CAPE TOWN – A South African expert says citizens have failed at using recycling as a method to combat waste.
Plastic could outweigh the amount of fish in our oceans by 2050, the World Economic Forum (WEF) warned in a report last week.
Plastic production has surged over the past 50 years, from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to over 300 million tonnes worldwide last year.
Currently, only 14 percent of plastic goods – mostly packaging – are being recycled.
Plastics are fossil-fuel based and it’s impossible to remake plastic into the quality it was before, says Muna Lakhani, founder of Zero Waste in Africa.
Lakhani says South Africans have failed.
“We’ve been recycling for probably 30 or 40 years and it hasn’t made any sort of significant dent in the waste stream. The most problematic material in our recycling stream is indeed plastic.”
By Gordon Brown
According to the World Green Building Council the construction sector accounts for up to 40% of waste in landfill sites worldwide, and while this figure may be lower in South Africa construction remains a significant contributor to landfill content. The National Waste Information Baseline Report (DEA2012) indicates that the construction sector is responsible for 8% of all waste generated, although it is unclear whether this number includes the waste from product suppliers during production, which is significant. Importantly this statistic also excludes the ongoing operational waste generated in all occupied buildings, and so is understated.
Construction waste is made up of aggregates (concrete, stones, bricks) and soils, wood, metals, glass, biodegradable waste, plastic, insulation and gypsum based materials, paper and cardboard, a very high percentage of which are reusable or recyclable if separated at source. Currently 16% of construction waste is recycled in South Africa (NWIBR).
Trends and forces for change
The green building movement is being spearheaded by the CSIR and the Green Building Council of South Africa, the latter having set up rating tools that award points for, amongst other green building aspects, resource efficiency for designs which reduce waste.
Construction waste emanates due in some part to inconsiderate design, construction, maintenance, renovation and demolition, as well as supplier considerations such as packaging. Intelligent design and best practices during each phase can significantly reduce waste.
Architects and engineers have a very significant opportunity to affect the waste generated through the life cycle of a building by determining the method of construction and the materials specified. From simple strategies like utilising building rubble onsite as fill for instance, or reusing items from demolished buildings such as wooden window frames, by specifying materials with recycled content, and adopting strategies and building methods geared to dismantling and designed for deconstruction – design affects everything, and with careful planning and consideration given to waste and reusing materials at concept stage, much waste to landfill can be avoided. An example of this is modular construction.
It is also very important at design stage to consider how the building is going to manage operational waste while the building is occupied – sufficient space will be required for recycling storage and sorting, as well as the access to various floors and of course for collection.
At a waste management level, there are a number of best practices to ensure maximum recyclability of materials on site:
- Make this consideration a key performance criterion when appointing contractors
- Set targets for % of waste not to go to landfill (refer to Green Star SA for achievable best practice)
- Have a waste management plan drawn up according to best practice prior to beginning the project(ie. Part of the tender/brief document)
- Have correctly marked skips for certain waste streams
- Ensure that the correct paper work is filed for all items removed from site
- Safe disposal tickets for hazardous waste must be kept
Keep a monthly and overall project reports of all waste and at the conclusion of the project –confirm whether targets are being achieved
There are many great examples of achieving excellent standards in construction waste management, one of these was the first Green Star SA certified project in South Africa, the Nedbank Phase II building in Sandton – in 2008 the contractor was initially concerned about the high standards set within Green Star SA for waste diverted from landfill (30, 50, or 70% of construction waste). By the end of the project, with the good waste management programme they employed, they were surprised at the incredible success – they were able to divert over 90% of their construction waste from landfill. This is a significant achievement, and is replicable across all construction projects by implementing good waste management programmes.
Product and Material Suppliers suppliers have huge potential to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Many suppliers could provide their materials to site in a way that requires less or no ‘packaging’, or packaging that is recyclable, and also ensure that their contract with the construction contractors is such that their packaging is returned to them directly for recycling or reuse. ‘Packaging’ is a significant waste source. (Packaging refers to anything that is not the actual material that will be used and left installed on site.) Besides the ‘packaging’ referred to, the product suppliers are also responsible for a significant amount of waste at their own factory or storage houses – the contractors and design team can have a significant influence on the downstream waste impacts by contracting only with suppliers that minimise their waste production and maximise recycling and reuse of waste.
The building in operation
During the course of a buildings life it will require multiple new light bulbs, new carpets and flooring, painting, filling, stripping, windows due to breakages etc. Good building managers and operators can make the necessary effort to separate materials.
