The waste economy


South Africa’s waste economy is estimated to be worth R15 billion and employs almost 30 000 people. Legislation has been passed to help unlock a market worth billions more through recycling of, among others, metals, plastics, paper, glass and e-waste.

Value proposition

A growing population and economy means increased volumes of waste are being generated and authorities have become aware that simply sending waste to landfill is not  sustainable, especially in the light of the drive towards a green economy. Waste is increasingly being diverted from landfill towards recycling and recovery in South Africa, creating promising new businesses and much-needed jobs.


Mainline recycling of glass, plastics and paper is already established in South Africa, but the potential for even more exists, thanks to a backlog of recycling infrastructure and waste services.

Eighty percent of metals are recycled in South Africa, but high global prices mean much of it leaves the country, and processing is cheaper elsewhere. Government is working on legislation to encourage more metal recycling, which will unlock new opportunities.

South Africa needs solutions for organic waste – municipal green waste, abattoir waste, and the organic fraction of municipal solid waste. There is also potential for generation of biogas.

The forthcoming promulgation of an e-Waste Industry Waste Management Plan (IndWMP), coupled with a national focus on legacy electronics, signal a rise in the availability of e-waste. This will provide an increase in feedstocks for dismantlers and refurbishers.

Opportunities also exist in the recovery, processing and application of construction and demolition waste, notably in using builders’ rubble for roads. The opportunities are in the supply side for the crushing industry, and on the demand side in road material for both the public and private sectors.