Awareness of the importance of reducing pollution and protecting natural resources in ensuring occupational health, public health and a sustainable environment, has grown steadily since the 1980s, as people increasingly recognise hazards and risks of wasteful and harmful practices.
The first and best approach is to avoid creating waste, while sending waste to landfill sites should be the last resort, recommends Responsible Care (RC).
“Each employer should have a waste management plan to eliminate, reduce, recycle or dispose of waste”, says Responsible Care manager, Louise Lindeque.
Workers should contribute to protecting their health and the by gaining awareness of production and waste management processes and practices. Handling waste responsibly ensures a safer workplace, as well as saving on costs and improving housekeeping at work.
Operators should integrate waste management principles in all processes:
• Reduce waste by cleaner production processes
• Re-use resources, material or energy forms on site
• Separate waste at source into designated containers
• Keep recyclable resources clean and dry
• Report and investigate incidents where waste is incorrectly segregated
• Report waste bins and containers that are full or overflowing
• Ask for suggestions on options for better waste reduction, re-use, separation, recycling or disposal.
The new SA Waste Management Strategy, Waste Regulations and standards, would soon specify and enforce new measures under authority of the Waste Act.
Handing of general, commercial, industrial and hazardous waste streams would be ruled by a National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS).
Hazardous waste generators would acquire extended producer responsibility, and would have to report to a national waste manifest system, according to a hazardous waste classification system.
The Department of Water and Environment is promoting an approach of ‘systematically improving waste management’, following failure of various national, provincial and municipal measures to prevent hazardous and medical waste dumping.
Waste disposal to landfill and remediation of contaminated land, currently ruled by disparate pieces of legislation and authorities, may become more harmonised in the new Waste Strategy and Waste Regulations.
Waste management should focus on prevention by a systematic and hierarchical approach to integrated waste management, including cleaner production techniques, effective and sensible reuse and recycling, and responsible treatment and disposal, not on a ‘one stream to landfill’ approach.
Waste streams would be classified as hazardous or general, and generators would have to consider suitable management options, being either reuse, recycling, recovery, treatment, or disposal.
Disposal would involve landfill acceptance criteria, to be detailed in the Waste Strategy, Waste Regulations, and relevant new standards.
A revised Waste Classification and Management System (WCMS) is envisaged to enable the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to determine the success of the strategy in moving resources up from landfill to reuse, recycling and recovery.
Waste management standardised
The draft waste classification system incorporates classes, categories, appropriate management, and reporting. Hazardous waste could be classified in accordance with the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, as referenced in SANS 10234, and assigned one or more hazard classes, to determine management and disposal options.
The new classification system, WCMS, would be formalised into Waste Regulations. Industrial sectors are expected to develop guidelines in response to the Waste Regulations.
Waste generation responsibilities
A draft framework for remediation of contaminated land provides a protocol for site risk assessment, norms and standards for site assessment reporting, and derivation and use of preliminary soil screening values.
Waste generation responsibilities would be ruled by the WCMS, a Best Practice Technical Guideline, and additional norms and standards for storage and handling of waste.
Waste Regulations would extend producer responsibility and set criteria for implementation of the waste hierarchy, to encourage cleaner production and resource efficiency.
Product stewardship management elements
CAIA had published two guides on implementation of Responsible Care management practice standards, including product stewardship. Ten new product stewardship elements are included, and each may be applied to waste, as much as it is applied to product;
• Management support and commitment to the company’s Product Stewardship programme demonstrated by its explicit inclusion in the company’s policies, strategy, objectives and targets.
• Responsibility for Product Stewardship explicitly included in KPIs of relevant business units and individuals.
• List of hazardous substances that the company produces and uses.
• Material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous substances on site, provided to handlers and users of the product.
• MSDSs available to other stakeholders on request.
• Note status of implementation of the new Responsible Care Product Stewardship Guideline Documents of 2010.
• Set specific long and short term Product Stewardship objectives and targets.
• Product Stewardship goals, targets and achievements are specifically communicated to employees and contractors regularly.
