Practicing waste separation and keeping accurate records thereof, should be a habit rather than an obligation. Waste separation and recordkeeping are two important practices that can help agribusinesses and their related organizations better manage their waste and reduce their environmental impact. One of the most critical areas for society to operate sustainably lies within how it manages waste. Even under controlled conditions, waste disposal can have a substantial influence on the natural environment. Poor waste management contributes to air pollution which in turn contributes to climate change and its subsequent impacts on many ecosystems and species. Landfills release methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas linked to climate change – microorganisms in landfills produce methane from biodegradable waste such as food, paper, and garden waste. Landfills may also contaminate soil and water depending on how they are constructed.
The separation of waste at the source refers to the practice of setting aside waste materials at the point of generation to prevent them from entering the waste stream destined for landfilling or incineration.
Waste separation involves dividing waste into different categories based on their composition and potential for recycling or reuse. This can include separating 1) organic waste from non-organic waste, 2) recyclables, such as plastics, glass, and paper, from non-recyclable waste, and 3) hazardous waste such as empty chemical containers, batteries, and electronics from non-hazardous waste. Proper waste separation helps to ensure that recyclable materials is diverted from landfills and can be reused, thus reducing the amount of waste that ends up in the environment. This is particularly important in South Africa, where landfills are often overburdened, and environmental regulations is becoming increasingly strict. The focus of the circular economy in the South African waste sector aims to keep biological and technical materials circulating at highest value within the economy (to retain their value and maximize their future usage potential) by the separation of material flows at the source.
By keeping records of the amount and types of waste produced and disposed of over time, agribusinesses can identify opportunities to reduce waste, track progress towards waste reduction goals, and ensure compliance with waste management regulations. Detailed records of waste generation and disposal can assist organizations to identify patterns and trends and develop strategies to reduce waste and improve their environmental performance. In alignment with the SIZA Environmental Standard which follows an integrated approach towards environmental sustainability (including responsible waste management), the SIZA Digital Recordkeeping programme is designed to keep records of waste production and measure the efficiency with which it is managed by agribusinesses. Monitoring waste inputs and outputs is well-aligned to the pursuit of reducing waste entering landfills.
The South African agricultural industry has a well-respected reputation for producing high-quality produce. Therefore, effective, and efficient waste separation and recordkeeping can further help its reputation by demonstrating the industry’s commitment to sustainability and responsible environmental stewardship. The leading recycler in South Africa, Mpact Recycling, collects recyclable paper and plastics and actively contributes to the circular economy by performing a valuable environmental role of reducing waste going to landfills. CropLife SA manages a network of 166 CropLife SA accredited and certified recyclers of empty chemical containers. In addition, the ROSE Foundation promotes and encourages responsible environmental management of used lubricating oils and related waste in South Africa. Overall, waste separation and recordkeeping are important practices that can help agribusinesses manage their waste more effectively, reduce their environmental impact and contribute to a more sustainable future.