Apart from paper and cardboard – which many of us have been recycling for years – it can seem pretty difficult to get information about what you can recycle and how you go about doing it. But it’s not impossible. File photo
Apart from paper and cardboard – which many of us have been recycling for years – it can seem pretty difficult to get information about what you can recycle and how you go about doing it. But it’s not impossible. File photo

Essential to start recycling – video

By Marchelle Abrahams Time of article published Jan 24, 2017

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The average amount of waste generated by a single South African in just one year is about 250kg.

This year, don’t be complacent about recycling.

You’re probably asking yourself: why should I bother to recycle when my neighbour can’t even be bothered to pick up his cigarette butts?

Well, let’s look at the facts: besides global warming, the human population is using up the Earth’s resources at an alarming rate. Environmental analysts say we’ve already used up 2015’s supply of our planet’s resources. That’s a shocking observation estimated by the Global Footprint Network (GFN).

The GFN then goes on to explain that human consumption first began to exceed the Earth’s capacity in the early 1970s – the overshoot day has been falling steadily ever since.

Apart from paper and cardboard – which many of us have been recycling for years – it can seem pretty difficult to get information about what you can recycle and how you go about doing it. But it’s not.

One of the most useful guides I found was at http://treevolution.co.za/guide/. It’s compiled by founder Laura Grant and is a free, simple How To on recycling for beginners.

“We need to look after what we’ve got. And that means living less wasteful lifestyles, and learning that we can no longer just use things once and throw them away into a landfill site.

“We need to learn the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle,” Grant notes.

Shop smart

Recycling in your home starts as early as the trip to the supermarket. Think carefully when shopping for household items on how they can be recycled. Take into consideration what materials can be recycled like paper, plastic, metal and glass. And when in doubt, just don’t buy it.

We live in a country that supports various recycling initiatives, and one of those are products displaying eco-friendly labels on the packaging, so be mindful when next out shopping.

What can be recycled?

Treevolution’s handy beginner’s guide to recycling in SA lists the essentials of what can and cannot be recycled:

Metal

According to the National Recycling Forum (NRF), more than 2 billion steel beverage cans are used every year in SA with 72 percent of them being recovered. Those that are collected are then melted down to make new steel cans.

Collect-a-Can accepts cool drink and beer cans, aerosol and paint cans as well as aluminium cans. Just remember all cans must be empty on collection.

Glass

All glass bottles and jars are 100 percent recyclable and you can also do your part by reusing them as storage containers. Sadly both mirrors and windows – cannot be recycled with regular packaging glass eg. bottles and jars. You can also take cool drink bottles back to the shop for a “return” deposit. Many neighbourhoods have glass banks located near shopping areas – to find a glass bank near you SMS “Glass” and the name of your suburb to 32310.

Before taking items to the glass bank you need to:

Remove corks and lids

Rinse to remove residue

No need to separate different colours

Paper

Most paper can be recycled and may be collected from your home, provided they are in the correct waste paper bags. But to do your part for the environment make sure the paper you buy is either recycled or FSC certified. The Forest Stewardship Council (fsc.org) is a not-for-profit alliance between NGOs, government, and paper and timber players from around the world.

Tips for recycling paper from NRF

Use a separate reusable container for paper waste

Keep your waste paper clean and dry

Find out from your local recycler what paper grades should be kept separate from the rest

Tetrapak

These are fruit juice and milk containers that look like they’re made from paper but are lined with aluminum foil and plastic. Tetrapak’s recycling facility in Germiston recycles the packaging into roof tiles, furniture and stationary.

Many schools do collections.

Plastic

Unfortunately plastic is much more difficult to recycle than glass or paper, and because of this, most of SA’s plastic goes to landfill sites or makes it way into the ocean. Plastics do not biodegrade, and just get broken down into increasingly smaller particles – known as photodegradation. The good news is that there are plastic packaging that can be recycled like ice cream containers, plastic bags and fabric softener bottles. Here are the kinds of plastic you may come across:

PET: Used mainly for bottled water and soft drinks

HDPE: Milk bottles, cleaning products and cosmetics

PVC: Described as a difficult plastic, in many cases replaced with PET

LDPE: rubbish bags, frozen vegetable bags

PP: ice cream tubs, straws and lunch boxes

PS: two types used in meat trays, yoghurt tubs

Doing your bit for the environment starts with the small stuff and recycling is a way to get you there. Stick to the three-point guide of reduce, reuse and recycle and the rest will come easily. Happy recycling!

Recycling in numbers:

Recycling a single plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60W light bulb for four hours.

A plastic beverage bottle takes 450 years to decompose.

Glass and plastic take the longest to decompose.

According to a 2010 study, only 3.3 percent of the country’s population regularly recycled household waste.

Useful info:

Collect-a-Can:  www.collectacan.co.za

The Glass Recycling Company: 0861 2 GLASS (45277) or www.theglassrecyclingcompany.co.za to find your closest glass bank

MPact Recycling: 0800 022 112

PlasticsSA: 011 314 4021

National Recycling Forum: 011 675 3462

Tetrapak:  www.tetrapak.com/za/sustainability/recycling

Download Treevolution’s guide to recycling in SA:  treevolution.co.za/guide/

* Marchelle Abrahams is multi-media family journalist for Independent Media

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