Environmental Concerns: Managing Waste Disposal and Recycling in a Sectional Title Scheme

Posted: December 14, 2023

Environmental Concerns: Managing Waste Disposal and Recycling in a Sectional Title Scheme

South Africans are well versed in environmental issues, with some endemic to the country. We all know about the high cost of power, and the shortage of energy supply – with reminders almost daily. Water scarcity is another issue that hits out every few years – El Niño, drought in the Western Cape and infrastructure-wrecking floods in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Amidst the above, residential waste is often ignored as an environmental issue, even though great waste management conserves both water and electricity, while poor waste management not only exacerbates these issues, but can cause others too.

Although South Africa has robust residential waste systems, at least in some areas, and has been practicing recycling initiatives for over three decades, there are some clear issues ahead.

The good news is that there is something that we all can do about this.

One of the biggest drivers of ineffective waste management is our own lack of compliance and general behaviour towards waste. The good news is that there is something that we all can do about this.

To fully visualize the challenges ahead, we need to first understand that we are a burgeoning population (estimated 60.14 million at mid 2021) experiencing rapid urbanisation and have one of the highest urbanisation rates globally.

Although there is much that can be celebrated about this growth, keeping up with it has meant generating a lot more waste – in turn exacerbating a legacy issue with our landfills; most landfills simply aren’t compliant with the law and are not being managed effectively. This mishandling converts our landfill waste into a broader pollution of our natural environment and even our resources, adding complications into these facets of South African life.

Perhaps to combat this, South Africa currently recycles 46% of plastic. According to Plastic SA, as reported by Infrastructure News, this is higher than the global average by country. SA also recycles 70% of its paper, 72% of its beverage cans/ metal and 42% of its glass.

The previous percentages may make South Africa seem unusually eco-wise but, nonetheless, it still generates over 100 million tons of waste annually, 90% of which goes to landfill. As impressive as our previous percentages are, they cannot be taken as a sign to be complacent.

To drastically change our waste habits and encourage a circular economy (where materials are re-used), our government gazetted the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS). This provides regulations for an extended producer responsibility scheme, placing responsibility on manufacturers for their products and packaging, even to the end of an item’s life cycle.

This decision to place more responsibility on the manufacturer comes from a place of necessity; our landfill sites are expected to be full in only a few years. Gauteng, which accounts for nearly half of the country’s municipal waste, has not been granted new landfill permits in two decades. In other words, our current waste habits are not sustainable.

While it’s tempting to attribute this problem to slow bureaucracy, there is an exacerbating matter; despite our growing population, there are currently very few ratepayers to help the government finance expanded or improved waste management services.

Therefore, part of the NWMS requires manufacturers in SA to include an increasing amount of recycled material in their products, and to help ensure these products actually are recycled whenever possible.

This is what is happening at a governmental and manufacturing level to improve sustainability. What can we do on a Community Scheme level?

Waste Disposal in Sectional Title Properties

 As the above may imply, sustainability is not just about recycling, even if that is often the first thing that comes to mind. Sustainability practices, if implemented well, can have positive effects in the following areas:

  • Environmental (e.g., keeping residential areas at a higher level of cleanliness, not spoiling natural resources)
  • Economical (e.g., reducing manufacturing costs through reusing materials — in many cases it’s more electricity-efficient to recycle than it is to build from scratch)
  • Social — most people feel better about where they live if it’s clean!

Nonetheless, for residents, recycling is often the best place to start.

Cultivating an eco-wise Community Scheme can be challenging, but one of the advantages of working within a Sectional Title Property is the community itself. There are benefits to working together, and better waste management is no exception if done properly.

But what can we do to ensure a community works together smoothly, especially in places where people are many and space is limited?

Let’s see what the law has to say.

Waste Management and Legislation

 The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act (STSMA) has important implications for waste management, providing a legal framework for governance, rulemaking, and dispute resolution.

While waste management is not explicitly mentioned, the Act enables the establishment of rules that can govern waste management, and so contribute to the promotion of proper waste disposal, recycling initiatives, and a clean and sustainable living environment.

Municipal by-laws and the Scheme’s rules may prescribe specific requirements for waste management within the property. These rules can include provisions for waste separation, recycling, and adherence to waste disposal regulations. The aim with these regulations is to ensure proper waste management practices are followed by residents and to maintain the cleanliness and environmental sustainability of the property.

Ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring that waste disposal is managed correctly falls to the owners and the residents within the complex. In short, everyone living within a Sectional Title Property has a part to play, with the efforts of each individual lightening the load of the whole.

So, as an owner or resident, where can you start?

Implement Recycling Programs

 As said before, recycling is usually the best place for residents to begin, and a good recycling initiative begins at home.

Once you have a system that works within your household, start the initiative in earnest by encouraging the residents of your Scheme to set up three bins in each of their units.

Ideally, this is an “organic” bin for compost, a “dry” recyclables bin and a separate bin for non-recyclable waste.

