Serving the environment

Winner — Innovation linked to business: EnviroServe

EnviroServ Waste Management’s business is all about being green and this philosophy is central to its primary commercial activities.

The business seeks to provide innovative and sustainable waste management solutions. These include integrated waste management, cleaner production, waste minimisation, process solutions as alternatives to landfill and innovative treatment and disposal options.

It was specifically EnviroServ green pellets used as fertiliser that won the day for the company. Described by the judges of the awards as ‘boundary -pushing”, the company has, in partnership with Brunig Compost Processors, developed a novel method of producing pellets from composted sewage sludge or biosolids, which are then used as an organic fertiliser.

Marketed and traded as Eco-Gro, the composted and compacted bio-solids are designed to help farmers replenish the lost organic content in their soil.

In the process EnviroServe has found an alternative way of dealing with sewage sludge that is better than outdated practices, which can pollute rivers and dams, specifically in Cape Town where its operations are located.

EnviroServ has done this by working within its primary business focus area, which is key to finding favour with the awards’ regulations. Because this innovative form of sewage management means there is no dumping involved, the company has helped to reduce Cape Town’s landfill costs and saved space. This has also helped to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

Another benefit is in transforming the sludge that would otherwise have ended up in the city’s water table. In the past, Brunig used to manufacture high-quality organic nutrient-rich compost from primary sludge, but it would spread secondary sludge over agricultural land as fertiliser. This practice was less desirable, hence a new method to compost both primary and secondary bio-solids was developed.

Part of it is the innovative idea of rendering the compost as pellets with a view to using these pellets –EnviroPellets — as organic agricultural fertiliser. The pellets require no additional transportation cost from farmers.

They can be planted with the individual seeds by the agricultural seed spreader, which represents a further cost saving for the farms. The pellets can also be used as carrier vessels for pesticides.

Biosolids have been a problematic waste because it can contain pathogens that cause odours when dumped in landfills.

The EnviroServ method, however, eliminates odours and kills pathogens because it involves high temperatures during composting.

The project is said to have cost the two partner companies R20-million. But it has led to a 60% increase in jobs with an estimated 20 jobs at each manufacturing site once the operation is rolled out nationally.

Brunig Compost Processors was established in 1996 with an interest in processing sewage sludge into useful products. Since 2004, they have been 30% owned by EnviroServ. Though seen as exceptionally successful by many, the EnviroServ leadership believes that more needs to be done to promote an appreciation of wealth-creation ‘opportunities around waste beneficiation”.

Their 2008 report makes a point that South Africa needs to ‘develop an understanding of waste as a potential resource affording poorer communities and small, medium-sized and micro-enterprises the opportunity for job creation”.

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Percy Mabandu
Percy Mabandu is an art historian and freelance writer based in The city of Tshwane.

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