M.1 Outline of this section

M.1.1 Purpose

Settlements (and neighbourhoods as the ‘building blocks’ of settlements) are integrated systems in which the various components are interconnected, and this section highlights the role of solid waste management in this system. Urbanisation, population growth, economic growth and accompanying lifestyle changes result in the use of more consumer products and consequently the generation of more waste. The additional waste that is generated has wide-ranging impacts on settlements: it puts additional pressure on municipal service delivery and on landfill sites, it may result in the pollution of soil, air and water resources, and it can have negative public health implications. Sound solid waste management practices and the appropriate and efficient storage, collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste can potentially prevent or mitigate these impacts.

The National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (NEM:WA) as amended and the National Water Act, 1998 provide legal definitions for waste. In the context of this Guide, waste refers to solid materials, substances or objects that are unwanted, rejected, abandoned, discarded or disposed of, or that are intended or required to be discarded or disposed of by the holder, irrespective of their value or potential to be reused, recycled or recovered. Waste ceases to be waste once it is reused, recycled or recovered.

Solid waste management differs from most other municipal (engineering) services in a significant way: Communities are not only expected to pay for the waste removal service – they have to take specific actions in order for the waste to be removed, including the sorting of waste and making waste available for collection on the sidewalk or at a communal point. It is therefore critical that waste collection infrastructure and services are responsive to the needs of the communities being served.

This section has a direct link with Section F (Neighbourhood layout and structure), Section I(Transportation and road pavements) and Section L(Stormwater).

M.1.2 Content and structure

This section (Section M) is structured to support effective decision-making related to solid waste management. The decision-making framework is outlined in Figure M.1, and the structure of this section is briefly described below.

Universal considerations

General aspects that should be taken into consideration when making higher level decisions regarding solid waste management are highlighted, including the following:

  • The regulatory environment, including key legislation, policies, frameworks and strategies
  • The key objectives that should be achieved as a result of the application of the guidelines provided
  • Local or international approaches, mechanisms, concepts and current trends that could possibly be utilised to achieve the key objectives
  • Contextual factors specific to the development project to be implemented such as the development type and setting

Planning considerations

Factors to consider when making more detailed decisions regarding solid waste management are outlined, including the following:


  • The characteristics of the development, including the nature of the proposed neighbourhood, the anticipated number of residents and specific features that would have to be incorporated or requirements that would have to be met
  • The existing features of the site and immediate surroundings (built and natural environment) as determined by the physical location of the proposed development
  • Options related to solid waste management that are available for consideration
Figure M.1: A framework to assist with planning and design decisions


M.2 Universal considerations

M.2.1 The regulatory environment

A range of legislation, policies and strategies guide the planning and design of solid waste management services and related infrastructure. Some of these are listed below. Since they are not discussed in detail, it is vital to consult the relevant documents before commencing with any development. The intention of waste management legislation, policies and strategies is to regulate waste management activities and to divert waste away from landfilling towards alternative management options while providing an appropriate service to protect human health and the environment.

All three spheres of government - national, provincial and local - play a role in waste management, whether through providing the legislative framework, implementing the prescribed norms and standards or delivering municipal waste management services

As regulator, the National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is responsible for the drafting of legislation, regulations and national norms and standards. National DEA is also the licensing authority for hazardous waste management activities, as well as for general waste management activities that will affect more than one province or traverse international boundaries. Provincial departments responsible for environmental affairs are the licensing authorities for general waste management activities and landfills within their areas of jurisdiction. District municipalities are responsible for bulk infrastructure such as regional landfills and bulk waste transfer stations for use by more than one local municipality. Metropolitan and local municipalities are responsible for waste management service delivery, i.e. street cleaning, waste collection, waste minimisation and disposal in their areas of jurisdiction.


