VENTURES: Compostable Pots Crack The Market
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An industrial designer and craft producer based in the Klein Karoo has developed a novel concept for mopping up agricultural waste, by using it to manufacture compostable pots, and in the process generating much-needed jobs.
Known as Compots, the products comprise locally dug farm clay combined with grape skins and seed residue from the local brandy and wine cellar in Barrydale. Recycled cardboard is milled on site, and this is added to the clay together with sawdust residue and locally mined minerals zeolite and bentonite, that are known to retain moisture and condition the soil. Compots are also currently being developed from organic compost based on chicken litter from free-range poultry farmers.
The compots can be used like normal pots to hold plants for a certain period, says developer John Sachs, but can be planted directly into the ground without disturbing the root structure and to provide nourishment as the components decompose. They have huge potential for large-scale agricultural enterprises and forestries that currently lose plants and saplings due to root damage when they are removed from their plastic containers for planting.
A leading chain of high end retail stores (Woolworths) has already signed up as a client, with Sachs delivering the pots to designated nurseries (many of them run by previously disadvantaged small entrepreneurs) where they are potted up with herbs, succulents, olive trees and spekboom, which has enormous carbon storage capacity.
Sachs also supplies nurseries, gift shops, an eco-friendly homeware distributor and the Rain chain of lifestyle stores, which orders selected compastable containers to complement its range of environmentally-friendly body and bath products and accessories that are sold locally and overseas.
A trained potter who has worked with parastatal organisations for many years setting up craft programmes and production groups, Sachs said Compots combine clay technology with elements of pulp-forming technology, as used in egg box production, but with lower water input volumes.
It took him four years to develop and test the pots, which he believes are unique in South Africa. The pots have been independently laboratory tested to check plant compatibility, and informal trials have shown 30% faster plant growth in enriched Compots.
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