Sunday Times Green - March 2021

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HOW TO HEAL THE PLANET INSIDE: The PPE problem | Where are our sharks? | Rating SA recycling

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GAUTRAIN’S CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT The Gautrain Management Agency’s sustainable development strategy considers the inter-relationship between transport, the environment, the economy and society

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he Gautrain service is a sustainable and smart mode of transport with numerous socioeconomic benefits. Included among these are environmental benefits, economic growth opportunities and a contribution to the refurbishment of the rail sector in Gauteng. The service is integrated and offers the commuter quick and easy mobility with reduced travel times and value for money.

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CLEANER AIR, HEALTHIER ENVIRONMENt Gautrain offers several environmental advantages. Shifting from using a car to the Gautrain is environmentally-friendly and contributes to a reduction in carbon footprint. Carbon emissions from the Gautrain are considerably lower per passenger – passengers opting to travel by Gautrain reduce their carbon footprint by 52 per cent per trip. Compared to road transport, rail provides lower carbon transport solutions to promote

a greener environment. The Department of Transport’s Green Transport Strategy builds on the Department of Environmental Affairs’ 2014 Mitigation Report that provides estimates of the potential carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emission reductions that can be achieved through modal shifts in the transport sector, and the estimated costs of achieving these reductions per ton of avoided CO2 emissions. While the initial capital costs are high (approximately R3 000 per tonne of CO2 saved), by 2050 these investments will provide a return of over R1 000 per tonne of CO2 saved, with up to more than 9 000 kilotonnes of CO2 that can be saved through the shift from private vehicles to passenger rail.

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A DV ER T ORI A L

The environmental benefits also translate into health benefits relating to respiratory diseases and road accidents, which are significantly higher for road transport when compared to rail transport as the safer mode. At the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA), investigations are currently underway into using hydrogen to power Gautrain buses – a far cleaner fuel option than diesel. Passengers may soon be able to charge their electric or hybrid car at Gautrain stations, which will also be retrofitted with solar panels to offset their power requirements. This green mobility plan will further help passengers to offset their carbon footprint.

A BOOST FOR THE LOCAL ECONOMY AND COMMUNITY

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The Gautrain’s contribution to sustainable development is not only critical to environmental protection, but also makes good business sense when the spin-off effects, such as increased job creation and overall economic growth, are taken into consideration. For every R1 spent on Gautrain, R1.72 has been added to the Gauteng economy. A recent independent impact study by Hatch has

concluded that the Gautrain continues to deliver jobs and investment in Gauteng. The Gautrain has strengthened existing development nodes in Gauteng by promoting and restructuring urban areas and revitalising the Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni central business districts. According to the findings of the Hatch impact study, the Gautrain has continued to: • deliver jobs and positively impact social investment • influence transport choices • reinforce development nodes • integrate Gauteng and its communities • change perceptions and attract investment. Since the development of the Gautrain project, the perception and behaviours related to public transport usage in Gauteng have changed. This is encouraging more sustainable land use and development patterns that are centred around transport nodes and infrastructure. Land-use changes occur as market forces influence changes in property use for optimal purpose. This, in turn, could lead to increases in values, rent and, therefore, rateable income. A key feature of urban spatial transformation is densification in nodal development areas

Gautrain is making a significant contribution to creating a larger and more economically powerful Gauteng region. and precincts and intensification along the rail corridor. The first indicator is the increased demand for residential property surrounding Gautrain’s stations. Approximately 59 per cent of all office development activity in major South African nodes is located around Gautrain stations. Gautrain is making a significant contribution to creating a larger and more economically powerful Gauteng region. Gautrain allows people to access important attractions, facilities and services across the Gauteng region quickly and safely. The service is fully integrated and has seen increased patronage as more and more commuters have switched their mode of transport because of the benefits offered by Gautrain, such as greater reliability and faster journeys resulting in time-saving for the commuter. Time-saving on business-related trips translates into increased productivity and more efficient use of existing resources and travel savings. Gautrain aims to build, operate and maintain a public transport service that is beneficial to all citizens. The GMA has also embarked on a sustainable mobility programme that is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals. This is to ensure that the Gautrain continues to unlock the socioeconomic development benefits and is not only investing in environmentally friendly activities, but also provides an efficient and accessible public transport service.

For more information: 0800 42887246 www.gma.gautrain.co.za www.facebook.com/gautrain SMS alert line for service disruptions – 32693

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F ROM T HE EDI T OR

A green glimmer of hope

Published by: PIcasso Headline, a proud division of Arena Holdings Hill on Empire, 16 Empire Road (cnr Hillside Road), Parktown, Johannesburg, 2193 PO Box 12500, Mill Street, Cape Town, 8010 www.businessmediamags.co.za

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MANAGEMENT Management Accountant: Deidre Musha Business Manager: Lodewyk van der Walt General Manager Magazines: Jocelyne Bayer

ast year, as activity ground to a halt around the world, many of our negative impacts on the world we inhabit were lessened. Factories closed down and traffic was vastly reduced, so we stopped producing so many greenhouse gas emissions. We used fewer resources and probably produced less waste. Tourist pressure was reduced in ecologically sensitive areas. Animals returned to areas previously overrun with people. Of course, funding to protect ecologically sensitive areas is also under huge pressure. We’re producing vast quantities of non-recyclable personal protective equipment. Last year was still tied as the hottest year on record. COVID-19 has clearly not made the world a better place nor a much greener one. But it might have given us a chance to re-evaluate our priorities. So in this issue of Green, we look at the potential for incorporating environmental considerations into our post-COVID-19 recovery (page 9), and what can be done about PPE waste (page 15). A good deal of said waste will likely end

COPYRIGHT: No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without written consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for unsolicited material. Green is published by Picasso Headline. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Picasso Headline. All advertisements/advertorials have been paid for and therefore do not carry any endorsement by the publisher.

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EDITORIAL

Editor: Anthony Sharpe Content Manager: Raina Julies rainaj@picasso.co.za Contributors: Beth Amato, Trevor Crighton, Delia du Toit, James Francis, Caryn Gootkin, Dale Hes, Bienne Huisman, Levi Letsoko, Anel Lewis, Nia Magoulianiti-McGregor, Kim Maxwell, Puseletso Mompei, Thando Pato, Lisa Witepski Copy Editor: Nicci Collier Content Co-ordinator: Vanessa Payne Digital Editor: Stacey Visser vissers@businessmediamags.co.za DESIGN Head of Design: Jayne Macé-Ferguson Designer: Mfundo Archie Ndzo Advert Designer: Bulelwa Sotashe SALES Project Manager: Gavin Payne gavinp@picasso.co.za +27 21 469 2477 I +27 74 031 9774 Sales: David Johnson, Brian McKelvie, Corne Louw PRODUCTION Production Editor: Shamiela Brenner Ad Co-ordinator: Johan Labuschagne Subscriptions and Distribution: Fatima Dramat fatimad@picasso.co.za Printing: Novus Print

Contents 7

OUTREACH A multimillion-rand prize for sustainability projects

9

COVID-19 Has the pandemic made the world a greener place?

15 19

RECYCLING

37

ARCHITECTURE

40

GREEN SPACES

43

GARDENING

47

BIODIVERSITY Tallying the financial and ecological costs of biodiversity loss

CLIMATE AGRICULTURE Food production is the largest contributor to biodiversity loss

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WOOD AND PAPER It’s only a sustainable resource if managed properly

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PROFILE: CRDC Turning plastic waste into building sand

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RETAIL Growing market for sustainably produced goods

67

Attracting birds and insects, school food gardens and office edibles

30

PROFILE: ENVIRO BUGGY

Easy tips to fight climate change

Green corridors offer a blueprint for the green economy

28

OCEANS

A locally designed buggy is cleaning our beaches of plastic nurdles

Trends in sustainable building

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WATER

Understanding the source of coastal pollution, plus our vanishing sharks

Just how good is South Africa at recycling?

23

Anthony Sharpe

Saving water, cleaning rivers and wastewater biorefineries

MEDICAL Tackling PPE and COVID-19-related waste

up in our rivers and oceans, both of which are covered on pages 33 and 37 respectively. And while we’re worrying about non-recyclable PPE, how good is South Africa at recycling? Find out on page 19. We also look at other, less obvious consequences of the pandemic. With more people glued to the web for work and social purposes than ever before, it’s worth considering the emissions generated by our internet use (page 73). That’s just one way we accelerate climate change at home; for others, check out page 43, as well as our story on sustainable shopping on page 61. The food we eat makes a huge difference too, with eco-friendly agriculture challenging but necessary for us to sustain our lifestyles (page 47). And on the topic, for those who finally grew green thumbs during lockdown, check out our gardening tips on page 28. We also look at sustainable architecture, biodiversity, the wood and paper industry, the Earthshot Prize, how to make sand out of waste plastic, and a rather nifty machine that vacuums nurdles off beaches.

ENERGY Managing the transition to cleaner power sources

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TECHNOLOGY Understanding the environmental impact of the web

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ON THIN ICE The danger posed by thawing permafrost and how businesses need to prepare

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apidly thawing Arctic permafrost is a prime example of how climate change is impacting natural ecosystems and, in turn, business operations. Permafrost is the name for ground that remains frozen for more than two years. It has existed in this region for millennia. When it thaws, companies operational in the area, for example, Russian commodity producers are at risk. Temperatures in Russia have increased by around two-and-a-half times the global average since 1970, according to the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring. Another 1.9–3.4°C temperature rise has been predicted by the middle of the century – and the increase could be even more dramatic in critical winter months, a paper published in Russian Meteorology and Hydrology suggests.

WHAT DANGERS DOES THAWING PERMAFROST POSE? Permafrost covers about a quarter of the northern hemisphere and its thawing leads to a multitude of environmental issues. Chief among these is the release of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which contribute to climate change and accelerate global warming. It’s estimated that there’s more than twice as much carbon stored in the earth’s permafrost than there is in the atmosphere – up to 1 600 billion tonnes. Thawing permafrost represents a significant physical climate risk to companies operating in permafrost areas. For example, as soils shift, infrastructure is threatened and floods become more likely. Last year, a sizeable fuel tank leakage occurred in the industrial city of Norilsk in Krai, Russia, just above the Arctic Circle. It increased fears over the impact of global warming – and specifically thawing permafrost – on infrastructure. Although a subsequent investigation did not identify permafrost thawing as a reason for the incident, Schroders continues to view it as a significant infrastructure risk to Russian firms.

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Hannah Simons, Head of Sustainability Strategy at Schroders

Schroders believes it should be at the forefront of the risk considerations and capital allocation decisions of major Russian companies in the energy and materials sectors in particular.

HOW CAN THIS CLIMATE CHANGE RISK BE QUANTIFIED? Schroders is committed to modelling investment risks from physical climate change. It aims to deduce future permafrost risk in Siberia in a collaborative effort between its data insights unit, the sustainable investment team and emerging markets equities team. This involves studying the surface temperatures in the locations where the main companies operate and identifying which companies are operating in at-risk areas. Schroders’ data insights unit created a permafrost dashboard so that weather and geographic trends in oil and gas production across Russia can be analysed. It allows for the tracking rates of permafrost thawing in different locations.

HOW HAS SCHRODERS ENGAGED WITH COMPANIES AT RISK? In December 2020, Schroders’ global emerging market equities and sustainable investment teams engaged with six companies identified as operating in at-risk areas in Russia.

Permafrost covers about a quarter of the northern hemisphere and its thawing leads to a multitude of environmental issues. Chief among these is the release of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which contribute to climate change and accelerate global warming.

Schroders sent a list of questions together with a tailored letter outlining its understanding of the permafrost risk relevant to each company’s operations and how climate change is exacerbating the problem. This included information as to which of a company’s locations are most at risk from climate change disruption through permafrost destabilisation. The answers will enable Schroders to understand how each company views physical climate risk from permafrost.

WHAT NEXT? SCHRODERS’ AIM TO INFLUENCE PERMAFROST MANAGEMENT The aim is to collate feedback and rank the firms based on Schroders’ analysis. The information gathered from company responses will not only allow Schroders to better assess companies’ management of these risks, but also to further develop its proprietary tool and monitor how these risks evolve in the coming years. Where companies are not sufficiently managing current risks, or are not sufficiently prepared for future risks, Schroders will engage further to influence them towards more sustainable business practices. Ultimately, Schroders wants to influence companies where the current permafrost assessment and management is not sufficient.

For more information: +27 21 140 1508 Kondi.Nkosi@schroders.com www.schroders.co.za

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OU T RE ACH

Earthshot Prize drives

climate innovations The Earthshot Prize is an initiative created to find new solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. PUSELETSO MOMPEI investigates

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arthshot was launched in October 2020, following two years of work by Prince William and The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Their aim was to create a project which will boost the global effort to protect and restore the environment. Five £1-million prizes will be awarded each year for the next 10 years, providing at least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems by 2030.

The five Earthshots Vying for the prize will be individuals, communities, businesses and organisations whose solutions make the most progress towards achieving the five Earthshots, which are the prize’s categories. The five Earthshots are: protect and restore nature; clean our air; revive our oceans; build a waste-free world and fix our climate. Each goal is underpinned by scientifically agreed targets, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Earthshot Prize is supported by a network of organisations worldwide, with partners including Greenpeace, National Geographic Society, UN Environment Programme and the WWF. The aim is to generate “new ways of thinking, as well as new technologies, systems, policies and solutions”. Nominations opened on 1 November 2020, with over 100 nominating partners from across the world being invited to submit nominations.

Nwabisa Mayema

The nominating partners were tasked with identifying innovators with ideas, solutions, and leadership challenges across all countries and sectors, from grassroots to businesses.

Local participation South Africa’s nominating partners include UCT and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. Nwabisa Mayema, the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship’s strategic partnerships director, says the prize is important to the country because we are part of the global village and every one of us has a role to play in this Decade of Action when it comes to achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Mayema says, “As the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship South Africa, we believe in the role that entrepreneurs have to play in finding solutions to the world’s problems. We believe that entrepreneurs can build and grow businesses in a way that is good for people, good for the planet and good for profits.” As a nominating partner for the prize, the organisation had the responsibility of presenting South African entrepreneur-led solutions to the Earthshot Prize committee.

Nomination process Nominators had to submit solutions by 1 January 2021, after which submissions were screened as part of an independent assessment process run by the project’s implementation

partner Deloitte. A distinguished panel of experts will make their recommendations to the Earthshot Prize Council, which will select the five winners. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony, which will take place in different cities around the world each year between 2021 and 2030. Following the awards, each winner will be able to showcase their work with the possibility of it being scaled on a broad level. The £1-million prize money will support environmental and conservation projects that are agreed upon with the winners. Shortlisted nominees will also be given support and opportunities to help scale their work, including being connected with key individuals and organisations.

OTHER INITIATIVES RECOGNISING ENVIRONMENTALISTS • Young Champions of the Earth is run by the United Nations Environment Programme. The project recognises talented innovators between the ages of 18 and 30 with outstanding potential to create positive environmental impact. • The Goldman Environmental Prize, dubbed the “Green Nobel Prize”, is an award given annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continents.

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• The Living Planet Award is an annual WWF award made to exceptional South Africans who, through their catalytic contribution to conservation, inspire people to live in harmony with nature. • The Eco-Logic Awards identifies individuals, organisations and communities that positively contribute towards a sustainable world and encourages consumers to support them by purchasing their products and services.

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COV ID-19

Nicole Rodel

Could COVID-19 make the

world greener?

Penguins roamed the streets of Cape Town and Johannesburg’s smog dissipated. But did the pandemic really have an impact on climate change? DELIA DU TOIT finds out

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mages of recovering nature scenes made for jaw-dropping viral content during the pandemic, as lockdowns forced whole industries to shut down. Polluted city skylines appeared clearer, streets once filled with fume-spouting cars went quiet, and animals ventured out from their hiding places as humans stayed indoors. But are these snapshots the whole truth or social media fodder for the naive?

COVID-19 and the climate Professor Harald Winkler, a climate change expert from the University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative, says CO2 emissions did indeed drop during international lockdowns. But whether it will be enough to make a real difference to climate change is still up for debate. “Preliminary data suggests that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and industry fell between 2.7 per cent and 13 per cent from Prof. Harald 2019 to 2020. Though Winkler emissions rebounded as lockdowns were eased, this still makes some difference.” Emissions have restarted from a lower baseline, and some think that this baseline may be around 5 per cent lower by 2024 than if there had

FAST FACT

The European Union’s daily CO2 emissions for transportation fell a staggering 88 per cent in early April 2020, while its emissions across the energy sector were down 40 per cent and those for the whole economy 58 per cent, says the International Energy Agency. These numbers, of course, quickly skyrocketed as lockdowns were eased.

been no pandemic, he says. Such long-term impacts are hard to predict and depend on the extent of our return to normalcy. “If remote working continues, for example, then transport emissions on roads, rail and aeroplanes would reduce in the long term.” Yet, research published in the journal Nature showed that even this drop is still below the minimum 7.6 per cent drop in CO2 emissions needed until 2050 to keep global warming below 1.5C°. Nicole Rodel, communications officer at the African Climate Reality Project (ACRP), says overall CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere currently sit at about 415 parts per million.

“Efforts to reduce CO2 emissions must be intentional and sustained with human wellbeing at the centre, not a circumstantial result of human and economic suffering.” – Nicole Rodel, ACRP “This is still well beyond what is considered the manageable threshold of 350 parts per million, and according to the United Nations 2020 Emissions Gap Report, we’re still heading towards a global average temperature increase in excess of 3°C this century.” When it comes to nature and climate change, the impact of the pandemic simply wasn’t enough and shouldn’t lull us into a false sense of relief, says Rodel. “Instead of focusing on the short-term reduction in daily emissions, we should be looking at the fact that 2020 was tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record, or that it was tied with 2018 for the most named tropical cyclones ever (103). “It’s clear that rising temperatures are driving worsening extreme weather all around the world. Efforts to reduce CO2 emissions must be intentional and sustained with human wellbeing at the centre, not a circumstantial result of human and economic suffering.”

