Composting Facilities – Do I need to register?

Posted on 13 May 2022

In light of the risks associated with improper waste management practices, waste is governed by several pieces of legislation for the purpose of protecting human health, preventing pollution and ecological degradation as well as to secure ecological sustainable development.


The National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act No. 59 of 2008) defines the term “waste” as:


(a) “any substance, material, or object, that is unwanted, rejected, abandoned or disposed of, or is intended or required to be discarded or disposed of, by the holder of that substance, material or object, whether or not such substance, material or object can be re-used, recycled or recovered and includes all waste as defined in Schedule 3 to this Act; or

(b) any other substance, material or object that is not included in Schedule 3 that may be defined as a waste by the Minister by notice in the Gazette”.

The general public tends to believe that only items discarded after their primary use are considered waste. As a result, organic material discarded for composting, is often overlooked as “waste” due to it being utilised to create fertilizer for agricultural or landscaping purposes.


What is organic waste? The Norms and Standards published in Notice No. 561 in Government Gazette No. 44762 of 25 June 2021 define organic waste as:


“Waste of a biological original which can be broken down, in a reasonable amount of time, into its base compounds by micro-organisms and other living things”.


The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) published the National Norms and Standards in June 2021 to provide a national uniform approach relating to controlling the composting of organic waste at a facility that falls within the threshold to prevent or minimise potential negative impacts on the bio-physical and socio-economic environment. In addition, these Norms and Standards are aimed at ensuring the implementation of measures for composting organic waste that provides the most benefit or causes the least damage to the environment, is feasible to implement by the general society in both the short and long term.


The following are two important points to consider when taking the first step in ensuring compliance with the new composting regulations:

  • The norms and standards apply to organic waste composting facilities that have the capacity to process compostable organic waste, in excess of 10 tonnes per day.
  • If less than 10 tonnes per day of organic waste is processed, the owner or operator of the organic waste composting facility must register such facility with the relevant provincial authority and comply with the principles of duty of care as contained in Section 28 of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998) and align with the requirements of the applicable waste management by-laws as set out by the relevant municipality. This application should as a minimum include:
    • Name and contact details of the facility operator/ owner.
    • The name and contact details of the landowner.
    • Identity number of the operator/owner or company registration of the composting facility.
    • Location and size of the composting facility.
    • Land use or zoning of the property.
    • Proximity to the nearest residential area.


The following list summarises some of the key actions in terms of the Norms and Standards for organic waste composting, 2020 required to be taken by the operator or owner of the composting facility. These actions are applicable to all facilities that have the capacity to process compostable waste more than 10 tonnes per day:

  • Compile an Environmental Management Programme (EMPr) describing the composting process as well as the measures to be taken to be taken during the construction and operational phase to protect human health and the environment.
  • Obtain approval design plans, building plans, waste types composted and operational processes to be utilised from the relevant provincial and local authorities.
  • Avoid construction within a environmentally sensitive area.
  • Ensure the composting facility is accessible to emergency personnel and equipment.
  • Construct risk-based containment barriers according to the organic waste type and quantity.
  • Implement measures to prevent leachate entering the surrounding environment.
  • Ensure the composting facility is designed to divert stormwater from rainfall events away from the facility.
  • Demarcate and secure the composting facility to prevent unauthorised access.
  • Ensure all infrastructure required for the operation of the facility operation are adequately maintained according to the design parameters to remain functional.
  • Keep safety data sheets for all chemical products utilised at the facility.
  • Provide emergency response measures to deal with potential emergency situations at the facility.
  • Keep a complaints and incident register.
  • Provide training, adequate ablutions, decontamination facilities and personal protective clothing for all workers.
  • Ensure the organic compost facility is monitored, audited.
  • Submit audit reports to the provincial authority as and when required.


Should your operations produce compostable organic waste, ENVASS as a multi-disciplinary service provider can assist in ensuring organic waste management compliance. Our team of specialists are qualified to undertake auditing and monitoring services as well as compiling Environmental Management Programmes.


If you require a solution-driven proposal, please do not hesitate to contact our highly qualified specialists at ENVASS on 012 460 9768 or



National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008, as amended.

Norms and Standards for organic waste composting, 2020. Government Gazette. (No.44762).


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