Historical review of waste management and recycling in South Africa

Recycling has been taking place in South Africa for more than three decades, driven by social and economic needs. While the waste hierarchy is embedded in national policy, an extensive legislative framework has made it more and more challenging for the public and private sector to remain compliant and competitive in a local and global market, and still drive waste away from landfill towards reuse, recycling and recovery. A local recycling economy, on par with many developed countries, is in part due to a large and active informal waste sector. In the absence of separation at source across South African cities and towns, informal waste pickers have been key to accessing resources which the private sector has struggled to access, due to gatekeeping by municipalities.