‘We’re eliminating plastic bottles’ – it’s the statement environmentalists & eco-conscious social media users worldwide want to hear but is it always what’s best for the environment?

The answer, quite simply, is ‘no’. Removing plastic bottles may be what’s trending but doing it without a suitable and sustainable alternative can create detrimental problems.

Such was the case for South Africa‘s Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges, which found plastic bottles to be the solution (although not permanent) to an existing environmental issue – severe drought.

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Image: Sabi Sands Game Reserve/Facebook

Sabi Sabi’s Marketing Director explained at a Bench Africa gathering in Sydney last night, that to use a reversal water system the resort would waste eight litres of water in order to produce one litre of drinkable water.

“That’s was and is not a sustainable, permanent solution for us,” he said, especially not when South Africa has only just emerged out of its worst drought in 30 years.

Jaques Smit described the period between 2015-17 as “severe” for South Africa, with underground water levels sitting shockingly low. Even now, after the rain has returned, the country’s water supply remains low.

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Image: Sabi Sands Game Reserve/Facebook

Smit said the resort sat down with its production company to find clean alternatives to plastic water and realised that the best practice, for now, would be to introduce a new system to minimise, but not entirely remove, waste.

Now in place, the solution sees every bottle removed from Sabi Sabi delivered to a community project where six local ladies do the separation and produce packing out of bottled caps. They then put the actual plastic bottles into a recycling system, which sees them re-produced and brought back into the reserve.

“We’ve minimised the waste in a sustainable way. It’s not a permanent solution, but until we can find a permanent solution that won’t impact the enviornment we’ll have to run with this.”

Jaques Smit, Sabi Sabi Luxury Safaris Lodges Managing Director

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Image: Sabi Sands Game Reserve/Facebook

While Sabi Sabi continues to search for water solutions, the resort successfully introduced a wildlife protection program 40 years ago that’s enabled the business to protect local animals.

“Part of our mission is to observe safari etiquette and ensure that none of the animals we engage with associate our presence with stress or fear,” he explained.

“Four decades of continuous respect for wildlife, allows us to offer the kind of safaris we do today.”

Click here for more information on Sabi Sabi’s product.