Implementing separate waste collection and mechanical biological waste treatment in South Africa: a comparison with Austria and England

04 Nov 2015

The degradation of organic compounds found in municipal solid waste (MSW) under the anaerobic landfill conditions produces gas and liquid emissions that can protract well into the landfill after-care period. The European Landfill Directives regulate the amount and nature of the organic compounds disposed into landfills. In South Africa and other developing countries, MSW is still landfilled without any kind of pre-treatment. This paper presents a pilot project of mechanical biological waste treatment (MBWT) in South Africa implemented at municipal level in the city of Durban using passively aerated open windrows. Based on case studies from Austria, England and South Africa, a waste minimisation model which can facilitate full-scale implementation of MBWT in developing countries is presented. MSW was treated in open windrows for 8 weeks. Composting temperature reached a maximum of 65 ?C in less than 10 days. The results of eluate tests on waste samples from the windrows at the end of composting show a reduction of BOD5 and BOD5/COD ratios equal to 35.7% and 16.7%, respectively. The percent waste composition of the treated MSW was 28.3% putrescibles, 17.4% garden refuse, 13.3% plastic, 12.4% fabrics, 12% paper and other elements. The waste composition shows that more than 40% of un-treated organic material and also more than 40% non-biodegradable and recyclable materials are still landfilled without any form of biological treatment or resource recovery. A simple wet and dry waste collection model can promote recycling, treatment of biological waste before landfilling, resource recovery, labour intensive jobs and hence sustainable landfilling in the South African scenario as well as in similar developing countries.