Change your recycling habits and change someone’s life

Nearly 1,3 million tonnes of paper was collected for recycling in 2017. This amount of paper would fill 1,539 Olympic-sized swimming pools and saves 3.9 million cubic metres of landfill space.

However, only 13% of South African households recycle regularly, according to Statistics SA.

Drive around your neighbourhood on rubbish collection day, not only will you notice bins overflowing but you will see people sifting through waste to extract valuable recyclable materials such as cardboard packaging, plastic bottles, glass and milk and juice cartons.

“Informal waste collectors, often seen as a nuisance, earn a living by recovering recyclables and selling them to buy back centres,” explains Anele Sololo, manager for training, promotion and operations at RecyclePaperZA, the South African paper recycling association.

“With a little bit of effort, much more can be done to improve the livelihoods on thousands of people and divert reusable materials from landfills,” she says. “With paper and cardboard in particular, the cleaner, the better. The collector will earn more money for clean, dry material when he sells it to the buy-back centre.”

Recycling plays a big part in job creation – from the people who walk the streets collecting recyclables to bigger companies who employ people to recover, weigh, sort and manufacture recyclables into new products.

Change your recycling habits and change someone’s life
Change your recycling habits and change someone’s life

Paper has a value

Waste paper is not rubbish at all but a valuable source of fibre used in paper manufacturing.  Some 65% is used as a raw material in mills for the production of corrugated boxes and board, newspapers, tissue products, kitchen and industrial paper towelling, cereal boxes, soap cartons and moulded paper products like egg boxes.

Be part of a [re]cycle

“We all use paper in some form every day and should therefore all become paper recyclers,” says Sololo, who shares a few tips on how to make things easier for waste collectors and increase their earning potential:

  • If there is no paper collection programme in your area, strike up an arrangement with a waste collector and agree to put your recyclables in separate bags – paper and cardboard in one, and other recyclables in another, so that they can collect from you once a week.
  • Recyclable paper products should be kept clean and dry to ensure that the waste collector earns maximum value. This means you need to keep paper and cardboard separate from wet kitchen waste. The collector gets paid more for better quality material.
  • Liquid board packaging, such as milk and juice cartons, is also recyclable. Simply rinse lightly (preferably in your dish water), flatten and put into your paper recycling. You can even leave the cap on.

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