Working towards a cleaner Namibia

The need for a national hazardous waste facility, the plastic bag levy regulation and the next national clean-up day topped the agenda at the 5th National Solid Waste Management Advisory Panel meeting.

28 July 2019 | Environment

Brent Johnson; Namwaste; “There is no national site operated to international best practices that is suitable for the mining and other industries producing hazardous waste.”

Walvis Bay • Leandrea Louw

The National Solid Waste Management Advisory Panel held a meeting in Walvis Bay to discuss the proposed establishment of a national hazardous waste facility, the plastic bag levy and the national clean-up campaign.

Brent Johnson from Namwaste said that they have established that there is indeed a need for a national hazardous waste facility, since Namibia is becoming more industrialised. “The country faces space constraints at the Walvis Bay and Windhoek landfill sites and there is no national site operated to international best practices that is suitable for the mining and other industries producing hazardous waste. Due to this scenario, we cannot continue to export our hazardous waste, or keep it on site like in the case of Rössing Uranium.”

He indicated that his team identified three sites in the Erongo region at areas near Rössing Uranium mine, Trekkopje mine and an area near Arandis which might be suitable for a potential site for a national hazardous waste facility.

“We consulted with the governor of the Erongo region, Cleophas Mutjivikua, who said that he would support the development of a hazardous waste facility only if it is set up on previously disturbed land, and far away from populated areas, sensitive tourist attractions and conservation zones. Typically the land under consideration belongs to the state and is leased, making the transfer of liability a potentially complex issue.”

Many steps

Johnson further stated that numerous steps still need to be taken before the establishment of the hazardous waste facility can materialise.

“We will continue with detailed feasibility steps, confirming Namibian and international partners as well as site ranking and environmental impact assessment processes required in terms of Namibian legislation. We are busy with understanding the legal liability issues, as well as having ongoing discussions with government and mineral right holders around leasing options. Furthermore, we are assessing the baseline information we have, the need to further develop specific components of the facility (like the use of an incinerator) as well as further refining potential funding models.”

He emphasised that provisional agreements from waste generators such as mines and other industrial players who are willing to sign memorandums of understanding, will only be finalised when a site is identified and all necessary assessments and approvals have been obtained.

“We are also looking at potential partnerships for beneficiation and re-use of certain hazardous material that will be brought to the hazardous waste facility, as these opportunities need to be maximised and are in line with Namibia’s national waste strategy.”

Plastic bag levy

Nico du Plessis, the managing director of Plastic Packaging, said that the plastic bag levy regulation is at an advanced phase, with plans to roll it out on 1 August.

“A 50c plastic bag levy will be charged at border posts as from 1 August. The second phase will then charge the plastic bag manufacturer 50c per bag. The regulation will stipulate that 100% of money generated through the levy will go the Environmental Investment Fund, through the ministry of finance.”

Du Plessis said some retailers are currently charging between 50c and N$1 for shopping bags but that the onus rests on the owner regarding what they do with the money generated through the levy.

“This process is currently unaudited, uncontrolled and the discretion lies with the shop owners. Retailers have, however, indicated their willingness to be involved in the national clean-up campaign.”

The minister of environment and tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, indicated that government was looking at a complete ban of plastic shopping bags in about three years’ time. “The levy on shopping bags was only a temporary solution, and people should remember that the levy is not a penalty. Many environmentalists advocated that we should ban plastic entirely, but we wanted to be mindful and give people a fair chance to prepare for the total ban. Currently, plastic bag are strictly prohibited in all our national parks. We have the moral obligation to protect not only where we live, but the entire planet.”

National clean-up day

This year’s national clean-up day is slated for 21 September. Plastic Packaging has indicated that it would provide refuse bags, along with gloves and masks for those who will be participating in the clean-up day. An awareness raising campaign in August will proceed the operation with the aim of sensitising the nation about the clean-up day as well as the importance of a clean environment.

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