Recovery plans The pandemic has shifted global focus from issues such as climate change to health and socio-economic impacts. But COVID-19 is similar to climate change in that both are global problems that require collective responses. This presents an opportunity to make climate recovery a part of COVID-19 recovery plans, agree Winkler and Rodel. Says Winkler: “We need multi-tasking plans. While saving lives and reducing the impacts on society and the economy are essential, we shouldn’t go ›

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FAST FACT

By mid-April 2020, weekly energy demand had fallen 25 per cent for countries in complete lockdown and 18 per cent for those in partial lockdown, reports the International Renewable Energy Agency. Year-on-year coal use was down nearly 8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 and oil consumption fell about 5 per cent.

RURAL VS URBAN

climate mitigation or poverty-reducing climate resilience initiatives. It could offer Africa an effective way to enhance its climate resilience and curb biodiversity destruction while restoring debt sustainability.” A recent report by the International Institute for Environment and Development promotes such programmes. Though it singles out countries like Cape Verde, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique and Uganda due to their limited access to credit, high climate vulnerability and biodiversity loss, it could apply to Africa as a whole, Giliam says. “The Seychelles, for example, swapped R405-million of debt to invest in protected marine parks for climate resilience, biodiversity conservation and ecotourism.”

Empowering communities Like the pandemic, climate change and environmental injustice disproportionately affect poor and marginalised communities. Empowering the disempowered is and will be crucial in the fights against climate change and COVID-19. Recovery plans should include practical ways to do this, says Winkler, using the example

“The Seychelles swapped R405-million of debt to invest in protected marine parks for climate resilience, biodiversity conservation and ecotourism.” – AMY GILIAM, ACRP 10

of green energy. “Richer households can invest in green solutions themselves – the initial cost is recovered in a short time. But poorer households will need subsidies such as extending free basic electricity or introducing mini-grids in communities. Solar energy could even provide an income for these households if they sell to the grid when generating more power than the household needs.” South African citizens need to take part in the decision-making processes that affect their communities and their future, says Rodel. “There are formal processes for public participation in governance and it is our right and responsibility to take part in them. It’s often a tick-box exercise for the government to hold public consultations or allow submissions on legislation and policies, but if more South Africans took part in these processes, it could result in tangible change. “Climate change is not only an environmental issue, but a human rights issue too.”

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back to the ‘old normal’. Amy Giliam Renewable energy has proved more resilient to the impacts of COVID-19 and we should invest in that going forward. “South Africa’s successful renewables programme should be scaled up, energy efficiency made mandatory, and blockages to small-scale embedded generation removed.” “When we consider that the climate crisis has been deemed the number one threat to the global economy by the World Economic Forum (WEF) for four years in a row, we should be seeing climate action and post-pandemic economic recovery as one and the same,” adds Rodel. “The WEF also predicts that climate and green investments will create 400 million jobs and generate R150-trillion in business value each year by 2030 – presenting a unique opportunity for economic recovery post-pandemic. A key part of South Africa’s efforts should include transitioning away from our fossil fuel-based economy.” Amy Giliam, South African branch manager of the ACRP, says debt swaps could form part of recovery plans – if done correctly. “Debt for nature and climate programme swaps essentially mean that creditors allow debt to be reduced with the expectation that the savings are invested back into biodiversity protection,

Nature might have had a (small and temporary) break in and near cities during the pandemic, but the rural picture looks very different. The World Economic Forum reports that land-grabbing, deforestation, illegal mining and wildlife poaching are on the rise in rural Africa as opportunists take advantage of the fact that governments are focused on COVID-19 instead of on conservation. Conservation International reports there has also been a large urban-rural migration as people lost their city jobs – putting pressure on nature in rural areas as people rely more heavily on it for food and income.

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NOTHING WASTED How the circular economy model can unlock South Africa’s waste and economic potential. By KATE STUBBS, marketing director at Interwaste

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he future of South Africa’s waste sector is certainly not all doom and gloom – even though South Africa generates 122 million tonnes of waste per annum. This is about R25.2-billion worth of waste of which some 90 per cent ends up in landfills. They say one man’s waste is another man’s treasure and this couldn’t be truer when looking at developing a circular economy in South Africa. The “Circular Economy” model is a relatively new concept, however, as a reformative system, it offers significant opportunities to deliver on more inclusive economic growth, which includes job opportunities and positive environmental practices that are directly needed for sustainability in the country. Stripping out all unnecessary waste materials and reducing the consumption of energy and raw materials allows these to be “fed” back into the cycle. I believe there is an opportunity for companies to optimise their waste streams for use in other industries. This creates not just an opportunity for further cost savings or revenue generators, but also – very critically – protecting the environment. Waste is a universal issue that presents much broader challenges that not only affect human health and livelihood, but also the environment and, ultimately, the economy. As such, with over 90 per cent of waste being discarded or burned, especially in low-income countries – where many valuable resources are lost – it becomes crucial for the industry to look at exploring innovative and sustainable solutions, where rapid growth and resilience are at the forefront of its decisions. Therefore, promoting circular economy thinking – which aims to challenge the status quo regarding waste management – is key to encouraging the “nothing wasted” mindset.

LEGISLATION

The zero waste to landfill goal by 2030 is certainly an ambitious one. It looks at diverting 90 per cent of waste from landfills using a “whole system” through recycling, reuse, recovery, beneficiation technologies, and towards value-adding opportunities that have the potential to create numerous environmental, social and economic opportunities for South Africa. If a zero-waste sustainable country is to be achieved, then waste needs to be managed effectively at the source to ensure it is useful in driving the new normal in waste management. As more consumers begin to adopt the nothing wasted mindset and are concerned about product sustainability, many businesses are now pushing the waste industry to innovate and effectively repurpose waste – not merely into something useful, but also something that enables cost-saving opportunities for those organisations. We are seeing a strong drive of this reformative, restorative, and regenerative system.

IF A ZERO-WASTE SUSTAINABLE COUNTRY IS TO BE ACHIEVED, THEN WASTE NEEDS TO BE MANAGED EFFECTIVELY AT THE SOURCE TO ENSURE IT IS USEFUL IN DRIVING THE NEW NORMAL IN WASTE MANAGEMENT.

The South African government continues to commit to redirecting waste from landfills. In support of this, new laws have been legislated and regulations are being rolled out – all aimed at cleaning up South Africa and reducing the negative environmental as well as health impacts caused by waste. For example, the implementation of the new proposed Extended Producer Responsibility regulations (EPR) where companies are required to take responsibility for the packaging waste of their products following the sale thereof. This ensures that from production stage the producer is already putting strategies in place to minimise, reuse, recycle and recover resource materials from the product in its inception. This eliminates the country’s “throw-away” culture and promotes resilience and long-term sustainability for the local waste sector. Encouraging global standards and tackling them with a long-term view will take South Africa’s waste industry into a green and profitable future. We need to think ahead and instil a complete culture change by adopting an all-inclusive view with innovative and best practices for waste transformation. From government and corporate South Africa to individual citizens, together we can significantly reduce the waste that lands up in landfills. It will require creativity, collaboration, innovation, dedication, and a changed mindset to see the circular economy model as a means to building a resilient and sustainable future for all.

For more information: www.interwaste.co.za

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Progressive COVID-19 Waste Recieved Comparison 1-31 Oct

1-30 Nov

1-31 Dec

1-31 Jan

City Deep

143 181

74 776

148 659

270 274

George

8 591

13 191

41 109

42 158

Killarney Gardens

20 350

17 302

53 567

86 414

Klerksdorp

84 028

64 721

107 080

205 421

TOTAL

256 150

169 990

350 4115

604 267

Source: Averda

Tallying medical waste The swift onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably changed the medical waste landscape, notably in the management and disposal of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE). By BETH AMATO

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MEDICA L WA S T E

he impact on the environment of increased medical waste is unknown, but there is hope for some of the plastic PPE used in the pandemic to be recycled. Brindha Roberts, group director of sustainability at Averda, says that recycling is a possibility if the waste is first segregated at source and then disinfected. This can be achieved via an electrothermal deactivation process which destroys microbial organisms in medical waste items and renders them harmless. “This process could enable safe recyclable materials to be returned to the economy instead of being lost in landfills,” says Roberts. “As long as the recycling or recovery process consumes fewer natural resources and is less harmful than the disposal of such waste, recycling should be a consideration. The conundrum is that the single-use PPE causing the biggest environmental impact on the environment is from the unregulated domestic market where segregation and collection would be difficult.” John Kieser, sustainability manager at Plastics SA, has also noted the increase in land and marine animals becoming entangled in PPE items, especially single-use masks. “It is not a crisis yet, but single-use PPE is certainly becoming an item of concern,” he says. Roberts explains that with the vaccine rollout, there must be extra provision for “sharps” containers. “We have already commenced with

Data above shows the increase in COVID-19 waste in tonnes during South Africa’s “second wave”. It is, however, difficult to garner substantial national data at such an early stage. preparations for the influx of this type of medical waste and will be able to deal with the increase in demand for containers, the collection of the waste, as well as the safe disposal thereof. We offer different size containers that can take several hundred sharps.” Roberts says that previous hazardous outbreaks, such as listeriosis in 2018 and cholera outbreaks across Africa, have helped prepare Averda for a pandemic like COVID-19. However, she emphasises the importance of hospitals and those administering the vaccine following the disposal guidelines, and using the correct containers for needles. “We all need to play our part. This will require a concerted, unified effort,” says Kieser.

“It is not a crisis yet, but single-use PPE is certainly becoming an item of concern.” – John Kieser, Plastics SA

Brindha Roberts

What does the law say?

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he waste sector is guided by the Waste Management Act and South African National Standards (SANS). The Health Care Risk Waste Management Regulations, which govern the management of healthcare waste, assert that the “generator of waste has a duty of care to handle, store, transport or dispose of waste in an environmentally sound way. This is referred to as the cradle-to-grave responsibility”. Healthcare waste has undoubtedly come under the spotlight since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, used tissues are now considered hazardous and must be handled as such. With the upcoming vaccine roll-out never seen at such scale, the disposal of needles and other materials would be in line

with SANS 10248. These changes haven’t been explicitly recommended yet, but industry bodies and organisations are accounting for this. John Kieser of Plastics SA says that legislation and control of post-consumer material in the healthcare waste stream are adequate. He explains that sometimes there is illegal dumping, but usually it raises an alarm, especially on landfill sites. Improvements need to be made, however, in protecting waste John Kieser workers from hazardous waste.

SOUTH AFRICA’S WASTE PICKERS South Africa’s 60 000 waste pickers collect 80-90 per cent of used recyclable material on an annual basis, playing a critical role in the country’s waste industry and so-called “circular economy”. Because they are not formally recognised workers, they have little protection against hazardous waste and COVID-19. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization, with the help of Japanese funding, has provided personal protective equipment to members of the SA Waste Pickers Association at four pilot sites in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Source: SA Waste Pickers Association

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RECYCL ING

South Africa’s Recycling Conundrum South Africa could be a top recycler – if households joined in, writes JAMES FRANCIS

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n archeological study in Molí del Salt, Spain, suggests that hunter-gathers refashioned their implements and repurposed them for new uses – not merely mending objects and tools. Dating back 13 000 years, this practice South Africa to transition successfully is among the earliest known examples of “Exportation of plastics to a circular economy”. recycling. Today, recycling is still with us. But waste is very low,” says In South Africa, 90 per cent of it’s under pressure to help save the world from Nick Tselentis, the our 54 million tonnes of annual an ecological apocalypse. executive director of the In 2019, South Africa waste still ends up in landfills South Africa recycles around 18.1 per cent Aerosol Manufacturers’ converted 1 841 745 tons (State of Waste Report), and of domestic plastic consumption, according to Association. “The market of plastic polymer into 70.4 per cent of recyclables the South African Plastics Recycling Survey, is local. We don’t import products, and recycled 352 come from landfills (Plastics and 62 per cent of qualifying polyethylene plastics waste if not 500 tonnes of plastics back SA). That leaves a lot of terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles, says needed – any imports into raw materials. room for expanding recycling PETCO – figures that are, respectively, ahead need to be approved Source: Plastics SA activities closer to the home. of the global curve and the highest such by Plastics SA and the Improving municipal waste rate worldwide. Paper, meanwhile, boasts Department of Environment, management facilities and services, a 70 per cent recovery over the past three Forestry and Fisheries. We particularly in townships, will be a significant years, according to the Paper Manufacturers have enough waste to be collected step forward. So will educating South Africans Association of South Africa – again higher and recycled. It will be on rare occasions for on recycling – something that various industry than the global average. specific materials if we cannot find it here.” bodies already pursue. But South Africans are notoriously bad How can we rank well in global recycling But all it might take is everybody just doing recyclers. According to a CSIR survey when the majority of our people ignore the one thing, says Francois Marais, manager of presented in 2016, 72.6 per cent of practice? The formal sector contributes Fibre Circle. “One of the best ways to support households have no recycling activities. 57 per cent of local recycling, and an army of South Africa’s recycling efforts is to place your Though urban areas recycle more than rural informal collectors pulls recyclable waste out of bag of recyclables aside for your local waste areas, the difference is moot compared to dustbins and landfills, their street-surfing carts collectors, who will earn money when they how many people don’t recycle. a familiar sight in major cities. South Africans take the materials to a buy-back centre. “Sadly yes, at household level, recycling are lackadaisical about recycling because The cleaner the recyclable, the better their and separation-at-source numbers are someone else is literally picking up the trash. earning potential.” low,” says Anele Sololo, general But households can’t stay off manager of RecyclePaperZA. the hook. Draft extended “It’s indicative of the lack of producer responsibility infrastructure and service regulations published last delivery in many parts of year propose changes Recycling is essential, but COVID-19’s IMPACT the country, and the fact that will make producers it cannot address singleThe pandemic has caused ripples that recycling has also not more responsible for use plastics, which account in recycling. Due to low oil prices, been embedded in our their goods, including for roughly 50 per cent of virgin plastics are much cheaper way of life.” recycling concerns. annual plastic production, than recycled alternatives. But Yet SA has a laudable According to Janine primarily landing in landfills recycled paper demand is higher circular recycling system, Osborne, PETCO’s and water ecosystems. due to ecological packaging around at least in comparison to stakeholder relations Source: Natural Resources e-commerce. Alas, reduced office Defense Council other countries. It exports manager, “The participation activity has shrunk the amount of little recyclable waste (though of private citizens in waste paper available for recycling. there are exceptions, such as minimisation activities – such

FAST FACT

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electronic waste) and imports are relatively limited.

as separating at home and sending the recyclables for recycling – is essential for

Source: Reuters

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A DV ER T ORI A L

REINVENTED, REJUVENATED AND RELAUNCHED

Plascon looks to a green future as it develops innovative environmentally friendly products

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lascon has remained one of South Africa’s preferred coatings manufacturer for over 130 years as a result of its ability to continuously reinvent its brand. Furthering its commitment to environmental conservation has been a mandate for the brand, which continues to take meaningful steps to reduce its impact on the environment with leaps and bounds in green technology.

NO MORE APEO CHEMICALS The first of these innovations is the introduction of APEO-free formulations. Plascon TradePro Roof & More is Africa’s first roof paint that is entirely free of harmful APEO chemicals. APEO compounds are

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A DV ER T ORI A L

bioaccumulative compounds that when released into the environment can be toxic to human and wildlife, especially marine life. Conventional roof paints contain APEOs that over time leach into waterways through rain and drainage, eventually contaminating the soil, water tables, rivers and, ultimately, oceans. Dr Kevin Winter from the University of Cape Town’s Future Water Organisation says: “APEOs found in freshwater systems are toxic to aquatic organisms. In large doses, APEOs even have the potential to disrupt human hormonal systems. APEOs are discharged into freshwater systems from stormwater runoff and sewage works. They are found in a variety of products including paints, packaging and cleaning agents.” By choosing to use APEO-free products, you are contributing to a safer, healthier and more sustainable planet. Water, although a reusable resource, needs to be treated responsibly and conserved to avoid pollution and shortages. South Africa is among some of the most water-scarce countries in the world and one way to use water more responsibly – and save money on your monthly municipal bill – is to harvest rainwater from roofs. Since Plascon TradePro Roof & More is APEO-free it is safe for the harvesting of rainwater for nonpotable use.

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REDUCING PLASTIC WASTE The plastic pandemic is another large threat to environmental conservation. The mass production of plastics began six decades ago and since then, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced – an estimated 90 per cent of this is not recycled – with approximately 8 million tonnes ending up in oceans annually. Given the excessive life expectancy of plastic products, almost every piece of plastic created and sent to a landfill or dumped in the environment is still in existence. This puts an immense strain on the environment and its inhabitants, increasing the urgency to reduce plastic consumption and wastes, as well as to find sustainable ways to recycle existing plastic products. To honour this call, Plascon has introduced black buckets to its premium range, which are made of up to 70 per cent upcycled material. Upcycling is a means by which we can reduce the amount of solid waste entering landfills and polluting the environment. The materials of old paint buckets are harvested to produce new ones of equal quality with a lower manufacturing impact. Through this process, carbon emissions are reduced by extending the shelf life of used materials, thereby reducing the energy and natural resources

The materials of old paint buckets are harvested to produce new ones of equal quality with a lower manufacturing impact. Through this process, carbon emissions are reduced by extending the shelf life of used materials. needed for the manufacture of new materials. By upcycling, we not only stop more longwearing pollutants from going to landfills, but also reduce environmental footprint by saving the cost of manufacturing, packaging and transporting new materials. These upcycled buckets provide the same structural integrity with new distinction to the Plascon premium range, including Plascon Micatex, Double Velvet Pure, Cashmere, Velvaglo Water-Based, Nuroof Cool and Wall & All, bringing consumers the renowned and trusted quality of these brands with peace of mind knowing that they’re making the most responsible choice for the environment.

