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1st Floor Lona House
212 Upper Buitengracht
Bo Kaap, Cape Town, 8001

Jaime-Lee Gardner
072 171 1979

Louise Martin
073 335 4084

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The wonders of waste – organic waste converter

Everyone knows that composting is a no-brainer, and now it doesn’t have to be a labour-intensive, space-intensive eyesore.

By Tessa Buhrmann

, |

The wonders of waste – organic waste converter

Everyone knows that composting is a no-brainer, and now it doesn’t have to be a labour-intensive, space-intensive eyesore.

By Tessa Buhrmann

, |

3 min read

If, as an estate, you’re not composting, you’re crazy. But composting takes up lots of space, there is a limit to what you can or cannot compost, and restaurants produce a lot of organic waste that is not easily compostable. So I was pretty darn impressed when I was recently introduced to a dedicated composting machine.

We are on a back-of-house tour at Zeavola Resort and Spa on Phi Phi Island in Thailand with General Manager, Florian Hallermann. ‘I’m keeping the best for last,’ he says, as we walk into a room containing a monster of a machine weighing in at almost half a ton. ‘Ta-da!’ he says, with open arms and a big smile. ‘Here she is: the organic waste converter machine.’

This is a substantial contraption that can take organic waste and, in a matter of days, turn it into ‘pre-compost’.

He goes on to explain that kitchen food waste is fed into a dewatering machine that essentially compacts the waste and squishes most of the water out through a mesh screen. The liquid is then sent to the water treatment plant, and the waste, which is now reduced in volume by over 50%, is ready for the Reddonatura organic waste converter. Organic being the key thing. Compostable material includes fruit and vegetable peels, poultry, meat and fish, and meal leftovers, but no big bones. Up to 75kg per day of this organic material is then fed into the organic waste converter, where the magic happens.

The waste is composted with the help of a microorganism, a thermophile, which is a type of extremophile: a bacterium that thrives at relatively high temperatures, between 41 and 122 degrees Celsius, and copes in highly acidic or salty conditions. After about 24–36 hours, the organic material has been converted to a compost-like material.

Talking in an Indian context, Abhishek Gupta (not one of the infamous South African Guptas), co-founder of Reddonatura, says: ‘Bangalore produces almost 5,000 tons of garbage every day, of which about 40% is wet waste. Although we see a value in dry waste and an available market for it by recycling, it’s largely the wet waste that’s left out untreated and damages the environment.’

It’s not much better locally. It is estimated that organic waste makes up almost 40% of South African landfills, and CSIR research estimates that food waste costs the country up to R10 billion every year!

Gavin Heron, co-founder of on-site food waste composting business Earth Probiotic, says: ‘We measured that food waste composting activities reduced food costs by 4.2%, and kitchen consumables by 11.8%.’

Florian opens the lid; it smells a little like coffee grounds. In a bag nearby is the end product. He shows us a handful – yep, it looks like the beginning stages of compost. ‘It does use water to first wash the waste, as well as electricity, but the savings in both cost and human effort of packaging, carrying and then transporting the wet waste to mainland Phuket makes it exceptionally viable,’ he says.

The quantity of end product is far more than they can use, and, as we walk away, he comments that he is in the process of looking for a market on the mainland – perhaps a golf course or garden centre – which leads me to think about the possibilities for not only the hospitality industry but also residential estates and retirement villages – especially those offering daily meals.

Importing a huge machine from India might not be practical, but Earth Probiotic, creator of the now familiar Earth Bokashi bins, have developed a local option, the Earth Cycler, which can process up to 5,000kg per month.

Imagine turning your organic waste into something that can be used in your gardens, or potentially on estate golf courses. And imagine not having to send mountains of yukky organic waste to landfill every week.

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