The objective of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (NEM:WA) is to improve waste management in South Africa. The NEM:WA introduces the waste management hierarchy (discussed in Section M.2.3) as the basis for waste management decision-making. According to the act, each municipality must develop an Integrated Waste Management Plan (IWMP) that should be included in the municipal Integrated Development Plan (IDP). Among others, the act also describes the licensing requirements of certain waste management activities, provides guiding principles for waste management charges and makes provision for the classification and assessment of waste for disposal.


Waste classification

The NEM:WA divides waste into two classes based on the risk posed:

  • General waste:This type of waste does not pose an immediate hazard or threat to public health or the environment. It includes domestic waste, building and demolition waste, business waste or any waste classified as non-hazardous waste.
  • Hazardous waste:This type of waste contains organic or inorganic elements or compounds that may – owing to the inherent physical, chemical or toxicological characteristics of that waste – have a detrimental impact on public health and the environment. It includes hazardous substances, materials or objects inside business waste, residue deposits and residue stockpiles. Although hazardous waste management falls outside the mandate of municipalities, planners must take note of these waste streams as they need to be collected and transported to licensed facilities.


In addition to the NEM:WA, the following legislation also has implications for waste management:

  • National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 2004
    This act specifies that waste incinerators for the thermal treatment of hazardous and general waste require anatmospheric emissions licence. The Dust Control regulations (2013) under this act are also applicable to waste facilities (landfills, composting facilities, etc.).
  • National Water Act,1998
    If waste is the cause of water pollution, Section 19 of the act will apply. This section places a responsibility on owners of land, a person in control of land, or a person who occupies land to prevent and remedy the effects of pollution emanating from that land on water resources
  • National Health Act, 2003
    This act makes provision for the Minister of Health to intervene if waste services rendered do not meet sufficient standards.

(ii) Policies and strategies

Policies and strategies under the NEM:WA include the following:

  • Municipal Solid Waste Tariff Strategy (2012)
    This strategy outlines, among others, the financial and subsidy framework within which municipal tariff setting fits, including sources of revenue for municipal solid waste services and tariff-setting approaches. It outlines the general principles for municipal solid waste tariff setting and the different tariff options.
  • The National Waste Management Strategy (2012)
    This strategy was developed to achieve the objectives of the NEM:WA
  • The National Policy for the Provision of Basic Refuse Removal Services to Indigent Households (2011)
    This policy aims to ensure the equitable provision of domestic waste removal services to indigent households. Indigent households are not expected to pay for waste removal services. The costs of providing these services therefore have to be recovered from somewhere else, typically through cross-subsidisation, and should be planned for.
  • National Organic Waste Composting Strategy (2013)
    This strategy stipulates that composting of garden waste should be incorporated into municipal planning and recognises the job creation, SMME establishment and partnership opportunities.
  • National Policy on Thermal Treatment of General and Hazardous Waste (2009)
    The thermal treatment of waste i an acceptable waste management option in South Africa but the feasibility under local conditions must be confirmed.

(iii) Norms, standards and regulations

Norms, standards and regulations under the NEM:WA include the following:

  • The National Domestic Waste Collection Standards (2011)
    This document sets national standards for equitable, affordable and practical waste collection services andincludes standards for separation at source; the collection of recyclable waste; receptacles; bulk containers; communal collection points; frequency of collection; drop-off centres for recyclables; collection vehicles; health and safety; communication; awareness creation and complaints; and waste collection customer service standards for kerbside collection. These standards are uniformly applicable to all municipalities.


