Recycling is like exercise: it’s something that everyone knows they should be doing, but it seems like such an effort to start doing it that you just never start at all. But, unlike exercise, recycling doesn’t just ensure your body is beach-ready – it may well help to ensure that your grandchildren have a clean beach to get their bodies ready for.
Earth Day was held globally on 22 April, aiming to remind us of our power in making sure that future generations can enjoy the same natural wonders we often take for granted.
In the light of Earth Day, this is your beginner’s guide to recycling. If you only do one thing for Mother Nature this year (but hopefully it’s not just one thing), let it be this.
It seems pretty obvious, but the positive impact of recycling on the environment is significant beyond measure. The 59% of paper that is recycled in South Africa each year saves enough energy to power 512 homes for a year. Glass and cans are 100% recyclable.
Considering that plastic is made from a non-renewable resource – oil – and the fact that only about 14% of plastic is recycled in South Africa today (even if much of the plastic we use every day can be recycled) just recycling plastic is already a huge step in the right direction.
Recycling as an entrepreneurial venture
The amount of waste collectors in urban areas is a testament to the monetary gains that recycling yields to the unemployed. Recycling businesses are many people’s bread and butter and have become entrepreneurial ventures in their own right.
According to the department of trade and industry, recycling could provide roughly 350 000 job opportunities to unskilled workers, making it a vital part of the economy in more ways than one.
What can be recycled?
• Cardboard (cereal and other boxes)
• White office paper
• Magazines and books, as long as the pages aren’t laminated
• Cold drink and beer cans (even rusty cans)
• Paint, oil and aerosol cans (leave the labels on them to indicate hazardous material)
• Food tins
• Metal lids of glass jars
• Aluminium cans (the “softer” cans, like the ones energy drinks come in), foil and foil packaging
• Food jars like tomato sauce, mayonnaise and jam bottles
• Beverage bottles
Most plastics can be recycled. Check the packaging for the recycling logo to determine which type of plastic it is, and separate the plastic according to its type – there are 7 different types.
Milk and fruit juice containers that are made out of paper and lined with plastic and aluminium foil should be sorted separately. Tetrapak has a recycling facility in Germiston in Gauteng, and is planning more around the country.
6. Rechargeable batteries
Disposable batteries can’t be recycled but rechargeable batteries can. Don’t throw disposable batteries out with your normal waste, as they contain toxic chemicals that can leak into the soil and groundwater.
How do you recycle?
By just sorting your rubbish, you’ve already made the job easier for your local collectors by decontaminating recyclable material.
You’ll need containers for the different types of waste, as explained above, as well as one more for biodegradable food waste (which can also be used to start a compost heap).
If there aren’t any waste collectors in your area, these can be emptied at recycling facilities in your area, and you are paid according to the weight of the material that is collected.
By your powers combined…
If finding your local recycling facility and dropping waste off is too time-consuming for you, why not join forces with your colleagues and collaborate in your recycling efforts? Starting a monthly challenge among departments won’t just promote teambuilding; it’ll also make employees aware of the amount of items that can be recycled while you do your bit for the environment. Use the money you get at the recycling plant for an office party or a prize for the winning department.
Many office parks already have big recycling bins for the businesses located in the office park. If you don’t, various companies offer collection services from the home or office for a nominal fee to make recycling much more convenient.
Recycling and uplifting your community
Starting a recycle swop shop in your area can be the driving force behind getting the community involved. These swop shops supply various items to community members according to the needs of the target group, provided that they swop recyclable materials in exchange for these items.
The one-week waste recycling challenge
If a week of recycling doesn’t convince you to make it a part of your lifestyle, it’ll surely convince you to be more aware of being a responsible consumer and sticking to packaging that can be recycled. Like any change to your daily routine, recycling has to become a habit.
We can guarantee that just one week of recycling will be an eye-opener and make you much more aware of the stretch of your carbon footprint. Why don’t you start today?
For more information visit Treevolution.