Call for a ban on incineration in the Southern Africa region

08 April 2002 - After a three-day strategic meeting and a day-long dialogue with government political representatives and officials, civil society representatives from Southern Africa called for a ban on incineration to be implemented by 2006.

Civil society’s call for the ban was further inspired after being addressed by the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Rejoice Mabudafasi on Monday morning.  She indicated that the South African government will ratify the Stockholm Convention before the world Summit on Sustainable Development.

"This is a positive political statement from a southern government leader,” states Manny Calonzo, Assistant Southern Coordinator of the Global Anti Incineration Alliance, based in Manila, Philippines. Manny Calonzo was present at the civil society gathering to share the global anti-incineration strategy and call for alternatives to medical waste management, rather than just incineration.  The Philippine government banned incineration in 1999.  (see

Llewellyn Leonard, coordinator of the groundWork Health Care Waste and Incineration programme supported the Kwa Zulu-Natal government’s programme on closing all hospital incinerators.

The outcomes of the three day civil society meeting led to the adoption of the Isipingo Declaration Below)on eliminating the harmful impacts of health care waste and incinerators in Southern African communities.


The Isipingo Declaration on eliminating the harmful impacts of Health Care Waste and Incinerators in Southern African communities

April 8, 2002 - We, the under-mentioned Southern African organisations represented at the National Civil Society Workshop on Health Care Waste and Incineration held in Isipingo, South Durban, South Africa, from April 5-8, 2002 make this declaration:

Noting the following challenges to the safer management of health care waste:

  • The large percentage of health care waste which goes unaccounted for;
  • The frequency of illegal dumping of health care waste on general landfill sites, unregistered dumps and open plots of land, exposing the public and especially children to harmful health threatening diseases;
  • The lack of separation occurring in SA health care facilities leading to infectious waste, pharmaceutical waste and general waste being mixed together;
  • The amount of state money which hospitals pay to private companies to remove and incinerate the hospital waste which can be excessive;
  • The continued use of mercury in health care facilities, e.g. in thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, dental procedures and medicines;
  • The use of IV bags containing PVC and other PVC containing products in health care facilities;
  • The inadequate contracts which exist between the relevant government departments responsible for health care waste and private waste contractors;

And noting the following challenges to waste incineration:

  • That our governments' have signed the United Nations Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which seeks to eliminate certain pollutants including those which are formed during waste incineration processes;
  • That the Stockholm Convention names incineration processes as one of the processes which leads to the formation of new POPs;
  • That the more than 130 countries who have signed the Stockholm Convention recognise the need to investigate and promote safer, non-combustion processes for decontaminating waste;
  • That there is a growing move in both Northern and Southern countries towards the banning of incineration;
  • That ALL incinerators are polluting – no incinerator is able to achieve 100% Destruction Reduction Efficiency;
  • That waste incinerators emit over 100 different chemical pollutants including dioxins, furans, mercury and other heavy metals;
  • That very serious health effects are associated with exposure to incineration pollution, including cancers, birth defects, lowered sperm count, compromised immune systems, still births, learning problems and even death;
  • That dioxins have been described as "the most toxic chemical known", and that there is no safe exposure limit for dioxins – exposure to even miniscule amounts of dioxins can have adverse health effects;
  • That the US EPA has found that as many as 1 in 5 cancers in the USA could be attributed to dioxin exposure;
  • That the USA EPA has found that waste incineration is the main source of dioxin pollution;
  • That incineration competes and undermines waste minimisation and waste reduction practices;
  • That incinerators require vast capital investment and other resources but do not lead to significant sustainable job creation or significant revenue for local economies;

We call on our Governments to:

  • Fulfil their obligations to the Stockholm Convention by taking the necessary steps to ratify the Convention, by putting in place action plans and time frames for the phasing out and eventual elimination of dioxins and furans, and by compiling an inventory of all POPs sources and stockpiles;
  • Seek to implement integrated waste management systems which promote waste minimisation followed by waste prevention, recycling and re-use;
  • By 2006, to have closed down and dismantled all waste incinerators and replaced them with alternative, non-combustion technology, such as autoclaves and sterilizers;
  • Ban the construction of new waste incinerators;
  • Introduce legally enforceable standards for the safe establishment, operation and decommissioning of treatment facilities.
  • Establish effective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for waste regulations.
  • By 2006 to have phased out the use of mercury and PVC in all health care institutions;
  • Develop national guidelines for the safe management of health care waste;
  • Allocate increased funding to the relevant departments of health for the purposes of implementing these guidelines, education and awareness;
  • Provide education and awareness for all health care workers on safe health care waste management, particularly on the need to sort and separate;
  • Develop and maintain strict tracking systems of health care waste from point of generation to final disposal;
  • Be proactive in the resolution of health care waste problems that health care institutions face;
  • Prescribe procurement practices for health care facilities that would ensure that unnecessary pollutants do not enter the facilities (eg. Excess plastic packaging, mercury-containing products etc);
  • Review and reassess contracts between private waste contractors and government departments responsible for dealing with health care waste;
  • Develop mechanisms to ensure that private practitioners, small health care operators and rural health care facilities are registered and are following the necessary legal requirement in dealing with health care waste;
  • Establish regional (district) advisory forums to deal with health care waste, particularly for rural facilities;
  • Develop an independent standards and authorities directorate/agency to monitor the procurement of health care waste equipment and resources.
  • Governments to work together to establish common standards and norms to deal with health care waste.
  • Government will not import and/or export waste and damaging technologies to deal with waste.


Adopted by:

Anti Incineration Alliance (AIA)
Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg)
Edendale Hospital
Environmental Justice Networking Forum (Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal)
Fairest Cape Association
Global Anti Incineration Alliance (GAIA)
Livaningo (Mozambique)
Ngwelezane Hospital
Sasolburg Environmental Committee (SEC)
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)
Wentworth Hospital  
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA)
Yonge Nawe (Swaziland)