Composting food waste in the bush


It smells, it’s unhygienic, it’s bad for the planet and it’s not something you want to think about on an African safari while enjoying the delights of nature and indulging in traditional food. However, food waste poses a significant risk to the welfare of staff and wild animals.

As environmental awareness increases, several eco-conscious safari lodges have adapted to the food waste problem. The transition has been easy thanks to a South African food waste recycling company called Earth Probiotic.

“When dumped, food waste emits 627kg per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e),” says Gavin Heron, director of Earth Probiotic. “When composted, the emissions are only 10.26kg per tonne.” CO2e is a way of measuring carbon footprint in the waste or production stream and includes harmful greenhouse gases like methane. “Our composting machines basically eliminate a significant amount of greenhouse gases by composting organic waste and not leaving it to rot,” Heron explains.

“Wild animals are attracted to food waste and this threatens the safety of guests and operators,” he adds. Rock monitors, porcupines, honey badgers, warthogs, hyenas, baboons and vervet monkeys have all been recorded invading refuse. Leftover food also attracts rats and snakes.

Food waste can result in negative behaviour changes in animals. “Some white storks no longer migrate and are permanently located at a Morocco landfill,” says Heron.

Rotten food waste can also cause disease. “In the Masai Mara baboons started dying from tuberculosis contracted as a result of scavenging at a waste dump,” he says.

Earth Probiotic offers case-specific solutions, from in-vessel composting machines to biochar units, at bush camps and lodges across South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana.

Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort uses an Earth Probiotic biochar unit to process palm fronds. Palm fronds are difficult to compost, but when charred they become a valuable and beneficial soil amendment. Biochar is especially beneficial when used as an addition to compost for grassing sandy soil.


In-vessel composting machine for remote safari lodges

Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge in Botswana uses an Earth Cycler in-vessel composting machine for its food waste. The Earth Cycler is a closed system that cannot be accessed by animals, and it can break down food waste within weeks.

“Due to lack of space on the concession site and Belmond Safaris’ environmental policies, as well as the volume of waste, composting was our best option,” explains Graeme Labe, chief design and development officer at Luxury Frontiers. “In the past, the lodge buried the solid waste in pits that were a hazard to the environment and the animals.”

The lodge produces approximately 1 600kg of food waste every month. “The biggest expense associated with waste removal is the transport required,” Labe explains. Waste introduced in the Earth Cycler is reduced by up to 75% of the input volume. Paper, cardboard and ash are added to aid with the composting process. “This allows for easy transportation to a local village or for distribution in Maun,” explains Labe. “The machine has made the lodge staff much more conscious of the impact of waste on the environment.”


Bokashi food waste recycling in the bush

Pondoro Game Lodge in Balule Nature Reserve uses a Bokashi system to process an estimated 240kg of food waste per month.

Bokashi originated in Japan where it means ‘fermented organic matter’. Bokashi utilises beneficial microbes to ferment, or pickle, food waste so that it does not rot or smell. Fermented food waste is then easily composted or trenched under soil. The system can process all food, including bones and seafood, making it unpalatable for rats and maggots.

Pondoro prides itself as a conservation lodge. “We are always looking to be as environmentally friendly as possible,” says Pondoro Game Lodge manager, Lize Prehn. “Our food wastage has decreased and we have almost no issues with wild animals in the camp because we bokashi our food waste.”  


Written by Georgina Lockwood

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