Load shedding is known to create havoc, but it’s not often we consider its impact on waste management. As it turns out, the waste management industry is far from immune to the effects of power cuts.
Waste Management – Not Immune to Load Shedding
“The waste management industry is not immune to the effects of load shedding,” warns Mpendulo Ginindza, the president of the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA). While many may have been under the impression that certain sectors remain unaffected by load shedding, it’s a misconception. The reality is a different story, extending all the way down to your rubbish bin.
Logistics and Operations Disrupted
According to Ginindza, load shedding presents substantial logistical challenges to waste management, impacting everything from collection to transportation and disposal. “Load shedding disrupts the regular schedule of waste collection services,” she highlights.
Facilities dealing with hazardous waste, which heavily depend on electric equipment for waste treatment, are unable to function without power.
“Incinerators, autoclaves and temperature-controlled store rooms need a steady supply of electricity to run. The disruption by load shedding causes delays and missed collections,” Ginindza adds.
Impact on Recycling and Waste Treatment
The problem doesn’t stop at garbage collection. Recycling services, too, are significantly impacted by load shedding. She reveals that several waste treatment and recycling facilities had to close their doors because they couldn’t handle the waste load due to constant power cuts.
Medical waste treatment is particularly sensitive to electricity cuts. It’s impossible to sterilise and safely dispose of this type of waste without a steady electricity supply, raising public health concerns.
“To function (efficiently), waste facilities need a steady supply of electricity,” Ginindza stresses.
Threat to Environment and Neighbouring Countries
The interruption or suspension of waste treatment procedures leads to an accumulation of untreated garbage, which in itself is an environmental hazard.
“Waste [left to] build up in landfills can release toxic gases and other harmful substances into the environment,” warns the waste management expert. This build-up can lead to contamination of air, soil, and water.
Moreover, the impact extends beyond South Africa’s borders. Neighbouring countries that rely on South African waste management companies are also affected.
“Waste management plays a big role in South Africa’s economy and the impact of load shedding in this sector has serious repercussions,” concludes Ginindza.