Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


This paper explores the negative imprint that apartheid has left on the waste management sector in South Africa and the strategies being put in place to decolonize and restructure the current system. Chapter 1 includes quantitative research to introduce this topic as well as a discussion of the history of colonization in South Africa, with data on how indigenous groups interacted with the environment in pre-colonial history. Chapter 1 will also examine how, after the arrival of the European colonizers, the creation of townships and informal settlements and their inaccessible, unsustainable infrastructure has led to the current ways in which people interact with the environment. Chapter 2 uses the perspective of environmental economics to discuss the implementation of capitalism in South Africa, which has sparked consumerism (the cause of single-use, unrecyclable products being purchased) and corruption in the government, which prevents money from entering resourceful waste cleanup programs. Chapter 3 uses environmental psychology to analyze how issues within the waste management sector have damaged emotional health. Chapter 4 uses a case study on waste management in Mamelodi Township as well as the lens of public health to explain the phenomena of burning garbage in townships and related informal settlements, and how these have negative physical-health effects on the people living in the area. Chapter 5 uses the preceding chapters to develop concrete policy recommendations for how to create e a regenerative South African economy, which will in turn benefit the physical and psychological health of those who call South Africa home. These recommendations involve urban planning and redesign, land and wealth reparations, and environmental education. This paper uses a 2019 research internship in South Africa as a source for qualitative data on the Mamelodi Township case study in chapter 4, as well as current interviews and quantitative data on the township.

Keywords: South Africa, environmental justice, waste management, colonization, environmental economics, public health, environmental psychology, sustainable development.