  • Norms and Standards for Storage of Waste (2013)
    These norms and standards aim to ensure uniform and best practices for the design and operation of new and existing waste storage facilities
  • List of Waste Management Activities that have, or are likely to have, a detrimental effect on the environment (2013)
    The list specifies the waste management activities that require licensing. Depending on the type and scale of an activity, a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or a scoping level assessment should be conducted as part of the licence application process for all waste management activities that may have a detrimental effect on the environment. All waste management licences are site-specific and licences for municipal solid wasteactivities are issued by the relevant provincial department dealing with environmental affairs.
  • Norms and Standards for Assessment of Waste for Landfill Disposal, and Norms and Standards for disposal of Waste to Landfill (2013)
    These norms and standards stipulate that domestic waste, business waste (not containing hazardous waste or chemicals), non-infectious animal carcasses, and garden waste are pre-classified waste streams for which disposal is only allowed at Class B landfills. All new municipal landfills and new cells at existing municipal landfills must be designed and constructed in line with the specifications for Class B landfills
  • Norms and Standards for the Extraction, Flaring or Recovery of Landfill Gas (2013)
    The purpose of these norms and standards are to control extraction, flaring or recovery of landfill gas to prevent or minimise the potential negative impacts on the bio-physical and socio-economic environments.
  • Waste Information Regulations (2012)
    Municipalities must keep record of all waste disposed of at their landfills and must report the data to the relevant waste information system, according to the South African Waste Information System (SAWIS) regulations.
  • Waste classification and management regulations (2013)
    These regulations are relevant to all waste streams except those that are pre-classified. Generators of waste are responsible for the classification of waste and for the safe disposal of their waste once classified. All waste must be treated, reused, recovered or disposed of within 18 months of generation

Each provincial department dealing with environmental affairs has its own norms and standards which may be stricter than national norms and standards. Metropolitan and local municipalities must promulgate by-laws specifying the waste management services that they provide, as well as the actions required by the residents within their area of jurisdiction.


Be aware that the establishment of new waste management facilities and the outsourcing of municipal waste management services potentially have high costs and long timeframes due to possible extensive legal processes. Some of the required processes can be run in parallel and consultation processes can be combined, but this will require integrated planning. Outsourcing of municipal services is subject to approval of a Section 78 assessment in terms of the Municipal Systems Act, 2000.


M.2.2 Key objectives

Solid waste management has strong linkages to a range of global and local issues such as climate change, publichealth, poverty reduction, food and resource security, and sustainable consumption and production. Waste management is therefore included, either explicitly or implicitly, in a number of the Sustainable Development Goals


(SDGs). Objectives related to solid waste management have been formulated in a range of South African policy and planning publications, and the planning and design assistance included in this Guide aims to support these. Infrastructure and service provision related to solid waste management at a neighbourhood level should lower the risk to human health, minimise adverse impacts on the environment, grow the waste sector’s contribution to the economy and contribute to a better life for all.

(i) Lower the risk to human health

Solid waste management should limit health hazards and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. All waste should be stored, collected, treated and disposed of in a controlled manner. Uncollected waste, for instance, attracts pests such as flies and vermin, which are potential carriers of disease. Uncollected waste can also block drains, which results in stagnant water (increasing the risk of disease transmission and water contamination). The blocking of drains due to uncollected waste can also aggravate the impact of flooding, which can cause damage to property or endanger lives.

(ii) Minimise adverse impacts on the environment

The implementation of a sound solid waste management system should minimise waste’s adverse impacts on the natural environment by preventing pollution. In addition, such a system should minimise added harmful impacts on the environment that can possibly result from the methods that are used for the storage, collection, treatment and disposal of solid waste. For example, the burning of waste should be limited to prevent air pollution and landfills should be designed in such a manner that leachate is prevented (to protect underground water resources).

(iii) Grow the waste sector’s contribution to the economy

The maximum possible value should be extracted from solid waste. Waste that is currently disposed of at landfills has potential to benefit communities economically. For instance, by re-introducing recycled materials to the economy, new markets can be developed (e.g. for energy or for compost). Waste collection (including recycling services) is labour intensive and could contribute to job creation in the waste sector. Waste management services should therefore be planned to involve informal recyclers (local entrepreneurs) as part of the formal waste management system.

(iv) Contribute to creating a better quality of life for all

Waste collection services should be extended to all, irrespective of income level. A better quality of life should be made possible by creating neighbourhoods that are free of pollution (water, air and soil contamination) and are attractive places to live (without litter, odours and smog).