If there is no room to keep so many bins in each unit, or if it is deemed too much of an expense, an alternative is to keep just one container (that could be as simple as a plastic shopping bag) for all recyclable tins, bottles and paper. While it is not ideal to mix the types of recyclable materials, it is still better than not recycling at all.  (Check out The Best Recycling Companies In Cape Town & Jhb)

Not everyone in your Scheme will be as dedicated to recycling as you might, so it is important to make it as easy as possible to recycle to achieve the best results on the front end. 

Note that not all recycling plants are the same. If your local depot has a full-time team of sorters, they might not seem to care if you split your recyclables between three bins or one, and this can be demoralizing for residents who put effort into sorting.

In the short term, making things easier will avoid morale issues but, as dedication builds, see what you can do to improve things for the back end. For instance, if enough people sort their recyclables into separate bins at home, and this is communicated with the plant, the plant will not need to expend as many resources doing the sorting itself, helping the recycling effort immeasurably.

But, regardless of how much sorting you are doing, there is still a key question that must be answered.

What Materials Are Recyclable?

 Not all waste is recyclable so you will need to find out what your nearest recycling depot or waste provider accepts. That said, the following generally applies:

Tins and Metals

Metals are used to make new products of the same quality, conserving irreplaceable natural resources. Recycling tins and cans saves about 95% of the energy needed to make a new can. There is a huge demand for scrap metals worldwide and South Africa exports up to 50% of the scrap that it recovers.

Cardboard and Paper

Cardboard and paper are excellent materials for recycling. For every ton of paper recycled, 17 trees are saved, 40% less energy and 30% less water is needed. But some paper is problematic, so the following cannot be recycled:

  • Carbon paper
  • Dog food bags, potato bags or wax-coated boxes
  • Wet or dirty paper (tissues, paper towels, food wrappings, paper with spills)
  • Self-adhesive paper
  • Chemically treated fax or photographic paper
  • Wax or plastic-coated packaging for liquids (milk cartons)


Plastics generally do not degrade as they are made from petroleum-based chemicals. They can be tricky to recycle because they are often combined with other materials, to say nothing of the different polymer forms that plastics come in. You will have to find out from your service provider what plastic types they accept. In general, plastics with a recycle logo and identification number in the recycle triangle can be recycled.

Glass Bottles and Jars

Recycling a glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100 W bulb for four hours. For every ton of glass recycled, 1,2 tons of raw materials and 114 litres of oil energy are saved.

Embrace Eco-Friendly Initiatives

 While meaningful sustainability often starts with recycling, it seldom ends with it. There are a whole range of eco-friendly, eco-wise initiatives you can implement across a scheme. If you are unsure where to begin, consider:


Low-flow devices can be fitted onto bathroom or kitchen taps. This can reduce normal tap flow from around 20 – 30 litres per minute, to a more reasonable 6 to 10 litres. Water-flow from taps can be reduced by 50% to 75%, while the water pressure remains the same.

Baths and Showers

An average bath holds between 150 and 200 litres of water. The average conventional shower uses about 22 litres of water each minute, and those with a ‘low flow’ showerhead use less than half this amount per minute. For anyone who wants to conserve water and has not made these changes yet, this is an easy and effective place to start.


Geysers have an overflow pipe to prevent flooding when the water heats up and expands. While the drip should stop when the temperature of the heated water stabilises, this drip could continue for an hour or more, losing up to a couple of litres of water each day.

Geysers, especially old ones, can be very energy inefficient and there are some things that one can do to reduce this power waste, such as installing a timer, wrapping geysers in thermal insulation, or even installing gas powered water heating units.

Dishwashers and Washing Machines

Buying water efficient appliances can have a big impact on your water use. Again, older appliance can average 40 to 75 litres of water per wash, but modern, efficient machines can use as little as 13 litres. These will also use less electricity, as there is less water to heat.

High efficiency washing machines use about 30% less water and 40% to 50% less electricity. Again, less hot water means less electricity is used.


The government has set energy efficiency targets for 2015 to 2030 through the National Energy Efficiency Strategy, and this includes a 20% reduction in the energy intensity of municipal street lighting. A similar approach can be adopted in community schemes where the use of energy efficient LED lighting in communal and private spaces can save significant amounts of power and they tend to last a lot longer than normal bulbs too.

Be Patient, Be Relentless, Be Encouraging

Waste management is a critical environmental concern that affects everyone. Despite the pressing issues of energy scarcity and water shortages, the proper disposal and recycling of waste should not be overlooked, especially when wider eco-initiatives help conserve both.

Implementing recycling programs, encouraging waste separation at the source and embracing eco-friendly initiatives can further contribute to environmental sustainability. By taking individual and collective action, we can support general environmental concerns and create a greener environment for all.

If you would like to consider developing a comprehensive eco-friendly initiative for your scheme, then reach out to us today. To contact ANGOR with any questions, or for financial and property management advice, please go to: https://www.angor.co.za/

Also Read: How to Improve Efficiency and Eco-Consciousness in Your Sectional Title Scheme