Waste Materials Plant Operator

Approximately 4.8 million tones of solid waste makes its way to landfill sites in South Africa, many of which are fast reaching maximum capacity. One of the processes to reduce the load on landfill sites is the incineration of waste. Medical waste is the most common waste incinerated followed by industrial and certain household wastes, with treatment capacity currently able to process 4 700 tons of waste per month. The efficient and safe operation of waste material plants is necessary to avoid health impacts for people and prevent harmful contaminants from entering the environment.

Waste materials plant operators operate machinery that disposes of solid waste through incineration processes. They manage the operation of multiple hearth incinerator furnaces and related equipment, controlling burners and temperature as well as regulating the length of burning cycles. They also monitor all processes, making routine adjustments and noting maintenance concerns, to ensure operation procedures are followed.

Waste materials plant operators can work within a team of waste collectors, engineers, technicians and mechanics. They can be exposed to dangerous materials and equipment and are required to wear protective clothing.

Skills

Waste materials plant operators must have a good understanding of the processes and machinery to dispose of varied waste types, additionally benefitting from:

  • Good physical stamina
  • Health, safety and environment aware
  • Ability to troubleshoot basic machinery issues
  • Problem-solving capabilities

Tasks

Control the operation of multiple-hearth incinerator furnaces and related equipment

Inspect equipment and monitor operating conditions

Complete and maintain station plant logs, records, logs and reports

Perform security and safety checks in plants and on grounds

Studies

Waste materials plant operators can benefit from a General Education and Training or Further Education and Training Certificate or a National Certificate in Environmental Practices at National Qualifications Framework Level 1 to 4 offered at Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges.

They can also benefit from a General Certificate in Waste Treatment offered at the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa. However, most training takes place on the job with mentoring by an experienced operator.

Employers

Provincial and local government.

Waste management companies.

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