Krugers Quest for Zero Waste

© Roger de la Harpe

The Kruger National Park (KNP) is hoping to become a regional leader - in rubbish. A pilot project will be launched in the Phalaborwa region of the park soon, where all the waste products will be identified and analysed. Once comprehensive knowledge of what people are throwing away is obtained, the KNP will start looking for more eco-friendly alternatives to those products that form the largest proportions of the waste. According to Sue Eber, human impact manager in the park, the ideal is to first reduce all rubbish.

From there, all waste should be looked at to see if it can be re-used, repaired, recycled, composted or remanufactured. This ties in with the philosophy of "Zero Waste", a concept pioneered in the country at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. In their Zero Waste endeavour, the KNP is teaming up with local role players in Phalaborwa, including Sasol Nitro, Phalaborwa Mining Company and the Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality. The project is a long-term one. One of the first stages to be implemented will be 'waste stream analysis'.

The format for this process should be finished this month, and analysis (sorting through the rubbish) will begin later in the year. An integrated waste management plan will then be formed. When the contracts for shops and other facilities in the park come up for review, it is likely that the principles in the waste management plan will be used to create new contracts. These contracts will regulate the facilities in line with the Zero Waste programme. It will potentially guide what is sold in the shops, how restrooms are managed, even how tomato sauce is dispensed in the eateries.

The ideal waste management solution will inevitably create jobs. Initially the rubbish will have to be sorted into what is reusable or not, and the recycling and re-manufacturing processes will also employ people. Currently, all waste in the park is usually either incinerated or placed in a landfill. Eber says that preliminary investigations have revealed that plastic drinking bottles are one of the most obvious waste products that need to be considered. The pilot project to see how best to handle the waste will be carried out in the Phalaborwa region. It is expected to take one to two years, and its findings will be extrapolated to cover the whole park.

  • Earthlife Africa have estimated that for every kilogram of product sold in a shop, 64kg of waste have already been generated
  • Within six months, only six per cent of the products are in use, the rest has been thrown away.
  • Excess waste generally comes from disposable products and materials, poor product design, excessive packaging and inefficient production processes
  • Sue Eber gave the example of a box of biscuits having excessive packaging - a plastic wrapper around the box, the box itself, a plastic tray within the box and a biscuit wrapped in silver foil inside the tray
  • In order to reduce waste at the World Summit on Sustainable Development solutions such as dispensing tomato sauce from large containers instead of small sachets, using recyclable paper cups instead of plastic ones, washable plates and utensils, etc were found. This reduced the waste by over 75 percent compared to the waste generated by people at the Rand Show, which is held at the same venue

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