South Africa’s paper recycling rate rises to 68.4%

South Africa successfully diverted 1.4 million tonnes of recyclable paper and paper packaging from landfill in 2016. This is equivalent to the weight of 280,000 adult African elephants or would cover 254 soccer fields.

The Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (PRASA) confirms that the annual paper recovery rate has sustained 2% year-on-year growth since 2012 and now stands at 68.4%[i].

“This surpasses the global average of 58%[ii],” says PRASA operations director Ursula Henneberry, adding that recovered paper – the paper and cardboard put in our recycling bins – is a valuable raw material that South African manufacturers have been using as an alternative fibre since 1920.

“Despite this, newspapers, magazines, office paper, cardboard boxes, paper cups, milk and juice cartons still go to landfill,” says Henneberry.

Waste less, care more

Around 11% of people claim to recycle all the time[iii]. “Everyone uses paper products, so we should all be recyclers. It’s just the right thing to do.” It’s good for the environment. It saves landfill space, reduces unnecessary emissions and encourages a waste-conscious lifestyle. It’s good for our economy too, as it provides an income stream for street collectors and keeps paper recycling operations in business with a clean and good quality raw material to make the products we use daily.

From street collectors to the people employed in the sector, paper recycling creates meaningful employment for around 37,000 people.

Recycling is as easy as 1-2-3

While it may seem cumbersome at first, it only takes a little effort to develop ‘good garbage habits’. PRASA shares three important tips:

  1. Keep paper separate from wet waste – get a bin or box for paper and keep it in a convenient spot.
  2. Get to know your recyclables – copy paper, magazines, flyers and newspapers; cereal, medicine and egg boxes, cardboard boxes and juice and milk cartons are all recyclable.
  3. Have it collected or drop it off – support a collector, sign-up to a collection programme or find a drop-off point near you. Visit recyclepaper.co.za and click on the MyWaste widget on the home page.

Notes:

Given that land suitable for the commercial growing of trees is limited, virgin/new fibre is supplemented with recovered paper. On the other hand, an injection of virgin fibre is needed in the papermaking process because paper fibres shorten and weaken each time they are recycled.

The Paper Recycling Association of South Africa promotes paper recycling by increasing education and awareness on the recovery of paper and packaging materials reused in the manufacture of paper-based products. It works with community-based organisations, schools and businesses to share recycling’s many societal and environmental benefits. These include job creation, poverty alleviation, the creation of a clean, more sustainable environment and reduced costs to local authorities.

[i] 68.4% represents the percentage of paper products that can be recovered and excludes the likes of books and archived records, and items that are contaminated or destroyed when used; tissue, hygiene products and cigarette paper.

In 2001, the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (PRASA) reported a 38% paper recovery rate, a figure that rose to 59% in 2011. The association had projected paper recycling rates would rise to 63% by the end of 2017. By 2016 the paper and paper packaging industry well exceeded this with its 2015 figure of 66% of the nation’s recoverable paper and cardboard being recycled into new paper products.

[ii] International Council of Forest and Paper Associations, 2015

[iii] Consumer research conducted by PETC0, 2016

Siphamandla Ntshangase runs a successful paper recycling enterprise in the Northern Cape.
Siphamandla Ntshangase runs a successful paper recycling enterprise in the Northern Cape.
Mary Phillips, owner of The Waste Takers in Port Elizabeth, attended PRASA’s entrepreneurship training course in August 2016. Today, her start-up business provides employment for three permanent staff members, pays 10 collectors on a regular basis and is a source of income for up to 18 casual workers.
Mary Phillips, owner of The Waste Takers in Port Elizabeth, attended PRASA’s entrepreneurship training course in August 2016. Today, her start-up business provides employment for three permanent staff members, pays 10 collectors on a regular basis and is a source of income for up to 18 casual workers.
Separation-at-source is vital for effective recycling. Credit: istockphoto
Separation-at-source is vital for effective recycling. Credit: istockphoto