the treatment of organic waste using composting and any other organic waste treatment as a listed waste management activity. This waste management activity must instead be managed in terms of the National Norms and Standards for Organic Waste Composting (25 June 2021) ("Norms and Standards"), which were brought into force on 11 February 2022 to coincide with the amendments.
Management of organic waste poses a dilemma for most developing countries, including South Africa. The (mismanagement) of this waste stream typically generates environmental health risks. Organic waste generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming. These legal developments introduce a pragmatic approach to the management of organic waste and will, importantly, facilitate the diversion of this waste stream from landfills, for more beneficial use (compost production).
We anticipate an upsurge in organic waste composting facilities when this new regime commences. Large-scale composting facilities (with a capacity to process 10 tons per day or more) will need to be established and operated in compliance with the Norms and Standards, in addition to any other applicable laws. Facilities which fall below the 10-ton threshold are not regulated in terms of the Norms and Standards but must be registered and operated lawfully, which includes compliance with the environmental statutory duties of care.
The objective of the Norms and Standards is to prevent or minimise potential negative impacts on the bio-physical and socio-economic environment. Therefore, emergency response measures must be implemented at large-scale facilities, and operators must also comply with the statutory decommissioning processes in respect of discontinued facilities, among other requirements prescribed in the Norms and Standards.