A MOVE TO WATER-BASED PRODUCTS Much of environmental conservation and ethical practice involves correcting ingrained perceptions and innovating so that the same quality can be provided while reducing environmental impact. Solvent-based paints used to be the preferred choice in coatings, favoured for their perceived durability, especially in enamel paints. But these solvents can be more demanding in terms of application, cleaning, disposal and, most importantly, are harmful to the environment. There has been a global shift toward water-based products, which offer equal, if not better, quality with added benefits including faster drying times, lower associated costs and minimal impact to the environment and the health and wellbeing of consumers. Plascon Velvaglo Water-Based Enamel is just one of the extensive water-based range of products offered by Plascon. Leading the field in water-based alternatives, Plascon Velvaglo is prized for its superior strength, satin finish and versatility. Formulated with a unique water-based acrylic hybrid called AquatoughTM, Plascon Velvaglo Water-Based offers all the toughness of a solvent-based enamel including UV, flaking and stain resistance, with nondrip properties while remaining environmentally friendly and nontoxic. Also of particular concern with solvent-based products is the associated risk of VOC (volatile organic compounds) emission, which has become a major societal concern with VOC pollution on the rise. VOCs are chemicals emitted from production processes and common household items. These chemicals accumulate in the air and can have

By choosing to use APEO-free products, you are contributing to a safer, healthier and more sustainable planet.

short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to 10 times higher) than outdoors. To combat this threat, Plascon optimised the formulations of its premium brands, which now all boast zero VOC recipes. This means that when using these products there are no VOC emissions, thereby protecting the environment as well as your home and family. But Plascon didn’t stop there. Not only has it removed VOCs from its premium products, but it has also further engineered them to remove VOCs from the air too. A noteworthy VOC, known as formaldehyde, also presents a growing cause for concern. Emitted from common household items, such as upholstery, carpeting and household cleaning agents, formaldehyde has the potential to pollute the air and compromise our health.

PAINT THAT PURIFIES In 2020, Plascon pioneered a first for the South African market: a paint with air purifying technology. Plascon Double Velvet Pure has the ability to actively improve the quality of indoor air by removing formaldehyde from the air that you breathe, making your home and workplace a safer environment for you, your co-workers and family. A special compound in the formula removes and permanently transforms the formaldehyde in the air into undetectable, harmless water vapour that is safe to breathe. The re-engineered product retains all of its premium quality, strength and elegance as well as its existing leading technologies such as the Stain BarrierTM to make cleaning away life’s messier moments a breeze, Silver ProtectTM to inhibit mould and bacterial growth and BreatheasyTM to minimise odour and ensure cleaner, breathable air. Plascon continues to innovate with a focus on developing pioneering products while being conscious of their environmental impact. These changes affirm Plascon’s re-orientation and refreshed commitment to focus on people and purpose.

For more information: www.plascon.com

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PAINT WITH PURE PURPOSE Imagine a paint that cleans the air you breathe: introducing Plascon Double Velvet Pure with Air Purifying Technology

A first for South Africa, next-generation Plascon Double Velvet Pure paint drastically improves indoor air quality by incorporating new air purifying technology to reduce harmful formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) released from many items, commonly found in home and office settings where people spend 90 per cent of their time, such as upholstery, carpeting and cleaning agents. The formaldehyde abatement technology present in Plascon Double Velvet Pure removes the formaldehyde particles in the air emitted from these sources by reacting with specific compounds in the paint and permanently converts the formaldehyde compound

into undetectable, harmless water vapour that is safe for breathing. Packaged in a new sustainable upcycled black bucket, the re-engineered premium product is now even more environmentally safe with an optimised zero VOC formulation without compromising any of the trusted quality, performance or pioneer technologies: Stain BarrierTM for unrivalled protective coating, Silver ProtectTM for a luxurious finish while inhibiting mould and bacterial growth and BreatheasyTM for cleaner, more breathable air with virtually no odour and zero VOCs. The reinvented Plascon Double Velvet Pure is more than just a paint, it is the first choice in elegance, well-being and environmental consciousness.

For more information visit www.plascon.com

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A RCHI T EC T URE

BUILDING SUSTAINABLY The Ridge, The Portswood District, V&A Waterfront, just achieved a 6-Star Green Star Office Design Rating. The commercial building pioneered timber façade elements

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outh Africa’s commitment to sustainable builds is growing, with more than 600 certified green buildings by early 2021. The majority of green building activity is in retrofits, instead of new builds. Research by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) puts South African retrofits at 49 per cent (World Green Building Trends 2018 SmartMarket Report). What makes this noteworthy is that these stats are higher than the 37 per cent global average of green retrofitted buildings. Retrofitting often involves commercial buildings being converted to apartments and hotels, or industrial warehousing being modified into affordable housing. South Africans surveyed by WGBC cited lowering operating costs as a major trigger in favour of retrofitting. Green Building Council of South Africa’s (GBCSA) senior manager for sector

development and transformation, Georgina Smit, says there is an “even mix” within the 600-plus local certifications of new and existing green buildings. “Although, in terms of recent historical trajectory, market appetite for green building certification within the existing building space is higher than new builds,” she says. “This speaks to the current economic climate, where developers focus on improving existing assets and green offers a financially viable market differentiator – it attracts and retains tenants, contributes to reduced utility costs and offers an improved total return on investment,” continues Smit.

Office innovations POST-COVID-19 Old Mutual head office at Mutual Park in Cape Town achieved a 6-Star Existing Building Performance Certification

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or many large corporates, a major benefit of green buildings is decreased operational costs via energy and water savings. One pandemic positive is how the importance of improved air quality

in commercial buildings and offices has come under the spotlight, the goal being to ensure good health of building occupants. “Green buildings are resource-efficient buildings,” says GBCSA CEO Lisa Reynolds. “Saving on resources is cost effective. More importantly, green buildings are healthy buildings.” With increased consciousness of clean air protocols for those returning to offices, many

“Saving on resources is cost effective. More importantly, green buildings are healthy buildings.” – Lisa Reynolds, GBCSA

South Africa’s sustainable building status is in a good place, with trends showing a local tendency towards retrofitting, office clean-air innovations and greening of secure apartment complexes. By KIM MAXWELL

New energy Something new for South African buildings is a government initiative gazetted in December 2020: Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). All property owners now have two years in which to Georgina get their EPCs completed Smit and audited. GBCSA is backing the initiative because it’s a boost for green building. “The pending National Energy Efficiency Strategy stated its goal for public sector and commercial buildings of a 50 per cent energy saving by 2030 – this from a 2015 baseline. It links with national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets,” explains GBCSA CEO Lisa Reynolds.

corporates adopting green were ahead of the curve. Reynolds says natural ventilation has always been the “greener” ventilation route. If that’s not possible, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems play a key role in mitigating the spread of airborne pathogens in an enclosed office environment, especially those with few or no opening windows. Edward Hector, MD of SFI Group, says enhanced HVAC systems are increasingly relevant for achieving cleaner, uncontaminated office building air. Hector cites World Health Organization (WHO) research from 2016 where about 90 per cent of the population living in urban areas was exposed to air Lisa quality that did not meet Reynolds minimum WHO guidelines.

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A RCHI T EC T URE “This boils down to particulate matter (PM) present in the air,” he says. Hector says the pandemic has shifted focus to the ability of HVAC filtration systems to filter or neutralise PM, especially indoors and within offices. The solution is not as simple as changing to filters with a higher rating – indoor building environments require a detailed understanding of airflows and ventilation systems in place. HVAC systems are commonly fitted with HEPA filters. Hector recommends additional measures such as UVC (a shortwave UV light)

Greener materials

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hat types of materials can be used in new green buildings? Georgina Smit of the GBCSA says a design and construction stage typically includes sourcing timber from responsible sources (such as FSC-certified timber), reducing and replacing the amount of Portland cement in concrete with safer replacements, and sourcing materials locally (within 50-400km of project sites). Materials can also play a role in broader sustainability considerations. At Cape Town’s Manenberg Contact Centre, a 4-Star Green Star rated office Steven building, labour-intensive Brookes construction methodologies

“Filters don’t catch all PM. So there is a need to consider things like ultraviolet lights.” – Edward Hector, SFI Group to disable viruses. He says air quality in office environments is often of a low standard. “Generally, the ventilation in an office environment is designed to catch PM of 10μm (microns).” Bacteria and viruses are smaller than this, at about 0.01μm.

“With COVID, there has been a rethink of building ventilation rates. Bear in mind that filters don’t catch all PM. So there is a need to consider things like ultraviolet lights,” he says. “Spatial design for social distancing is also a new consideration in resource-efficient commercial buildings,” says Reynolds. “Back in the day, commercial buildings had almost everyone occupying their own office. These evolved into open-plan spacing and then higher densities of people within the open-plan office space.” Green designers now have to find innovative, safe ways to use office space.

used local community members who were trained in the technology and employed to use their new skills to construct a portion of the building. “Net zero” is a new and exciting technical focus for new builds and existing buildings to operate with a net zero carbon/water/waste or net positive impact. “This means that instead of being highly energy-efficient, and ‘doing less bad’, they have taken the initiative to reach the endpoint of completely neutralising or positively redressing their impacts,” says Smit. More than 16 projects in South Africa have achieved net zero or net positive status.

ENERGY VS WATER Reducing energy consumption is most frequently selected as a top environmental reason for building green, for most countries surveyed. But more than half of respondents from South Africa (51 per cent) selected reducing water consumption as one of the top two motivating reasons.

“Net zero means that instead of being highly energy-efficient, and ‘doing less bad’, they have taken the initiative to reach the endpoint of completely neutralising or positively redressing their impacts.” – Georgina Smit, GBCSA GREEN-RATED APARTMENTS Apartment construction in popular secure estates is going greener. In June 2019, Balwin Properties – responsible for South Africa’s largest sectional title development – registered 16 000 apartment units for GBCSA’s EDGE certified ratings across seven of its built-tosell, plus three green developments. EDGE standards are set at a minimum of 20 per cent reduction across energy consumption, water usage and embodied energy in materials. Balwin is aiming at net zero and 6-Star Green Star ratings for all lifestyle centres in its sectional title developments. For example, innovations at its 1 500m2 lifestyle centre at The Reid apartments in Johannesburg’s Linbro Park include separate energy sub-meters to monitor energy consumption, air quality sensors and materials that focus on lowering embodied energy. The Reid achieved a 6-Star Green Star rating in May 2020. Renewable energy engineer Matthew Whalley says the developer registered an additional 20 000 units for EDGE certification in January 2021. Balwin Properties CEO Steve Brookes explains that Balwin’s greener homes don’t cost more to build. “Extra costs are minute if you’re an astute developer,” he says. “We should strive to get a financial benefit for our customers. And I’m passionate about green buildings, which is reflected in our 16 000 registrations for EDGE certification.”

Research shows that income return on certified green office investments is improving. MSCI South Africa Green Annual Property Index (released June 2020) data reinforced the benefits of certification for green buildings as a capital investment. Index results showed the association between quality and green-certified buildings, reflecting a 34 per cent higher capital value/m2, more resilient capital growth and a higher net operating income/m2, compared to non-certified office buildings.

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“We believe the design and operation of buildings, with a focus on occupant health and wellbeing, will come into even sharper focus,” says Paul Kollenberg, Growthpoint’s head of asset management: office. “The Index is proof that green buildings that prioritise health factors such as good ventilation and air quality are extremely well positioned to retain and attract tenants.” Growthpoint is widely invested in commercial real estate in South Africa and overseas.

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Mountain biking is one of the activities offered on the Green Corridor

GREEN SPACES

Building the green economy Green corridors offer a blueprint for municipalities to develop their green economies. By DALE HES Waste materials are repurposed as part of the Green Corridors materials beneficiation initiatives

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any words have been spoken and many pages written about the importance of developing the green economy in South Africa. South African cities have sometimes struggled to implement projects that can contribute towards achieving this goal. However, the Green Corridors project in Durban – a partnership between the eThekwini Local Municipality and various civil society and private sector role players – has proven to be a successful model which can be replicated by cities around the country. Green Corridors is a wide-ranging project which incorporates a number of sites across the natural ecosystems of river, ocean and land in the Umgeni River Valley. Through the development of adventure activities, cultural experiences and eco-tourism opportunities, value has been placed on protecting these ecosystems, and many employment opportunities have been created. In addition, the Green Corridor is home to environmental education projects, community gardens, cleanup initiatives, and the GO!Durban Cycle Academy. The multilayered nature of the project, and the incorporation of community members at

every level, are what Susan Dlamini – the tourism operations co-ordinator for Green Corridors – identifies as the key reasons for success. “The approach of working collaboratively and together with communities around Durban’s open and natural spaces is really what lies at the centre of the work we do,” says Dlamini. “We like to call it ‘super collaboration’ – finding locally based solutions to environmental challenges that can then best benefit [communities] in terms of both improving their environment and becoming sustainable.” Dlamini adds that other municipalities can learn from the Green Corridors model in terms of being adaptable to the specific challenges posed by different environments and different communities. “We find unique solutions for the particular challenges in each area. Each community and each space has its own challenges which need to be unpacked, examined and planned, and then executed by the communities. Once an environmental site becomes successfully cleaned up or reestablishes itself, it attracts tourists, and then it becomes clear to the community that they will benefit from protecting the environment.” Futhi Sibiya is a businessman and owner of Ezweni Lodge along the Green Corridor, and manages the Inanda Adventure Park. His is one of more than 50 SMMEs that have benefitted from the project.

DID YOU KNOW?

South Africa is home to the two greenest cities in Africa. According to the Siemens Green City Index, Cape Town and Johannesburg boast the most “green space” per urban resident, at an estimated 290m² and 231m² per person, respectively. The average for other African cities is just 74m².

“The Green Corridors ethos is to act as an enabler for people to work within green spaces, and this goes hand in hand with the development of local skills and businesses, which is key to the community’s wellbeing,” Susan says Sibiya. Dlamini Seeing opportunities for expansion and increased employment for the surrounding communities, Sibiya has expanded his offerings to include a craft market and corporate team-building activities. Meanwhile, Dlamini says that Green Corridors is also exploring new offerings such as traditional rural accommodation and repurposing waste material collected during cleanup work.

GLORIOUS GREENBELTS IN CAPE TOWN AND JOHANNESBURG • Constantia Greenbelts, Cape Town – Constantia boasts 12 beautiful greenbelts (well managed by the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts NPO) which run through forests and along little streams in the shadow of Table Mountain. • Liesbeek Trail, Cape Town – The Liesbeek Trail runs 4.5km along the Liesbeek River which trickles through Newlands. Large trees and well-maintained paths are bound to make you forget that you’re in the city. • Delta Park, Johannesburg – At more than 100 hectares, Delta Park in Blairgowrie is one of the largest green spaces in Johannesburg. The greenbelt boasts three dams, bird hides, and wide lawns interspersed with patches of indigenous trees. There are also a restaurant and several playgrounds on the site. • The Wilds, Johannesburg – If you need a quick escape from Johannesburg’s relentless hustle and bustle, then head to this 16-hectare park in Houghton. It protects an area of small koppies covered in indigenous vegetation.

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Birds “Fruit-eating birds love indigenous trees like wild olive (Olea africana), dovyalis, white stinkwood (Celtis africana), and wild plum,” says Catherine Del Hoyo Capilla, owner of Happy Frog Landscapes. “Plant aloes, hibiscus, Cape honeysuckle, proteas, pincushions, Strelitzia, and ericas if you want nectar-eating birds to come to your garden. You can also buy a nectar feeder or make your own: fill Catherine a bottle with a nozzle with Del Hoyo rooibos tea with brown sugar; Capilla the rooibos is an antiseptic, so the bottle stays clean.” Birds in general don’t like open lawn. “Break up your lawn with indigenous grasses and let them grow tall to give birds a place to hide,” says Del Hoyo Capilla. “Leave twigs and long grass cuttings out – birds use them to make nests. You can also make or buy nesting boxes to put in tall trees out of the reach of cats.” Another easy way to attract birds is to make a feeder by filling the gaps in a pine cone with peanut butter, rolling it in bird seed and hanging in a tree. “Birds also love fresh fruit, peanuts and sunflowers – they take the seeds directly from the flower,” says Del Hoyo Capilla.

Butterflies and bees To welcome insects into your garden, use green alternatives to chemical pesticides. “Ground cover with fruit or berries (think wild strawberries), or any purple or blue flowers (Felicia, Convolvulus) attract butterflies, as do Cape honeysuckle, plumbago, lavender,

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Creating an ecosystem conducive to attracting bird and insect life to your garden is easy when you know what to plant. CARYN GOOTKIN hunted down some expert tips

rosemary, Guara (butterfly bush), and bottlebrush,” says Del Hoyo Capilla. “Bees love vygies, geranium, rosemary, thyme, lavender, fuchsias, agapanthus, and bottlebrush.” Remember that attracting butterflies means that you’ll have to put up with caterpillars. “But you can make them work well in your garden’s ecosystem because the caterpillars attract lizards, frogs, spiders, and praying mantises.”

Water features Water is a good way to lure birds to the garden. “A good supply of fresh water will attract birds and bees, especially in the hotter months,” says Del Hoyo Capilla. “You could install a birdbath, a fishpond or a water feature. It’s best to use a shallow drip tray, no more than 5-7cm deep, with a rough surface. Bees also like water so add colourful marbles to the shallow water to attract them.” Remember to make sure the water feature is not accessible to cats. As a general rule, keeping your garden less formal or “manicured” helps attract birds and insects. “Dead tree branches make nice perches for birds, while holes drilled into tree stumps make great homes for the bees,” says Del Hoyo Capilla. “Also, keep some muddy areas, which attract swifts and swallows, wasps and hornets, who all make their nests out of mud.”

