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Minister: Offenders to share cost of reducing pollution
16 Sep 2010

JOHANNESBURG — People responsible for contaminating South African land will pay, Environment Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said yesterday.

“We have taken the view that the cost of reducing pollution must be shared between people who are responsible for waste: the polluters,” she told a waste management conference in Boksburg.

“... the policy that ‘the polluter pays’ will be strictly pursued without any fear,” she added.

Sonjica said she is concerned about contaminated land, adding it is “relatively easy” to contaminate land “without any serious consequences”.

The department has now finished a framework for the “remediation” of contaminated land, Sonjica said, and appropriate legislation will be promulgated soon.

A database of contaminated land will be linked to the deeds register for buyers and sellers of land.

Medical waste is another area of concern for the minister, and her department is working with the health sector to tackle the situation.

“We cannot stand by and watch as our people’s right to a clean and safe environment is being violated and their health placed at risk,” Sonjica said.

Last year, the Green Scorpions discovered 300 tons of used bandages and needles, vials and other medical waste at a brick factory in the Free State.

The health and environment departments are looking into a public-private partnership possibly to set up a regional treatment facility for medical waste.

Sonjica said a “change of mindset” is needed in society to improve waste management in the country, adding that South Africa’s waste generation has tripled in the last three years.

This year, she added, the department will set recycling targets aimed especially at diverting waste away from landfills.

Urban households generated about 15 million tons of waste a year, while industry accounts for 25 million tons.

“We cannot continue on the trajectory as a throwaway society,” she said.

Sonjica said it is offensive that some 45% of townships and rural areas cannot access waste collection services.

She will soon present a policy on providing basic refuse removal services to the poor to the cabinet.

National waste management officer Nolwazi Cobbinah said domestic or urban waste is not the only problem facing the country.

Waste from mines, construction and demolition waste, obsolete pesticides, tyres and e-waste are also problematic.

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