Festive season shopping: Only buy what you really need to reduce your waste volume

People doing last-minute festive shopping at Cape Gate Mall. File picture: Henk Kruger Independent Newspapers

People doing last-minute festive shopping at Cape Gate Mall. File picture: Henk Kruger Independent Newspapers

Published Dec 17, 2023


Cape Town - The City of Cape Town urges residents to be mindful of the waste created with every purchase. Residents have been asked to only buy what they really need, in order to help protect the environment and reduce pressure on landfills.

The festive season is a time for giving, but with more consumerism comes more waste. A high proportion of everything bought during this period will end up in a landfill, often after a short life.

The City is reminding both residents and businesses to shop and operate with waste minimisation in mind.

Residents and businesses have been urged to carefully consider what people buy in order to avoid waste.

The following tips will help people recycle:

  • Look out for on-pack recycling logos (see photo 1) to indicate if the packaging is recyclable. Most major retailers should have this label on their products. This should not be confused with material ID codes (see photo 2). Material ID codes indicate the type of packaging with a numerical code, it does not denote whether packaging is recyclable.
Photo 1
Photo 2
  • In the absence of on-pack recycling logos, consult the material ID codes. Try to avoid packaging made from type 3 or 7. These are seldom recyclable, if ever. The recyclability of other types varies depending on factors such as market demand. Your local recycling collector should be able to advise further.
  • Flatten cardboard boxes to save space when sorting these for recycling.
  • Store paper and cardboard inside to avoid it getting wet. Wet cardboard can cause problems for recycling systems.
  • If your property does not benefit from municipal recycling collection yet, you can take recyclables to municipal drop-off sites or private buy-back centres. The City has a waste recyclers’ map listing private recycling initiatives (collection services, drop-offs and buy-back centres) operating throughout Cape Town.

Reducing environmental risks can also be achieved by managing the old appliances people are replacing, or packaging waste responsibly.

For disposal of cellphones, computers, fridges, irons, stoves, televisions, etc. the City recommends:

  • returning broken or old phones to cellphone outlets throughout the city, where possible
  • upgrading, repairing or reconditioning appliances where possible
  • taking old appliances/computers to a City drop-off site for potential reuse or refurbishment where possible
  • donating older but functional appliances to a school or charity
  • checking if your retailer takes back broken electronic devices or batteries, then bring yours in if you can, rather than throwing them away.

Mayco member for urban waste management, Grant Twigg, said: “Waste minimisation is a very important part of building a sustainable city. Our landfills are quickly running out of space as we throw away more and more items.

“Society needs to change the way we think about waste – from production to consumption. Consumers need to look at buying products with recyclable packaging and making the most of them before considering tossing them out.

“Manufacturers need to be challenged to reduce packaging waste and creating products that will last. It’s about designing waste out of our economy,” Twigg said.

“We urge residents to challenge retailers about their plastic and other non-recyclable packaging, or if items are over-packaged. You have enormous power to effect change through where you spend your money.

“One of the key tools to reduce waste is the circular economy. Instead of using and discarding products, the City and residents now need to come together to keep goods and materials in use for as long as possible, extracting maximum value from them, and then repairing and repurposing when they break,” Twigg said.

“It is only by working together that we’ll be able to keep the City clean and create a sustainable environment for us to live in.”

Cape Argus