Most first-world countries have not only recognised the importance of recycling, but their citizens are actively playing a role in ensuring that as many goods as possible are discarded in such a way that they can be reused. Governments in Australia and the UK, for example, have set strict guidelines on the disposal of recyclable goods. They have allocated different-coloured bins for different kinds of waste, and these bins are collected from residential homes and businesses on different days.
Unfortunately, perhaps due to a lack of education, South Africans are not nearly as conscious of the impact that waste has on the environment. Although more people are beginning to recycle, the number of people consistently doing so is generally low.
Poor stats in SA
According to a recent consumer report on East Coast Radio, the ratio of Durban-generated waste that is being recycled went up to 13% during 2010, but has now dropped to less than 12%. A study conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) reveals that only 3.3% of SA’s urban population regularly recycled household waste in 2010.
In comparison, Australian news sites were complaining as far back as 2007 that, although Australians were generating almost 48 million tons of waste annually, only 52% of that waste was being recycled – a stark reminder that we’re lagging far behind.
The 2010 CSIR report notes that two-thirds of the more than 2 000 urban South African households surveyed did not know where to dispose of their household recyclables. Furthermore, the majority of the participants in the study reported that they do not know how or what to recycle. There are, however, a number of companies around the country who will collect certain recyclable items or have drop-off points where the goods can be left.
Who can help?
Most of these companies offer a nation-wide service although Remade, for example, offers a wide range of recycling services and has offices in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West. Ecomonkey supplies bins for recyclable goods and operates in areas such as Lonehill, Jukskei Park and Johannesburg North. It plans to go national – so support it and its cause. Clearer Conscience operates in Cape Town and offers a kerbside collection service to those living in the CBD, City Bowl, Atlantic Seaboard and Southern Suburbs.
Although these collection services do charge a fee, the fact that the goods are collected on a weekly or fortnightly basis does take the hassle of finding and dropping off the recycled goods at a particular depot.
If there isn't a recycling company that offers a collection service in your area, you are going to have to separate your recyclables at home and find a suitable place to store the items. Collect-a-Can is the main collector of used cool-drink cans, with offices in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Vanderbijlpark, Durban and Cape Town.
Most suburbs have drop off points for glass “trash”. If you are unsure of where your nearest glass banks are situated, you could contact your local municipal offices for further details.
To clear your conscience on your paper waste you should get in touch with Mondi on 0800 022 122 or email www.paperpickup.co.za.
Electronic items such as cell phones, computers – in fact anything that has a plug – should be disposed of at specialised facility. To find out more, go to e-Waste's website.
Compact fluorescent lamp light-bulbs should never be discarded along with household rubbish but retailers such as Pick and Pay and Woolworths have recognised the need to dispose of them safely and have placed numerous bins at their various outlets around the country.
We should recycle:
• Cold-drink and beer cans (even rusty ones)
• Food tins
• Metal lids from glass jars
• Aluminium cans and tinfoil
• Paint, oil and aerosol cans
• Glass bottles
• Magazines and books (excluding glossy magazines and anything that has been laminated)
• Cardboard boxes
• Certain plastic products, including ice cream containers, plastic bags, and plastic milk containers
It is not possible to recycle:
• Laminated or waxy paper
• Carbon paper
• Light bulbs
• Ceramic items such as plates