Back in 2006, Cape Town’s luxurious Mount Nelson Hotel experienced an influx of the most unlikely guest, the modest earthworm. The Mount Nelson Vermiculture Project, brainchild of environmental activists Mary Murphy and Roger Jaques, uses earthworms to dispose of the hotel’s organic waste in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. The Mount Nelson became the first hotel in Africa to set up a worm farm and judging by the success of the project, sets an example to all hotels and restaurants looking to lower their environmental impact beyond installing solar heating systems.
Within its first year the vermiculture project had over 120 000 worms eating their way through the Mount Nelson’s breakfast buffet and high tea waste. Today the large scale vermiculture project has over 800,000 worms conservatively consume up to 200 kg of waste every day. The waste product of the earthworm, also known as worm casts, is rich in beneficial organisms and is used to produce the finest soil conditioner. The end product, a vermiculture compost or ‘worm tea’, is then used to fertilize the Mount Nelson’s exquisite gardens. The vermiculture worms themselves do not harbour any bacteria or viruses harmful to humans and are also free of all parasites, making them the perfect partner for waste disposal.
The vermiculture business is completely sustainable and diverts wastage from landfills, which are growing by the day due to unnecessary disposal of wastage. According to Murphy, “waste is a huge problem. It winds up in landfills and ends up polluting our groundwater and generating greenhouse gases responsible for climate change”. She adds that in nature there is no such thing as waste, as waste products from one animal provide nutrients and energy for another. It is a lesson from nature that has to be learnt. Furthermore, vermiculture technology is relatively simple and inexpensive, with vermiculture projects providing jobs in their management. The Mount Nelson also practices other sustainable methods, such as having LED lighting and utilising a fleet of Toyota Prius vehicles for its shuttle services.