The Green Star SA rating tools will reward designers for making provision for separation operations within the utilities area of the building, and building maintenance would utilise these facilities for its waste streams. It is important to have both the space designed to store and sort the waste for collection, but also to have waste management policies in place for the ongoing operation while the building is occupied.
As the market places a greater value on sustainability, products with recyclable content become more sought after. Masonry bricks made from crushed aggregates, tiles made from recycled plastics, are just two examples of products gaining traction.
On the waste disposal side, costs are rising but it remains relatively cheap to dispose of construction waste to landfill, cheaper in fact than general waste disposal which costs R272.00 per ton.
As costs increase so too does illegal dumping, which poses an environmental problem, and municipalities need to consider increasing the penalties imposed on transgressors and to find ways of policing illegal dumping more effectively. Perhaps funds from increased charges for legal dumping can be directed in part to policing illegal dumping.
The construction sector has a massive impact and a commensurate opportunity to effect positive and meaningful change. Through a combination of product design and innovation, building design and methods, and through best practice waste management on site the sector can radically reduce the amount of waste created and significantly improve on the rate of recycling.
Source: Green Building Handbook Volume 6
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By Chris van Zyl
The Vineyard Hotel is a privately owned hotel situated in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. The Hotel’s vision is to work in harmony with the environment and the community and in partnership with our stakeholders. Value is placed on sustainable growth, profitability and long term success through partnership with employees, guests and the community. The main aim of the Hotel’s waste policy is to reduce the volume of waste that goes to landfill to a minimum, with the end goal being zero waste to landfill. The period of this submission is March 2013 to February 2014.
The Hotel has managed to reduce its waste to landfill, in April 2003, from 336 wheelie bins and 58 loose bags to an average of 51 bins to landfill in the last financial year (March 2013-February 2014). This equates to in excess of 96% reduction in waste to landfill in nine years, while the Hotel’s average occupancy has constantly been growing; having added an additional 41 rooms over this period. Waste reduction is an integral part of the Vineyard Hotel’s sustainability policy. At the Vineyard Hotel, all staff receive training in the waste policy at induction and in the synergy sustainability training session. The training explains exactly how the waste should be separated at the source and then transported to the waste facility. They are also informed about the bigger picture and the impact of waste on the environment.
Waste Minimisation Facility
In April 2003, the Hotel’s waste removal company removed 336 x 240 litre waste bins and 58 loose bags, and in June 2003, they removed 255 x 240 litre bins and 30 loose bags. The waste contractor was visiting the site seven days per week and removing almost 12 bins per day. In September 2003, the Hotel contracted a waste minimization company; Save All. Prior to this, they were doing a minimum amount of recycling. When Save All started, the Hotel implemented a rigorous recycling programme which has reduced the waste to landfill significantly. By January 2004, waste pickups were reduced from seven per week to four per week and the volumes had dropped significantly to 132 x 240 litre bins. The cost of removing the 336 bins was very close to the new rate with four pickups per week.
In June 2009, Save All was absorbed by Waste Plan. Waste Plan provides a more inclusive service, which includes a live website to view waste and recyclable figures, management of the site and regular visits, on-site weighing of the waste, disposal of hazardous waste and recycling of e-waste. By March 2014, 51 bins were sent to landfill and 92% of the Hotel’s waste was recycled. Waste to landfill was also reduced to collection only three times per week.
Waste minimisation is communicated to the guests by:
- Battery and cork collection boxes in the foyer
- Living Green Facebook page and the green TV channel in the rooms
- Information in the guest folder in the rooms
- Signage outside the waste room
Waste monitoring (2013-2014)
- Target: Waste recycled 2013, average of 94%
- Current: Waste recycled average of 92%
The Vineyard Hotel compared its waste figures from July 2011 to June 2012 to the submission dates between March 2013 andMarch 2014. The waste recycled percentage improved from 89% to 92%. The total weight of the recycled waste is 409321 kg with just 8% of the total waste weight, 36523 kg, going to landfill. Over this 12 month period, the volume of recycling at the Vineyard prevented the emission of 634.06 metric tons of CO2 per‘wet weight’tons of material recycled.
This figure is calculated based on the difference in energy, and, therefore, carbon dioxide emissions between manufacturing material from raw materials and recycling that material. The Hotel achieved these results due to on-going staff training, signage, the presence of a waste minimization company on-site and other initiatives.