M.2.3 Approaches and concepts

This section briefly describes the waste management hierarchy and the waste management system as concepts that support the objectives discussed in Section M.2.2

M.2.3.1 The waste management hierarchy

Rapid urbanisation, population growth and lifestyle changes (resulting in an escalation in the use of consumer products) have led to a significant increase in the volume of waste generated in settlements. Disposing of waste at landfill sites is becoming more and more challenging, due, in part, to the shortage of suitable land in densely


populated settlements and the cost of transporting waste. This could lead to an increase in illegal dumping, uncollected waste and other forms of pollution, which would pose a threat to the natural environment.

It has been recognised internationally and locally that a comprehensive, holistic approach to the management of waste is required to limit the reliance on landfill sites and reduce the negative impact of solid waste on the environment. A range of actions to reduce and deal with waste has been identified and prioritised according to their potential impact on the environment. These actions are structured in a hierarchical system, with actions that will have the least impact on the environment positioned at the upper end of the hierarchy. This system is referred to as the ‘waste management hierarchy’. The intention with this hierarchy is to encourage everyone (including households, industries and government entities) to extract the maximum practical benefits from resources and products and to generate the minimum amount of waste. Various permutations of the waste management hierarchy exist, but in essence the key components remain the same. It is usually presented as an inverted pyramid as illustrated in Figure M.2.

Waste management actions are arranged in order of preference, with those that will make the most significant contribution to the effective and efficient utilisation of resources, to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, and to conserving energy, ranked highest in the hierarchy. Therefore, according to the hierarchy, initiatives aimed at eliminating waste should be prioritised, followed by attempts to reduce waste. Waste could be eliminated or reduced by, for instance, designing and manufacturing goods in a particular way, or by reducing unnecessary consumption.

The next action in the hierarchy relates to the reuse of a product when it reaches the perceived end of its lifespan. Rather than discarding such goods, in many instances they could be refurbished, repaired or repurposed. Recycling involves the separation of certain goods from the waste stream and utilising them again as products or raw material. Certain types of waste could also be recovered to be used as fuel for energy. Disposing of waste is the least desirable method to adopt, and efforts should therefore be made to implement as many of the actions higher up in the hierarchy to reduce the volume of waste that ends up at a landfill site.

Figure M.2: The waste management hierarchy

M.2.3.2 The waste management system

The waste management system involves a range of inputs, outputs and actions. Once waste is generated, it follows a process that involves a number of stages. The stages involved would depend on the nature of the waste and the manner of disposal, as illustrated in Figure M.3. In some instances the process may be very basic, simply involving


the collection of waste and its transportation to a landfill site. In other cases, especially when waste is separated at source, the process may become more complex and involve a range of other stages or actions. This may involve various recovery and treatment methods that would result in a range of outputs such as fuel, compost and recycled metal, paper, glass and plastic.


Separation of waste at source

  • If only one container is used to dispose of waste, the waste is not sorted and therefore may include a mix of organic waste (garden and food waste), recyclables (paper, glass, metal, plastic) and non-recyclable waste.
  • If waste is disposed of in two containers, one container is usually used for mixed recyclables and the other for a combination of organic and mixed non-recyclable (residual) waste.
  • Three or more containers would allow for further separation of the different types of recyclables and/or the separation of organic and residual waste into different containers.

The waste management system illustrated in Figure M.3 is a generic system that may have to be modified to suit specific conditions and local contexts. The way in which waste is disposed of in a particular area may change over time, and therefore the system should be adaptable. For example, initiatives may be implemented to minimise waste generation and encourage reuse, which will reduce the volume of waste to be collected, transported and treated. Similarly, if it becomes mandatory for households and other waste generators in a particular area to separate waste at source, the way in which waste is collected, stored and treated may change substantially (e.g. a clean Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) may be needed instead of a dirty MRF).

Figure M.3: The waste management system


M.2.4 The implementation context

This section highlights the contextual factors that should be considered when making decisions regarding solid waste management, specifically related to the type of development and its setting.

