V&A Waterfront deepens its commitment to eliminate plastics

The V&A Waterfront, a signatory to the SA Plastics Pact (SAPP) as of last year, has revised its tenant lease agreement with the purpose of eliminating single-use plastics at the precinct by 2025.

The V&A Waterfront through the SAPP has identified 12 single-use plastic products to be eliminated by tenants by 2025. These include plastic barrier bags, plastic shopping bags, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, plastic stirrers, plastic pallet wrap, ear buds with plastic stems, and lollipops with plastic sticks, among others.

The V&A Waterfront included the SAPP in the lease and tenant house rules to align with its strategic sustainability and development objectives. Existing tenants due for renewal, as well as new tenants, are bound by the green lease agreement.

The SAPP seeks to stimulate innovation, dialogue, partnership, and collaboration to create new business models and generate job opportunities, while creating a circular economy where everyone benefits.

V&A Waterfront CEO David Green said: “We are bringing our green lease up to date to mirror our commitments to sustainability and to encourage continuing actions on water and waste management, energy efficiency, and associated cost savings with our tenants.”

With over 800 tenants, the V&A Waterfront has a long history of developing and driving operationally efficient sustainable buildings, promoting sustainable consumption and incentivising tenants to practise proper waste disposal and recycling methods.

The existing green lease agreement already requires all tenants to participate in driving down water and energy consumption, to be responsible for their own management of waste, separating at source, and to track and report their recycling volumes. Each tenant is required to develop a waste-management plan that details precisely how recycling will be implemented, including waste recycling targets and to illustrate the process for measuring and reporting on these rates.

“It is important for the Waterfront to attract high-quality tenants willing to incorporate sustainability best practices into their operations as we invest in and implement measures to reduce the environmental impact of our portfolio of over 500,000 m2 rentable commercial and retail space in order to meet our 2035 net-zero goal,” said Green.

The Waterfront has recommended to tenants a recycling rate of 50% (by mass) to be achieved from fitout waste.

*Above and cover image: Sacha Specker

Examples of how the Waterfront is addressing plastics waste:

  • Waste Recovery and Recycling at the Waterfront

A dedicated team of more than 90 people collect and sort all the waste on the property at the V&A’s Waste Recovery and Recycling Centre. There are 386 collection points on-site and over 550 bins are cleared twice a day.

Over the past year, the Waterfront collected over 6 400 tons of waste and recycled and diverted over 2 700 tons of waste from landfill, of which 81 tons came from the waterways and the Maritime industry. Approximately 12%% of all the recycled waste was plastic.

V&A Waterfront Sustainability and Utilities Senior Manager, Mareli Cloete, said collective action can achieve greater impact than individual action. “Joining the SA Plastics Pact is one more step the Waterfront is taking in striving to be a neighbourhood free of single-use plastics and to be a world leader in systems-based circular design and innovative plastic waste management practices.”

Some Waterfront tenants have already adopted their own initiatives with the same sustainability goals. This includes hotels providing drinking water in glass water bottles instead of plastic bottles, and retailers moving to the use of biodegradable or reusable bag options. “As the country’s oldest working harbour and one of the most recognised waterfronts in the world, the V&A Waterfront has a responsibility to protect the ocean as a natural resource,” said Cloete.


  • Using ecobrick construction in commercial office space construction

The Waterfront acts as a platform to connect to a broader community and pilot sustainability solutions. An innovative example of developing solutions towards plastic elimination from our oceans was the Waterfront’s use of eco-bricks in the construction of The Ridge, now home to the regional offices of Deloitte.

Approximately 12,500 two-litre plastic bottles were stuffed with unrecyclable waste such as chip packets, candy wrappers and plastic shopping bags. The eco-bricks were then used as void fillers in certain foundation areas to reduce the amount of concrete that would otherwise have been needed. The initiative was a global first for a large commercial building.

Deloitte Africa’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Ashleigh Theophanides noted, “Our firm is encouraged by the SA Plastics Pact and are in support of the commitment to eliminate plastic from our ecosystem. The V&A Waterfront has been our home in Cape Town for many years, and we are proud to be associated with a team driving meaningful and measurable change. This partnership continues to support us in achieving critical milestones along our sustainability journey.”

*Image: Gareth Griffiths

  • Re-use the cup partnership at Oranjezicht City Farm Market

In partnership with the SA Plastic Pact, the V&A Waterfront co-funded, and co-designed the Return-on-the-Go Plastic Cup Project at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market to demonstrate how the re-use of plastic can be tested at the V&A, and to encourage consumers and retailers to collaborate as a neighbourhood committed to the reduction of plastic waste. Sheryl Ozinsky co-founder of the Oranjezicht City Farm Market, said: “Using reusable cups at the Oranjezicht Market reduces the staggering amount of single-use plastic waste that plagues our environment. By opting for a reusable cup, you actively contribute to reducing the landfill burden and the detrimental impact on ecosystems and wildlife.  Secondly, embracing reusable cups promotes sustainable practices and encourages others to follow suit, creating a ripple effect, inspiring fellow market-goers and traders to adopt similar habits. Together, we cultivate a culture of sustainability that extends beyond the market and into our daily lives.”

From inception in October 2022 until February 2023, the project diverted over 330kg, or 22 824, cups from ending up in a landfill. The return rate of the reusable cups has been positive and has reached 89.9%, according to GreenCape, the facilitators of the project.

*Images: Reusefy

One&Only Cape Town commits to environmental sustainability

One of the V&A’s largest tenants, One&Only Cape Town resort, has welcomed the new amendment to the tenant lease agreement and has committed towards being water conscious, free of single-use plastics and has employed an internal food waste management system. Michelle Monk, One&Only Cape Town Assistant Communications Manager, said: “Being a part of the V&A family means having shared pillars of environmental sustainability and development as well as having an invested interest in working towards a better world for all. As patrons of the tourism industry, we acknowledge and bear the responsibility of being leaders in the fight against global warming and other environmental concerns. This means employing green initiatives and programmes both separately and together with the V&A, not only for the wellbeing of visitors and guests today but for the many to come in the future.”

In recognition of its commitment to environmental sustainability, One&Only Cape Town is proud to have achieved Earthcheck Silver status for 2022, one of the world’s leading scientific benchmarking and advisory groups for sustainable tourism. One&Only Cape Town resort also early this year hosted the One Blue Heart, a first-of-its-kind, blue carpet, Zero-Waste Dinner, showcasing art, fashion and food in support of the Turtle Conservation Centre at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation.

*Cover image: Sacha Specker