Waste minimization recycling initiatives for kitchen, restaurants & banqueting
In order to maximise recycling efficiency, a trio-bin system is operated in the Hotel’s staff canteen, banqueting and restaurant areas separating the wet waste from the dry. One bin is for wet organic waste, one for dry paper-type waste, and one is for plastic, glass bottles and tins. In the kitchen, the waste bins are separated into dry waste, green organic trimmings and protein- contaminated waste.
At the back-of-house, a tri-bin system is in place, separating waste into wet or food waste; plastics, tins, glass and paper, polystyrene and Tetra Pak and a twin-bin system is provided in the Conference Centre to encourage guests to participate in waste separation at the source. In June 2012, the Hotel started to outsource its canteen lunches and suppers. This has reflected positively on the generation of waste in the kitchen.
A green procurement document has been designed to ensure that, wherever possible, articles purchased have a recyclable content and chemicals are checked to confirm that they are safe for the environment. This department also collects used paper and sorts it to send to other departments for in-house printing.
All SAB bottles that can be returned are collected from the various outlets and collected by Peninsula Beverages and refunds are obtained. Glass jam jars, from the restaurants, are returned to the suppliers and refunds are obtained. The Hotel uses glass mineral water bottles that are 23% recycled content, except at the pool where plastic is preferred for safety reasons. All bottles are sent for recycling. A Vivreau water filtrate system was installed to reduce the volume of bottled water required in the lounge and restaurant. This system filters tap water and generates either still or carbonated water, which is then bottled in high quality, reusable glass bottles, thus reducing the carbon footprint and waste generated from bottles that would normally be sent for recycling.
Used cooking oil is returned to the supplier, Fry More Oils, and the Hotel is compensated for the used oil. This oil is then passed on to a company called Cape Used Cooking Oil, which uses the old oil in the manufacture of biodiesel. From March 2013 till February 2014, the Hotel has purchased 11,900 litres and recycled 5950 litres for biodiesel.
Following new agricultural laws, requiring untreated protein to be barred from becoming animal feed, all contaminated protein waste now goes for composting via the Bokashi process. This process is odour free, and the waste is turned into compost over an 8 to 12 week period, the Hotel then purchases this back for reuse in the garden.
Material Safety Data Sheets have been obtained for all the chemicals used in the Hotel and, where possible, chemicals that are harmful to staff and the environment have been replaced with environmentally compliant ones. New chemicals are first checked by a chemical engineer before they are introduced. A microbial solution called Effective Microbes (EM) is dosed into the fat traps and drains. It digests and breaks down the fats in the pipes, thus keeping the pipes clean of blockages, free from odour, and it prevents fats from entering the municipal sewerage line. This is also used to spray on the waste to reduce odours and for cleaning of the bins.
Plastic picnic hamper containers have been replaced with biodegradable cutlery and containers, made from bagasse (a fibrous pulp left over after the juice has been extracted from sugar cane or sorghum stalks), with explanatory signage indicating that the utensils be returned to the Hotel to be sent for composting.
Packaging returned in the kitchen
• Tydstroom chicken supplier takes back their boxes.
• Milk suppliers, as well as all fruit and vegetable suppliers, take back their crates.
• All ice cream containers are reused in the kitchen.
• All egg boxes are sent for recycling.
Wine bottle corks have been removed from the waste stream and are now being collected in collaboration with Amorim Cork. An initiative was launched where, for every 10,000 corks collected, Amorim would supply 10m2 of free cork flooring. To date, 1,136,000 corks have been collected and 30m2 of cork flooring has been laid at the Anthea Peters Home and 125 m2 at Wood Side Centre.
To raise awareness regarding recycling, the Hotel collects bread tags that are sent for recycling to raise funds for the Wheelchair Foundation. The tags are all collected from staff as the Hotel bakes its own bread on-site. This has also lead the Hotel to investigate the recycling of security tags, as they are made from the same material, to confirm if these could be added to the bread tags; adding 2 kg to the volume per month. 50 kg of bread tags have already been collected.
All departments are challenged to collect bread tags to help people in need of wheelchairs. Glass jars are given to each department for collection. Each competition runs for 30 days. The tags are then weighed and the winner is announced during a staff meeting. This is done to improve awareness of recycling amongst the hotel staff and to help people in need to obtain wheelchairs.
