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Transforming green waste into compost

In 2001, Reliance contracted with the City of Cape Town to transform the city's green waste into a 100% organic compost used by individuals, landscapers, farms... This natural process is a way to reduce the excessive use of chemical fertilizers which degrades soil and pollutes the rivers. Today, Reliance is a social-enterprise which has diverted over 10 million cubic meters of green garden waste from the Cape Town landfills! Detlev Meyer, CEO of Reliance, helps us to understand how his organization works and contributes positively to society.

 Interview conducted in March 2014. 

Detlev Meyer, CEO of Reliance

Why Reliance was created?

"Reliance Compost started when a fourth generation table grape farmer from Paarl converted his production to being organic. He needed organic compost to comply with international standards and to be able to export grapes to Europe.

Indeed, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has disastrous consequences for the environment: soil degradation, pollution of rivers and groundwater... So, he started a pilot project with the City of Cape Town to take their green wastes from one of their drop-off facilities. He made compost from this to use in his vineyards.

How does it work exactly?

"Today, the green garden waste is collected at nine conveniently placed waste drop-off facilities. The material is delivered to these sites by the public, garden services, City Parks division and others. Then, it is shredded and transported to the composting site where Reliance applies the Controlled Microbial Composting (CMC) process. The shredded material decomposes itself over a six to eight week period whilst being constantly monitored for temperature, CO2 and moisture levels. The compost is screened to different sizes and sold in bulk or bags to a variety of customers and clients.

Why did you choose the CMC method?

"This seems to be the most natural, controlled and quickest method of green waste transformation".

What are the main results you are proud of?

"Our most important result is to take care of the environment: we have diverted over 10 million cubic meters of green garden waste from landfill, thereby reducing the Greenhouse Gasses by 250 tons a day for almost 6 years. Furthermore, we are providing jobs to 200 people, mostly of the previously disadvantaged communities. In 2001, we were awarded the -Greener Cape Town Award", and we were also chosen as one of three carbon offset processes during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

What was the biggest difficulty since the creation of Reliance?

"For us, the main difficulty was to convince the local government and end-users of the benefit of recycling and re-using what was previously seen as waste and dumped at already overflowing landfills. Another difficulty was all the "red tape" to obtain all relevant licenses to commercially produce compost.

How do you see Reliance in the next 10 years?

"Reliance will probably be a listed company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, offering its services across the biggest municipalities in South Africa. Reliance will be a leader in the field of the diversion of organic waste from landfill and the generation of energy.

Today, a lot of young South Africans want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society. Do you have any advice for them?

"Never give up. Always follow your dreams. You cannot make a mistake if you help society or care about your environment".

A last word?

"Big changes are made taking small steps, one man at a time. If you have the passion, you will make a difference".

Article courtesy SA Good News