#FutureIsGreen: Eco-friendly wastewater can revolutionise SA hotel industry

2016-11-07 15:30 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - The hospitality industry in SA has, in many instances, led the way for green initiatives and sustainable practice across the globe. 

While our young, emerging economy is mainly to thank for this, it's also due to the inventive and responsible business ideas coming from South African entrepreneurs. 

Despite what responsible tourism and hospitality mean for the South African economy, it is also critically important for the well-being of our planet - an issue South Africa has clearly prioritised. 

In April, SA Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement on behalf of the South African Government – an agreement that is universally regarded as a seminal point in the development of the international climate change regime under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

SEE: #FutureIsClean: SA's plans to reduce global warming

In terms of sustainability and responsible tourism within the hospitality industry, many stakeholders have also vouched to keep greening their businesses. 

Cape Town International announced it will be monitoring its carbon footprint, for example, while many South African National Parks camps and centres have pledged to go off-the-grid by implementing solar energy. 

READ MORE HERE: Greening the Cape: 3 Exciting initiatives

Another green business focusing on eco-friendly wastewater treatment innovations is making it easier for SA's hotel industry to use water responsibly, and in turn, spare the scarcest resource in South Africa.

Proudly South African company SewTreat has developed a way to produce biological wastewater through a treatment plant which has been "tailor-made for the South African and African market". 

How does it work? 

By making use of the latest advancements in sustainable wastewater treatment combined with the creation of their own bacterial strains, the system enable lodges in remote areas with efficient, affordable and eco-friendly wastewater treatment solutions.

If lodges take responsibility of the wastewater and recycle 100% of the effluent, they can increase their irrigation capacity while being responsible users of the country's scarcest resource - water.

“Our goal is to treat nature with nature through sustainable engineering solutions,” SewTreat spokesperson Theunis Coetzer says. 

The system is based on return activated sludge technology incorporating submersed aeration media. This enhanced bacterial action ensures a highly effective treatment process boasting a very low carbon footprint, minimal capital input and low maintenance requirements. 

(Photo: SewTreat)

What is 'wastewater' and why is it important? 

Biological wastewater treatment is an accepted practice used worldwide. 

The process involves confining naturally occurring bacteria at a very high concentration in the treatment process, whether it in plastic type, containerised type or civil constructed type treatment plants. From here this bacteria, together with some protozoa and other microbes (collectively referred to as activated sludge), are treated in an anaerobic and an aerobic process. 

They are then returned to the anaerobic phase to eliminate sludge accumulation and waste generation. 

“The bacteria digest all impurities and the wastewater is then cleansed. The treated wastewater or effluent can then be discharged to receiving waters – normally a river or the sea – or alternatively used for irrigation, flushing of toilets or general non-potable uses,” explains Coetzer. 

The use of such 'wastewater' is crucial to reducing our carbon footprint, and stretching the planet's limited fresh water resources to its fullest. 

“The earth is a closed system so we cannot import the resources we have exhausted, nor can we simply export the waste we create. If we look clean drinking water from this perspective, it becomes clear that we have to find ways of treating water in a way that makes it reusable,” Coetzer says.  

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