The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism ('the Department') has recognised that they are not always successful in policing and enforcing environmental laws. However, the Department is making strides to meet these challenges and to ensure that our laws are practically implemented.
In March 2000, the Department published its White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management ('the White Paper'). The White Paper proposes a number of tools to implement the objectives of the waste management policy it sets out. The promulgation of new pollution and waste legislation such as the amendments to the Environment Conservation Act, 73 of 1989 ('ECA') comprise one such tool. The objective of the Environment Conservation Act: Amendment Bill, 2003 ('the Amendment Bill') is to facilitate government's general policy on integrated pollution control and waste management so as to give effect to waste management as proposed in the White Paper. The Amendment Bill will amend the ECA in three separate ways: • the management of waste sites will be transferred from the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry to the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism ('the Minister'); • the Minister will have the power to make regulations for the imposition of compulsory charging for identified waste streams (for example, plastic bags) and deposit systems (for example, second-hand non-reusable tyres); and • the Minister will have the power to make regulations regarding products which, by their nature, may pose a hazard to the environment and/or human health if and when they reach the waste stream (for example, asbestos products). Transfer of power
The ECA governs environmental waste pollution. In particular, the ECA provides for the permitting and related control measures for the operation of waste landfill sites. The ECA specifically stipulates that the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry should administer these facilities. In accordance with the government's philosophy on integrated pollution control and waste management inherent in the White Paper, the amendment transfers the administration of these facilities from the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry to the Minister.
In order to promote recycling and waste minimization in respect of certain waste streams such as plastic bags, glass and tyres, certain additional regulatory powers will be allocated to the Minister. The Amendment Bill proposes a financial incentive approach which will complement the existing traditional 'command and control' approach to controlling pollution. Whereas the command and control approach relies either on administrative sanctions (for example, permitting requirements on scheduled emissions) or criminal measures (for example, fines or imprisonment if such permit conditions are breached) to regulate pollution emissions, the amendment will give the Minister the power to make regulations to encourage the re-use, reduction and recycling of specific waste types. To this end, the proposed amendment to the ECA provides that the Minister may make regulations with regard to waste management, concerning the imposition of compulsory charging, deposits systems and levies on certain waste types or specified items in waste types. The intention is that the revenue raised from such charges will be used to encourage recycling and a compulsory deposit system will promote the collection and return of types of waste. A compulsory charge on a particular waste will encourage its re-use, for example, the controversial compulsory charge on plastic bags has promoted re-use. The Minister intends to use these mechanisms to impose a deposit scheme on second-hand and unusable tyres and glass. Regulating products
Currently, the ECA does not give the Minister or the Department regulatory power over products, materials or substances that may cause harm to the environment or human health should these enter the waste stream (for example, asbestos, which is found in building material, friction material and other elements). The Department does not have regulatory powers over such substances until the relevant material becomes waste. The Amendment Bill will give the Minister the power to make regulations with regard to the prohibition, control or regulation of products that may have a detrimental effect on the environment or on human health if and when they reach the waste stream.