M.3 Planning considerations

This section deals with the planning of solid waste services and infrastructure. In this context, the term ‘planning’ means making informed decisions regarding the storage, collection, transport, treatment and disposal of solid waste, and then choosing the most appropriate options based on a thorough understanding of the context within which the planned development will be implemented.


The decisions regarding solid waste management must be informed by a clear understanding of the features and requirements of the proposed project. This would require an assessment of the characteristics of the proposed development. Furthermore, the characteristics of the environment in which the new development will be located need to be examined and possible services and infrastructure that could be utilised must be identified.

This section outlines a range of questions should be asked and factors that have to be considered before deciding on the most appropriate solid waste management infrastructure and service.

M.3.1 Characteristics of the proposed development

Decisions regarding solid waste management infrastructure and services need to be guided by an assessment of the characteristics of the proposed development and an understanding of the requirements or needs that will have to be met. Aspects that should be considered are discussed below.

M.3.1.1 The nature of the proposed development

The type of development will determine the potential users of a solid waste management service and, in turn, the types of waste streams as well as the volumes of each waste stream that can be expected. This information is needed in order to plan an appropriate solid waste management service and to calculate whether existing solid waste management facilities will have sufficient capacity to handle the increase in waste volumes. The following questions can be asked to gain clarity

  • What is the dominant land use of the proposed development?
  • What types of housing will be provided in the proposed development? What population densities are anticipated in the proposed development?
  • What other land uses will form part of the proposed development? The number and size of different business properties, public open spaces, schools, clinics and public transport facilities will affect waste generation.

M.3.1.2 The residents of the area to be developed

Decisions regarding a solid waste management system should be guided by information about the residents of a neighbourhood. Usually, the identities of the actual occupants of the houses to be provided are not known when a development is planned and designed. It may be possible to make assumptions regarding the expected profile of the future residents by assessing the surrounding neighbourhoods or similar developments in comparable locations or contexts. It is important to establish the following:


  • The total number of residents to be accommodated. Actual numbers may be higher than anticipated because the provision of houses and services may attract more people than originally planned.
  • The number of households and the range of household sizes. The household information will likely be aligned with the anticipated residential building type, for instance single detached housing, semi-detached housing, attached housing or flats. This will provide an indication of the number of solid waste collection points that have to be serviced as well as the number of households to be serviced at a point.
  • The range of residents with special needs that would have to be accommodated, for example people living with disabilities. Waste management facilities should (where relevant and possible) be accessible to all residents and users. Waste storage receptacles should be fit for use by all.
  • Income and employment levels and spending patterns. This would, for instance, indicate the anticipated ability of the intended users to pay for waste collection services. It could also give an indication of the volume of waste that will be generated in the area.

M.3.2 Characteristics of the existing environment

Decisions regarding solid waste management need to be guided by an assessment of the context within which the development will be located. Issues that should be considered are discussed below

M.3.2.1 The physical location of the proposed development

Constraints and opportunities posed by the project site could influence the solid waste infrastructure and service to be provided

(i) Topography and geotechnical characteristics

The topography and geotechnical conditions of the project site might affect the type of solid waste management service that is selected. The following has to be considered:

  • Do the access roads in the neighbourhood have steep slopes? Heavy solid waste collection vehicles have difficulty climbing steep slopes. The collection of solid waste may be more expensive in neighbourhoods with steep slopes due to the increased time it takes for trucks to move along steep roadways.
  • The type of soil and the presence of water sources in the area may have an impact on the type of waste management facilities that can be provided. For instance, a landfill facility may not be appropriate in an area that has a relatively high water table

(ii) Adjacent land uses and edge conditions

Adjoining properties have an impact on each other. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the land uses adjacentto the development site as well as of the edge conditions that affect the site. Some of the questions that need to be asked include the following:

  • What are the existing land uses in the area or in surrounding neighbourhoods? Information on the type and amount of waste generated by the different land uses in the vicinity will inform decision-making on solid waste management services and infrastructure.
  • Are there illegal dumping sites in the area? Where are these located? What are the possible reasons for the illegal dumping and how can it be avoided in future? Could any of these sites be developed into formal waste management facilities?