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ood & Trees for Africa runs the EduPlant School Gardening and Nutrition Programme, supplying training, resources and support for school food gardens. During hard lockdown, all schools had to close, which meant school gardens that supplement school feeding schemes were neglected. The community members who usually tended the gardens couldn’t get in and the gardens really suffered. “In most of South Africa, April is a dry month, which made it even worse,” says Robyn Hills, Food & Trees for Africa’s head of programmes. “But, by mid-April, we noticed that the communities arranged keys and began tidying the gardens, which meant EduPlant could continue resource drops, primarily seedlings, to maintain the winter planting schedule.” Staff and community members saw the resilience and value in these gardens and began replicating them at home. “In conjunction with our ‘Grow your own’ seedling drop programme, many people started home gardens, which provided food when the supply chain was damaged by lockdown,” says Hill. “So, lockdown did have some positive spin-offs for these programmes.”

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How to attract bird and insect life to your garden

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GA RDENING

TIPS FOR ESTABLISHING A COMMUNITY FOOD GARDEN “There is a ‘golden trifecta’ of steps a community must take to start a garden – fencing, water, and people,” says Robyn Hills of Food & Trees for Africa. Fencing is important because roaming goats and sheep flatten the gardens. A sustainable source of water is essential. “This is a challenge in Limpopo, Free State, and North West, but easier in the other provinces,” says Hills. And people are the key to the success of any community garden. “It’s all about building relationships within the community,” says Hills. “The initial meeting that we have with them is all about who will do what when: how the harvests will be shared, who will water the garden, who is responsible for the stockroom of tools, and who will record the harvest, ensuring sales are shared and surplus given to vulnerable children.” The negotiation of these roles and Robyn Hills responsibilities fosters good relationships between neighbours and stakeholders. “Once the fencing, water and people are in place, the community can build soil using permaculture principles and manage pests by using companion planting and insect repellents grown in the garden,” says Hill. “Wilde-als, marigold, calendula, lavender, rosemary, and scented geranium are all used for culinary, medical and insect-repellent purposes. This is all part of the integrated permaculture training that is part of EduPlant’s offering.”

Office Gardens Urban Harvest specialises in edible gardens – some of which are in business settings. CARYN GOOTKIN gets the lowdown from founder and director Ben Getz

Ben Getz

What’s involved with setting up an in-office food garden? Companies looking to start a food garden must decide up front who will maintain the garden and what will be done with the abundance of fresh produce once the company’s needs have been met. “They should also consult a professional to choose the right location, ensure sustainable access to water, and design and install the garden properly,” says Urban Harvest’s Ben Getz. “Many of our clients also engage Urban Harvest to perform maintenance management services, which ensure the ongoing beauty and productivity of the garden.”

Best crops to plant

IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED

“You can grow almost anything in an office garden,” says Getz. “What you choose to plant depends on seasonality and climate.” Some of the easiest and most productive crops are: • Perennial herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano) • Annual herbs (parsley, dill, coriander, rocket) • Soft leafy greens (Swiss chard, lettuces)

• Asian greens (tatsoi, pak choi, mustard) • Root crops (carrot, beetroot, radish) • Fruit crops (tomato, eggplant, peppers, chillies)

Successful office gardens Some of the gardens Urban Harvest has successfully installed are container gardens for eTV and Home Choice, terraced gardens for Clicks Head Office and Pharma Dynamics, and gardens on the premises of The Bay Hotel, Ellerman House and Constantia Village. “In 2016 we established a beautiful garden at the Pharma Dynamics head office, which is now a beautiful space for staff to enjoy and also provides vegetables (cabbage, leeks, carrots, beetroot, spinach, celery, peppers, herbs) to a local crèche soup kitchen as part of their CSI,” says Getz. “Each quarter they host harvest and planting parties where beneficiaries are invited to learn about and participate in the garden to understand where their food comes from.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Grey water from bathroom sinks, showers, baths, and washing machines is a beneficial source of irrigation for your garden. “Grey water contains nutrients beneficial to plants,” says Joshua Wijers of Rooted Landscapes. “But whether you collect it in a bucket or set up a grey-water system, use it within 48 hours to avoid odours, and use plant-friendly cleaning materials.”

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BIOFIN

Monetising nature We are used to hearing about species being destroyed and blows to the planet’s biodiversity, but what if we put these losses into something more tangible: money? BIÉNNE HUISMAN reports

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n its Living Planet Index of 2018, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates nature’s global monetary value equivalent to R1.88-quadrillion. Corporates investing in “natural capital” include Swiss private bank Lombard Odier and British bank HSBC. But can we really put a price on nature? What if trees decide to unionise and invoice humanity for producing oxygen, fungi for their decomposition services, and bees for making honey? Then there are the cooling effects of forests, the flood prevention attributes of wetlands and the food production capacity of oceans. Environmental resource economics expert Hugo van Zyl explains, “Healthy biodiversity is required for nature to function properly and provide us with Hugo van Zyl valuable ecosystem services such as climate and water regulation, pollination, genetic

stocks, pest control, tourism opportunities and others. Biodiversity destruction can therefore result in significant financial risks as several economic sectors and processes are highly dependent on nature either directly or indirectly.” Van Zyl, who is also the director of Independent Economic Researchers in Cape Town, cites agriculture as a good example. “Think of the direct risk to agriculture, and the financial institutions that support it, of losing crop pollinators or species that control pests.” He adds that the financial risks of biodiversity destruction are slowly being realised and that the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report ranked biodiversity loss as one of our planet’s five top risks of the next decade. Putting a price on nature is a dividing opinion. Quantifying these “ecosystem services” is controversial for some environmentalists, who oppose reducing nature to numbers. Others view it as a way to have corporates and policymakers make better decisions that preserve biodiversity. Technical advisor to BIOFIN for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tracey Cumming, says “putting a price on

“Think of the direct risk to agriculture, and the financial institutions that support it, of losing crop pollinators or species that control pests.” – Hugo van Zyl, Independent Economic Researchers 30

Hugo van Zyl, first author on BIOFIN South Africa’s most recent Biodiversity Finance Plan, published in 2018, says that despite financial challenges facing biodiversity conservation, South Africa is a leader in designing and piloting solutions in this field. The Biodiversity Finance Plan puts forward 16 finance solutions. An analysis of 12 of these solutions led to an estimated net financial gain of R16.25-billion over 10 years. The plan stresses the South African government’s role in coordinating the biodiversity finance agenda. Says Van Zyl: “Evidence of the importance of biodiversity in supporting socio-economic development continues to mount, yet biodiversity conservation is severely underfunded both nationally and globally. There is an urgent need to expand existing biodiversity finance solutions and pilot new ones in the public and private sector.” The Biodiversity Finance Plan further states: “Biodiversity, ecological infrastructure, and associated ecosystem services act as an invaluable foundation for South Africa’s economy. From tourism to fishing, farming, and industry, the products and services provided by nature support people’s wellbeing, livelihoods, jobs, and security. “This plan has been developed to identify and support the implementation of biodiversity finance solutions that together significantly improve the management and financing of biodiversity management in South Africa.”

nature” infers that we are selling it. Cumming, from Knysna, prefers the term “valuing nature”. She points out that in recent years this issue has gained momentum as signified in the ongoing formation of a global Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD). The TNFD, a partnership between the UNDP, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, and the WWF, amongst others, was spurred in January 2019 at the World Economic Forum’s Davos meeting. Its goal is “to provide a framework for corporates and financial institutions to assess, manage and report on their dependencies and impacts on nature ... and the redirection of global financial flows away from naturenegative outcomes and towards naturepositive outcomes”.

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BIODI V ERSI T Y

FAST FACT

The Sihlanzimvelo project forms part of eThekwini Municipality’s Transformative River Management Programme, which creates jobs while restoring some 7 400km of river corridors near Durban. Source: eThekwini Municipality

KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANICAL GARDENS

Biodiversity threat According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, South Africa is home to 10 per cent of the world’s plant species, and 7 per cent of its reptile, bird and mammal species, along with 15 per cent of the world’s marine species. The statistics around threats to this biodiversity are equally staggering. By BIÉNNE HUISMAN

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onservation manager at the Botanical Society of South Africa, Rupert Koopman, flags a webinar hosted earlier this year by the Botanical Society, entitled “South Africa’s plant extinction crisis”. In the conversation, Domitilla Raimondo, threatened species unit manager at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), points out that 14.3 per cent of the country’s plant species are threatened with extinction. She lists habitat loss as the biggest threat. SANBI conducts national red listing projects in an effort to prevent species extinction. They have assessed the risk of over 23 331 species in South Africa, of which 48 are extinct. Plants have the highest number of extinctions at 36 species, followed by mammals at five. Green economy scholar Anton Cartwright,

former convenor of the City of Cape Town’s Climate Change Think Tank, says leading causes of biodiversity loss in South Africa include chemical-intensive farming of monocultures, deforestation and clearing of mountain vegetation, urban sprawl, mining, and climate change. “The dissection of habitats with roads does not help,” Cartwright says. “We have good policies on this in South Africa but have struggled with implementation and enforcement. In particular, we have not always been good at enfranchising local communities – such as farmers, forest dwellers, and rural households – in the care of habitats, or rewarding them when this care takes place.” He adds that this is starting to change, highlighting as an example of success the Sihlanzimvelo stream cleaning project in Durban. Cartwright points out that all life, including human life, depends on networks of diverse species that thrive in diverse habitats – and not “monocultures”. He says focusing on the protection of large areas of these habitats is more valuable than focusing on individual species. “The species will be okay, if the habitats are okay,” he says.

The Botanical Society of South Africa, based at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, was founded in 1913 and offers “citizen scientists, amateur nature enthusiasts, the general public, and environmental experts the opportunity to join hands and be a part of the solutions to biodiversity challenges across the country”. Kirstenbosch, adjacent to the Table Mountain National Park, forms part of the Cape Floral Region Protected Area, which was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Kirstenbosch also manages two smaller reserves: the Edith Stevens Wetland Park on the Cape Flats and the Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve near Darling along the West Coast.

The National Biodiversity Assessment, published by SANBI in 2019, indicates that 14 per cent of South Africa’s plant species and 12 per cent of animal species assessed are threatened with extinction. Freshwater fish is the most threatened group, with one in every three species threatened. However, due to conservation regulations in place to protect species, South Africa fortunately has few mammals and birds on the brink of extinction now. “We can boast genuine success stories for South African species that often result from co-operation between the public and private sectors. For example, both the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) and lion (Panthera leo) are no longer listed as threatened,” says Raimondo.

DID YOU KNOW?

The South African National Biodiversity Institute’s 2020 plant biodiversity “Red List” shows a significant increase in poaching as a threat to succulents. Cone plants (the Conophytum genus) have been especially impacted by demand for wild harvested plants. Source: South African National Biodiversity Institute

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Prof. Bruce Sithole Adding the sludge to the pyrolysis machine to start the biorefining process

The pyrolysis machine which converts sludge into high-value products – the biorefinery process in action

Wastewater biorefineries can help turn waste water and its by-products into “gold”. By TREVOR CRIGHTON

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astewater biorefineries (WWBR) use wastewater as a source of raw materials to generate useful by-products from otherwise-wasted nutrients, while simultaneously producing clean water. WWBRs use bioreactors like algae, bacteria and water-based plants to convert wastewater into a variety of by-products. Professor Bruce Sithole, chief scientist and director in the Biorefinery Industry Development Facility at the CSIR says that WWBRs are primarily deployed in major economies as a method of processing the otherwise-useless wastewater generated by the processing of human and industrial effluent. “Wastewater treatment processes yield a sludge that is generally disposed of at landfills – but regulations mean that organic sludge with a moisture content of more than 40 per cent can’t be landfilled, so there’s always been a question over what to do with it,” he says. “A major issue also deals with health, due to the presence of nematodes – a type of parasitic worm, of which there are over 20 000 species

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content. It can also be purified and fractioned into an array of other chemicals, each of which has high value.” Rather than replacing South Africa’s ageing wastewater treatment infrastructure, Sithole says that using WWBR is a complementary process which can also be applied to industrial waste. He and his team are currently working with an SMME to collect waste and treat it, so that it can be used to create charcoal. Aside from turning waste into gold, Sithole says that corporates should be looking at investing in biorefinery processes as part of their green initiatives. “Instead of sending this material to landfills, they can process it into hugely beneficial by-products which have multiple applications, not just filling up polluting landfill sites that produce more greenhouse gases.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Fred Boltz, managing director: ecosystems at The Rockefeller Foundation says that 1980 represented an important tipping point for humankind. It is estimated to have been the last year in which humankind’s per-capita consumption of Earth’s natural resources was balanced by nature’s ability to replenish them. It is estimated that by 2030 global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 per cent. Source: Reuters

Get it fresh

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he top tributaries of the Hennops River are pitch black and putrid from leaking sewerage infrastructure,” says Willem Snyman, founder of NPO Fountain River Environmental Sanctuary Hennops (FRESH). “A thick layer of sludge accumulates at the bottom of the river and a 100m-long polystyrene island floats like an iceberg – and like an iceberg, the floating part is actually the smallest, as most plastics sink.” Life in the Hennops has been decimated by millions of tonnes of sewerage – and worse. Snyman founded FRESH in response to the massive polluting tides, which decimated the river’s aquatic life. Unable to stop it from

FRESH founder Willem Snyman at work

being wiped out, FRESH turned their attention to trying to fix the cause so that the original life can be re-established. The organisation principally runs teams which set up massive net traps along the river to try and catch the waste which chokes it on a daily basis.

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Refined taste

– which are found in human waste. Waste must be treated with high temperatures or chemicals in order to kill them.” Sithole says that running wastewater through a biorefinery process can yield an array of extremely high-value by-products which have several applications. “If the process is managed correctly, the resulting by-products are worth their weight in gold and can be used across many other industries. If the treated sludge is dried, it can be used to produce charcoal – particularly high-quality biochar, which can be used for the purification and treatment of water,” he says. “A volatile chemical called wood vinegar, a chemical soup packed with high-value nutrients, is also a by-product that can be used as fertiliser due to its high nitrogen


WAT ER

A FRESH cleanup team filling massive rubbish bags with waste from one of their traps

The five massive traps netted over 200 000 cubic tonnes of Styrofoam last year. “The new nets catch about 50 tonnes a week. In one week, eight guys removed about 200 tonnes from the nets and another team of three removed another 100 tonnes,” says Snyman. NGO Hennops Revival, founded by Tarryn Johnston, is also working hard to clean up the river. “The Hennops is down the road from my house, and I grew up along this river,” says Johnston. “We felt the need to make a difference, so I just started on my doorstep, and our mission remains to keep a spotlight on the river so that people don’t turn their backs on it.” Volunteers and the Hennops Revival team of 10 “River Warriors” – primarily a group

of trained homeless men who operate with funding from donors – have removed over a tonne of rubbish from the river since they started in 2019. Johnston says that a mountain of issues contributes to the state of the river, from social development and waste management to encroachment of wetlands and corruption, greed and poverty. Both organisations engage with an array of other NGOs, government, municipalities and Revival founding director Tarryn Johnston and her team of “River Warriors” tackling Poly Island

The rainy season brings floods and the high waters deposit even more rubbish into the Hennops

Clearing vegetation in the Soutpansberg

plants, and to create valuable employment opportunities for women, youth, and families. Six of these projects run in South Africa, receiving $1.8-million (approximately R27-million) in grants and collectively clearing over 5 000 hectares of alien plant species. The projects include catchment restoration in the upper uMzimvubu in Matatiele, wetlands rehabilitation with the Wolseley Water Users Association in the Western Cape and a wetlands restoration project in the Baviaanskloof.

Growing investment

Make it rain

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he Coca-Cola Foundation’s flagship African community programme, Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), makes possible 100 projects in 41 countries on the continent, to assist in its aims to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals on clean water and sanitation access.

Continental water security These projects aim to help restore priority catchment areas by removing invasive alien

The Greater Cape Town Water Fund, Matatiele and Soutpansberg projects have received an additional $500 000 (approximately R7.48-million) investment from The Coca-Cola Foundation for an additional 12 months. “These important water catchment areas feed our communities, towns and cities, yet thirsty alien invasive plants are consuming

scientists – and it’s going to take a massive group effort to save the river. They’re also entirely reliant on funding from corporates and their communities. Both run education programmes and involve local communities in cleanups to help spread the word. “The wetlands and rivers are magical open classrooms where the most important values can be learned, accessible to many people near their homes,” says Snyman. “We can all benefit from these natural wonders, timeless freshwater systems which nurtured our ancient prehistorical ancestors.”

FAST FACT

“South Africa sends around 95 million tonnes of waste to its 826 landfill sites and less than 40 per cent of the materials are recycled, according to analysts at Research and Markets. Additionally, the nation produces upwards of 65 million tonnes of hazardous waste, of which only 6 per cent is recycled.” – Tarryn Johnston

millions of litres of this precious resource unnecessarily from these areas each year,” says Beatriz Perez, chair and president of The Coca-Cola Foundation. “As part of our broader water stewardship programme, RAIN is helping to rehabilitate thousands of hectares of land and replenish water while economically empowering families.” The six South African projects have collectively contributed to securing 389 jobs in the country’s rural priority water catchment areas. The Replenish Africa Initiative has created employment in Joubertina

DID YOU KNOW?