M.2.4.1 The type of development

(i) Greenfield development

Deciding on a solid waste collection system for a greenfield development would normally be influenced by the anticipated needs of the residents and the cost implications of a proposed system. Other factors that would influence the choice and design of a solid waste collection system include the topography and geotechnical conditions on the greenfield site. Illegal dumping sites may exist on the proposed greenfield site. These will have to be rehabilitated to discourage continued dumping or they may be converted to legal dumping sites if the final layout of the neighbourhood allows. If there is an existing waste collection service in adjacent neighbourhoods, the additional pick-up points and additional volumes of waste of the new development might affect the capacity of the existing waste management facilities and the distances to be covered by vehicles collecting the waste.

(ii) Brownfield development

Since brownfield sites are part of the fabric of an existing city or town, a solid waste removal system may exist, which may be able to accommodate the additional volumes of waste. A change in land use brought about by the brownfield development, e.g. the conversion of office blocks to blocks of flats, or using a parking lot to construct an office block, will affect the solid waste management service that is needed. Brownfield developments are often associated with higher population densities, which will increase waste volumes per area.

The existing topography and access conditions of the site (e.g. widths of streets, steep gradients and cul-de-sacs) may affect the collection of solid waste, while the availability of space and the geotechnical conditions of the site may determine whether additional waste management facilities can be provided. Illegal dumping spots may exist and would need to be rehabilitated to deter future dumping at these spots.

(iii) Informal settlement upgrading

Informal settlement upgrading projects are usually complex undertakings that require extensive community participation, specifically to agree on the solid waste management system to be provided. The layout of the upgraded settlement may have an effect on waste collection. For instance, narrow street widths can make it difficult for collection vehicles to pick up waste from individual houses. Alternative waste collection options should then be considered, e.g. central collection points that can be reached by waste collection vehicles.

Informal settlements could be located in established parts of towns or cities where they can be linked to existing waste collection systems. Often informal settlements are located on the peripheries of cities and towns where no solid waste collection systems are in operation. This would require careful planning to link the upgraded neighbourhood to the existing waste collection system and would possibly involve the establishment of new waste management facilities as part of the upgrading initiative. Informal settlements often have central points where waste is dumped. When planning the waste management service, these illegal dumping sites should be considered as sites for formal waste management facilities.


M.2.4.2 The setting of the development

(i) Urban

Urban settings can take on different forms and this will influence the type of waste collection system to be provided.Within urban areas, large volumes of waste are usually generated in relatively small areas due to population and housing densities. This can result in sufficient thresholds to improve efficiencies in the waste management system. Larger distances to landfill sites may require more transfer stations and increase the need for long-haul vehicles.

(ii) Peri-urban

The nature of developments within peri-urban areas can vary considerably, and so will the solid waste systems to be provided. As with the other development settings, it is important that the service provided must be responsive to the needs of the residents. When deciding on service levels in peri-urban areas, the service levels in the neighbouring urban areas should be noted as they may have an (sometimes unpredictable) impact on the waste management services in the entire area. For example, areas serviced by wheelie bins are often victims of bin theft if neighbouring areas are not issued with similar bins. Constant replacement of stolen bins can be more costly than simply upgrading the service in the peri-urban area.

(iii) Rural

Development sites in rural areas will vary in nature depending on the location, for instance whether the site is situated in a rural town or in a dispersed settlement. The waste collection system appropriate to the setting will also vary and be dictated by a range of factors. Due to lower population densities, the provision of solid waste collection systems in rural areas may sometimes require approaches that differ from those taken in cities or towns. For example, the distance to the nearest large landfill site or to recycling markets may affect the choice of waste management system. If on-site solid waste disposal (usually the burning of waste) is the only option, it should be done under supervision of a relevant municipal official. Assistance with the supervision of on-site disposal can be arranged with district municipalities or provincial departments responsible for environmental affairs.


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The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide
Creating Sustainable Human Settlements

Developed by
Department of Human Settlements

Published by the South African Government
ISBN: 978-0-6399283-2-6
© 2019