WATCH | Joburg recycling business gets top UN honour: 'Like winning an Oscar for sustainability!'

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  • The Compost Kitchen was selected as one of the Top 300 Best Practices on Sustainability in the world by the United Nations.
  • The environmentally friendly business was started by Himkaar Singh as a small way of trying to solve South Africa’s water management crisis.
  • In the future, Singh hopes everyone could incorporate composting into their everyday lives. 

The Compost Kitchen, a Johannesburg-based recycling business, has just won a big United Nations award.

The organisation was voted one of the "Top 300 Best Sustainable Practices" at the 5th Global Entreps Awards held earlier this year.

"The award is like the Oscar awards for sustainability. They were particularly impressed that we were a business that makes an impact. There are plenty of initiatives, NGOs and charities but the question is always about financial sustainability," founder Himkaar Singh told News24.

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Singh said winning the award signalled that he was on the right path and that his efforts were making a positive impact in society.  

"It felt reassuring because sometimes it feels like this may be too hard… So when we get recognised for our work, it tells us that we make it succeed and we need to keep going," he said. 

Boots on the ground

Singh started The Compost Kitchen in 2019 as a way of trying to solve South Africa's water crisis after many parts of the country experienced severe drought.

"I felt like we were not solving the water management problem."

Singh went looking for solutions and ended up studying water management at various countries around the globe.

"I spent five months in Germany, five months in Vietnam and another five months in Jordan trying to understand different perspectives of water management. The solution I realised we need to do in South Africa is repairing our soil by putting back organic matter in the soil."

He said when soil has a lot of organic matter, it becomes sponge-like and is therefore able to hold onto the water for longer.

How it all works

The Compost Kitchen’s current model is to collect waste from homes around Johannesburg that have signed up for their services.

They take the waste and feed it to earthworms which then produce vermicompost – faeces. The vermicompost is then sold back to customers.

The compost is rich in organic matter and acts like a sponge which holds onto the water – allowing it to properly infiltrate the soil. Garden owners therefore use less water to hydrate their plants.

Looking to the future

The recycling service is R190 a month for the weekly waste collection and composting, while the vermicompost on its own is R100 for 20 litres. 

"In the next few years, we are trying to look at new ways to develop waste management."

Singh and his team are developing a model where customers can buy a "worm box" which will allow them to create their own vermicompost.

"And then we will buy the vermicompost from them and sell it to other customers – so this will allow people to earn income from their waste at home. And it will allow us to obtain a large quantity compost without having a massive facility."

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