What is recycling?
Recycling is the process of transforming a waste object into a resource that can be used again. For example, recycled plastic can be used to make new plastic items without using up new resources. Recycling is a small thing that each family can do which can result in turning waste into a valuable resource. Instead of letting your waste go into the ground in landfill site where it will never decompose as there is no oxygen in there, you can take the time to separate your waste at home and drop it off where it can be processed and used again. You will be saving trees, petroleum and metals from the earth and preventing your waste having a negative effect on the environment.

Some facts about recycling in SA
While other countries in Europe, parts of the US and Australia are doing a great job at recycling their waste, South African seem to need government incentives or penalties to be forced into doing anything that doesn’t directly benefit them. Despite this in 2007 South Africa recycled 1,498-million tons of packaging waste, which is about 40,8% of overall packaging and paper waste. Recycling transforms waste into a valuable raw material, saves oil and timber and decreases the countries overall carbon footprint. Metal beverage cans lead the way with a 67% recycling rate, followed by paper at 53%, glass at 25% and plastics at 23%.

Over the years the industry has also been able to reduce the mass of packaging products in order to save raw materials and reduce waste. The beverage can has decreased in weight from 62g in 1966 to 33g today, the PET 2litre bottle has decreased from 90g in 1979 to 52g today and a cement sack weights 240gsm today versus 30gsm in 1990. Glass bottles have been reduced by 18% in the last 10 years.

What you can do
Basically all you need to do in order to recycle is to get 3-4 plastic bins (one for paper, one for plastic, one for glass and one for metal cans) and keep them in your scullery or outside your kitchen door. You also need to have your compost bin for your organic household waste as some 60% of what goes into landfills could be composted and returned to enrich the garden. Then whenever you have any waste, check if it fits into any of the 5 categories above and place the item into the right bin. If it is something other than those 5 categories then simply pop that into your regular dust bin. This should considerably decrease the amount of household waste your family produces that goes to landfill.

You will also need to contact your local municipality or local recycling companies to find where the closest drop off point for your recycled waste is. I drop off paper at my local library and glass at the glass recycle bin at our local dump yard and plastics go to a local plastic recycling company near my husband’s work. It can take some effort to do this but it is a small thing to do for the large benefits to the environment.

In addition, our children will not have the choice as to whether to recycle or not. By the time they have their own households, environmental issues will have dictated that every household does so, so I feel that by teaching them to do so now is helping them to learn the right way from the start.

More info on recycling and

eco green living.