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Alfonso Navarro

Waste management best practice to Net Zero waste

By Brian Unsted, Liberty Two Degrees Asset Management Executive and Head of Good Spaces

“There’s a debate raging as to whether Net Zero Waste is attainable. It starts with challenging ourselves as individuals and as organisations to change habits relating to dealing with waste.”

Quoted ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP said, “the clock is ticking loudly” in reference to the climate change issue as a “now problem rather than a future problem”. The magnitude of climate change has already had observable effects on the environment and net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.

The COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to pause and re-examine the paths we were on as a global society, and the unique opportunity to focus and accelerate cleaner and more sustainable practices.

The global pledges around Net Zero could make a substantial difference if committed to and fully implemented. Net Zero Waste is an immediate opportunity available for the retail industry, which sees the reduction of all waste streams to landfill. It’s about getting back to basics. To achieve Net Zero Waste targets, there needs to be a streamlining of operations and a focus on best practice in waste management solutions.

There are two focus areas in waste management, the first being the impact of composting and the second, recycling as much as possible. Recycling is already a well-established process in principle and something that’s been done for years, but under-utilised.

In our portfolio of malls at Liberty Two Degrees (L2D), we’re using best practice through measurement and waste audits as a starting point. Then we know which malls generate what types of waste, and we can explore solutions per site.

We’ve procured the services of WastePlan who have a like-minded approach in dealing with the challenge of Net Zero Waste and focus on sorting the waste extensively, tracking and tracing waste generated upstream (tenants). Once it’s determined who generated what waste and what volumes, tenants are engaged around recycling and best practices to enforce behavioural change which shows up in the results of improved waste diversion.

On a month-on-month basis, diversion from landfill has been improving significantly. Once optimal levels of recycling, composting and waste diversion from landfill are achieved per site, the alternative waste treatment processes will be used on “residual” waste to achieve Net Zero. This includes creating a circular economy for waste through initiatives such as waste to concrete and waste to energy. This is what is planned for the early part of 2022.

The L2D malls, which include Eastgate Shopping Centre, Nelson Mandela Square, Midlands Mall and Sandton City among others are at a 78% diversion from landfill (by weight) as at the end of October 2021. This is an incredible result.

Having made significant inroads to achieve a Net Zero target since pledging a Net Zero waste status by the end of 2021, we have made substantial investments in ensuring that our waste management sites, which are of world-class standard, have been optimised for treating organic waste onsite as well as off-site composting at certain sites, ensuring that recycling is maximised and that waste is minimised.

The “zero” in zero waste is aspirational, allowing us to embrace the circular economy and re-position how we view and efficiently manage waste. Zero waste is a collective effort. Mall owners have the opportunity to include shoppers and tenants in the journey through education, with tenants being the biggest waste generators. From a tenant perspective, communication is what drives awareness, enabling engagement and tenant buy-in and participation in waste management best practices. We are reliant on tenants to separate waste at the source so as to reduce levels of contaminated waste that is much more difficult to recycle or process. This continues to be work in progress.

It is important to understand that customers hold their own set of values and support organisations and businesses that align to these values. Mall owners have the opportunity to create public awareness for waste management practices and align with views of individuals around sustainability matters.

Reverse vending machines (RVMs) are a good way for shoppers to tangibly contribute towards recycling and diversion from landfill. Sandton City installed five RVMs in 2019 for shoppers to drop-off recyclables and earn rewards. To date since installation, 13 tonnes of waste was recycled through the RVM’s, and almost 11 tonnes in this past year alone. That is the equivalent of almost 11 Nissan Micra’s or six and a half Audi A8’s. This speaks to the convenient recycling solution the RVM’s offer shoppers.

Malls commonly generate general waste and not hazardous waste, meaning that there is very little waste that does not have a recycling solution. It’s the commitment, investment and effort that accompanies the possibility that determines the solution.

There’s a debate raging as to whether Net Zero Waste is attainable. It starts with challenging ourselves as individuals and as organisations to change habits relating to dealing with waste.

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  • Total Employees: 1 - 5 Employees - R 4080.00
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Lisa Reynolds

Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director

Lisa Reynolds is the CEO of the Green Building Council South Africa.

Lisa was the driver for the drafting of Energy Efficiency Standards and Regulations for Buildings and has been involved in Energy Efficiency since 2003. She serves on many committees in the SABS and within the energy management professionals’ space. She was President of the SAEEC from 2016 to 2019 and was the previous President of the ESCo (Energy Services Companies) Association. Lisa was instrumental in the formation of SAFEE (Southern African Females in Energy Efficiency) within SAEEC.

She has assisted the South African Government with its Green Building Framework policies, Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives and Energy Efficiency Strategies

Her passion for the “Green space” started with the birth of the Green Building Council in 2007. Lisa served on the Board and the Technical Committee of the GBCSA, as well as on several Technical Working Groups for Rating Tools and Criteria. Lisa. became CEO in June 2020.

Lisa has a BSc, an MBA and a CEM. Lisa’s awards include the 2007 ETA Award for Women, 2008 Individual Energy (SAEE), 2012 SABS Standards Writer Award; the 2014 Women in Energy (SAWIEN); and the 2016 Ian Lane Hall of Fame award.

Lisa is committed to growing the Green Economy within a Green Recovery.

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