Don’t bin in, recycle it...start with paper - it’s easy

South Africa recycled less than 1.3 million tonnes of paper and paper packaging in 2022. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/ African News Agency(ANA)

South Africa recycled less than 1.3 million tonnes of paper and paper packaging in 2022. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/ African News Agency(ANA)

Published Dec 23, 2023


From parcels and packaging to excess food, the festive season can be wasteful. But it doesn’t need to be.

December is a perfect time to declutter and set some green goals to reduce your impact on the planet.

The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (Pamsa) aims to promote the use of paper and paper packaging. Paper is not only recyclable, it is also renewable. Made from the wood fibre of farmed trees that are replanted with new trees after harvesting, paper is one of the most eco-friendly wrapping and packing materials.

Thanks to the green efforts of mindful citizens, businesses, schools and the recycling industry, South Africa recycled just less than 1.3 million tonnes of paper and paper packaging in 2022. If baled and laid out, this would cover 161 rugby fields, fill 1 502 Olympic-sized swimming pools or weigh as much as 208 553 mature African elephants.

More importantly, a ton of recycled paper can save up to three cubic metres of landfill space. 2022’s paper recycling volumes saved 3.8 million cubic metres of landfill space and ensured that the paper industry could re-use the fibre in cardboard boxes, grocery bags, egg boxes, newspapers and tissue products.

Sadly, a significant amount of recyclable paper and packaging is thrown away with food or garden waste, ending up in a landfill.

Pamsa gives us four tips that will keep us greener and our planet cleaner:

Re-use or recycle but don’t just bin it: Paper items such as used office paper, cardboard boxes and brown paper bags are recyclable and a sought-after fibre source for the recycling industry. Re-use what you can, or put your wastepaper and other recyclables out for recycling collectors. Make sure it’s clean and dry, and separate from any food or wet waste.

Wrap those gifts wisely: Instagram and Facebook are filled with great ideas to wrap gifts, from using simple brown kraft paper, glass jars to fabric scraps. It’s best to steer clear of foil-based wrapping papers that are not recyclable. Pretty gift bags are great too as they can re-used by the recipients.

Gift your home a recycling system: It doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive, or complicated. Just use separate bins or boxes and label them for paper, plastic, cans, and glass.

Paper must be kept clean and dry to prevent early degradation of the natural fibres.

Decide what you will do with your recycling: separate it for a waste collector or drop it at a recycling centre. Get to know what paper is recyclable and what is not.


Wrapping paper that is not laminated, embellished or foil based

Office paper

Cardboard boxes

Grocery bags (Checkers Sixty60, Pick ‘n Pay ASAP, Woolworths Dash and so on)

Paper takeaway bags and pizza boxes – remove all food residue

Beverage cartons – both long-life milk and juice and refrigerated

Paper coffee and soft drink cups

Magazines and newspaper

Paper packaging for cereal, toothpaste, medicine and cosmetics without plastic laminates or excessive foil embellishments.

Not recyclable:

Foil gift wrapping and foil lined boxes

Wax coated or laminated boxes such as frozen food boxes

Empty cement and dog food bags

Disposable nappies

Carbon paper

Sticky notes

It’s these small conscious changes to our behaviour that will make a positive and collective impact and give the gift that keeps on giving – a healthier planet!

FUN FACT: Did you know that 26 December 26, Boxing Day (now the Day of Reconciliation), was traditionally reserved for clearing out unused or unwanted items? The items were given out to the less fortunate in boxes.

Saturday Star

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