Waste can create jobs: Research chair

People at a landfill site
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The new Research Chair in Waste and Society, Prof. Catherina Schenck says South Africa’s massive amount of waste can be used to create jobs.

Schenck who is from the University of the Western Cape and Prof. Cristina Trois from the University of KwaZulu-Natal were awarded research chairs by the Department of Technology in Pretoria on Tuesday. Trois is the Research Chair in Waste and Climate.

This is the country’s first ever research chairs on waste management, aimed at transforming the sector while contributing to the country’s socio-economic development.

Schenck says, “There is a massive amount of waste available that can create jobs, and I think the core of the chair is to see how can we bring the two of these positions together and create jobs for people.”

She says municipalities are still sending 90% of their waste to landfills and only 10% of the waste is recycled, which is actually done by waste pickers.

“So the waste and society chair is going to marry two things, we have a huge unemployment rate so we are going to look at the employment opportunities, job creation opportunities in the waste sector, so we are going to divert waste from the land fill.”

Schenck adds, “If we create more opportunities where the waste is unlocked to the society and we use it either by recycling it or using it for something, we can create job opportunities. But the critical factor in the whole waste society issue is that we need to recycle, we need to make people aware of recycling, we must not throw stuff away that has to go to the landfill site.”

According to Trois, the food waste sector contributes 6.7% to climate change.

She says,”In South Africa, Climate Change has increased by 11.3% and greenhouse gas emissions have increased by almost 60% from the waste sector in the past 15 years. The waste sector in South Africa contributes to 4.3% of greenhouse gas emissions and 37.2% of the total climate change.”

Trois adds that waste management in South Africa is hampered by lack of environmental control systems and appropriate legislation, limited know-how, indiscriminate dumping and lack of reliable data on waste.