M.3.2.2 Available infrastructure and services

New developments create additional demand for services and therefore have a potential impact on existing services and infrastructure. The following information on existing solid waste management infrastructure and services in the area or in surrounding neighbourhoods has to be considered:

  • What waste management facilities are currently operational in the area? (Refer to Section M.4.3)
  • What is the capacity of existing waste management facilities and will these facilities be able to handle additional waste loads? What impact will the additional waste loads have on the lifespan of the existing waste management facilities?
  • What vehicles and equipment are available for waste collection, storage and disposal?
  • Does the road infrastructure of the area – the layout, length and width of streets – support easy access and manoeuvrability for waste collection vehicles to render an efficient and cost-effective waste collection service? Can the existing roads carry the waste loads between different waste management facilities and between waste management facilities and collection points?
  • Are there existing initiatives for waste minimisation, reuse and recycling in the area? If yes, do households and businesses separate waste at source? Who is responsible for recovering recyclables? Are there existing markets for additional recyclables or will new markets have to be created?

The first port of call to find information on existing solid waste management is the Integrated Waste Management Plan (IWMP) for the municipality. The IWMP provides input to the Integrated Development Plan (IDP).

The IWMP includes a situation analysis with a description of the population in the area, a description of the services that are provided and the number of persons in the area who are not (yet) receiving waste collection services. The situation analysis also refers to existing institutional, financial, legal and physical conditions. The planning of waste management services in the municipality for the next five years is also included as part of the IWMP

More information is available in the Guideline for the development of Integrated Waste Management Plans.1

M.3.3 Solid waste management option


M.3.3.1 Factors to consider when choosing waste collection options

Waste is generated at, among others, residences, businesses, schools and clinics. The type of waste from each of these points will differ, and the waste management service requirements will differ accordingly. A thorough understanding of the types and volumes of waste that will be generated in any new development will assist the municipality in minimising negative public health and environmental impacts that might result from inadequate solid waste management. Knowing the expected volumes and types of waste will assist in selecting an appropriate waste collection service for a neighbourhood (Section M.3.3.2) and subsequently the receptacles and storage at the point of generation ((Section M.4.1), the number and size of collection vehicles (Section M.4.2), as well as the size, capacity and expected turnaround times of waste management facilities (Section M.4.3)


Waste flow projections are used to predict the volumes and types of waste that will be generated. This section provides guidance on how to do waste flow projections for an area by calculating future waste generation, estimating the composition of municipal solid waste and assessing the mass of municipal solid waste.

(i) Current and future solid waste generation

A first step towards doing waste flow projections is to determine the current solid waste generation of the neighbourhood. Calculate the waste generation per household per year or per population per year by using existing per capita information. Waste generated per capita may be based on available local figures or on existing estimates for domestic waste generation. Estimates can range from 0.41 kg/capita/day for low-income households to 1.29 kg/capita/day for high-income households.2 The population of the area refers to the total number of people living in the area.

Equation M.1: Waste generation per household (tonnes/annum)

waste generated per capita (kg) x number of people per household x

Equation M.2: Waste generation for an area (tonnes/annum)

waste generated per capita (kg) x population of the area x

Using the current waste generation as a baseline, projections can be done for new developments. An expected waste generation growth rate can be based on anticipated population growth and/or anticipated economic growth. Domestic waste generation estimates are calculated using population growth rates, while industrial waste generation estimates are calculated using economic growth rates. This formula does not apply to garden waste estimates

Equation M.3: Future waste generation (tonnes/annum)

waste generation (t⁄a) x population growth estimate (% per annum)

(ii) Composition of solid waste

Different waste streams require different types of storage, collection and treatment. Although the composition of municipal waste varies depending on local conditions, estimates can be made of waste generation per waste stream.

