Having a recycling schedule at home is a good way to create a green living environment. Disposing sustainably of consumer waste can go a long way to help protect the environment. Waste disposal is a big problem and every small effort we make adds up to making a positive change in the war against waste. We look at the importance of recycling.
The Truth About Plastic
Laura Parker from National Geographic writes ” Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so most of it still exists in some form. Only 12 per cent has been incinerated. The study was launched two years ago as scientists tried to get a handle on the gargantuan amount of plastic that ends up in the seas and the harm it is causing to birds, marine animals, and fish. The prediction that by mid-century, the oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish, ton for ton, has become one of the most-quoted statistics and a rallying cry to do something about it“.
Nappies are another big problem. According to Small Footprint Family creator, Dawn Gifford, disposable nappies are the 3rd largest consumer item in landfills and represent 30 percent of non-biodegradable waste.
Another terrifying fact is that South Africa sends around 95 million tons of waste to its 826 landfill sites and less than 40 percent of the materials are recycled according to Recycling International.
The world is drowning in plastic and we cannot recycle our way out of the problem. Despite our efforts, we have a lot of catching up to do. It is a very scary thought and the idea of not trying to recycle plastic is unimaginable.
Plastic is essential to the modern world. Strong, flexible and cheap. Plastic packaging protects foods, cosmetics and so much more. Horrifyingly enough – plastic also never goes away – well, at least not in our lifetime. This is because it takes so long to degrade.
Sadly, plastic production has increased over the last couple of years. We are told that if we recycle, we solve the problem. But that is not exactly true. Waste management companies have been employed by governments to help with the colossal task and they have the inside scoop. A Marin Sanitary Plastic representative states that plastic bags cannot, under any circumstances, be recycled This type of plastic damages the machines and instead makes its way directly to a landfill.
Because there are so many different types of plastics, they cannot all be recycled the same. The chemical properties of each plastic are different and they cannot be melted together, making most of it unrecyclable.
Single-use plastics are one of the biggest dangers to the planet and should be eliminated. Always take your own shopping bags, wooden or metal cutlery when eating take out and refrain from using plastic cups and plastic lids.
What can we do?
We need to continue to do our best to take care of our consumer waste. Earth Day shares seven key tips to recycle optimally:
- No plastic bags. Like really, no plastic bags.
- Don’t recycle anything smaller than a credit card. It is too small and jams recycling machines.
- Make sure that what you recycle is clean, empty and dry. Food waste contaminates whole loads of recyclable material, rendering them useless and fast-tracking them to landfills.
- Combined materials are trash. Recycling only works when like materials are together
- Know your plastics. A lot of plastic just isn’t recyclable curbside. As noted earlier, you can’t recycle plastic bags or films. Additionally, you can’t recycle anything that can tear like paper.
- Stop “wish cycling”. That’s when we optimistically put non–recyclable objects in recycling bins.
- Teach yourself. The more you know, the better. Make sure you know where to drop off specific plastics and which recycling centres can help you best.
What can be recycled?
- Paper: office paper, magazines, newspapers and junk mail
- Green, clear and brown glass bottles and jars
- Juice and milk cartons
- All hard plastic bottles and containers marked, but no lids
- Steel (tin) and aluminium cans and empty aerosols
- E-waste (computer hardware, cell phones etc)
Drop Off and Collection Help
Pretoria: The Recyclers
Johannesburg: Whole Earth
Cape Town: Recycle 1st
Durban: E Waste Tech
Bloemfontein: Master Recyclers
You can also keep an eye out to see if your local mall has large glass, paper and metal bins for your recyclables. Various Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths stores have battery recycling stations as well.
Make a difference today and start a healthy recycling program in your home. Follow the National Recycling Forum of South Africa for updated news.