The Basel Convention defines waste as “substances or objects which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law”.
Essentially, the good or material in question is no longer of use or value to the disposer.
Waste is generated by activity in different economic sectors and households, varying across applications. For example, household waste will differ to waste generated during heavy industry operations. Additionally, the waste derived from one industry may represent a valuable input into another. Equally, waste is not necessarily unusable – for example “outdated” technology can re-enter the value chain multiple times. Although defining what waste is, is problematic; there has been a global shift when considering waste and its value, and markets are increasingly recognising waste as a valuable resource and input material.
The Western Cape Government sees the waste economy as “a sector of the economy consisting of a value chain defined by various aspects and activities that arise from the generation and integrated management of waste; with the aim of reducing detrimental health, environmental, social and economic impacts through the integration of opportunities that will develop as a result of drawing on the resource value of waste”. Therefore, a waste economy is centred on capitalising on the valuable opportunities represented by the resources lost that are generated during all economic activities within a market. Because all activities and sectors generate waste, a waste economy is thus a re-thinking of a complete economic system whereby waste is applied in the market as a source of economic value and opportunity for market growth, job creation, and environmental benefits.
Provincially, work in the waste economy is undertaken by a number of departments, notably but not exclusively the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP), the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT).
The waste economy is primarily built on the principles underling the Circular Economy and derived from the waste management hierarchy levels. These are:
· Avoidance and reduction
· Treatment and disposal
· Decent work and social inclusion