The National Waste Information Baseline Report3 suggests that about 44% of all municipal solid waste originates from households. The following general assumptions can be useful when estimating the composition of municipal solid waste (the percentages are per weight):

  • 15% organic (garden and food waste)
  • 20% construction and demolition waste (builders’ rubble)
  • 25% mainline recyclables (paper, plastics, glass, tins and tyres)
  • 40% non-recyclable waste


(iii) Solid waste mass

Information on the mass of solid waste is critical when determining the capacity requirements for waste transport and for waste disposal facilities. Waste data may be available in volume (m3) or weight (kg). Use waste densities to convert waste volumes to estimated weights and vice versa. Waste densities differ depending on the type of waste and whether or not the waste has been compacted. Refer to Table M.1 for densities of different types of waste to estimate the waste mass by using the equation below.

Equation M.4: Waste mass (kg)

waste volume (m3) x density (kg/m3)

Table M.1: Typical densities by solid waste type4
Waste category Waste type Density (kg/m3)
Domestic Domestic waste compacted in rear-end loader 500
Domestic waste (uncompacted) 200
Mixed domestic /garden waste (more domestic than garden) 200
Mixed domestic /building rubble (more domestic than building) 250
Packaging (paper and plastics) 200
Timber/metal 150
Tyres 150
Inert waste (construction waste) Building rubble /concrete /sand /fibreglass /brick /ceramics 750
Building rubble/industrial mix (more building than packaging) 350
Building/garden mix (more building than garden) 250
Garden waste Loose grass/small branches 200
Large logs 400
Garden /building mix (more garden than building) 250
Perishable waste Food waste/animal fodder 840

M.3.3.2 Collection options for municipal solid waste

Municipalities should plan a waste management service that will comply with legislation and with service expectations, while ensuring that the key objectives are met (refer to Section M.2.2). A basic refuse removal service can be defined as the most appropriate level of waste removal service based on site-specific circumstances.5 Although an equitable waste collection service must be provided to all households, the National Domestic Waste Collection Standards 6(set in line with the NEM:WA) recognise that service levels may differ between areas depending on contextual considerations.


Cost recovery for solid waste management

Solid waste management services are financed through municipal rates and taxes. However, municipalities often struggle to pay for the necessary infrastructure and the other costs associated with solid waste management of new developments. New development projects should ideally not place a financial burden on existing rate payers. Costs for new site-specific infrastructure can potentially be recovered through a contribution or levy that is paid by the developer to the municipality. Therefore the waste management service provision in new development projects (greenfield, brownfield and informal settlement upgrading) should be determined and costed (in cooperation with the municipal department responsible for solid waste management) before approval of the project by a municipality.

Similar arrangements are often made to recover costs of engineering service infrastructure for water supply, sanitation and electricity. Existing municipal policies on development contributions or levies could be expanded to include solid waste

The choice of service level for solid waste collection will be influenced by the size, density and waste-generating potential of a neighbourhood, as well as issues such as road conditions and the distance between the neighbourhood and waste management facilities. Deciding on the most appropriate waste collection system is an iterative processthat requires information on the following:

  • Waste flow projections to determine the amount of waste that will be generated for each waste stream and the frequency at which this waste will likely be generated (refer to Section M.3.3.1).
  • The spatial distribution of the waste generation points. This can be done by considering the spread of land uses, housing types and densities.
  • The possibility of recycling and recovering of solid waste (refer to Figure M.3 for an illustration of the waste management system). Will enough waste be generated to sustain the implementation of alternative treatments?
  • The options for labour-intensive or job-creating collection services. This consideration is relevant to all neighbourhoods, but in particular to neighbourhoods where the provision of conventional services might be challenging (e.g. where long distances have to be covered or where municipal waste collection vehicles are not able to access an area).

