UN applauds The Compost Kitchen — and Jozi veggie gardeners will dig it too
This small local company turns your organic waste into nutrient-rich compost for your garden
A small Joburg company trying to make sustainability a way of life has proven that sometimes a little effort can have a big impact.
The green concept behind The Compost Kitchen was recently named as one of the Top 300 Best Practices on Sustainability in the world by the UN as part of its fifth Global Entreps Awards and 5Gcitizens International Congress.
The Compost Kitchen, which employs five people, collects food waste from households on a weekly basis. This waste gets recycled into vermicompost using earthworms and the vermicompost is given back to the customer each month to use in their vegetable gardens to grow fresh food again.
Founder Himkaar Singh says the Entreps jurors were impressed with the way he and his team are using their business model to advance the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the UN General Assembly in 2015. These goals were created with the aim of achieving a more sustainable future for the planet by 2030.
“A previous recipient of one of these Entreps Awards was Airbnb, so although we are a small business in Fourways, we are seen as having massive potential,” says Singh, who founded The Compost Kitchen in 2019 in an attempt to address SA’s problem of being a water scarce country.
When SA was experiencing a bad drought in 2017, Singh decided to resign from his well-paying civil engineering job and pursue a master's degree in Integrated Water Resource Management abroad, in the hopes of being able to find solutions to our water shortage problem.
It was during this time that he realised that the health of the soil has a major impact on water wastage.
“Intense agriculture techniques and urbanisation are destroying the soil’s natural organic matter cycle and breaking its ability to hold water. In fact, 60% of land in SA has soil with very low organic matter, making it conducive to degradation and low productivity,” Singh explains.
Furthermore, disposing of organic food or wet waste in your kitchen bin means it ends up in a landfill, where the lack of oxygen causes it to decompose anaerobically, releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
Singh needed to figure out a way of turning this waste into organic matter and getting that organic matter back into the soil — an idea which sprouted The Compost Kitchen’s organic waste recycling model.
The Compost Kitchen is currently only able to service Johannesburg North, but is trying to rethink the way SA handles waste management.
“We shouldn’t be trucking around waste, but rather moving a finished product from the source to the end user,” Singh says.
To this end, they’re developing a model called Vermi Buy Back where they will pay people to make vermicompost using their own kitchen waste. In the meantime, they offer various home composting solutions to customers.
Singh says the UN nod is a sign that they’re on the right track.
“There are so many challenges on the way to developing a new model, but when the world recognises our vision then it is a confidence booster. We’re so grateful to South Africans and the world for rooting for us.”