Averda started operations in South Africa in 2015: What is the waste management scenario then and now?
There has been a global shift in the past few years for a clear move towards sustainability. This has been championed globally by various global bodies such as the United Nations. In South Africa, there is a huge appetite from all players to contribute towards sustainable development.
Averda is at the forefront of innovation. And as we are fully embedded in the South African market, we can influence and make change from within. The move towards sustainability is happening on all fronts. Companies are taking more responsibility for the waste they produce, thanks to the extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules, while governments are focused on putting legislation in place to ensure the market is keeping up with the move towards sustainability.
Soon after starting operations in South Africa, Averda became a market leader in the treatment of HCRW (through a combination of acquisitions, that included a healthcare waste company, and targeted investments to develop our own facilities and services). Averda’s Vlakfontein site for hazardous waste became operational in 2016, and this cemented Averda’s position as an expert in hazardous waste disposal. We are now one of South Africa’s leading waste management providers, investing heavily in sustainable solutions and technologies to create a world without waste.
Tell us about Averda’s diverse areas of work in South Africa.
Averda offers a diverse range of environmental services and sustainable waste management solutions to private, industrial and government clients across South Africa.
Our services extend from general waste collection and recycling all the way to healthcare risk waste (HCRW) and hazardous waste management. Averda manages the waste value chain end-to-end, including reporting and zero landfill options. By doing so we are helping our customers reach their sustainability goals and progress in their carbon neutrality journey.
As part of our waste management services, Averda owns and operates two self-sustaining incinerators in Gauteng and Western Cape province. We do not utilise fossil fuels in the operation of the incinerators.
Averda also owns two electrothermal deactivation plants (ETD) for the treatment of HCRW.
Hazardous waste which cannot be easily recycled/re-used is landfilled at our Class A, hazardous landfill site– Vlakfontein in the Gauteng province. Averda operates a general waste landfill site called Genesis in Gauteng.
Averda also offers onsite management of waste. This includes providing Averda staff at client sites to ensure that recyclables are separated at source to get the highest recycling rebate for our clients. Our approach is tailored to the needs of our clients, ensuring we focus on our client’s sustainability goals, assisting with waste reduction, energy saving, waste beneficiation, and circularity.
Averda recently inked a deal with IFC. What are Averda’s plans for South Africa?
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) provided Averda with a $30 million loan to accelerate the company’s sustainable waste management projects in emerging markets. Part of the loan is being used to fund the construction of a new plastics recycling plant in Rosslyn, Gauteng, which will create hundreds of jobs along the recycling value chain.
We are aiming for the facility to be in operation by the end of the year and it will process an estimated 12,000 tonnes of plastic in its first year. When fully operational, the facility will be able to recycle up to 45,000 tonnes of plastic a year.
This facility will be able to recycle Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), through a process of shredding, washing and pelletising. The pellets will then be sold to industries for reuse as secondary raw materials.
The facility will also be able to help clients meet South Africa’s mandatory EPR regulations that came into effect in May 2021. EPR ensures that companies that make or import plastic packaging are responsible for the packaging until the end of its lifecycle. Companies are required to pay an EPR fee per tonne. Averda can help clients by recycling their used LDPE and HDPE plastics.
What are the major challenges that the municipalities and private waste management service providers face today in managing waste in South Africa?
There are a few critical areas that still remain a challenge in the South African market:
Landfill charges are still low: It is,therefore, much cheaper to landfill than to look at the reuse and recycling strategies. Until this changes, recycling will be driven only by companies with sustainability goals rather than as a response to a mandatory requirement from the government.
Municipal landfill sites are running out of airspace, and South Africa does not have large-scale, commercialised incineration facilities for waste.
How does Averda address them?
Averda’s strategic focus is on diverting from landfill and intensifying our efforts around waste recycling and processing, while also using technology-based solutions where appropriate.
Averda also partners with its customers to tailor solutions that work for them and that would help them achieve their goals.
One of the most successful strategies that we have put in place has been the onsite waste management. Our highly trained teams are able to increase recycling rates allowing our customers to focus on their work while we focus on increasing recycling. Our plastic recycling facility will also process used plastic, helping to reduce the amount of plastic in landfills.
Tell us about Averda's Refuse-Derived Fuel technology in South Africa.
Waste that cannot be composted or recycled can still have value. Averda is equipped to process many types of residual waste into forms of fuel suitable for use in industrial and manufacturing processes. We produce refused-derived fuels (RDFs) from the waste left over after the sorting of organic and recyclable items from municipal and general waste. We turn this into solid fuel which is easily transported and can be used in place of traditional solid fuels such as coal. This fuel is particularly suitable for use in cement kilns.
In South Africa, Averda has invested in a state-of-the-art facility in Vlakfontien to turn hard-to-treat hazardous liquids and sludges into liquid fuel. In doing so, we support our industrial and mining clients with their ambitions to reduce waste to landfill and their corporate sustainability targets.
As per National Waste Management Strategy 2020, 40 per cent of waste should be diverted from landfill within 5 years. What steps should South Africa take or have taken to achieve this?
The National Waste Management Strategy is based on the three pillars of: Waste Minimisation (plan to zero), Effective and Sustainable Waste Practices, Compliance, Enforcement and Awareness. All three pillars are essential to reach the plan and targets outlined.
Regarding diversion from landfill, the National Norms and Standards for disposal of waste to landfills restrict the disposal of the following items: solvents, WEEE, tyres, liquid waste, hazardous waste streams with various calorific values (CV) and timelines linked to the CV ranges, brine waste and garden waste. This has forced companies to focus on resuse and recycling opportunities.
Another critical step that will assist in ensuring the 70 per cent diversion from landfill goal (15-year target) is linked to compliance and enforcement and the need for landfill taxes/higher landfill rates.
The next step would be investment – nothing will change if investment is not put in place to solve those challenges. Averda has been lucky to receive the IFC loan. This is a testament to the organisation’s will and belief in growing markets such as South Africa. Like IFC, many other bodies are looking to contribute to tackling the climate crisis.
Over the years, how has South Africa fared with respect to recycling?
According to PlasticSA, South Africa has one of the most efficient and effective recycling industries worldwide. South Africa recycles 46 per cent of plastic waste, 70 per cent of paper waste, 72 per cent of beverage cans/metals and 42 per cent of glass. This is higher than most countries and shows a developed and advanced recycling network. This network is on the back of the informal sector that sells the above to buy-back centres. The formalistion and better management of this sector is required to ensure higher rates and more controlled pricing. Higher recycling rates are linked to recyclables that generate an income. One of the biggest problems in South Africa is that the country, according to the CSIR, still landfills about 10 million tonnes of edible food waste. With high inequality and poverty in South Africa, food waste ending up as landfill is a terrible tragedy. Finally, proper infrastructure is needed to be able to achieve the recycling rates that the country deserves.
How can strengthening of existing legislations and new regulatory changes help improve waste management?
We will be able to achieve circularity only when there is a robust end-to-end waste management solution and when it is supported by law. South Africa needs a larger and more developed framework linked to recycling and reuse opportunities and to incentivise companies that divert waste away from landfill.
While the UN Sustainable Goals have pushed food retailers to focus on reduction of food loss by 2030, large volumes of food waste still end up in landfill or as animal feed. This is still a major concern. Generally, South Africa has strong environmental legislation around compliance and governance of waste – this needs to be followed up with enforcement to ensure we meet and exceed our sustainable development goals.