Ellipse pioneers residential food waste recycling

Ellipse Waterfall is the first residential development to fully support Waterfall City’s sustainable waste management initiative.

At Waterfall City, we care for people and the planet. Caring is not just one of our cornerstones, but part of our DNA, embodied through everything that is being designed and built here.

Of course, the practical side of this speaks for itself. The landscaping is focused on using indigenous, water-wise plants, while alternative energy powers many of our businesses and homes. In the CBD, there are 31 green-rated buildings, and counting. Rainwater harvesting and backup power deliver the business continuity that is essential when dealing with load shedding and unforeseen outages. And, even though many are aware of these initiatives, which include Mall of Africa’s solar PV/diesel hybrid solution that saves more than 8,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, it is in waste management where the City has made significant strides in recent years.

Waterfall City implemented enhanced waste management practices in November 2021, with the introduction of the innovative Heron IVC (in-vessel composter) machine. This recycling system can process up to 80 tonnes of food waste per month, helping to create nutrient-rich fertiliser used for extensive landscaping in Waterfall City. 

Fresh momentum

While many estates within Waterfall City are involved in general recycling initiatives, the forward-thinking Residents’ Association of Ellipse Waterfall – the iconic high-rise apartment development in the heart of Waterfall City’s CBD and the recent winner of the Best Residential Property Development for 2023 at the SAPOA awards – is the first to join Waterfall City’s food waste recycling programme.

“Ellipse Waterfall is the first residential association to join Waterfall City’s food waste management initiative. Not only does this make good financial sense, but it also highlights their ongoing commitment towards environmentally responsible business practices. This is largely thanks to the Ellipse Waterfall Estate Manager Branden Lizemore and CEO Elizah Knipe from team Elgaru at Waterfall,” says Ruan Spies, the Environmental Manager at Waterfall Management Company.

How it works

Residents empty their rubbish into the bins provided in the dedicated waste and recycling area at Ellipse Waterfall. From there, the bins go into a sorting area, where the recycling team from Vibing Gardens split the contents into seven categories, namely food, aluminium, plastic bottles, glass, high-density plastics such as milk containers, white paper, and cardboard. The food waste goes into white bins, while the other waste goes to a separate sorting section where it is made up into parcels of plastic, glass, aluminium etc. for easy collection.

However, it is not only the Ellipse residents who are supporting this initiative. Olives & Plates, the relaxed fine dining restaurant in the Cassini Tower of the Ellipse Waterfall development, has also been a keen contributor.

“Since the restaurant started supporting the food waste programme, the initiative has seen a significant amount of food waste turned into a valuable resource and we hope that this is the start of great things to come with more entities keen to join,” says Spies.

The statistics emphasise the impact. Before launching the food waste management campaign, Waterfall City’s recycling performance was at 31%, where general items such as bottles, cans, plastic, and so on were the only recycled materials. While this scenario can be considered par for the course for most businesses (industry dependant) and residential entities in South Africa, the more than 2,000kg of waste going to landfill per month was not ideal. However, since Ellipse Waterfall joined this initiative in August 2022, there has been a complete turnaround with a 52% increase in recycling performance. 

Furthermore, since the onboarding of Olives & Plates to the programme, food waste generation increased to 2,407kg in June 2023 compared to the monthly average of 885kg generated from August 2022 to May 2023, which has significantly benefitted the increase in compost and Ellipse Waterfall’s sustainability efforts. 

“Reinette Schreiber and her team from Vibing Gardens have been instrumental in ensuring the quality control of the waste sorting process. They make sure that the waste streams are sorted accordingly, where separating wet and dry waste is critical to maximise recovery,” says Spies.

Composting process

Once Vibing Gardens is done, the Life Green Group, under the auspices of Alfred Ayers, the division head of Life and Earth, and Wilro van Zyl, Waterfall City’s local compost guru, step in to collect and transfer the food waste to the Heron IVC, now situated on our local compost site.

From there, the food waste is weighed and added to the Heron IVC. It is shredded while an augur mixes the batch and then ‘cooked’ to 60 degrees by the biological processes taking place on a micro-level. The auger continues mixing the compost ensuring aeration throughout the container vessel. After a few weeks of mixing, the waste is transformed into pre-compost, where it can be mixed with garden waste to obtain the right balance of nutrients and maturity.

“We are looking at other residential associations to join the movement as they are significant role players within Waterfall City. Of course, this does not mean that commercial activities have ground to a halt. For instance, Food Lovers Market at Waterfall Ridge, under the helm of Etienne De Kock, a passionate and forward-thinking business owner, has retained our food waste management services after the pilot project, which we are thankful for. Another local contributor to the programme is Kyalami Estate. Even though these two suppliers fall outside the Waterfall City precinct, we love our neighbours and hope to assist as far as possible,” adds Spies. 

For the Ellipse Waterfall Estate Manager, Branden Lizemore, initiatives such as these are essential to building a better future for everybody. “Creating organic compost from food waste is a good initiative, as you create much-needed jobs. All of us are looking for a cleaner environment and want to continue raising awareness of this important initiative. Rather than simply discarding food, our aim is to demonstrate how organic waste can be recycled to rejuvenate the environment,” says Lizemore.

The success of any project of this magnitude is reliant on the collaboration of several entities. These range from private companies to municipal services working together towards the common goal of centralised waste management, driven by a circular economy.

Ultimately, Waterfall City is testament to what can be achieved when communities prioritise sustainable and environmentally conscious initiatives. Its revolutionary approach to waste management underscores the potential of integrating technology with traditional waste practices and the power of collective community efforts.