How to recycle
Recycling, a buzz word today that is helping to protect the environment, while also creating jobs for people in recycling depots.
The mayor of Johannesburg has recently announced that recycling is going to be obligatory for every household in Johannesburg as the dump sites are filling up at an alarming rate, meaning that in 6 years there will be no more dumping areas.
An ideal society would be to have a zero waste society, but until then, recycling is essential for homes and businesses, industry and production facilities if we want to not have a natural disaster on our hands.
Waste which can be reused is filling up landfills, leach into the ground and mostly takes a very long time to decompose (a simple plastic can take 1000 years). Leaching and contamination will affect our water, air and health. Recycling means we wont use as many natural resources while preventing the over use of landfill.
What can be recycled:
Plastic, paper, glass and metals. Batteries, ink cartridges, even food waste can be redistributed to animal farms, with fresh produce being used in compost creation.
What is the recycling process?
Waste firstly needs to be sorted into different categories:
Items which can be recycled vs items which cannot be recycled
Paper/cardboard, not gloss or laminated paper
Plastics – not gladwrap-type plastics or sticky plastics
Sorting happens manually in the first stage and collected or dropped off at a recycling depot. Many companies have started doing pickups of recycling bags, and there are many “recycling specialists” in Johannesburg, walking with road-trollies and making a living for themselves
Sorting needs to be done because each group gets treated differently, by different processes. Sorting the waste improves efficiency, increases the amount of goods recycled and is a good habit.
Not sorting the waste means that different types of waste get mixed up and more likely to not be recycled.
What type of plastics can be recycled?
Plastics can be divided into 7 groups, identifying the plastic use in the products. Not all plastics can be recycled as they cannot be broken down
• #1 - PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) water bottles are made from PET plastics. It is intended for single use applications, most water bottles are made from PET plastics. Leach carcinogens especially when heat is involved. Difficult to decontaminate and very recyclable. Made into texiles, stuffing for pillows, life jackets etc.
• #2 - HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) Reusable and recyclable, this plastis is used for milk bottles, detergents, oil bottles, toys is considered a cost effective material to recycle and relatively simple.
• #3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride – Known as a poison plastic, PVC not accepted by some centres for recycling and works better when repurposed. This plastic is a soft plastic used for wrapping foods teething rings, toys and packaging for numerous toys.
• #4 – LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) Sometimes recycled, depending on the recycling depot. Less toxic it is safer for use and more pliable types of plastics. Found in squeezable bottles, bread packaging, garbage bin bags.
• #5 – PP (Polypropylene) - not accepted by some centres, cannot be broken down. Lightweight, a protective barrier against moisture, chemicals, this is often used in food (cereal packaging). Although not recycled as often, this plastic is safer for use
• #6 – PS (Polystyrene) Very commonly used for packaging, this plastic leaches into the environment. It is the one plastic that can be reused the most often, but not readily accepted by recycling depots.
#7 – BPA, Polycarbonate and other plastics – to be avoided unless they have compostable grading which is shown as PLA. Even though these are used for childrens food, they should be avoided as far as possible especially in heating foods
What products are created from recycled goods?
Although first prize is to reduce and not use plastics, they are firmly entrenched into our society. The good news is that we can still reuse and recycle many plastics.
Plastic products can be redirected into fleece jackets, insulations materials, carpeting, plastic bags and even furniture and DIY products.
DIY plastics – create a vertical garden using bottles as plant pots. Mostly PET plastics are used for recycling into materials. Plastics can be converted into plastic pellets used into inkection moulding products.
Egg boxes can be used for compost as it readily decomposes and allows air into the mixture
Newspapers – cardboard, egg boxes, paper plates and kitty litter
Magazines – newpaper, paperboard for eg cereal boxes
Cardboard – new cardboard, kitty scratch pads (Science Hill)
Paper – Notepads, toilet paper, computer paper, serviettes
Metal cans – car and bike parts, new cans, steel beams, appliances
Recycled glass – new bottles, jars, fibre glass
How can we reduce the amount we use? By not buying plastic bottles, using glass instead where safe and not wasting. Use Veggie shops, without all the bags!
Recycling is a habit and once people are educated and motivated, it can also be satisfying.
Recycling materials should be placed in a see through bag or green as black is typically seen as the non usable waste.
Having recycling bags available and used will drastically reduce the waste in your home, office or industry, is great fo effective waste management and definitely the way to go.