Puro fair-trade bags
The Puro Fair-trade coffee foil containers, that were previously going to landfill, are being collected, upcycled, and sent back to the Puro coffee company. They have engaged the local community to make shopping bags out of these to generate an income.
Pilot program: oyster mushrooms
The Vineyard Hotel has launched a new pilot programme from January 2014 where gourmet mushrooms are grown on the Hotel’s coffee grounds. 15kg of perfect Pink Oysters were harvested and delivered back to the Hotel in January 2014. Urban farming specialists, Artisan Mushrooms, approached the Hotel with their ‘no waste’ idea for growing mushrooms. They are now considering project extensions to allow for a greater selection and seasonal varieties. After patrons have enjoyed their coffee at the hotel, the grounds are collected and delivered to an off-site production unit. Depending on the types involved, mushrooms are grown, harvested and delivered back to the Hotel’s restaurant within six weeks. The Hotel’s restaurant, The Square, Conference Centre and canteen generate 150 kg’s worth of coffee grounds in an average month. A high premium is placed on eco-friendly and long-term sustainability practices across all operational areas of the Hotel. The coffee grounds are now a resource that can be further reused before being finally composted.
Waste reduction linked to rooms
Towels are only laundered for long-staying guests when they throw them in the bath or leave them on the floor. Linen is also only changed for long staying guests when they leave the “please change my linen” card on the pillow. This has reduced the water and chemical consumption of the Hotel.
Energy saving bulbs have been installed in rooms, public areas and the Conference Centre where possible. The average dichroic down lighter or incandescent bulb lasts for 3 months, where the energy saving CFL bulb lasts for 5,000 hours thus saving on energy, waste to landfill and labour to change the bulbs. In excess of 5000 LED bulbs have now also been installed to replace the incandescent bulbs. These have an even longer 25,000 hour plus life span, even further saving on waste and energy.
Dual Flush toilet cisterns reduce the volume of water effluent going to waste and washable fabric hand towels are provided in public area restrooms; eliminating the need to use paper towels.
Used soap is donated to the Independent Fund-Raising Professional called the Noah Project, an environmental and socially sound initiative, which started in Khayelitsha in 2010. This is a job-creation project where used soap is cleaned and broken up into new soap using glycerine to bind it. The members divert soap from landfill sites and recycle the ingredients of high quality soap creating a beautiful and eco-friendly bar of soap. The Hotel has also bought back soap from the project to use as gifting for guests. This innovative initiative for older persons in Khayelitsha has allowed the Noah participants to earn an extra R230 per month.
Twin bins were installed in the Hotel’s offices, thus ensuring that the wet waste stays separate from the dry waste. The LaserFische system was installed in the Hotel’s Front Office; reducing paper usage by 21% and reducing waste generation. Used paper is used for internal printing and memos, thus getting maximum use out of this resource before it goes for recycling. E-waste, in the form of old printers, monitors, keyboards, etc, are removed by Waste Plan. The company dismantles the equipment and what they can’t re-use is disposed of in an environmentally safe manner. Used printer cartridges are returned and the Hotel gets a refund on them.
Old linen and towels are donated to staff and charities. Bleach was replaced by oxygenated bleach, which is less harmful to people and the environment. The Hotel has also upgraded the laundry machinery and new washing machines use the water from the last rinse for the next first wash cycles. This saves water and reduces the volume going to waste.
A small percentage of the garden waste that the Hotel generates on-site is turned into compost on site. The heavy-duty green waste is collected by a reputable waste contractor, U-Save Waste, and delivered to the closest municipal transfer site, where it is turned into mulch and compost. The Hotel, in turn, buys back the organic compost from Reliance, who manage the transfer sites, thus closing the loop.
Only organically certified compost and fertilizers are used so there is no leaching of chemicals into the groundwater or the Liesbeek River, which runs through the Vineyard Hotel’s property. Zero to Landfill Organics removes the soft garden waste; 100 refuse bags per week. This is mixed with food waste, on their site, to generate compost.
Recycling facilities on the Hotel’s grounds are available to the local community to receive their recyclables, as there is no drop-off site close by. The facility also accepts batteries and CFL bulbs, which need to be sent for safe disposal as hazardous waste. Currently, 23 community members regularly deposit their recycling at the Hotel.
It is the intention of the Vineyard Hotel to constantly improve on its green procurement and waste policy to a point where everything is biodegradable, or has a recycled content, and where a very small volume of waste goes to landfill.
Source: The Vision Zero Waste Handbook Volume 4
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