Across Africa, RAIN positively impacted more than 6 million people by the end of 2020, through a diverse range of water-based initiatives. Over the past decade, RAIN has positively impacted at least 250 000 women and youth and returned 18.5 billion litres to communities and nature through water, sanitation and hygiene programmes as well as watershed protection, with an investment of $65-million (approximately R973-million). Source: The Coca-Cola Foundation

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A DV ER T ORI A L

Sasol Secunda

Mittal VDB

COST-EFFECTIVE AND

ECO-FRIENDLY WATER MANAGEMENT Veolia’s water treatment solutions help improve access to water and wastewater treatment services and protect the environment

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he business of the future, the one concerned with longevity and sustainability, requires a serious commitment towards people and the planet to stay relevant. Veolia’s purpose is to contribute towards human progress, as illustrated in our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), aimed at achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. Recent changes at Veolia Southern Africa have meant that our primary focus on water treatment has now shifted to include waste and energy solutions across sub-Saharan Africa. Achieving 13 out of the 17 goals, to a lesser or greater extent, depending on the context, has already been well established through the various water treatment solutions that we offer. This includes water reuse, wastewater recycling, water scarcity solutions and zero liquid discharge to name just a few. “The alignment with a greater Veolia vision, as well as a deeper commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, means that the southern Africa region is leading a

sustainable business journey not only aimed at making a profit, but also improving the planet,” says Stanley Steenkamp, CEO Veolia Southern Africa. Through our holistic approach, Veolia’s water treatment solutions assist municipalities or industrial users to manage the complete water cycle while simultaneously ensuring adherence to environmental regulations. Our solutions are custom-designed for each client and their particular requirements, which enables a total water management solution that is cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Accompanying these efficient solutions is Veolia’s extensive expertise in terms of operations and maintenance, allowing for optimisation of the plants.

TECHNOLOGY PLAYS A BIG PART Backed by more than 350 proprietary technologies, Veolia assists to optimise the complete water cycle, increasing access to water and wastewater services, while improving environmental performance. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also

WE AIM TO BE THE TOTAL WATER, WASTE AND ENERGY SOLUTIONS COMPANY, OFFERING SOLUTIONS AND GUIDING OUR CLIENTS ALONG THEIR GREEN JOURNEY AND OPTIMISING THEIR BUSINESSES. 34

highlighted the need for technology and the role it plays in ensuring business continuity. Our HUBGRADE™ digital monitoring and optimisation tool helps operators monitor, manage and optimise their treatment processes. A standard in our Water Techno Packages (modular and containerised units), HUBGRADE aggregates and enriches plant data through a variety of applications and algorithms. Securely stored in the cloud, HUBGRADE is accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device through a single private and secure portal. Veolia’s technologies are designed to not only keep up with the rapidly changing industrial landscape in sub-Saharan Africa, but also to ensure improved access to water and wastewater treatment services on the continent. This is done not only through offering the aforementioned water treatment solutions, but also by combining them with offerings that will combat pollution and speed up ecological transformation in local communities. We aim to be the total water, waste and energy solutions company, offering solutions and guiding our clients along their green journey and optimising their businesses. How is this done? As with most water cycles, certain waste products are generated.

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A DV ER T ORI A L

Mobile treatment plant

Our commitment to the circular economy ensures that we don’t waste resources through waste products that are valorised and either turned into energy, reused in agriculture, or even to generate heat for biological processes. The days of simply being an engineering company or contractor have passed, it is the collective responsibility of all those involved in industry to be committed to businesses that are useful. Convinced about the role and usefulness of businesses in meeting society’s expectations, Veolia Chairman and CEO, Antoine Frérot, stated that “a business is prosperous because it is useful and not the other way around”.

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VEOLIA INITIATIVES Veolia’s Impact 2023 strategic vision underlines this through four initiatives: 1. A multifaceted performance through our alignment with the UN SDGs and a combined focus on social, environmental, commercial, financial and societal performance because one cannot succeed without the other. 2. Specialist expertise to bring about environmental transition: this will include developing activities that prevent and clean up toxic pollution, control the use of key resources and combat the climate imbalance, as well as adapt solutions to deal with climate change. 3. Reinvent core business activities to enhance impact and performance: this will mean enriching our water and wastewater services that will, ultimately, improve access to clean water for communities to transform the collection of nonhazardous industrial waste through the introduction of digital technologies, and finally modernise and diversify the energy grid business through the use of green energy, deploying new services for electricity grids and developing mini-heating or cooling networks.

Through this multifaceted approach, Veolia will succeed in not only putting pen to paper in terms of a strategic vision, but will also allow us to incorporate this into every facet of water, waste and energy. Our commitment in terms of social performance can already be seen in two specific projects.

THE BAOBAB The Baobab is the third place co-created by the MakerSpace Foundation and Veolia with the support of its Foundation in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Inspired by the REcyclerie – a Parisian place dedicated to a circular economy, Baobab, with its slogan “Upcycling the future”, is structured around several programmes: Innovative Waste Design with the recycling studio “Plasticpreneur” to train in plastic recycling techniques and design new products; My Lil’Pumpkin to introduce children in schools to the principles of sustainability through concrete activities (workshops, animations and crafts); and Zero Waste, an awareness programme around the 5Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair), waste prevention and eco-design. This project represents an opportunity to create a networking space around the green economy, bringing together citizens, young and old, NGOs, SMCTS, start-ups, local government and big business to build a more sustainable future. The Baobab project has been designed from the perspective of inclusion, collaboration and equity. From the general public to the business world, all stakeholders are invited to participate in the process to make integrated societal development possible. Aligned with Veolia’s Impact 2023, Baobab aims to launch plastic recycling workshops, contribute to the empowerment of 30 entrepreneurs in the local community, train 300 women and unemployed

Plettenberg Bay Desalination plant across river - inlet

youth in recycling technologies, convert 30 000kg of waste into useful products and reach over 30 000 visitors and participants in the programmes by 2023.

OVERSTRAND MUNICIPALITY Another exciting initiative is the unique 15-year concession at Overstrand Municipality in the Western Cape. Veolia’s contribution to Overstrand is the complete oversight and management of the water and treatment plants, which serve a community of over 90 000 residents. A hugely successful private-public partnership, we believe this to be the way of the future – successful collaboration for greater social and economic development. This project not only aims to ensure consistent delivery of water and sanitation, but also the empowerment of local skilled and unskilled labourers in the area, which has contributed significantly to the social performance of this area. This type of partnership is useful because it allows municipalities to plan ahead in terms of future costs. Furthermore, Veolia’s onsite expertise in operations and maintenance has delivered full and uninterrupted services despite COVID-19 restrictions, thanks to technological innovations and our highly trained and dedicated staff. We are proud to deliver initiatives that not only offer value to our clients, but also demonstrate our commitment to making a positive impact on the planet and greater society.

For more information: +27-11-663-3600 info.southafrica@veolia.com www.veoliawatertechnologies.co.za

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Baywatch Once-off cleanups are noble, but much more is needed to keep our coastlines healthy. By BETH AMATO At work on the International Coastal Cleanup Day

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very September, South Africans partake in the International Coastal Cleanup Day as an act of service to the largest portion of the world’s surface area – the ocean. The critical importance of oceans cannot be underestimated – our habitable climate is regulated by the sea, and 50 per cent of the oxygen on earth is produced by it. And yet waste, especially plastic, is polluting the seas, with ramifications for biodiversity, the climate, and human livelihoods. The rapid development of Africa has seen waste management buckle under the pressure of waste accumulation, says Tony Ribbink, CEO of the Sustainable Seas Trust. “Without effective waste management, the continent may soon be as polluted as Southeast Asia, which has the world’s worst pollution record,” he says. Experts agree that education and awareness initiatives are key in reducing the amount of waste that enters the oceans. It is for this reason that initiatives like the International Coastal Cleanup Day are mitigating ocean pollution and biodiversity loss. According to John Kieser, Sustainability Manager at Plastics SA and co-ordinator of the cleanups that took place nationally, there has been a steady increase in the amount of waste in the oceans, with various items found in large numbers. “Each year we identify

Plastics in our seas

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he nature writer Robert MacFarlane noted in his book Underland: A Deep Time Journey that in a thousand years, if archaeological digs are still an endeavour, plastic will define our human era. Our legacy won’t be the discovery of stone or iron tools, or sophisticated burial chambers, but layers upon layers of plastic – in rock formations and sea beds.

items of concern. We have, for example, seen an increase in disposable nappies during our cleanups,” he said. Kieser says that taking care of the ocean begins in individual homes and communities. “Our cleanup day tries to spread the message to South Africans that they should be ecowarriors in their own neighbourhoods – picking up litter in the street and at water sources like rivers, streams, and canals.”

Since waste is carried by rivers to oceans, there are dedicated non-governmental organisations working to remove waste and rehabilitate rivers. The Fountain River Environmental Sanctuary Hennops, or FRESH, aims to clean South Africa’s rivers by stopping pollution at source, and rehabilitate natural flora and fauna occurring in the river environment. Awareness campaigns are an Important part of their work. “It’s heartening to see that individuals, organisations and companies are steadily realising that they are stewards of the environment for now and future generations,” says Kieser.

DID YOU KNOW?

• • • • • • • •

In the Cape provinces, 72 audited cleanups covering 36km were undertaken on International Coastal Cleanup Day. Volunteers counted each item for the purposes of data collection. Reports covering a total beach distance (across South Africa) of 336km were received. Fifteen cleanups by various 4x4 clubs took place. Four underwater cleanups took place, each with a volume of 10 000 m². In total, these divers cleaned an area of 300 metres. Seven waterways were cleaned – totalling a distance of approximately 5km. There were 27 community cleanups, with a community in Nature’s Valley seeing the largest participation. In total, these volunteers covered approximately 54km. Close to 20 tonnes of litter was removed from the beaches on the day. Some of the stranger items that were removed during the underwater cleanups included an outboard engine, fire extinguisher, computer and mobile phones. On the land-based beach cleanups, volunteers removed a portable toilet (with lots of barnacles growing on it), a windsurfer kite and a lawnmower.

Source: John Kieser, Plastics SA

It’s a double-edged sword: plastic is effective as a packaging agent, and has many useful applications, but it clogs up inland water sources, and pollutes the ocean. Marine biologists have documented the plastic-filled stomachs of sea creatures and birds. This means that the food chain is disrupted and subsequently the fragile ecosystem. Oceans are a source of food for both humans and animals, and significantly contribute to the oxygen we need for all life on earth. There are ways to protect South Africa’s oceans from plastic pollution, however. Tony Ribbink, the CEO of the Sustainable Seas Trust, explains that 80 per cent of the plastic that enters the oceans comes from

land. Half of that is carried in by inland water sources, like rivers. The rest is dumped in the sea, with a large proportion of that comprising abandoned nets from fishing vessels. ›

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OCE A NS

These nets – known as ghost nets – entangle and suffocate sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, marine birds and seals. They also destroy life on coral reefs. Ribbink explains that these plastics don’t biodegrade, but break up into very small pieces, known as microplastics. These are almost impossible to clean up because they are not easy to spot. Microplastics, filled with toxins, reduce marine species’ feeding capabilities and lower their energy reserves when ingested by ocean residents, including coral reefs, phytoplankton, turtles, fish and more. “This is becoming a critical problem across Africa,” says Ribbink. “And with increased

development and population growth contributing to plastic consumption and microplastic waste, there has to be a concerted effort towards a ‘zero plastics’ future.” The Sustainable Seas Trust’s main project – the African Marine Waste Network – aims to bring about exactly this, by ensuring that plastic waste is mitigated at the source, in homes. “It is very costly to retrieve plastic waste from the oceans. It is much more effective to manage this where it originates. It is important to reduce the amount of plastic used to prevent the chain reaction process inevitably destroying marine life,” says Ribbink.

Where have our sharks gone?

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Lloyd Edwards with great white shark at Black Rocks near Bird Island in Algoa Bay.

than other species against even the smallest disturbance. Lloyd Edwards, owner of cage-diving company Raggy Charters, has vocally advocated for stricter regulations – including closed fishing seasons, limits on fishing licences, having observers on board fishing boats, and a moratorium on fishing vulnerable shark species. These were tabled and sent to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, which appointed an expert panel to review recommendations put forward by environmental activists. Minister Barbara Creecy has acknowledged the need for the immediate implementation of recommendations. For many decades, the great white shark has been a huge draw for tourists in South Africa, with 12 shark cage-diving operations in three destinations. According to Edwards, this has been a major economic boost

for these areas, providing much-needed employment. One of these operations employs 115 people alone. The sighting of two orca (killer) whales, named Port and Starboard, has raised questions about whether these predators are to blame for the great white sharks’ disappearance. “A great white stands no chance against a killer whale. If that predator moves in, the great whites will flee,” says Edwards. Seven killer whale pods have been spotted in the Algoa Bay area, which was unprecedented. “It could be that their food is scarce in the deeper oceans, and there are many factors that cause that. Human-led climate change is something we need to address with absolute urgency,” says Edwards. Interestingly, great whites are still spotted in the Algoa Bay region in the Eastern Cape. “We operate in a marine-protected area, thank goodness. No longline fishing vessels are allowed to operate here,” says Edwards.

“Demersal fishing of smaller sharks needs to be more strictly regulated, as this is the great white’s food.” – Dr Sara Andreotti, University of Stellenbosch

IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED

ape Town was once one of the world’s most renowned destinations for great white shark spotting, but since about 2017, the sightings of this apex marine predator have dwindled to zero. Between 2010 and 2016, 205 great whites were spotted along the coastline stretching from False Bay, through Gansbaai to Mossel Bay. There were zero spotted in False Bay in 2019. There are several theories that could explain the great white’s disappearance. Marine biologist Dr Sara Andreotti of the University of Stellenbosch believes that years of poor regulation and human interference have decimated the animal’s population. It is ironic: in South Africa, great white sharks have been a protected species since 1991. “Demersal fishing of smaller sharks needs to be more strictly regulated, as this is the great white’s food. Unfortunately, smaller species of sharks are not protected, even though their stocks have been depleted,” says Andreotti. About 60 per cent of a great white shark’s food comes from smaller sharks. She says that the significant presence of plastic waste in the ocean Dr Sara can also deplete food Andreotti sources for a great white. “When fishes and smaller sharks ingest plastic, they fill up their stomachs. This means that they will struggle to grow and reproduce, and compromise a great white’s food resources.” Andreotti notes that great white sharks reproduce slowly and – being at the top of the food chain – they are the most vulnerable to ecological changes, including changes in food availability. They are more vulnerable

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PROF IL E: EN V IRO BUGGY

Sucking up the plastic problem

Vacuuming plastics off a beach

“The first version is heavy and noisy, but it shows that this idea works,” said Faccio. “I’d say it’s a hundred times faster than manually cleaning a beach of small plastics. Two people can operate the buggy. It will move itself, and one person uses the sucking hose while the other can steer it.” The Enviro Buggy Mark 1 at work The Mark 1 prototype, which the pair selfA novel South African innovation funded, proved to be incredibly useful in several can help save our oceans, ways. It can create employment opportunities writes JAMES FRANCIS for human operators but also serves as an incredible research and education tool. The buggy’s ability to hoover up plastics gives scientists a better indication of pollution levels on a beach, and it vividly inspires children to be t was an ecological nightmare. In 2018, environmentally conscious. a cargo container lost its contents off “A big part of what we do is to educate Durban’s shores, spilling billions of nurdles people about the ocean and pollution,” (small pellets of virgin plastic, used to explains Krauss, who is also chairman of the make plastic products) into the ocean. non-profit Sea The Bigger Picture. Alongside microplastics, nurdles “The buggy is fantastic for that. pose a tremendous threat to One girl even prevented her water ecologies and human mom from buying cooldrink food chains. in plastic bottles, because Even though there Mark 2 is ready – lighter and better, and we Sea The Bigger Picture is it’s bad for the sea.” were attempts to clean might soon see these buggies clean our a non-profit that helps Plastic pollution is the nurdles, they nearby waterways. Alas, the pandemic has disadvantaged communities crushing the oceans. nonetheless made their made funding harder, and the team is still become custodians of South UNESCO estimates over way along the coastline trying to secure around R60 000 to fund the Africa’s oceans, fight pollution 1 million marine animals and onto Cape Town’s improved version. Hopefully that happens and grow their communities die every year from literally shores. Here, Chris soon, and we can start rescuing the oceans alongside the seas. trillions of plastic pieces. Krauss, free diver and from a plastics holocaust. Source: Sea The Bigger Picture Krauss’s own mission started co-inventor of the Enviro as he witnessed the growing Buggy, found his inspiration. impact of plastics on sea life off “We regularly clean the Of 300 million tonnes of plastic Cape Town’s shores. But the issue beaches, especially at the highproduced annually, 8 million tonnes often starts inland – many plastics reach the water mark where many of the plastics end end up in the oceans. Scientists seas via rivers. Fortunately, the Enviro Buggy up,” says Krauss. “One day, it took me two predict this rate will triple by 2040. suits river banks, wetlands, dam shores, parks hours to clean a square metre because of all Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature and other aquatic ecosystems. the small pieces. Frustrated, I called Luigi and proposed an idea.” Luigi Faccio, a skilled engineer, designed and built the solution. The Enviro Buggy THE NURDLE MENACE is a self-propelling vacuum cleaner built to Nurdles are tiny virgin plastic pellets of 1mm to 5mm in size, used to manufacture plastic separate plastic – from tiny pieces to 500ml products. Kept small and granular, they are easy to transport and add in manufacturing bottles – from sand. processes. But just like a ruptured bean bag, a spill of nurdles is nearly impossible to Version one, which debuted in 2020, looks manage and clean thoroughly. Instead, nurdle plastics are small enough to go into sand very much like a prototype. A chassis with and be consumed by sea creatures. sizable rubber wheels carries a small silenced Microplastics are similar to nurdles but break away from plastic products, such as when petrol engine, an electric motor to power the washing nylon fabrics. Both pose incredible risks to water ecosystems, and already pollute vacuum process, a gearbox, and two tanks human food and water. that separate different plastics through a

I

FAST FACT

filtering system.

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DID YOU KNOW?

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Fight Climate Change

Eat less or no meat. While a UN report says efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions require we eat less meat, MD of Vegan Goods Market Shaun Robertson says going vegan decreases our carbon footprint by up to 60 per cent. “The high demand for meat and dairy means a direct increase in the demand for more Shaun animals and more Robertson resources.” Robertson says untouched forests, grasslands and wetlands are cleared to grow crops to feed these animals. “By going vegan, you can significantly decrease the amount of land and water used in agriculture, therefore preserving forests and aquatic ecosystems.”

