Probably one of the most difficult issues facing estate managers is waste management. It’s a truly Sisyphean endeavour – just when you think you’ve cleared the pile, it grows back. But creative waste management is essential, not only to maintain the beauty and integrity of our estates, but of – yes – the whole world.
It’s a daunting task, but we can take heart – and learn some lessons – from the example of one Cape Town hotel that has managed to drastically reduce the amount of waste it sends to landfill.
Verde Hotels is a sustainable property development company, whose holistic approach to developing environmentally conscious properties is making its mark with significant, positive results around waste minimisation and management strategies and processes. Dawie Meiring, group systems and sustainability manager at Verde Hotels, says: ‘Our primary objective is to ensure that the properties we develop and operate have systems in place to minimise the consumption of natural resources, avoid and lower the generation
of waste, reduce, reuse, recycle and recover waste where possible, and, as a last resort, treat and safely dispose of waste.’
It is also supremely important to inform, educate and get the buy-in of staff, stakeholders, guests and the community to support and sustain environmental initiatives at ground level.
At Hotel Verde Cape Town Airport, for example, says General Manager Lindy Meiring, ‘all our staff undergo sustainability training with the hotel’s eco team, the Green Guardians, so they are up to speed on all things sustainable.’
The hotel actions and encourages responsible procurement, buys in bulk and uses eco-friendly alternatives; they bottle their own water in reusable bottles, and promote operations that minimise waste in general. ‘We have also installed split bins in all 145 rooms, and at strategic points throughout the hotel, along with educational signage and green tips – our guests are rewarded with a unique in-house currency called “Verdinos” when they participate in correctly using the bins or any of the hotel’s other green initiatives,’ adds Lindy.
Dawie states that the figures for Hotel Verde Cape Town are phenomenal, having exceeded their waste-to-landfill targets of 85% set in 2013 to 97.06% in 2018. ‘And of the 2.2 kilograms of waste generated per guest per stay, only 64 grams could not be diverted from landfill – it isn’t just not recyclable, but is also not reusable, compostable or upcyclable – but we are actively searching for new ways of repurposing this waste too.’ Year on year the hotel has also achieved a 36% reduction in waste production, which equates to a saving of 71 tonnes of waste not being generated – no mean feat!
This could not have been achieved without the hotel aligning themselves with waste contractors who understand the complexities of waste management, who comply with environmental legislation, and are able to offer advice on the most environmentally friendly and cost-efficient methods of disposal. It is good to note that there are more than 200 waste service providers operating in the Western
Cape alone, across the full value chain, i.e. collection, transportation, disposal, recycling, sorting, storage and cleaning.
Leslie van Zyl, Commercial Operation Manager at Waste Plan, which specialises in waste management and provides on-site staff, says: ‘We sort and recycle as much as possible before disposing only the minimum waste to landfill.’
Zero to Landfill Organics provides training, educational material and separation systems for the setting up of organic waste separation programmes for businesses, as well as a service to collect and compost source-separated food waste, paper towels (from bathrooms) and garden waste. Managing Director Melanie Jones emphasises the importance of recycling organic waste – especially food waste. ‘By source-separating organic waste from other waste
streams, the contamination of plastic, paper, glass and metals is prevented, increasing recycling percentages to over 90%.’
Dawie Meiring says: ‘Do you know that up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin can be recycled, that a recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for three hours, and that while certain plastics will eventually decompose after anything from 10 to 1,000 years, some never really do? Recycled paper produces 73% less air pollution than if it were made from raw materials, and the energy saved from recycling one glass bottle will power a 100-watt light bulb for almost an hour.’
These are just a few of the very powerful reasons why waste management as part of your sustainability strategy is key in helping to protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations. And staff members at Hotel Verde can be heard echoing the owner Mario Delicio’s chime of: ‘Waste is value for Verde Hotels, but the best is waste that is avoided completely.’
If one hotel can do it, any estate can. And if one estate can do it, they all can. Imagine if we all changed our perceptions.