Zero Waste: Part 2
Zero Waste Part 1 dealt with ‘zero waste’ from a very personal viewpoint. Here we look at organisations who are using the One Planet framework to create action plans to plot their journey towards a sustainable future.
Singita is a boutique conservation brand offering safari experiences across six regions in Africa, preserving and protecting pristine land and wildlife populations, and helping to create economic independence within local communities surrounding the reserves. Since 2012 when they began their One Planet journey, they have made a 90% reduction in plastic waste across all their operations, with all materials recycled with local community enterprises. Other targets on waste include a 10% reduction year on year for other materials and 100% responsible disposal of food waste by composting, use of worm farms and a local pig farmer benefiting from a proportion. An interesting programme at one site in 2019 was to reduce the use of disposable nappies by staff’s babies in the community, offering fitted reusable nappies as an alternative. In so doing they achieved a waste nappy reduction of 50%. Singita’s ultimate target on waste by 2025 is that only 10% will go to landfill.
Green Office in Pinetown, an independent print solutions provider with a focus on efficiency and sustainability, has been methodical in its approach to minimising waste by doing annual waste audits, staff awareness raising campaigns, eliminating single use plastics in their office and constantly looking for alternatives for disposal of hazardous waste to avoid it going to landfill. Reuse, re-purpose and share is part of their mantra to avoid disposal, with figures from their recently published 2019 carbon footprint analysis showing greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste disposal to landfill has reduced by 12% due to improved recycling programmes, particularly in Durban. This includes e-waste collection and on the job front, a registered non-profit company greenABLE which incubates, educates and empowers previously unemployed disabled individuals, thereby changing their lives and bridging their skills gap, They also produce the ‘eezigo Designed for mobility’ laptop stand using plastic that would otherwise end up in landfill.
USE IT Waste Beneficiation Industry Development Cluster identifies waste beneficiation opportunities in eThekwini that helps to divert waste from landfill and create employment in the green economy as well as provide a number of specialised services. They created a fully green building development in Hammarsdale, using Compressed Earth Blocks mixed with crushed builder’s rubble waste, as the main building material of the waste beneficiation centre, to incubate SMME’s within the waste sector. The aim of this site is to attract community and private-sector ventures into the area and so promote further economy in the recycling / reuse / repurposing industries. It is a beautiful venue for workshops, too!
Tnt B&B, a green bed and breakfast in Westville, has a well organised recycling ‘chute’ system going on in their kitchen (see photo below, lift the covers to ‘post’ your contribution) to make it as easy as possible for guests to recycle while staying there, Tracey, the owner and passionate greenie, then takes the recyclables directly to the Wildlands depot adjacent to Cato Manor, supporting local residents to create a livelihood out of recyclables and collecting approximately 1 240 964 kgs of recycling annually.
IWD Superfleure is an innovative waste design studio that makes stylish upcycled accessories and furnishings using old tyres, tubes and other so called waste mixed with natural products. With a background as a clothing manufacturer, Colleen the designer passed a pile of discarded tyres one day in 2013 … and had an idea. The result is an incredible range of work that is reasonable for the buyer, fashionably stylish, durable and helps the environment … see some examples below:
On the education front, schools like Danville Park Girls High, Ocean View Montessori and the Birches do wonderfully innovative projects to make learners and families aware of minimising waste. Danville, for example, has many great recycling initiatives — take a look at their One Planet plan on www.oneplanet.com — but noteworthy has been their green business started in 2012 called Originally Made Green, or OMG, making products out of waste, which are sold at market or fun days to raise funds for conservation organisations. In 2019, they participated in the SA International Awards Environmental Sustainability Project and won a significant tranche of money, not least of all for all their waste / recycling projects, to start monkey proof veggie gardening at school to donate veg to a local feed scheme. Similarly Ocean View Montessori has been making eco-brick furniture for stools in the classroom, and has pioneered Zero Waste snack boxes to challenge parents to put as little to no throw away waste, in school lunchboxes. The Birches has its own recycling centre on site, open to the local community, a number of compost heaps and a worm farm for school food waste. Oh and some chickens in the garden who also love left over lunch box tidbits … as well as provide eggs for the school families to buy back.
Another star Futuremaker of Durban is Waste Knot, a women’s empowerment scheme which uses discarded fabric and yarn to create up-cycled goods and accessories while skilling ladies to learn to sew.
Another company making good use of existing resources is Planet Care, a waste management / recycling company that refurbished their Durban offices only with recycled materials: a pallet wall made from pallets from their site, the light fitting from recycled plastic milk bottles, flowers from soda cans and art from recyclables. Who says up-cycling can’t be beautiful — and fun?
And lastly but not least, Ushaka Marine World is also on a quest for zero waste! They too are participating in the One Planet Cities project, with staff always on the lookout for new and creative ways to help the planet. They began Eco-bricking over a year ago now and before lock down picked up a rhythm with staff eager to collect bottles and fill them. Education shared posters on the how-to of Eco-bricks. Another big move for staff was the use of re-usable coffee cups which was a great way for people to express themselves based on the type of cup they were using. ‘It was the cool thing to do, bring in your re-usable coffee cup into a meeting for everyone to fawn over!’ Now they are passing on this education to guests who visit the aquarium too. Oh, and no more straws of course — straws suck — when you visit you can sign a Penguin promise to never use plastic straws again — there, done.
After the Covid pandemic, recycling / upcycling/ repurposing / reusing will be even more crucial. I leave you with two potentially new paradigm shifts — the first about sustainable plastic packaging and a concept known as Plastic Neutrality. This is the measuring, reducing and offsetting a company’s unique plastic footprint — enabling companies large and small to assess their plastic emissions, set up an incentive structure that rewards future footprint reductions, and take action today by financing the removal of as much nature-bound plastic waste as their supply chains create. Read this very interesting article here as one of the big challenges for all companies is how to deal with minimising waste in their supply chains.
The second paradigm shift excites me a lot — closing the cycle — by bicycle. In Southbroom on our very own KZN South Coast, one man has started a composting business collecting food waste from restaurants / homes / businesses, using his bicycle and a specially designed trailer. In one year, 2019, he collected and saved from going to landfill, 7770 kgs of food waste.The whole idea is to keep waste within the community. ‘The compost comes mostly from vegetables and I want to see it going back into growing vegetables in Southbroom’. So he is expanding and starting a food growing venture as well. Imagine if we did this all over eThekwini! — zero plant food waste, local food growing to prevent hunger, healthy exercise, happy people starting small businesses, stimulating the local economy, creating employment at a much needed time. Ticking a lot of One Planet boxes all in one venture — fantastic!
So from the big to the small, every little bit helps. Design, construct and operate for a healthy and happy life where wasteful consumption is reduced and there is no waste. Relatively small changes can create a huge, lasting, collective impact. This will be crucial as the world transitions the perfect storm of the environmental, economic and health crisis we currently find ourselves in.