(without leaving home)

Despite COVID-19, 2020 was recorded as one of the hottest years on the planet. Here are a few pointers to help play your part to redress that – without getting out of your tracksuit pants. By NIA MAGOULIANITI-MCGREGOR Himkaar

Singh Reduce methane-creating food waste, says The Compost Kitchen’s Himkaar Singh. Rotting food produces methane gas, a common greenhouse gas, he says. “Rather recycle. You can use a specialised service or try your own vermicomposting using composting earthworms. These accelerate composting of organic kitchen waste, resulting in a biologically rich compost which enhances soil health.” Even flat-dwellers can participate. “A home composting bin takes up only a little space, is easy to take care of and doesn’t smell.”

Melanie Farrell

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CL IM AT E

Get water-wise, says eco-conscious living promoter and editor of Green Route ZA Melanie Farrell. “Replace your water-guzzling lawn with indigenous plants which thrive on natural rainfall.” Farrell suggests installing a grey-water system which funnels used water into the garden through a filtration system. Cut down on water consumption inside the house, she says, by installing dual-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads. “Replace bathing – typically using 100 litres of water – with a two-minute shower, which uses about 20 litres.” Also, says Farrell, research energy efficiency ratings before buying new appliances. Joy Phala

Grow your own greens says Organic Kitchen Gardens founder, Joy Phala. “Typically, you only harvest what you need to cook for a single meal, meaning food spends less time in storage and tends to not be discarded.” It takes less water to grow food at home than in conventional agriculture and, she says, “you’re more likely to grow food organically at home, avoiding synthetic chemicals ending up in our waterways”.

Insulate your home, says ecological architectural consultant Das Lyon. “Thermal insulation is an excellent way to conserve heat in winter and coolness in summer by keeping a constant temperature. You can save about 30 per cent of your heating and cooling costs this way.” He’s a fan of double glazing, which reduces thermal heat gain and loss. Lyon says skylights, especially on the south sides of the building, “can bring in a ‘cooler’ light and prevent overheating”. Make them openable, suggests Lyon, to let out excess heat in summer. Das Lyon

DID YOU KNOW?

SA’s residential sector consumes about 27 per cent of the country’s total energy generation (which is largely produced by polluting coal-fired power stations), accounts for about 60 per cent of municipal water and sanitation sales, and generates about 44 per cent of the municipal waste stream. SOURCE: https://www.wri.org/ blog/2020/02/greenhouse-gas-emissionsby-country-sector

Green Scene The World Resources Institute reported that in 2019, CO2 emissions per person for South Africa were 8.52 tonnes. (Less than the United States, which comes in at 18 tonnes per capita, but still high.) But who are these CO2 producers? A recent study by Sustainable Energy Africa on CO2 emissions per South African household showed high income households are most likely to have a high carbon footprint when it comes to energy use within a home. Higher-income homes will have more energy-guzzling appliances – a bigger fridge, washing machine, tumble dryer, maybe an air conditioner, and of course geysers and pool pumps, which are major energy suckers in South Africa’s more affluent homes. Emissions by income (in 2020)

tCO2e/household Business as usual

Efficient scenario

Low income

1.8

1.7

Medium income

4.3

4.0

High income

5.3

4.8

Very high income

5.7

5.1

* Lower income: From R0 to around R5 000 monthly. * Medium income: Between R5 000 and R20 000 monthly. * High income: Ranges from about R20 000 to R80 000 monthly. * Very high income: Any amount over R80 000 monthly.

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A DV ER T ORI A L

SAMIL PRODUCTS PROVIDE PEACE OF MIND FOR CONSUMERS SAMIL is now RMS-certified, providing buyers with a guarantee that the goods they purchase are responsibly sourced and have not harmed the environment

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here is no doubt that the consumer of today makes purchase decisions based no longer on price alone, but more so on their understanding of the ethicality of the manufacturing process. They want to know that the goods they intend to purchase have not harmed the environment in any way. This concern extends further to the welfare of the people producing the items and, in SAMIL’s case, to the treatment of the animals that have produced the raw materials for the goods.

“The need to hold a RMS certification is driven by the new environmentally consciousness consumer.” – Michael J. Brosnahan – CEO of Samil Natural Fibres

This is why a Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS) certification is critical to all associated with the mohair value chain. It recognises farmers and organisations that take a responsible approach to manage the land, animals and production. For SAMIL, holding RMS certification is non-negotiable. As the company is already well-structured and organised, meeting the requirements for certification was relatively easygoing. The implementation task team was spearheaded by Evert Vermeulen, head of the Mohair Tops Trading Division. Michael J. Brosnahan – CEO of Samil Natural Fibres says: “The need to hold a RMS certification is driven by the new environmentally consciousness consumer. In my view, the RMS is not a fad, here today and gone tomorrow, it is reality and is here to stay. Very soon, mohair that has not been produced by an RMSaccredited farmer will no longer be marketable. The young consumer of today is not prepared to purchase goods that impact the world environment and, I am sure, that they will instil their values in their children.”

ALL-ENCOMPASSING SERVICE WITH A SUSTAINABLE VALUE CHAIN

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AMIL Natural Fibres is a dynamic organisation with more than 30 years of experience in the South African mohair and textile industry. SAMIL specialises in mohair–related products and has a fully integrated value chain including farming, processing, trading, yarn spinning and dyeing. It has a global customer base and the unique ability to offer its customers a range of natural fibre products that are traceable back to their origin. SAMIL offers an all-encompassing service – from growing its own fibres or sourcing them from companies within the group to all mohair processes – enabling it to meet all of its clients’ yarn and natural fibre needs.

The added beauty of mohair is that it’s a renewable, natural resource; providing a sustainable production chain between animal and human while contributing to the long-term prosperity of the Karoo region.

SAMIL Combing is structured in such a way as to accommodate small, exclusive lots on a separate production line; this enables its customers to be in touch with the real people behind the product. SAMIL endeavours to take an organised and sustained effort across its divisions to achieve meaningful improvements in both the social responsibility and traceability sectors.

TRACEABILITY Traceability, by definition, is the ability to verify an origin or course of development that may be found or followed. In 1987, SAMIL established its own combing plant in Berlin, outside East London in the Eastern Cape. Unlike many processing plants around the world, SAMIL Combing focuses on and is committed to processing only mohair.

For more information: +27 (0) 41 486 2433 yarns@samil.co.za | sales@samil.co.za www.samil.co.za

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AGRICULT URE

Farming smarter Food production is the largest contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, desertification and soil degradation, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF). Yet, South Africa’s food demand is expected to double in the next 30 years, as the population reaches an estimated 73 million. By ANÉL LEWIS

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n its Agri-Food Systems Report (2019), the WWF acknowledges that farmers often continue with industrial-scale production using commercial agricultural practices to cover recurring debt, despite the environmental impact. But Professor Mark Swilling, co-director of the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at the University of Stellenbosch, argues: “If farmers do not make the shift to sustainable farming, the soils they depend on will be depleted to the point where they will no longer be economically viable. Farmers will be using more pesticides to produce less and less. It’s a switch they simply can’t afford not to make.” Professor James Blignaut, resource and environmental

economist with the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University, says farming practices that lead to soil degradation necessitate a high and increasing dependency on purchased inputs that will lead to a decline in profit margins. It will also render the farm more vulnerable to external shocks such as climate variations. “It is in the interest of the farm, the farmer and the country for farmers to switch to nature-smart methods of farming.” Prof Mark Swilling

Yield gap Swilling argues that, if done properly, sustainable agriculture increases the yield and is more financially viable over the long term. By reducing tillage, for example, farmers are able to slow nutrient loss in the soil.

“Tillage is arguably the most degrading agricultural practice, as any soil disturbance triggers the downward spiral of soil degradation, starting with the removal of soil cover and the loss of soil organic carbon,” says Dr Hendrik Smith, conservation agriculture facilitator at ASSET Research and the Maize Trust. The focus needs to shift from yield to profit, adds Blignaut. “It is profit that keeps a farmer on the farm, not yield. A degraded farm, even if it has a high yield supported by massive synthetic inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides, can be an unprofitable farm leading to spiralling debt and abandonment. Switching to climate-smart conservation and regenerative farming techniques will save money and improve profitability from virtually the first year of conversion.”

Incentives Mkhululi Silandela, who manages the agricultural programme at the WWF, says much work is needed when it comes to public-sector incentives for sustainable farming. “There are some private incentives in South Africa, but there should be more public incentives.” Without government support, it is the retailers and suppliers who advocate for sustainably produced goods, says Swilling.

Sustainable Foods

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griculture, while essential for food production, places a massive strain on the environment. The Southern Africa Food Lab says 80 per cent of South Africa’s surface land is used for farming, resulting in permanent soil degradation and biodiversity loss. This means that the food we eat has a direct impact on the environment. But it’s also the food that we are not eating that can be detrimental to the planet. According to the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa, about 30 per cent of agricultural production goes to waste each year. ›

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AGRICULT URE

Meat production has a significant impact on the environment, accounting for 18 per cent of global gaseous emissions. This is particularly worrying considering that, according to the WWF, the consumption of processed meat in South Africa has increased by close to 46 per cent since 1994. In South Africa, agriculture contributes about 9 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, with livestock contributing up to 6 per cent of this. Beef cattle are the worst offenders. Meat and dairy are also among the most water-intensive products. A plant-based diet

can reduce food-based greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent and agricultural land use by 40 per cent, says the WWF. However, fruit and vegetable crops have a sizeable water footprint, as they require considerable irrigation. Mkhululi Silandela, who manages the agricultural programme at WWF, acknowledges that farmers are often driven into adopting Mkhululi certain crops, despite their Silandela environmental impact. They

are responsible for adopting practices that will mitigate these risks. But there also needs to be a shift in consumer behaviour. “Consumers can drive sustainable farming by asking retailers for sustainably produced food that is good for the environment, and for their health. They must demand products that will place less pressure on our natural resources,” says Silandela. The WWF also recommends making responsible food choices, supporting local suppliers and only buying as much as is needed and preferably only products that are in season.

“Consumers can drive sustainable farming by asking retailers for sustainably produced food that is good for the environment, and for their health.” – Mkhululi SILANDELA, WWF

How free range is free range?

DID YOU KNOW?

If global food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally after the US and China, and its water footprint would be equivalent to three times the volume of Lake Geneva. Source: Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa Food Safety Initiative

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DID YOU KNOW?

About 10 million tonnes or 30 per cent of local agricultural production in South Africa is wasted each year, which is equivalent to an estimated R60-billion a year or about 2 per cent of GDP. Source: Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa Food Safety Initiative

INNOVATION Farmers are turning to technology to manage their crops and production more effectively. Drone technology and artificial intelligence are being used to support “climate-smart” precision farming applications. With GPS technology, they can assist with the monitoring and mapping of yield and crop information. Cattle farmers, for example, benefit from an aerial view of water and pasture availability when making decisions about moving their herds. Aerobotics is a South African agritech startup that allows farmers around the world to monitor their crops and reduce their footprint, without affecting their overall yield. It also uses drone imagery for the early detection of pests and disease. The subscription-based company provides intelligent tools to help farmers manage their crops. Source: https://www.avca-africa.org/newsroom/ member-news/2020/fmo-and-africinvest-invest-inagritech-startup-aerobotics/

IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED

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ree range has become somewhat of a buzzword, and consumers will usually pay more for products that carry the label, but can they rest assured that the meat and poultry they are eating is really free range? When it comes to free-range chicken products, the answer is a resounding no, says Jeanne Groenewald, CEO of Elgin Free Range Chicken. “While the Department of Agriculture and the South African Poultry Association do have guidelines, there is no one monitoring whether these have been applied.” Without a standard specification for what constitutes “free range” in South Africa, there is a huge amount of abuse of the term, says

Groenewald. Nkhanedzeni Nengovhela, of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, says the South African Meat Industry Company (SAMIC) approves and monitors the minimum standards for free-range and grass-fed certification. Contrary to the notion that free range is too expensive for the average consumer, Groenewald explains that effective farming methods have kept the price premium at not more than 10-12 per cent. If one considers that these products have not been injected with brine and other products to bulk up the mass, the consumer is getting more value for their money in terms of rand per kilo. “So, our products are in fact cheaper,” she adds. The advantage of free-range production in the meat industry is that farmers can fetch premium prices from these products, and meet the demand for export to highend markets in Europe, says Nengovhela. However, free-range beef farmers need to be innovative in adapting to climate change. Currently free-range beef constitutes about 6 per cent of the market, although there is a demand for more from particularly higher-LSM consumers, says Nengovhela. Consumers need to educate themselves and challenge suppliers who claim that their products are free range, concludes Groenewald.

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A DV ER T ORI A L

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

Growing green is going green From food security to food quality, how our food is produced faces growing consumer scrutiny

M

adumbi Sustainable Agriculture is pioneering the change around how food is grown through its biorational farming methods and bioproducts.

THE FEAR OF EMPTY SHELVES Health and wellness have been projected into the spotlight of every home across the globe since the onset of COVID-19. As we all reassessed our vulnerability from the confines of heavy lockdown, new trends, new buying habits, and “a new normal” emerged. It would seem this is just in time too. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, food production needs to increase by 70 per cent to feed a burgeoning world population. This growing baseline need is also set against the backdrop of climate change, shrinking arable land, and limited natural resources. These challenges demand an accelerated change in sustainable farming practices to maximise yields, achieve resource efficiency, and preserve natural resources.

RECONNECTING WITH OUR ROOTS

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Today’s consumers are more environmentally conscientious than ever before. This means that farmers need to pivot to stay relevant in the eyes of their market. Their challenge is to

achieve green aims, increase profitability, and keep prices affordable for consumers. COVID-19 has also accelerated the trend to “reconnect” with food by supporting local growers and choosing their seasonal fruits and vegetables. This includes an increased desire by consumers to be informed about and approve of production methods. The responsible use of chemicals and an understanding of how agriculture impacts our environment is constantly in the public eye.

HEALTHY EATING FROM THE GROUND UP “Safe” eating in the context of COVID-19 has also been brought to the fore, highlighting the essential role that food plays in good health. This extends to how food is grown. Consumers are driving the change towards natural elements and processes in food production. As such, they are the motivating force for the incorporation of biological crop production and pest protection solutions.

LANDING A RANGE OF BENEFITS FOR THE EARTH

number of agricultural applications – and home gardens – to great effect. Biologicals support growers in building bioactive soils, maximising soil and plant health and providing proven pest management solutions with minimal impact on the environment – and everyone in it. Biologicals complement conventional crop protection, ensuring healthy, sustainable food production for all.

GROWING A GREEN FUTURE Madumbi is proud of its biological product range that is “Backed by Science, Loved by Nature”. Its “living product solutions” work with nature – rather than against it – to create robust, healthy plants that are less susceptible to disease. The benefits of sustainability are far-reaching, these include the increased viability of plants that are naturally more stress-tolerant and have reduced pest and disease control requirements. Significant strides in the commercialisation of bioinsecticides and biofungicides have resulted in solutions that are highly effective and increasingly user-friendly to apply in fields.

IT’S IN OUR NATURE TO CARE Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a widely recognised agricultural approach to pest and disease management. IPM refers to a systemsbased approach that aims at minimising the use of chemicals while maximising plant health and environmental biodiversity. Biological solutions have a growing and critical role to play in effective IPM programmes. Madumbi is proud to be leading the change.

Biological solutions are growing in demand across all crop types – and KwaZulu-Natalbased Madumbi is leading the charge for change. Effective, safe, locally produced biologicals are being used in an increasing

Farmers need to pivot to stay relevant in the eyes of their market. Their challenge is to achieve green aims, increase profitability, and keep prices affordable for consumers.

For more information: marketing@madumbi.co.za www.madumbi.co.za https://www.facebook.com/MadumbiSA/

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S E E sustainability

S ocial

E nvironmental

E conomic

an array of renewable and versatile end-products. Sustainable, renewable and locally produced — Forestry South Africa

www.forestrysouthafrica.co.za

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WOOD A ND PA PER

Paper and pulp milling

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orldwide, the demand for timber products continues to grow and is outstripping the supply, says Hlengiwe Ndlovu, project manager at World Wildlife Fund South Africa. “Globally, the industry is looking at a mechanism to intensify production on existing plantation land sustainably. With limited scope for increasing forested areas in many countries, South Africa included, it is important to become more efficient in producing timber from the existing landholding to meet the demand for timber products.” The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that timber plantations represent only 7 per cent of the planet’s forest area but provide 50 per cent of the wood for industrial purposes. According to Ronald Heath, research and protection director at Forestry South Africa, South Africa currently produces about 16.4 million tonnes of timber per annum from its commercial plantations. Heath says that approximately 120 million trees are felled annually for this purpose. “In South Africa, all areas harvested within a year are replanted in the same year, which makes the resources it produces both renewable and sustainable, ensuring that the industry can continue to meet future demand and our plantations and forests can continue their important role in carbon sequestration,” says Health. When looking at the carbon footprint of wood products, it’s important

Why wood is still one of the most

sustainable materials THANDO PATO looks at the timber industry and how it works to ensure that its value chain is also ecological to understand carbon sequestration, explains Jane Molony, executive director of the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA). “Trees, through photosynthesis, use carbon dioxide (CO2), light and water to grow. They absorb CO2 from the air, storing the carbon in their leaves, trunks, branches and roots, and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. This storage is called carbon sequestration. That carbon stays locked up for life in all wood products, whether solid timber in a table or a roof truss, or paper in a notebook, printer paper or a cardboard box, which is why recycling paper is so important Hlengiwe because it keeps the Ndlovu carbon locked up even longer,” she says. Heath says global demand for sustainably produced wood-based products has made products carrying the logo and certification from international certification programmes such as the Forest Stewardship Council

“Globally, the industry is looking at a mechanism to intensify production on existing plantation land sustainably.” – Hlengiwe Ndlovu, WWF South Africa

(FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) fetch a premium. “It is therefore in forest product companies’ best interests to ensure that their forests are sustainably managed in such a way as to maximise productivity and social benefits while at the same time reducing the environmental impacts to meet certification requirements. International certification systems, in many ways, provide this balance by promoting sustainable forest management.” Over 80 per cent of South Africa’s plantations are certified, making us the country with the highest degree of certification in the world, he says.

