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Development, Social Justice and Integrating Economic Ecological Sustainability: A Case of Sustainable Development in the Waste Industry, eThekwini Unicity, Durban

By: Sara Freeman, Ndyebo Mgingqizana

This is a chapter from Environmental Education, Ethics and Action in Southern Africa, published by the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa.

The South African government’s vision for environmental management, as stated in the White Paper on Environmental Management Policy in South Africa (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism [DEAT], 1999), is a society that is in harmony with its environment through an integrated and holistic environmental management system that aims to achieve sustainable development.  To achieve sustainable development, an environmental management system needs to address:

• the quality of people’s lives, and their daily living and working environments;

• fair access to land and natural resources;

• the integration of economic development, social justice and environmental


• more efficient and sustainable use of resources;

• public participation in environmental governance;

• the custodianship of our environment (DEAT, 1999:13–14).

Sustainable development is however a difficult concept to pin down because it means different things to different people, depending on where they sit on the political, economic or social spectrum (see Hattingh, this volume).  In South Africa a close relationship between economic activity, the environment and development is assumed, and this needs to be taken into account in the promotion of sustainable development.

This chapter describes a case from eThekwini Unicity (Durban), where a waste management initiative is recognising this relationship and simultaneously addressing job-creation and income-generation, capacity-building towards greater social equity, and ecological sustainability through recycling and the reduction of waste.