• Various levels of management are regularly informed of and discuss progress with product stewardship goals and targets.
• Corporate management system standards cover product stewardship requirements.
Waste awareness toolbox talk
Employers should ensure that workers are aware of, and able to assess, prevent or manage safety, health, environment and waste risks relevant to their own jobs and workplace.
Workers should be informed in induction training, formal training, job training, and toolbox talks about risk management, by using well researched and simply presented training material, toolbox talks, and posters to sustain risk awareness.
Workers should also have recourse to detailed training material and designated occupational safety, health and environment officials.
A set of sheq theme posters and toolbox talk leaflets by Advantage ACT, includes a waste management theme. Basic aspects of waste legislation, prevention, management and terminology, are spelled out, as sumamrised below;
Waste can be defined as that which we do not want or what we fail to use, including failure to use for proper purpose.
Waste can be classified by:
• Source (domestic, industrial, mining)
• Form (solid, liquid, gas)
• Inherent properties (biodegradable, non-biodegradable)
• Effects (harmless or harmful to human beings/animals/the environment)
Waste minimisation is reduction, to the extent feasible, of waste that is generated or subsequently treated, stored or disposed of. It includes any treatment that reduces the volume or amount of waste, results in recycling or re-use of waste, or that reduces the hazard rating of hazardous waste”.
Hazardous waste is any waste that directly or indirectly represents a threat to human health or to the environment by introducing one or more of the following risks:
• explosion or fire
• parasites or their vectors
• chemical instability
• reactions or corrosions
• acute or chronic toxicity
• tumours or birth defects
• ecotoxicity, damage to ecosystems or natural resources
• accumulation in biological food chains
• persistence in the environment or multiple effects, requiring containment and special disposal.
Basic waste terminology
Avoidance: Preventing the generation of waste should be the first priority of any organisation’s waste management programme; a pro-active approach is preferred above a re-active approach.
Biodegradable: A process by which a substance is broken up and thus forms part of nature on its own, eg. Vegetable waste becomes compost.
Ecosystem: Any self-sustaining and self-regulating community of organisms and the interaction between such organisms with one another and with their environment, eg. Wetland.
Hazardous: An inherent physical or chemical characteristic that has the potential for causing harm to people, property, or the environment, also defined as a source of or exposure to danger.
Incineration: Burning waste in order to remove the waste.
Inherent: Naturally or built-in; characteristics that are always present or a risk that already exists within the object, substance or process.
Leachate: Pollutants, particularly toxics, are dissolved and percolated or moved from waste disposal sites into groundwater.
Recycling: Changing the current format of the substance to suit a different use altogether. Eg. paper is converted into carton boxes or toilet paper.
Reduction: Minimising or reducing, decreasing or cutting back on waste generation in order to preserve the environment.
Re-use: The use of a substance in its current format for another purpose. Eg. glass bottle with cool drink as content is used again with water as its content.
Safe: Freedom from unacceptable risk of harm (See ISO guide 14012)
Toxicity: Poisonous and harmful to the environment, eg. oil, diesel, asbestos.
Treatment: Handling, dealing or management of waste effectively to prevent any harm to the environment.
Advantage ACT sheq posters and toolbox talks are divided into sub sets on safety, health, environment, quality, and PPE. Enviro themes include;
Material safety data sheets (MSDSs)
Environmental impact management
The set promoting use of personal protective equipment (PPE) responds to employer requests for support in maintaining one of the elements of a good sheq culture.
Every poster in the catalogue is accompanied by a toolbox talk, with information that could be customised and used in newsletters or on intranets. Poster sizes and prices are A4 at R36, A3 at R66, A2 at R224, A1 at R 344, A0 at R524. Prices exclude VAT, postage and packaging. Minimum order size is 10 posters. Order SHEQ posters from Advantage ACT on 012 809 4210, fax 012 809 4214, firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.safetyposters.co.za
IMAGE; SHEQ poster and toolbox talk on waste management, part of a set of sheq awareness tools developed by Advantage ACT.