“It is in forest product companies’ best interests to ensure that their forests are sustainably managed.” – Ronald Heath, Forestry South Africa

Ronald Heath

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WOOD A ND PA PER

The sustainability of paper and pulp mills

South Africa’s sustainably managed forests

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he South African forest landscape stretches over five provinces and covers 1.7 million hectares, says Ronald Heath of Forestry South Africa. “However, only 1.19 million hectares are commercially planted, the rest remains natural and semi-natural ecosystems that include grasslands, indigenous forests and,

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(steam and electricity) using biomass and coal as fuel. Co-generation is a more efficient use of fuel as the heat from the generation of electricity is used to produce steam. Biomass is regarded as a renewable and carbon-neutral fuel and has a lower carbon footprint than coal. Many mills generate more than half of their energy needs from biomass fuel. “Since there is very little water loss attributable to electricity generated via Jane co-generation, this further Molony implies that this method of power generation is a suitable option, within the scarce water context of

“At our mills, water is used in large quantities but is also recycled and reused in a closed-loop system.” – Jane Molony, PAMSA

in the Cape, fynbos that creates a network of natural habitats running through the forests.” Heath says that approximately 105 000 hectares are harvested annually. The commercial forestry sector does not use indigenous trees to produce paper and wood but relies on three non-native genera: pine; wattle and eucalyptus. According to Hlengiwe Ndlovu of WWF, South Africa has one of the highest sustainable certifications globally, with 80 per cent of plantation forestry certified by the FSC, PEFC and the South African Forest Assurance Scheme (SAFAS). “Over and above certification, the industry also subscribes to a number of best practice guidelines and complies with national legislative requirements.” Unlike commercial agricultural crops, plantations rely solely on rainwater, says Heath. “Forestry is responsible for around 5 per cent of the total amount of water used by agriculture in South Africa. Plantations are not irrigated, so the state incurs no costs for building dams, purification plants, pipelines or irrigation schemes. Furthermore, the industry pays for its rainwater use in the form of the Stream Water Reduction Levy.

“For its 5 per cent, forestry provides 17.9 per cent of the 835 000 agricultural jobs and around 19 per cent of the agri-forestry sector annual GDP. These figures illustrate the water efficiencies of the sector.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Cellulose is a major component of wood. Dissolved wood pulp, a purified form of cellulose, can be spun into viscose and lyocell textile fibres used in fashion and home decorating textiles. It can also be regenerated into a sponge. Wood is also responsible for carboxymethyl cellulose or microcrystalline cellulose. Exceptionally versatile, this fine powder binds active medicinal ingredients and vitamins into palatable tablets. It is also used as a stabiliser emulsion in low-fat yoghurt and lipstick, acts as an abrasive or exfoliant in cosmetics, and an anti-caking agent in washing powders and food. Source: Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa

IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED

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ur sector has been measuring its environmental performance for several years and continuously makes improvements to drive efficiency and cleaner production,” says Jane Molony of PAMSA. From an energy perspective, the paper and pulp industry uses both fossil fuels (petrol, diesel, oil, and coal) and biomass-based fuels like black liquor and tree residues. “Black liquor” is a by-product from digesting pulpwood chips in the chemical pulping process. According to Molony, the industry has for many years been focused on efficient, renewable and sustainable energy utilisation. Many mills generate their own energy through co-generation

South Africa. It is important to note, however, that although the pulp and papermaking industry does generate a significant portion of its own electricity, it presently remains reliant on the national grid for the balance of its power needs,” explains Molony. When it comes to water, Molony says there are three key areas where water is used in the paper value chain: plantation forests (rainfall only); pulp and papermaking; and paper recycling. “At our mills, water is used in large quantities but is also recycled and reused in a closed-loop system. A large proportion of water that is extracted for the various processes is returned to watercourses or to agricultural irrigation systems, and only once the effluent has been treated in accordance with regulated water quality standards. Any excess steam is also released and returns to the atmosphere.” Molony says all PAMSA members have been implementing water reduction and efficiency programmes and that the Department of Water and Sanitation heavily regulates raw water consumption. Regarding international best practice when it comes to sustainability, she says that all mills have a chain of custody system in place so that they know where any timber is sourced. Support is given to the smaller growers, to help them with compliance, she adds.

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The CRDC supports environmental cleanup programmes

PROF IL E: CRDC Kerb pour test

One man’s waste… An innovative company is turning plastic waste into building material, and it’s got big plans for South Africa. By ANTHONY SHARPE

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IMAGES: SUPPLIED

anadian-born builder and entrepreneur Donald Thomson knows a lot about reusing plastic. A 2010 beach cleanup in an impoverished part of his adopted home of Costa Rica led to the creation of an award-winning company that manufactured plastic bottles which could be flattened into building tiles. As the project progressed and he started investigating ways to tackle the waste stream at a greater scale, Thomson says he began looking into concepts like regenerative design and the circular economy. “We developed our own business model named REAP, which stands for recover, enrich, appreciate, prosper – a pure biomimicry model.” “Only three types of plastic are typically recycled,” he explains. “PET plastic, from which plastic bottles are made; high-density polyethylene; and a little polypropylene. The rest of it doesn’t get recycled; it ends up in landfills or gets incinerated. We wanted to create a product that could sequester waste for a long time, while making it appreciate in value, and at the end of it all be recyclable.”

Aggregating waste Thomson and his partners started the Center for Regenerative Design and Collaboration (CRDC), with the goal of creating a sand

particle to be used as a building aggregate. “We’re from the construction industry, so we designed this product for the construction industry.” The particle had to simulate sand perfectly and adhere well to concrete. “We patented the rough, pumice-like shape for the particle. It has little pieces of calcium hydroxide and ash in it, which chemically stick to cement. “The process involves extruding a blob of comingled plastic, blasting it with vapour to create an open-cell form, then breaking it into the right size and Brett Jordaan gradation, just as you would with rock.” The result is a product called RESIN8 – so named because it uses all the plastic resins 1-7, and is itself a sort of eighth. “As soon as we knew we could make a stronger, lighter, visually benign product out of recycled material, we knew we had something to offer the concrete industry.” Thomson says that as enormous as the plastic industry is, the construction industry is so much larger. “If we took all the plastic manufactured in the world and turned it into our aggregate, that would account for only 2.8 per cent of what is used in construction.”

The South African connection

Donald Thomson

Thomson entered a joint venture with a Costa Rican concrete company before his travels on the green building speaking circuit brought him to South Africa.

Cement blocks created from RESIN8

“I have a specific interest in social housing, and there is such need in the townships in South Africa, so we tried to figure out what we could do to make a real impact there.” CRDC set up a pilot plant in Cape Town, and Thomson says the project has gained a lot of momentum in South Africa, and they’re in the process of establishing a full-scale plant with a major local construction company. CEO of the company, Brett Jordaan, says CRDC is focusing on multiple sectors in South Africa, including social housing, large-scale infrastructure projects and roads. “We have engaged with the Western Cape government so far and found them very amenable towards collaboration, especially regarding possibilities whereby CRDC can source waste from underserved communities, thereby assisting localised environmental remediation and job creation. “We are sourcing post-consumer waste from waste management companies, post-industrial waste directly from some commercial entities and environmental waste from NGOs, and we are currently engaging with entities in the informal sector to help us build up and maximise supply from under-served communities.”

ARE WE RUNNING OUT OF SAND? Sand’s role as an essential component of concrete has made it the world’s secondmost-consumed natural resource after water; in 2015 the International Monetary Fund estimated that the construction industry worldwide uses a staggering 40 billion tonnes of sand annually, a figure that will only have grown. According to a report in the journal Nature, as desert sand granules are too smooth, most construction sand is mined from rivers, with potentially wide-ranging implications for ecology and the billions of people living near rivers. Growing demand for sand has also fuelled a black market, with illegal mining taking place in 70 countries.

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Compared to the previous year our 2

Co Emissions decreased by 2.9%*

while our business operations continued to grow. *Based on scope 1 and 2 emissions

SUSTAINING TOMORROW, TODAY Facing the multiple global crises of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing food insecurity, SPAR is taking proactive steps towards a better tomorrow. Our sustainability tagline: “My SPAR, Our Tomorrow” is our public commitment to improving the combined future of our business, society and planet. SPAR is on a mission to find long-term economic solutions for a more inclusive society while reducing our environmental impact. SPAR strives to create future-forward food systems that provide safe, affordable and nutritious food for all. We work with our suppliers to ensure that we adopt sustainable farming and procurement practices that support local communities and protect our natural environment: • SPAR Rural Hub initiatives empower small scale, local farmers to enter the formal retail world by equipping them with skills, knowledge and support. • Working in partnership with WWF-SASSI since 2014, in an effort to protect our oceans and its sea life, we have transformed our seafood procurement to ensure sustainability. • SPAR has committed to halving food waste by 2030 while increasing food utilisation and creating secondary food markets. SPAR is embracing tomorrow by reducing its impact on the planet and increasing the sustainability of its operations in line with the National Development Plan and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. As such SPAR is: • Part of the global shift from a linear to a circular economy to ensure our packaging never becomes waste. • Providing 100% recyclable paper carrier bags made from a renewable resource. • Committed to only using 100% recycled and recyclable plastic carrier bags – these have resulted in 4000 tonnes of plastic waste being diverted from landfills annually and a 40% reduction in the carbon footprint of their production. • Aligned with the Paris Agreement to become a carbon neutral organisation by 2050. • Shifting to more renewable energy - we have installed solar panels on all SPAR warehouses and reduced our greenhouse gas emissions. • Committed to reducing water usage year-on-year through investing in water efficient technology as well as collecting and using rainwater and recycled water. • Investing in the clearing of natural waterways, such as the removal of plastic pollution from rivers.

SPAR’s 100% recycled plastic bags have resulted in

4000 TONNES of used plastic being diverted from landfills annually.

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Starting with our own organisation, we are working to ensure our actions contribute to the betterment of society, our employees and our planet. As a global retail brand, we acknowledge that we are a part of the problem and therefore need to be a part of the solution.

COMMITTED TO A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

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RE TA IL

DRIVING POSITIVE CHANGE Compostable bags versus paper. Imported organic veg versus locally grown. The shopping aisles present myriad options for environmentally conscious consumers – but are South Africans making the right choices, and how easy is it to do so? LISA WITEPSKI reports

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ichael Baretta of social-cause marketing agency [dot]GOOD cites the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020, which surveyed 27 500 Millennials and Gen Zers in 43 countries, including South Africa: “The research showed that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are eager ‘to drive positive change in their communities and around the world’.” David Parry-Davies of the Eco-Logic Awards agrees. “We can see this shift especially in the personal product industry. In 2018, products that had a sustainability claim on-pack accounted for 16.6 per cent of the market, up from 14.3 per cent in 2013, and delivered nearly R1.7-trillion in sales, up 29 per cent from 2013,” he says. He notes further that “products like toilet paper, tissues, laundry care and floor cleaner which were marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than those that were not”. Many brands have leapt to the challenge, including some global

heavy hitters, like Unilever and PepsiCo. Baretta also commends South African retailers like Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworths for adapting their product offerings. James Lonsdale, group sustainability manager at the Spar Group, says that the retailer’s changes have been driven largely by a notable increase in demand for vegan products. It is also responding to growing queries about the group’s plans for handling environmental no-nos such as plastic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, demand for sustainable goods has been most prevalent amongst higher income earners. However, Sanjeev Raghubir, group sustainability manager at Shoprite Michael Baretta Holdings, points out that lower income consumers are also displaying a growing awareness, largely because they often bear the brunt of environmental disasters. The Cape drought of 2018, and its impact on livelihoods, is a prime example.

“In 2018, products that had a sustainability claim on-pack accounted for 16.6 per cent of the market, up from 14.3 per cent in 2013.” – Michael Baretta, [dot]GOOD

How do South African consumers measure up?

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hile it’s commendable for consumers to seek out sustainable products, Shoprite’s Sanjeev Raghubir points out that they need to be aware that simply labelling a product as “eco” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sustainable. There are many factors to consider, from how much water is used during the Sanjeev manufacture of the product, to Raghubir whether the retailer selling it is using energy and disposing of waste responsibly. Lonsdale agrees: for example, he says, while many consumers would prefer to take home goods in bagasse bags (made from sugar cane), they may be deterred by the fact that the bags are manufactured in Brazil and shipped to India before landing here. In an ideal world, consumers would weigh up their choices according to four aspects, says Candace Gilowey, head of marketing – South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa at Levi Strauss & Co: Has the product been manufactured ethically, with workers paid a fair wage? Are manufacturing processes sustainable? Are products made for longevity? And do they lend themselves to the circular economy? David Parry-Davies of the Eco-Logic Awards admits that it’s not always easy for South African consumers to find products that tick all the boxes, especially in view of market pressures and consumer awareness still in its infancy. However, it may help to search for products bearing these signs, says Lara Maré, co-founder of Rush Nutrition: • Energy Star: Indicates homes and buildings, appliances, computers, lightbulbs, copiers, printers, furnaces and many other products that meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines to help save energy and money, and protect the environment.

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RE TA IL • Fair Trade Certified: Demonstrates that the farmers and workers have been paid fair wages and have opportunities for better healthcare, housing and education. • Forest Stewardship Council: Shows the product was sourced from forests managed in an environmentally responsible way, and that products like timber, paper and furniture are made sustainably. • Green Seal: For more than 25 years, this non-profit, science-based organisation has developed certification standards to minimise the environmental and health impacts related to cleaning products, coffee, paint and windows. • Leaping Bunny: Certifies that companies have not tested their products on animals during any stage of development. • Proudly South African: Indicates that the product was manufactured by a company committed to quality and service, and that it satisfies criteria for local content, environment and labour practices. • Rainforest Alliance: Their little green frog is a symbol of environmental, social, and economic sustainability and can be found on farm and forest products around the world.

WHERE TO FIND THEM David Parry-Davies of the Eco-Logic Awards suggests conscious consumers check out these outlets: • A good source of environmentally friendly technologies and products is available at www.sustainable.co.za. • For natural food, health and body-related products, go to Faithful to Nature. www.faithful-to-nature.co.za. • For consultants and other environmental goods and services suppliers, go to the directory section of www.enviropaedia.com. • Environmentally friendly products, services, projects and community efforts are featured and promoted at the annual Eco-Logic Awards. www.eco-logicawards.com

THE TRUE COSTS OF CHEAP FASHION Abigel Sheridan of Chic Mamas Do Care notes that each item bought on impulse takes a significant toll on the environment:

Is fast fashion the death of sustainable style?

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ust a few years ago, a seasonal wardrobe top-up was a big deal. Then international brands entered the South African marketplace, bringing with them a new model that hinged on a new window display – and new garments available in-store – every week. This paved the way for impulse buying, points out Emma Longden of Sitting Pretty, a South African label that uses natural fabric only. Emma “People are driven by Longden price, and if the price is right, they’ll buy without thinking of what goes into making a product.” More’s the pity, laments Abigel Sheridan of Chic Mamas Do Care. Sheridan set up the store, which sells donated fashion

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items and gives the proceeds to educational causes, because she was concerned about the impacts of the fashion industry. Fashion is the world’s second-biggest polluter, she points out. The industry’s list of charges is lengthy: there’s its significant water usage, the toxic waste generated, and the emission of greenhouse gases, including nitrogen dioxide, which does far more damage than carbon dioxide. Longden is also concerned about the impact of synthetic fabrics on the water cycle, as microscopic plastic particles are directed towards our rivers and oceans with every water cycle. Hence her decision to focus on natural fabrics only. It’s not an easy path, though, as many consumers are concerned by factors such as the creasing that is part of natural fabrics and – perhaps inevitably – price. Another obstacle in the path of the South African fashion industry’s journey to sustainability is the lack

of readily available fabrics. While many local designers are trying their best to work with fabrics like Tencel and rayon, these are far more accessible overseas. That said, Frances Edwards of House of Cinnamon – which bucks the fast fashion trend by producing a limited number of items each year – says that the constraints facing local designers actually contribute to their sustainability credentials. “Because we have tight budgets, we’ll make an effort to ensure there is little waste, tucking away leftovers that can be used next season.” She adds that awareness is growing amongst consumers, too, with many local consumers either turning away from fast fashion or including more sustainable pieces in their wardrobes. Sheridan, meanwhile, is heartened to see increasing interest in a circular economy. The benefits of this model are significant, she points out. Apart from keeping items out of landfills and ensuring that nothing is wasted, exchanging second-hand clothes can also build community.

“People are driven by price, and if the price is right, they’ll buy without thinking of what goes into making a product.” – Emma Longden, Sitting Pretty

IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED

• It takes 20 000 litres of water to make one pair of jeans and a T-shirt. “Consider that during the 2018 drought, Capetonians were able to use just 50 litres of water per day, or that 750 million people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water.” • The textile industry is responsible for 10 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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A DV ER T ORI A L

DECLARE AND SHARE

FOR A BETTER TOMORROW Enviro-friendly and innovative labelling assists consumers to make better choices when it comes to workplace furnishings and accessories, says KIM KOWALSKI, Formfunc Studio director and co-founder

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any of us spend a lot of time checking the labels of the food, liquids and nutritional ingredients we put into our bodies, but how much time do we spend thinking about the stuff that goes into the products and commodities we buy for our home, living and workspaces? Humanscale®, a globally recognised international manufacturer and supplier of ergonomic chairs, sit stand workstations and other ergonomic office accessories to the southern African residential, corporate and hospitality sectors, is a company that is not just thinking about this, but is also proactively doing something about it. We spoke to Formfunc Studio director and co-founder Kim Kowalski Kim Kowalski, Humanscale’s exclusive southern African distributor, about how Humanscale is helping its customers make better choices when it comes to creating simpler, healthier work and living spaces that can benefit our environment.

