PRETORIA: Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, says government is waging a war on waste and prioritising contributing to the development and growth of the recycling economy.
"The waste sector is currently valued at about R50bn per annum. Waste has value - both a social and an economic value.
"Reducing, recovering or minimising waste provides opportunities for socio-economic development; new jobs and businesses; maximising resource recovery for downstream manufacturing growth; reduction in the reliance on declining natural resources," said the minister.
She was speaking to media ahead of tabling the department's Budget Vote in Parliament on Thursday, 14 May.
In November 2012, the department approved the implementation of an industry waste tyre management plan - the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA).
The objective of REDISA is to promote the sound management of waste tyres while also contributing to economic growth by creating jobs and SMME's.
Minister Molewa announced that 53 143 tons, which equals 31%, of the waste tyres have been diverted away from the landfill sites as of December 2014.
"These waste tyres have either been recycled, used for energy recovery or re-used," she said, adding that 1 981 jobs have been created and 181 SMME's have been created in waste tyre transporting, waste tyre depot operations, waste processing and micro collectors of waste tyres.
The department is on course to contribute towards the commitment to create five million job opportunities.
"Ours remains the largest Expanded Public Works Programme, which in accordance with our commitment made last year, is focused mainly on growing existing green sectors or industries in our economy.
"Our Expanded Public Works budget of over R8bn over the MTEF period goes to implement concrete programmes in the land restoration, water resource and ecosystem service management sectors," said the minister.
These programmes include the Working for Water, Working on Fire, Working for Wetland, Working for Wetland, Working for Coasts and People and Parks programmes.
Minister Molewa said not only do these programmes have sustainable rural development and job creation benefits but also climate change adaptation and resilience co-benefits.
"I am happy to report that about 85,226 work opportunities were created as part of our implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme during the financial year 2014/15."
While the wild life economy was currently valued at R8bn, most of this economy is currently in the hands of white ownership.
"Our challenge is to take this huge economy and spread its benefit in an equal manner..."
Last year, President Jacob Zuma launched Ocean Economy Operation Phakisa to fast-track implementation of partnership interventions aimed at seizing these ocean economy opportunities.
Minister Molewa said the implementation of this ocean economy intervention is well underway and a budget allocation for the oceans governance pillar amounting to R85m has been prioritised to develop the marine spatial plan, the Oceans Bill, the establishment of 22 offshore marine protected areas and to support aquaculture development in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.