Advice on recycling hazardous waste in Namibia

The Namibian

Advice on recycling hazardous waste in Namibia

Date: WED, 26 September 2013

THE Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF) says Namibia accumulates more than 1 000 dead car batteries a year, a fact which contributes greatly to environment hazards the country faces.

According to John Pallett of the RNF, about 275,000 vehicles in Namibia, as well as the many ships plying the coastline and anchoring in Walvis Bay generate literally millions of litres of waste oil.

RNF stressed that unfortunately many people don’t know how to dispose old oil and batteries responsibly and then there are those who simply do not care.

“Car batteries last about three years on average, so that amounts to just over 90,000 dead batteries produced in Namibia every year. PowerBat, the Namibian arm of PowerTech in South Africa, is currently the biggest player in this market, and sends about 120 tonnes of dead batteries to SA per quarter. They are destined for Fry’s Metals, a large smelter in Gauteng that pays R3/kg for the scrap.

This is clearly a win-win situation: the environment is saved from that much toxic lead and sulphuric acid, and business thrives on the activity, creating employment, improving skills, and building the economy,” he said.

Pallett added that the situation with used oil was equally encouraging as about 80% of waste oil is recycled, mainly through collection that was done by a few companies.

“Wesco, the largest, has an organised system of collection tanks throughout the country, placed at garages and workshops where large quantities are generated. The waste oil goes through a simple cleaning and filtering process in Walvis Bay that produces Light Furnace Oil, suitable for using in boilers and burners. The sector has developed to the extent that a new power station to be established at Arandis next year will be fired almost entirely on waste oil.”

“For example, export of hazardous waste is prohibited unless the authorities in both the sending and receiving countries agree to the movement, and issue permits accordingly. Delays, mistakes, poor communications and unfamiliarity make the system between Namibia and South Africa very inefficient. The Africa Institute, which focuses on the Basel Convention that governs hazardous waste movements worldwide, could help to streamline the administrative systems, and build skills so that the permitting systems work better.”

Pallett added that any person returning a dead car battery to a battery seller should be paid about N$20, and if it is not offered, you should insist on it.

Recycling of hazardous substances is growing, driven by their economic potential and the keen entrepreneurs who have grabbed a business opportunity, and growing awareness.

Pallett concluded: “Prevention of pollution requires a two-pronged approach: an incentive for people to dispose of the wastes responsibly, complemented with a legal deterrent that punishes wrong-doers. At the moment this second component is lacking, or at best, ineffective. All the more reason to give full support to the recycling efforts that have been established so far.”