South Africa has set a 6% national growth target goal for 2014 which will result in significant increases in industrial, agricultural and urban activities along with associated infrastructural developments. Despite policy aimed at reducing pollution and waste there will be an increasing need to deal with the resultant by-products (either in their solid, liquid or gaseous form).
Research into pollution and waste management is undertaken in view of the impact of an increasing population and a strong national focus on industrial, agricultural and urban growth on the environment. The research challenge lies in breaking the link between South Africa’s economic development and the resultant waste and pollution generation (across all media; air, water and soil). With this in mind, NRE research in pollution and waste aims to address the core problem of increasing anthropogenic waste and pollution and the resultant risk to the environment and human health.
Key research areas in pollution and waste include:
- Assessing the problematic situation of the resource base, across all media (air, water [inland and marine] and soil) and the analysis and interpretation of this information to form the cornerstone of informed response, whether it be through evidence-based policy development or implementation, society intervention, or technology development;
- Waste and society. The research focus here is on evidence-based decision-support to government, society and industry, focusing on the upper part of the waste hierarchy (reuse, recycling, energy recovery), with a focus on domestic commercial and industrial waste streams; and
- Technology intervention in pollution and waste. Technology solutions for waste treatment, product recovery and pollution mitigation focus largely on support to industry and municipalities (e.g. industrial and municipal wastewater treatment), thereby supporting the objectives of sustainable development and industrial ecology.
- Environmental health. The research focus here is on assessing the risks of environmental (pollution) factors (sources, pathways, receptors) to human health. This includes aspects of social vulnerability; prevention and control; and socio-economic implications.
The CSIR is uniquely positioned in addressing the challenges facing South Africa as a result of pollution and waste, by being able to integrate research expertise across different scientific disciplines, from technology development and intervention to behavioural responses to government policy intervention.