Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Waste Tyre Green Levy – boon or doom for the peoples’ or green economy... oops capitalism?

Unwittingly, South Africans are rolling into a dirty situation. As the brutal war between the South African Tyre Recycling Process Company (SATRP) and the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) unfolds for the control of the waste tyre green levy, it derails the potential implementation of the much needed levy by the end of February 2012.  The question that begs asking is whether the waste tyre green levy is South Africa’s green economy boon or doom? ...or will it be just another capitalist gimmick.

The conflict began when the Minister of Environmental Affairs approved and gazetted the REDISA integrated waste management plan in November 2011, over the SATRP plan which had been gazetted months previously. In doing so, the SATRP was effectively robbed of a potential windfall of approximately R600 million per year from the waste tyre green levy – calculated as an average of between R2.30 to R11 per kg of new tyre sold each year x 11 million tyres per year.  However, following legal action by the SATRP in the high courts the Minister withdrew her support for the REDISA plan because the Ministry had not undertaken mandatory public consultation.

The Waste Act sets out the minimum contents of such plans which includes effecting the waste hierarchy, in a socially and environmental responsible manner, as well as promoting skills training and job development. REDISA’s aim is to establish a network of up to 150 collection depots across the country, which would employ up to 15 000 people, including about 5 000 people in the informal sector within five years).

The SATRP maintains that REDISA “stole” the ideas within the Plan that was  submitted, however, the SATRP is commonly known to be a front for the consolidated cement industry in SA (who were instrumental in its establishment and subsistence) and neglected to incorporate these general principles . Furthermore, the cement industry in  SA  have a vested interest in the SATRP because they want to be a beneficiary of the waste tyre green levy so that they can use the millions  the levy will generate to fund retrofitting their kilns to burn waste tyres. Additionally it will mean they save on fuel costs by replacing up to 30% of coal with waste tyres and, to add insult to injury, to be the recipient of a disposal levy of up to 31c per kg of waste tyre burnt, potentially saving and earning the cement industry in excess of R50 million per year, conveniently paid for by the public, from burning waste from poorly regulated cement kilns. To top this they will claim cleaner development mechanism funding for moving away from coal to waste, something waste pickers globally are fighting against.

This is a fundamentally flawed approach. Waste should not be viewed as a sustainable or renewable resource.  Lafarge, PPC, NPC Cimpor and Afrisam/Holcim are proposing that by burning waste they are saving on the use of coal, a non-renewable source of energy.  While this might be so, they will need an on-going supply of waste in order to fuel their kilns.  Waste is not a renewable source of energy, and the Waste Act compels us to primarily endorse the concept of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Should waste become recognised as a standard source of fuel, it is clear that there will be little incentive for dirty industry to move towards meaningful long term waste recycling and reduction scenarios and will instead continue the consumption of natural resources.

SATREP’S hogwash that only 4 percent of waste tyres can be recycled (the rest have to be burned by cement companies) is farcical considering that we can use all our waste tyres to support road construction which could solve our bitumen crisis forever.

So… we are at the cusp of something that will make a mockery of something the public are being fed to believe, i.e. that the green economy will save the world.  Here we see what the true intention is of the green economy: capitalism re-inventing itself at the expense of you and me, while the cement industry laughs all the way to the bank and poisons our environment externalising its costs at the expense of our environmental and public health.

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