• Find agreement on the exact location of a proposed waste management facility in collaboration with the local community. Facilities should be placed such that they do not interfere with pedestrian movement, create an eyesore, or become a public nuisance because of dust, odour or poor maintenance. Position larger or more sophisticated waste facilities at a location that will allow easy access to major routes.
  • Consider converting existing illegal dumping spots to legal waste management facilities if the layout of the neighbourhood allows. It is often difficult to stop people from using a dumping site that was established informally. Refer to Municipal waste management – good practices9 for ideas on how to turn illegal dumping spots into areas that communities take ownership of.
  • Comply with the requirements of both the local and provincial authorities, particularly in respect of road pavement design and traffic flow at intersections and access roads. The increased number and higher frequency of heavy waste collection vehicles may have an impact on the character of a neighbourhood.
  • Design the layout of waste management facilities to ensure the easy, fast and effortless flow of day-to-day operations and the convenience of those frequenting the facilities (e.g. residents making use of drop-off centres).
  • Develop facilities to form part of an integrated waste management system and avoid stand-alone entities.Any service expansion will have an impact on the existing solid waste management system in the municipality. Such an expansion should be carefully planned, designed and managed to ensure that the entire solid waste management system becomes more sustainable over the longer term.

M.4.3.1 Materials Recovery Facilities

A Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is a specialised plant that receives, sorts and prepares recyclable materials for end-user manufacturers or recycling companies.

  • A clean MRF accepts recyclable materials that have already been separated at the source from non-recyclable municipal solid waste. The recyclables are mixed and need to be sorted further before being baled
  • A dirty MRF accepts municipal solid waste that has not been sorted according to recyclable and non-recyclable materials. At the dirty MRF, the recyclables are separated from the non-recyclable municipal solid waste, sorted further and baled.

Waste is usually brought to MRFs by waste collectors (local entrepreneurs) and community members. After sorting, the recyclable materials go to relevant end-user manufacturers or recycling companies. Residual waste (that remains after sorting) is removed by the local municipality and usually disposed of at landfill sites.

MRFs can use simple technology such as sorting tables and conveyor belts, and these can potentially employ high numbers of low-skilled staff to do the sorting and baling. Sophisticated machinery can also do the sorting with only one or two skilled staff members employed to operate the system. The level of mechanisation required at a MRF will therefore depend on the type of waste handled, the need for job creation and the available funds. Indicative thresholds regarding volumes handled, operational areas and level of automation are provided in the SALGA Good Practice Guide to: Waste Transfer Stations, Materials Recovery Facilities and Buy-back centres.10


Figure M.10: Figure M.10: Recyclables offloaded at a clean MRF (L) and sorting tables at a dirty MRF (R)

M.4.3.2 Buy-back centres

Buy-back centres are run as small businesses that buy recyclable materials from community members or waste collectors (local entrepreneurs). The waste is then sorted, crushed and/or baled and sold to members of the recycling industry. Buy-back centres are usually viable in low-income areas, where community members are rewarded for collecting recyclables. However, with more waste collectors active in middle- and high-income neighbourhoods, buy-back centres may become viable in these areas. Buy-back centres for recyclable waste can be set up at shopping malls, parks, schools and churches. Mobile buy-back centres are sometimes used to put facilities within reach of more users and to shorten the distances for those making a living from collecting and selling recyclables. Guidance on specifications for buy-back centres is provided in the SALGA Good Practice Guide to: Waste Transfer Stations, Materials Recovery Facilities and Buy-back centres.11

M.4.3.3 Transfer stations

A waste transfer station is a facility where solid waste is transferred from collection vehicles to more appropriate long-haul vehicles before the waste is transported over longer distances (exceeding 20 km) to dirty MRFs, treatment facilities or for final disposal at landfills. The purpose of these stations is to reduce the transport unit cost of collection vehicles (by achieving more cost-effective payloads) and to achieve quicker turnaround times for collection vehicles. Decide on the number of transfer stations and the degree of sophistication required according to the volume of waste generated, the collection system implemented and the distance to the disposal site. For further assistance, consult the SALGA Good Practice Guide to: Waste Transfer Stations, Materials Recovery Facilities and Buy-back centres.12 A break-even point can be calculated where it will be more economical to build a waste transfer station than to haul waste materials over long distances. In the equation below, the waste transfer station (WTS) cost refers to the cost to build, own and operate the transfer station (in R/tonne) and the distance of the haul refers to a twoway distance (in km).


