After success at Singita Serengeti, Singita committed to One Planet Living at all its lodges in Southern Africa. These wildlife reserves combine conservation and community outreach with the highest level of environmentally conscious hospitality
A visit with Happiness: The local recycling business that’s helping Singita tread more lightly
As Singita’s Sustainability Coordinator I am lucky enough to visit Singita’s incredible lodges to see the sustainability progress made by our enthusiastic staff on the ground. Last month I visited Singita Kruger National Park in South Africa and managed to squeeze in a trip to the facility that recycles its waste – Acornhoek Recycling Facility. I met with the owner, Happiness, who showed me around and talked me though her ambitions for the business.
But let’s back up a bit and talk about where it all begins. In 2017, Singita’s Southern African lodges produced more than 136 tonnes of recycling including glass, tin, plastic, paper and organic matter. We’re delighted to say though that our plastic waste has dramatically reduced as we’ve slashed our plastic bottle waste by 97% since 2013 through use of filtered water and reusable bottles at the lodges.
At Singita Kruger National Park, a local service provider collects our recycling twice a week and delivers it to Acornhoek, which is just over 100km from the lodge.
So, it was a long drive to visit. But worth it after spotting two cheetahs stalking through the grass while still in the National Park – and to discover more about Acornhoek. It’s not easy to recycle in rural South Africa, and this facility is helping local businesses achieve their waste goals.
The story behind Acornhoek
We arrived at Acornhoek mid-morning and were greeted by Happiness. Happiness previously worked as an environmental educator, talking in schools and communities about the damage that litter can do and how recycling can help. She received positive responses but quickly realised there were very limited local facilities capable of receiving and processing the waste people recycled.
Happiness made a strategic decision and became the manager of Acornhoek, which had recently been set up by the municipality. Just under a year ago she took over ownership of the whole operation. It consists of a large, well-organised open area where huge bags of sorted recycling await processing, a warehouse containing five baling machines of various sizes, some undercover storage areas, and an administrative office. Off to the far right is an area with bags of unsorted recycling which the staff sort themselves, although this is not ideal.
Happiness employs 34 people – mostly women – from the local community to sort and operate the baling machines. During our visit they were busy baling tin cans to sell on to Collect-a-Can, a can recovery and recycling organisation. Glass, plastic and paper are also sold on to other local companies like Consol and Sappi. Although prices on the market vary, plastic generally earns the highest rates, and tin currently fetches +/-R1600/ton (£95).
Happiness has further ambitions. She would like to start a pig farm on some spare land bordering the property. Appropriate organic waste matter would provide free feed for the pigs. Currently, organic waste goes to another pig farmer in the area and the balance to landfill.
As well as a small number of safari lodges, Acornhoek also processes recycling from schools, shopping malls and local businesses, providing a much-needed service to the community. This means one of their biggest expenses is transport. It owns two trucks that pick up recycling around town and deliver non-recyclables to landfill. There are also a few small local ‘waste-preneurs’ who bring small amounts of recycling collected from communities to sell to Acornhoek, making that little bit extra to get by in what is a generally a poor community.
It’s a fascinating business and interesting to hear and see how it all works. When asked what message I should take back to Singita, Happiness said: “Please send more recycling!” I left greatly encouraged that Happiness and Acornhoek were delivering an excellent service, and helping us to tread that much more lightly on the Earth.
Andrea Ferry is Singita's Sustainability Coordinator.
Singita’s Annual Review 2017/18 highlights its progress towards its One Planet targets, including halving its carbon footprint at one of the lodges and reducing its plastic bottle waste by 97%.
Equity and local economy
Ten local people gained new skills at the Singita Community Culinary School
Culture and community
One Planet Champions at all lodges to encourage engagement with sustainability activities
Land and nature
10,000 more hectares of land for conservation in Mozambique
Plastic bottle waste reduced by 97% with reusable bottles
Zero carbon energy
50% reduction in carbon footprint at Kruger National Park with an upgrade to its solar panels