Liquid waste ban: the unexpected spin-off

22 November 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201917002

Liquid waste ban: the unexpected spin-off

WHILE environmentalists rejoiced at the ban of liquid waste being disposed of at landfill, generators of liquid waste, waste management companies and landfill sites have had to find environmentally sustainable and cost-effective solutions quickly, in order to abide by the new law.

The latest prohibitions on waste disposal to landfill in the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (NEMWA) regulations, not only focus on hazardous waste with a calorific value > 20 MJ/kg, but have taken the major step to include all types of hazardous liquid waste with a moisture value >40%.

The announcement by South Africa’s DEFF (Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries) on 23 August 2019 imposing a ban on liquid waste from being dumped at landfill sites, means that nearly one million tons of hazardous liquid waste produced in South Africa annually, will now have to either be transported to a different waste management facility, pre-processed to produce alternative fuel resources (AFR) and alternative raw materials (ARM), or stablised by binding the liquid waste with ash, lime and chemicals and converted into gel.

According to CEO of Almar Container Group, Francois du Plessis, the reinforcement of the regulation which was first tabled in the South African Parliament in 2013, has brought about an increased demand for bulk storage of liquid waste.

“The demand for ISO tanks has increased since the announcement and we believe the reason for this could be two fold – the onsite storage time has increased while waste generators find solutions for the disposal of the waste, and recycling or converting of the waste is costly so companies are looking at where they can cut costs,’’ said Du Plessis.

He added that companies are starting to recognise that storage is an area where they can save money, and this also impacts positively on transportation costs.

“In our experience, companies make use of 44-gallon drums or IBCs (Immediate Bulk Containers) which involves substantial manpower to unload, fill, seal and load for transportation and, depending on the liquid being stored, are often single use.’’

He said generators were realising that ISO tank containers, known as ISOtainers, are a better solution because they can store 26 000 litres and the containers are stackable.

“With space, time and budget being a priority for generators, we have had to re-focus our attention to meet this demand.

“As we know, amendments in regulations has a ripple effect and often impacts businesses unrelated to the industry to which it applies,” Du Plessis said.

Gerry Banda, Maintenance Engineer for Aspen Fine Chemicals Corporation, commented that since the announcement, they have had no choice but to convert from their current storage solution, with each container storing between 200 and 1250 litres, to ISOtainers.

“We have reduced the manpower needed to fill the containers and load them for transportation and not only has this reduced costs but also the handling time of hazardous waste.

“The other major benefit is that once the ISOtainer is full, the crane truck comes to collect it and takes it to the pre-processing premises to decanter, and we can just keep rotating the ISOtainers between fine chemicals and organic synthesis,’’ Banda said.

Another business impacted by the reinforcement of Section 5 (1) (a – u) and Section 5 (2) (a – c), of the National Norms and Standards for the Disposal of Waste to Landfill (GN R 636 of 23 August 2013) is Geocycle South Africa, a subsidiary of Lafarge South Africa and a member of the international LafargeHolcim group.

Geocycle and Lafarge are licensed by the DEFF to operate facilities producing alternative fuel resources (AFRs), as well as alternative raw materials (ARMs) for cement. Geocycle has been providing pre-processing services for the supply of various recycled, high calorific value materials, such as industrial oil sludge, to be used as fuel in the Lafarge cement kilns.

Since the announcement by the DEFF, Managing Director of Geocycle South Africa, Brent Mahoney, has seen an increase in liquid waste being directed to them to produce AFRs and ARMs as opposed to going straight to landfill.

“Generators are choosing bulk storage solutions in order to increase efficiencies when it comes to handling and storage of the liquid waste and to use the reusable versus the single use storage option’’ said Mahoney.

According to DEFF’s Albie Modise a key benefit of the liquid waste legislation is that the country’s groundwater reserves will receive protection from seeping hazardous liquids. Landfills are known to produce leachate (liquid bearing soluble and suspended solids after it passes through matter) that is difficult to manage and treat, and leachate had the potential to seep into groundwater pools.

An unexpected environmental spin-off from the reinforcement of this legislation has been the increased demand for bulk liquid storage which has led to a reduction in transportation and, in turn, a reduction in carbon emission.

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