Recycling is the third component of the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra – the “3R’s” of waste minimisation. Whilst this mantra has become commonplace, it is a cornerstone of saving our environment, and the recycling bit is the part we can easily get on top of.
Some experts have added “re-think” to the mix, questioning the entire manufacturing process and calling for a new approach. It’s also become fashionable for organisations to add their own R’s to the mantra, like replenish, renew, respect, responsible etc.
The obvious starting point however, is to reduce the amount we buy (we’ll have less to reuse and recycle), rather than avidly recycling. Finding constructive ways to reuse materials is next. Sorting and recycling is last.
But what is all the fuss about?
On paper, cans, glass & plastic:
- Recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours
- An aluminium can that is thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now
- Recycling a single run of the Sunday New York Times would save 75,000 trees
- 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials
- Plastic bags and other plastic rubbish thrown into the ocean kill as many as a million sea creatures every year
- The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials
Other interesting recycling facts & figures:
- Up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could be recycled
- It costs at least three times more to dump rubbish in landfills that it cost to reuse and recycle
- On average, 16% of the money you spend on a product pays for the packaging, which ultimately ends up as rubbish
- As much as 50% of waste in the average dustbin could be composted
- Every person in SA produces between a ½ kg and 2 kgs of waste daily, which equates to two bins of urban waste per week [environment.gov.za]
The recycling logo
Before glibly throwing all of your plastic containers into the recycling box, the first port of call is the base of your container. If it doesn’t have the recycling logo with the number INSIDE the triangle or the abbreviation below the logo (PET, PP, HDPE etc), then it cannot be recycled. There are a number of culprits who believe that they’re packaging in recyclable containers, but because they do not have the logo and accepted number, these are instead contributing to landfill – watch out for them! (pressure them to change; write them an email or phone them).
Just what you can recycle
Just what you can and can’t recycle depends very much on your drop-off depot, the company collecting your recycling or your municipality, so if you’re serious about recycling, the onus is very much on you (some of the drop-off points don’t even have phone numbers, so you might have to visit them).
For instance, the Wynberg drop off site in Rosmead Avenue in Cape Town accept cardboard, newspaper, magazines, office white paper, the white pages, tins, glass, and plastic with the numbers 1, 2, and 5, and tetrapak. They shouldn't accept plastic without the recycling logo, or cling wrap, foil, plastic film, banana boxes (they’re waxy inside, batteries, light bulbs, chemicals, fertilisers or hazardous waste.
Find your local recycling depot
Batteries & CFLs
Up until recently you couldn’t recycle batteries or CFLs at all in South Africa. However, Uniross provide battery recycling boxes in Pick n Pay stores nationwide for rechargeable batteries NOT normal batteries – a huge incentive to buy rechargeables if you’re not already. You can also recycle rechargeable batteries at Macro stores. And Philips have teamed up with Pick n Pay to facilitate the collection of CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) in their stores countrywide. Philips have a recycling plant going up in Lesotho. Find out where to recycle CFLs.
Recycle your oil
The ROSE Foundation manages the environmentally acceptable collection, storage and recycling of used lubricating oil in South Africa.
Recycle your e-waste
e-waste: electrical & electronic equipment such as TVs, computers, cell phones and household appliances. Computers are one of the messiest contributors to the environment. They give off carcinogens and toxic waste, and going the extra mile to recycle them, rather than just turfing them, is made that much easier by companies such as Computer Scrap Recycling and Virgin Earth . See EWASA for a list of other recyclers of ewaste.
One of the easiest options is to use your computer manufacturer’s take-back programme, if there is one. Dell, who is working very hard on their green image, claim to lead the industry in their free home pick-up programme (if you're buying a Dell computer) – they’re the only IT company providing free recycling of products for consumers in 57 countries. You could also donate your working computer to a charity or use freecycle.org Nokia have started a cell phone recycling programme, and you can refill your printer ink cartridges at Cartridge Depot and Cartridge World.
Have it picked up
If you don’t have the time to drop-off and sort your recycling, both Johannesburg and Cape Town have local ‘pick up’ services offered by resourceful individuals. The likes of Abundance Recycling and Mr Recycle in the Western Cape, and Mama She’s and Whole Earth in Gauteng have become more and more popular with local residents.
Buy recycled goods
If you want to support recycling, then the cycle doesn’t end with recycling. One can also support recycled products – innovative individuals, community projects and NGOs are using recycling content in everything from lampshades to bags, such as Waste at Work and Heath Nash , the designer.
Compost your waste
This is one of the simplest ways of recycling. Your garden cuttings and your kitchen scraps can all go onto the compost heap. If you don’t have a garden, find someone who does or donate your scraps to a local community garden. Read all about it and worm bins in our green your garden.
Recycle your water
Re-using your water isn’t necessarily about having an expensive grey-water system installed. You could rearrange your plumbing (it’s probably better to get someone else to do it) so that wastewater or rainwater is used to flush your loo. For more on recycling your water, see our green your water guide .
If you want to start your own recycling drop-off point, these are the buy-back companies with whom you can partner.
The Glass Recycling Co
Nothing has to end up in landfill that doesn’t belong there. If you’re struggling to offload used items, certain charities will be glad to take them off you, or recycle it for free on freecycle.org.
Who to contact about recycling
Get recycling at work - read our article on ideate.com