What Can We Learn from Other Policy Driven EPR WEEE Management Systems Globally?

The last few years in South Africa have been marked by a row of breakthrough legislative changes in the waste management sector. The enforcement of Section 18 of the NEM:WA (59 of 1998) in November 2021 introduced Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations to producers for a range of very different product categories placed on the South African market. These imported or locally produced goods and materials include paper and packaging, lighting equipment, waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE), and more lately, oils, portable batteries and even pesticides.

While seemingly there are few similarities between these products and materials, they all have the potential to end up as problematic waste types at the end of their useful life,  if not regulated separately so that their recovery, take back and treatment is somewhat guaranteed.  In addition to the introduction of the EPR regulation, WEEE as well as lighting waste (that latter as early as 2016), were also declared as “undesirables” on South African landfills and subsequently banned for landfill disposal – a fact that is still widely unknown and/or simply disregarded given limited feasible alternatives to handle problematic fractions alternatively.

What South Africa has been lacking to date though is a “home” for all WEEE-related legislation, by-law components and development strategies already in existence and going forward. And this “home” is currently being established in the form of an over-arching WEEE Policy framework for South Africa. The WEEE Policy is due to be completed and then subsequently put out for public comment by the end of 2023. Another piece of important future WEEE management legislation is currently also being crafted in the form of minimum requirement-based Norms and Standards for all WEEE Operators and/or their facilities in the South African WEEE management chain. This is due to be completed in early 2024.

While both the National WEEE policy and closely related Norms and Standards are currently still some “work in progress”, a baseline report, documenting the South African policy development process was completed by the SRI team in March 2023 and subsequently published on SRI website.

Not only does it provide deep insight into the current South African policy development process, but it is also comparing the applied methodology and envisaged outcomes to international policy development strategies.

The key motivation for compiling the baseline document has been two-fold. First, to plot step-by-step the assumed WEEE policy development journey for South Africa within the existing socio-economic and legal landscape. This includes describing the key status quo elements listed below which all directly inform the overall policy aim, objectives, and the envisaged outcomes captured in the study:

  • current South Africa WEEE generation trends and management practices;
  • key stakeholders and their roles and responsibilities;
  • international and national laws applicable; and
  • local economic growth strategies governing aspects of WEEE management.

Secondly, a review of international approaches to policy development and a comparative analysis of WEEE policies and strategies was done based on generic evaluation criteria. This offers a comprehensive summary of high-level recommendations and findings useful for any country, municipality or even organisation seeking to institutionalise a WEEE policy.

If you/your organisation want to be registered as an “Interested and Affected Party” (I&AP) to be able to contribute to the ongoing National WEEE policy development process and/or the establishment of WEEE Operator/Facility based Norms and Standards for South Africa, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the SRI National Coordinator, Susanne Karcher (envirosense@xsinet.co.za)