Recycling sounds pretty simple – you separate recyclable items and send them off to be recycled!
But the reality is not always so easy or as simple. Even if you do send your items to be recycled – are they are actually recyclable? And are they being properly recycled?
Let’s take a quick look at some facts about recycling that may surprise you.
- South Africa sends around 95 million tonnes of waste to its 826 landfill sites and less than 40% of the materials are recycled.
- South Africa produces 65 million tonnes of hazardous waste, of which only 6% is recycled.
- The average recycling rate for plastics in South Africa exceeds 43%, which is higher than the 31% figure for Europe.
Before you even start recycling it is important to understand what can be recycled – not all paper and plastic is created equal and not all of it can actually be recycled. You can start by learning the different plastic codes.
Recycling doesn’t necessarily mean sending items to a recycling plant. You can recycle items into something new.
- Tins make cool pen holders or pots for plants.
- Glass jars can be used for so many different things.
- 2l soda bottles can be used as eco-bricks.
- Egg cartons are great for seedlings.
How to Start Recycling
If you are new to recycling don’t try to recycle everything from the start.
Pick one item. For me paper is the easiest thing to start with. Glass is also pretty easy and you will generally find both glass and paper bins in your community. Check your local churches or large supermarkets, many of them have large bins for the local community.
Recycling plastic and tin can be a little harder because finding somewhere to actually recycle them can be difficult. There are recycling companies who will collect all of your recycling but that does come with a cost.
We have our rubbish collected by a private company and they recycle as well but I sort out the plastic and tin and leave it for the local “garbage pickers”. Even if you aren’t sure if your rubbish collectors recycle, sort out the different items and leave them on the top of your rubbish bin and the trash pickers will take it.
There are an “estimated 200,000 waste pickers or reclaimers who navigate the racial, economic and physical divides of South Africa’s largest and wealthiest city to sell tins, plastic and paper to recycling depots.” Source
There is so much negative stigma attached to these pickers but let’s be real, no one wants to scratch through someone else’s trash just be able to buy food for your family. Make it easy for them and separate your waste so they don’t have to dig through all your rubbish.
The key to successful recycling is to find what works for you and make it as simple as possible. Start with something that is simple and easy and then when you are comfortable, add another item.
Ultimately though it is better to reduce than to recycle – especially when it comes to plastic items.