Equation M.5: Break-even point for transfer station

Cost of Direct haul = [distance (km) x trucking cost (R/km)] / direct haul payload (tonnes)

Cost of Transfer = [WTS cost (R/tonne) + distance (km) x trucking cost (R/km)] / transfer haul payload (tonnes)

M.4.3.4 Central collection points

A central collection point is often used in areas where poor access hinders the provision of kerbside collection services. For example, the layout or road conditions in high-density informal settlements may not be suitable for use by heavy waste collection vehicles. Central collection points can be combined with buy-back centres (see Section M.4.3.2) or drop-off facilities (see Section M.4.3.5) in areas where kerbside collection for recyclables is not implemented.

Waste is usually brought to central collection points by waste collectors (local entrepreneurs) and community members. The locality of the collection point is critical to ensure easy access for all users. Refer to Section F for guidance on neighbourhood layout. Where necessary, ramps must be provided to facilitate easy access for placing the waste inside the containers.

M.4.3.5 Drop-off facilities

Drop-off facilities are similar to buy-back centres, but these facilities are not managed as businesses. Recyclables are dropped off without the expectation to receive any form of compensation for either the effort to bring in the waste or the separated recyclables itself. Garden refuse sites are examples of drop-off facilities.

When deciding on the need for drop-off facilities in a development, consider providing multi-purpose drop-off sites. A multi-purpose drop-off facility would typically take garden waste as well as paper, plastic, glass and cans. The reduced number of household trips to drop off waste does not only add to the convenience of users, but will ultimately result in a smaller carbon footprint. Drop-off facilities for recyclable materials can be set up at shopping malls, parks (see Section G), schools and churches, but should be well maintained.

Figure M.11: Figure M.11: Examples of multi-purpose drop-off facilities


M.4.3.6 Treatment / Recovery facilities

The recovery of waste resources, as referred to in the waste management hierarchy (Figure M.2), includes various waste treatment options such as organic waste composting or digesting biodegradable wastes to produce usable gases. Waste treatment options may include the following:

  • Advanced biological treatment (including in-vessel composting and anaerobic digestion)
  • Advanced thermal treatment (including pyrolysis, gasification and incineration)
  • Incineration of unprepared - raw or residual –municipal solid waste
  • Mechanical biological treatment (separation and then treatment/ treatment and then separation)
  • Mechanical heat treatment

When deciding on the possible treatment of waste, consider the following:

  • Most technologies are waste-stream-specific and therefore require source-separated waste to function optimally. Waste that has not been separated at source will have to be separated at a MRF or will have to be pre-treated before it can be processed.
  • Alternative treatment technologies are expensive to implement relative to disposal at landfill and require economies of scale to be feasible.
  • The residues from alternative treatment technologies are mostly concentrated waste streams with higher risk levels than untreated municipal solid waste. These waste streams therefore require classification and assessment prior to disposal at landfills.

Depending on the size of the facility and the type of treatment at the site, treatment facilities would most likely require a waste management licence. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will have to be done in terms of the NEM:WA. The key issues that should be considered in the EIA include emissions, dust, odour, flies, vermin and birds, noise, impact on water resources and visual intrusion.

These facilities may also generate additional traffic in an area. For a 50 000 tonne per annum capacity plant up to 30 waste collection vehicles per day can be anticipated.

M.4.3.7 Landfill sites

Landfilling is the least desired option for disposal of waste. Only waste with no recycling or recovery alternative should be disposed of at landfills. The design of landfill facilities falls outside the scope of this Guide, but the following should be noted when designing a waste management service in a neighbourhood:

  • Make provision for final disposal of residual waste, irrespective of other waste diversion strategies and technologies implemented, because all treatment technologies have a portion of residual waste that needs to be disposed of.
  • Follow the specifications for disposal of pre-classified and listed waste, as well as the requirements for classification of waste that is not pre-classified to ensure proper disposal according to the National Norms and Standards for Disposal of Waste to Landfill13 set in line with the NEM:WA. There are specified waste acceptance criteria for each class of landfill. For example, no tyres (quartered, shredded or otherwise) may be disposed of at a landfill. There are also restrictions on the disposal of garden waste at landfills and alternative facilities are required for garden waste disposal.


For detailed formulae and explanations on how to calculate landfill site life, the Minimum Requirements for Waste Disposal by Landfil14 can be consulted.

Figure M.12: Different vehicles are used for the disposal of solid waste at landfill sites


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The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide
Creating Sustainable Human Settlements

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