1. Tell us a bit more about the approach and philosophy that has been adopted by Humanscale?

IMAGES: SUPPLIED

More and more people are becoming concerned about the environment, especially the impact of their buying and consumption habits on our natural resources and the impact on people and communities on our planet. We too are concerned about the environment. Together with Humanscale, we believe that understanding and being transparent about the materials used in the products we distribute, is the first step towards driving positive change. This also helps our customers make better decisions and buying choices – and also plays a part in supporting a more sustainable future environment. This is why we support the international Declare Label programme.

2. What is Declare Label and how does it work? The Declare Label is an initiative that was started by the US-based International Living Future Institute (www.living-future.org). It is an NGO that has developed a framework or platform to encourage businesses and manufacturers to choose materials that are responsibly sourced and have a net positive impact on both people and the environment. The Declare Label provides certification of authenticity as to the origin and make-up of the manufactured product. Although the process is voluntary, compliance is reviewed every 12 months to ensure an ongoing commitment to the standards and requirements of certification behind the Declare Label.

3. How is Humanscale incorporating this certification into its product offering? Part of Humanscale’s commitment is to ensure that all its products carry a Declare Label. This label identifies the materials used in the manufacturing process, the packaging and the final product. It is an easy and transparent way for customers to see which materials have been utilised in making the product. Humanscale also works with suppliers to evaluate each material or ingredient used – and where possible, systematically replaces chemicals of high concern with safer alternatives.

4. The Declare Label also gives a lot more information, apart from just the materials used? Yes indeed. The Declare Label shows where the product has come from, what materials have been used in the final design, and where or how the product can be recycled or responsibly disposed of at the end of its life. In essence, Declare takes complex chemical analysis and the sourcing of raw materials information and provides it to consumers in an easy-to-use label.

TOGETHER WITH HUMANSCALE, WE BELIEVE THAT UNDERSTANDING AND BEING TRANSPARENT ABOUT THE MATERIALS USED IN THE PRODUCTS WE DISTRIBUTE, IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS DRIVING POSITIVE CHANGE.

5. How long has Humanscale been using the Declare label? We have been working with our international partner, Humanscale, for the past decade, helping to promote products that create healthier, more productive workspaces. Both companies share a collective vision in considering the resources and processes we use in making and marketing our products. Humanscale has been supporting the Declare programme since its inception – an initiative and commitment actively encouraging suppliers and other manufacturers in the industry to follow. It’s really about finding ways to reduce our ecological footprint, to give back, replenish and continue doing what we can to make a positive environmental and social impact. For us, it not only makes sense, but it is also a way that can help our clients make a difference.

For more information: info@formfunc.co.za www.formfunc.co.za

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Renewable energy for a sustainable future We seek out energy around the globe: in the power of wind and water, in the heat of the sun, in the depths of the earth and, above all, in people.

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ENERGY

for decades. The new Kusile and Medupi power projects have both proven to be exorbitantly expensive and poorly handled. Despite Eskom’s recent successes in recovering stolen funds and rebuilding its revenue-generating structures in the midst of a huge debt burden, decentralising energy supply remains key to sustaining South Africa’s economy.

SMALLER IS SOMETIMES BETTER

No easy transition Although the transition to renewable energy is inevitable, the country’s approach to this process needs strategic planning. By LEVI LETSOKO

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he need to diversify electricity supply in South Africa has lobby groups, public and private entities at loggerheads. Dr Sean Moolman, co-founder of PowerOptimal, identifies job security as one of the biggest challenges halting wide-scale availability of renewable energy. This is partly due to a lack of the skill sets required to manage and build this new innovative approach. “Every major paradigm shift has resulted in whole categories of jobs disappearing in a short space of time,” says Moolman. “The transition to renewable energy is no different. In a country

like South Africa, with high unemployment and inequality, this aspect deserves special attention. That is the origin of the concept of a ‘just energy transition’.” Essentially, the transition to renewable energy needs to accommodate the country’s commitment to job creation. The second challenge and an equal contributor in delaying the transition is the clash between political influences and competing interests in South Africa’s energy sector. The issue around decentralising energy supply is a political hot potato. Coal-fired power stations – expensive by nature but central to Eskom’s operations – have been key energy generators

“Renewables can be viable at a much smaller scale than coal-fired power stations, where economies of scale are dominant.” – Sean Moolman, PowerOptimal

Landfill-to-power generator

“Renewables can be viable at a much smaller scale than coal-fired power stations, where economies of scale are dominant,” says Moolman. “Smaller project size translates into lower capital cost. This makes local and more reliable energy generation, as well as community ownership and participation, possible. It can also enable energy access for remote communities where connection to a national grid is not viable.” According to Moolman, South Africa has enough access to the resources necessary to create forward-thinking renewable energy structures. “Countries with privatised utilities or a mix of private and public utilities such as the USA and Canada have a lower price of electricity than South Africa, even before accounting for purchasing power or median income.” Moolman says a number of factors contribute to South Africa’s rising electricity costs: “Rising debt and an inability to service the debt, creaking infrastructure and a large maintenance backlog, a culture of non-payment from many municipalities and communities, largescale illegal connections, corruption and cable theft.” Dr Sean Moolman

Burning methane to boost power

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IMAGES: SUPPLIED

n an attempt to diversify sources of electricity, South African municipalities have explored various forms of energy production, including burning methane to produce power. While CO2 gets much of the attention when it comes to environmental concerns, methane is a serious threat – varying reports say it is responsible for between 17 and 25 per cent of man-made global warming.

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According to Sustainable Energy Africa director Megan Euston-Brown, South African municipalities including eThekwini and Ekurhuleni have been successful in initiating waste to energy projects that went on to serve as blueprints for other municipalities. “These initial projects have been a steep learning curve for the municipalities and have been impressive. Municipalities in South Africa have a great culture of sharing learnings with each other. There are amazing complexities when a municipality engages in this sort of venture, including finding the finance, contracting the services to build the site, and operating the site.” As noted by Euston-Brown, the Draft National Waste Management Strategy 2019

Workers inspecting the plant

set out a 20-year plan to divert 80 per cent of landfill waste to energy by 2040.

Challenges “Landfill-to-power is not really the business of a municipality, so it introduces the complexity

“Landfill-to-power is not really the business of a municipality, so it introduces the complexity of having to manage a new enterprise.” – Megan Euston-Brown,

of having to manage a new enterprise,” she says. “It means that the waste department has to collaborate with the electricity departments, which can result in lack of clarity around management responsibilities. “This becomes even more complicated if the municipality has entered into a public-private partnership and the private company has to produce to certain targets as part of the contract.”

Sustainable Energy Africa

Wind farms and birds of prey

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ind farms take advantage of an abundant natural resource in South Africa. However, the solution does not come without disadvantages – environmentalists are concerned about the dangers posed to wildlife. A major unintentional impact that wind turbines have on the environment is bird and bat mortality. Environmentalists worldwide are particularly concerned about birds of prey, which are long-lived and reproduce slowly, therefore these mortalities can result in population declines in some species. In South Africa, concerns have arisen over the number of Verreaux’s eagles that have

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been killed by wind turbines. Thankfully, research by Dr Megan Murgatroyd and Associate Professor Arjun Amar has led to a ground-breaking model that frees up more space for wind farms while still protecting these birds of prey. “We attached GPS transmitters to 15 Verreaux’s Eagles to record data on their flight patterns,” explains Murgatroyd. “Using this information, we can now predict their habitat use and map the collision risk at proposed wind energy developments. This can help

“We attached GPS transmitters to 15 Verreaux’s Eagles to record data on their flight patterns.” – Megan Murgatroyd

wind energy developers identify locations for new turbines that do not pose a high risk to this species.” Murgatroyd says that although the current model is intended for Verreaux’s eagles, these methods can be used to build similar models for other at-risk species like the Cape vulture. This research has resulted in a computer program named Vera: Verreaux’s Eagle Risk Assessment. Vera is available for wind developers to use in environmental impact assessments for new developments. Murgatroyd says the program’s predictive model can improve the level of protection afforded to eagles, compared to traditional methods which exclude development from a circular area around nests, while also freeing up more space for development and expediting the assessment process.

An avian casualty of a wind turbine

IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED

Dr Megan Murgatroyd

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Co-creating an engineered impact. Achieving a balance between economic goals, social development objectives, and environmental sustainability is a challenge that Zutari has always risen to.

At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, people from all over the world came together to prioritise a more sustainable approach to development. Zutari has since been expanding our sustainability advisory services to clients in a wide range of industries and geographies. In 2020, we were ranked 30 out of 53 on Fortune magazine’s Change the World list – a testimony of our continued success in helping clients move from good intentions to engineered impact. Although Africa accounts for only 2 to 3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions generated by energy and industrial sources, it is the most vulnerable continent to the impact of climate change. Africa is already experiencing temperature increases of about 0.7°C. With temperatures predicted to rise further, climate change may contribute to decreased food production, floods and the inundation of coastal zones and deltas, the spread of waterborne diseases and the risk of getting malaria, and changes in natural ecosystems and loss of biodiversity. Zutari, as a member of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), is committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We believe that sustainability must focus on meeting the needs of the present, without compromising the future generations’ ability to thrive. We contribute to the City of Johannesburg Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), assisting various African countries in developing national climate change scenarios and risk assessments. We developed the Zutari Asset-to-Asset (ZA2AA) approach to sustainable asset transformation. This approach is a structured methodology to ensure the original asset owner’s financial sustainability, socio-economic sustainability for surrounding communities, and environmental resilience. As part of The Impact Catalyst, we work with Anglo American, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Exxaro, and World Vision South Africa, to create mechanisms that drive large-scale, socio-economic development (SED) initiatives through public-private partnerships (PPPs).

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These initiatives are designed to leverage collaboration across all sectors and scale impacts beyond those of individual participants. The Impact Catalyst has proven that true sustainability requires radical collaboration. Our water-resource specialists offer a complete range of advisory, strategy, planning, analysis, engineering, design and scientific services, complemented by our offering in related disciplines, such as watersensitive design, flooding and drainage, bulk water storage and conveyance, hydropower, and water treatment. We recently assisted the University of Cape Town (UCT) in developing a sustainable water management strategy as part of the university’s journey to become a net-zero water campus by 2050. Zutari helps asset owners to design with long-term sustainability in mind and a better return on investment. In this regard, our environmentally sustainable design (ESD) team is proud to have worked on some of the most sustainable corporate buildings in South Africa, namely the Discovery Place in Sandton and Exxaro’s head office in Centurion. Having been ranked as the number one Design Firm in Africa in the Top 225 International Design Firm Rankings for Africa demonstrates the true value and engineering excellence we bring to the table. Over the past 90 years, Zutari has established a relationship with Africa and its people. Our local knowledge is unrivalled, making us the perfect partner for working on this proud continent. Our international experience and global design centres allow us to bring world-class solutions to our clients.

Let us grow local economies by building infrastructure that lasts. Let us co-create solutions that enable communities, environments, and economies to thrive. Let us shift our thinking to #beyondgreen.

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Tired of seeing green? Think differently about sustainability. Beyond compliance, ratings, and awards. Think innovation catalyst, new opportunities, and wealth creation. Deliberately co-created solutions enabling communities, environments and economies to thrive. A single-minded focus to continually deliver a lasting impact. On every project. For every client. Every single day.

Visit zutari.com/beyondgreen

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IMAGES: SUPPLIED

T ECHNOL OGY

Everyone needs to act

Is the internet bad for

the planet?

The energy required to power our browsing and streaming culture has to come from somewhere, and those power demands are only rising. ANTHONY SHARPE investigates

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s of February, the hit song “Despacito”, by Puerto Rican artist Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee, had been viewed around 7.2 billion times on YouTube since its release in January 2017. According to research by the EURECA Project, funded by the EU, those views consumed more electricity than Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic combined do in a year. Think about that. Despite growing adoption of green power solutions, most electricity generation produces carbon. “People don’t know where their energy and data come from,” says scientist and environmental activist Kaveh Madani. So when they push a button on a laptop or cellphone, “they don’t know what happens, how their device communicates with a data centre somewhere in the world. Processing and transferring data around the world requires energy, which produces emissions and uses other resources, like water and land.” Madani and other researchers have been attempting to quantify the environmental impact of internet usage. “We can argue that carbon emissions are global, but land Kaveh and water impacts are mostly local. Because the internet Madani is a global network, we don’t necessarily understand its implications. We started quantifying this, but there’s a lot of data missing so we’ve had to make many estimations, but it’s a start to try and get people to think about this.” Working from a global median estimate of 32g of CO2 per gigabyte, the researchers found that data storage and transfer create 97 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, and use a staggering 2.6 trillion litres of water. If 1 million videoconference users were simply to switch off their videos when making calls, it would result in a CO2 emissions reduction of 9 023 tonnes – equivalent to powering a town of 36 000 people for a month with coal.

“Many companies don’t release their environmental impact data because it’s not in their business interest, and they aren’t obliged to do so.” – KAVEH MADANI

Service providers need to become more efficient, and curb their emissions and water and land impacts, says Madani. “Many of the industry giants say they’re moving to renewable energy, but even that has water and land footprints. We also need greater transparency from these companies: many of them don’t release their environmental impact data because it’s not in their business interest, and they aren’t obliged to do so. “That’s where regulators come in. They should force service providers to control their emissions, and to audit and report them transparently.” Then there are users, says Madani, who can ask for more transparency, so they can choose products that offer comparable service in terms of cost but have better environmental performances. “We make choices every day that can be changed. We can avoid developing habits that are unsustainable. We want to be cautious about our choices, because it’s not Prof Adrian Friday just about your individual impact; it’s about behaviours that can become viral.”

The devil’s in the device Adrian Friday, a professor at Lancaster University, says that when it comes to quantifying the environmental impact of internet use, it’s important not to forget about the hardware. “If you watch a movie on a phone versus a large TV, you’ll use less direct energy to consume the same content,” says Friday. “Every time you double the resolution, you quadruple the amount of data required. That being said, you’ll probably never use as much energy on your phone as it took to create the thing in the first place.” Our burgeoning culture of convenience makes it hard to place a cap on data usage, says Friday. “People buy an Alexa so they can switch on their lights without getting up. The number of data centres required to power these sorts of Internet of Things devices, machine learning and deep learning, they all create a carbon footprint.” Friday echoes Madani’s sentiment that the lack of transparency from service providers makes quantifying the impact difficult. “It’s very hard to manage a problem that spans so many companies and actors. People should seek to understand more about their footprint, and try to minimise it. Your all-inclusive data contract for your phone says nothing to suggest that there’s an impact to your internet use. “Our incentives don’t line up with sustainability, because we’re driven by commercial imperatives. There needs to be more transparency.”

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T ECHNOL OGY

The true cost of cryptocurrency

Data centre hardware

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ata centres are a bit like the brains of the internet. They comprise servers, which handle information requests by performing computations; storage for data and files; and networks, which allow data to flow in and out of the data centre. All of these use power, and all generate heat, which requires power to regulate, explains Brendan Dysel, head of infrastructure management at Teraco, which provides data centre co-location services, storing data- and network-related hardware for clients. In a co-location environment, says Dysel, the key contributor to energy consumption, other than the IT load itself, is the mechanical load. “The mechanical operating conditions plus design and continuous monitoring of the system are key. In operational facilities, monitoring the environmental conditions at rack level, alongside having systems in place to react automatically to ensure no area of the facility is overcooled, is key to reduce the energy consumption and minimise losses. Fundamental designs look at the life cycle of the proposed equipment and use the ambient conditions and natural resources available to reduce operating costs, but in an environmentally sustainable manner.” Dysel says design and architectural plans are also paramount to reducing energy consumption. “International best practices and environmental sustainability offer a great platform for the design teams to consider during the design phase.” Brendan Dysel

The energy mix “Data centres are power-hungry facilities with a huge international drive towards sustainable operations,” says Dysel. “Unfortunately, South Africa is well behind international trends when it comes to renewable energy and this is one area which will remain a challenge. At this stage, even though energy diversity remains a challenge based on current infrastructure availability, Teraco has completed some renewable energy initiatives by installing photovoltaic plants on some of our facilities to support our offices and general building load.”

“Data centres are power-hungry facilities with a huge international drive towards sustainable operations.” – Brendan DYSEL, TERACO 74

IMAGES: ISTOCK.COM, SUPPLIED

The impact of data centres

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ryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are “mined” by computers performing convoluted calculations called proof-of-work. These computers require energy and, as interest in cryptocurrency grows, so does its environmental footprint. In 2019, researchers including Christian Stoll, of the Center for Energy Markets at the Technical University of Munich, and the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, estimated that Bitcoin alone resulted in about 22 megatonnes of CO2 emissions per year. “Recent estimates building on our study conclude that this number has almost doubled in the meantime – largely driven by the recent price increase, which translates into higher incentives for crypto mining,” says Stoll. The impact of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin varies based on the location of the miners. “Resources to generate electricity and associated CO2 emission vary heavily globally,” says Stoll. “Some regions rely heavily on fossil resources such as coal Christian Stoll and gas, while other regions resort to clean energy sources such as solar photovoltaic and wind at scale.” Bitcoin mining in particular is far less decentralised than it once was, and mining pool data suggests that miners located in Asia contribute more than two thirds of the computing power in the Bitcoin network, explains Stoll. “Asian countries such as China are progressing on decarbonising their energy sector but also rely on fossil power generation today.” Although there is a less energy-intensive blockchain to validate transactions and ownership, known as proof-of-stake, Stoll believes it’s unlikely the community will agree to change its protocols. “Policymakers should not focus on single sources of energy demand. Instead, they should focus on decarbonising the energy sector by accelerating the transition to clean energy resources.”

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