Four conventional collection systems are presented below. Different systems are usually implemented in combination.

(i) Door-to-door or kerbside collection

In this system, domestic and non-hazardous business waste are placed (in receptacles) on the sidewalk to be collected by the municipality, service provider or local entrepreneur. The collection is usually done with purpose built vehicles.

Kerbside collection increasingly also has to cater for recyclables that are separated at source. Different receptacles are required for source-separated waste (refer to Section M.4.1). Aspects to consider for the kerbside collection of different waste streams include the following:

  • One vehicle can be used for collecting different waste streams by using a split compartment vehicle or a truckand-trailer combination.


  • Different vehicles can be used for different waste streams. Implementing separate vehicle collections will reduce the load collected by each vehicle per collection point but could affect traffic movement in the area on collection days if the streets are not wide enough.
  • The municipality can partner with local entrepreneurs to collect some of the waste.

(ii) Central collection points

In this system, households or local entrepreneurs are required to place the waste or recyclables into strategically positioned bulk containers for collection and removal by large motorised vehicles. These containers must be placed at a convenient location not far from households and accessible to waste collection vehicles for easy removal.

A central collection point is often used in areas where poor access hampers kerbside collection, for example in informal settlements or high-density areas where the layout and/or road conditions restrict the access of waste collection vehicles. This system is also an option for household waste collection in rural areas where it may not be financially feasible for the municipality to do door-to-door collection.

Central collection points, combined with drop-off or buy-back centres (see Section M.4.3), can be considered for source-separated recyclables in areas without kerbside collection for recyclables. Central collection point systems may include exchange and underground containers (refer to the sections below). Containers used at central collection points should be fit for use to a range of users. For example, children or people with disabilities should be able to deposit waste into the container without any difficulty.

(iii) Exchange-container collection systems

Exchange-container collection systems entail replacing the full container with an empty one on the collection day. Static compactors and skips are examples of exchange containers. This collection system is typically used at the following locations:

  • Markets or other places where high volumes of waste must be removed on a daily basis
  • Industries and places where (usually non-biodegradable) waste is collected less frequently than household waste
  • Building sites where building rubble must be collected and removed
  • Waste transfer stations, where solid waste is deposited into large containers for storage until it is collected for long-haul transport to landfill sites
  • Central solid waste collection points such as recycling centres

(iv) Underground container systems

This system makes use of specially designed waste containers that are positioned underground or partially underground. The underground system can either be a stand-alone collection point or it can incorporate an automated vacuum collection system (also referred to as a stationary pneumatic collection system). Underground containers can hold large quantities of waste and have the advantage that the waste is protected from the elements (specifically rain and wind). The chances of the waste polluting the immediate surroundings are therefore limited

Underground containers are used in public open spaces, in areas with high pedestrian densities, and in urban areas where conventional door-to-door collections are challenging due to topography or limited space for waste containers. Underground containers come in a variety of designs and forms, and usually require specialised vehicles for lifting.


Photo credit: Pikitup Figure M.4: Specialised vehicles are used to empty underground containers

Solid waste collection frequency

The frequency of solid waste collection depends on the type of waste. For instance, restaurant waste is collected daily while household waste is collected weekly. The collection could also be event-specific, for example after an event at a sports stadium. The following frequencies are recommended for waste collection:

  • Remove non-recyclable (residual) waste once a week to avoid waste-related nuisances and possible public health impacts.
  • Remove recyclable waste at least once every two weeks. This should be coordinated with recyclers or local entrepreneurs to minimise cost and to ensure that local waste management facilities have enough capacity to accept and process the recyclables.
  • Empty containers at communal collection points when they are full, to prevent the spilling of waste.
  • Collect putrescible waste generated by hotels, restaurants, food shops, hospital kitchens and canteens daily to prevent the waste from decomposing and presenting a possible health risk.


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The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide
Creating Sustainable Human Settlements

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Department of Human Settlements

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