As part of a “going green” crusade (we’ve already explored how to reduce organic waste by starting an earthworm farm), we’ve decided to show you how to further reduce your household waste by dabbling in a little recycling. Here’s what you need to know…
It is estimated that South Africans generate over 18 million tons of domestic waste each year. We need to adopt a new mantra: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Why not simply throw your waste in a big black refuse bin, I hear you ask. After your rubbish is collected from outside your house, it is taken to a landfill, otherwise known as a rubbish dump. Landfills are not good for the environment – once an area becomes a landfill, it takes decades before the land can be used for anything else. And even once you start using it again, there are limitations – the land is unstable as the waste will continue to degrade for hundreds of years. Therefore, no building, no growing food and no pasture for animals to graze on.
Worst of all, we will soon run out of space for dumping sites – and then what? Burn the waste? However, this would contribute to air pollution. By reducing our waste, we can extend the life of landfills.
Here are some interesting facts and figures
* It is estimated that the average person produces between 500 g and 2 kg of waste daily; this equates to two bins of waste per week.
* Up to 60 per cent of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin can be recycled.
* Recycling an aluminium can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours.
* Recycling a single run of the New York Times (Sunday edition) would save 75 000 trees.
* The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100 W light bulb for four hours.
Recycling is easier than you think
It isn’t very difficult to reduce a family’s waste; all it takes is kicking bad habits, a bit of effort and some fore thought. Start small – recycle 3 things 3 times a day, and your recycling will improve threefold.
What can be recycled?
Paper, cardboard, cans, scrap metal, plastic, glass, tyres, lubricating oils, as well as unusual items such as cards and appliances.
What cannot be recycled?
Dirty recyclable materials, laminates made of mixed material e.g. plastic-paper, paper-metal foil laminates, laminate glass such as car windscreens.
So here’s how to do it
* Step 1 – Separate
Separate your home waste and teach your children/domestic workers to do the same. Start four different rubbish bins or bags; colour-code them to make it easier.
Dustbin 1: Glass
Dustbin 2: Tins
Dustbin 3: Paper
Dustbin 4: Plastic
Element 5: Organic waste – you can dispose of all your organic waste by starting a compost heap or your own earthworm farm.
* Step 2 – Take out the trash
Once you have separated your waste, you need to dispose of it responsibly. You have two options here:
1) If you live in a big city, there are a few waste management companies who will collect your waste from your door. Here are a few companies you might find useful –
Mr Recycle Helderberg Earth Action
Cell: 079 138 9262
2) Drop off your waste at an appropriate recycling depot. Here are a few organisations you can contact to find out where the nearest drop off point is to you:
Paper | Tin | Glass | Plastic
Tel: 0800 018 818
Tel: (011) 712 5200
Enviroserv Waste Management
Tel: (011) 422 2560
Cell: 083 415 7636
The Glass Recycling Company
Tel: (011) 803 0767
Tel: 0800 111 232
Tel: 0800 221 330
Tel: (021) 448 7492
Oilkol (used motor oil)
Tel: (011) 762 5506
What do they do with your waste?
These companies collect your recyclable waste, process it at an eco-friendly site at which all recyclables are sorted, then return it to manufacturers for re-use. In the process they also create jobs for unemployed individuals.
Other things you can do:
A) Use rechargeable batteries
Rechargeable batteries can, on average, generate up to 32 times less impact on the environment than disposable alkaline batteries. One AA battery can pollute up to 500 litres of water and one cubic metre of land for 50 years.
Whether you use disposable alkaline batteries of rechargeable batteries, do not dispose of them in the dustbin when the batteries reach the end of their lifetime. Take them to Pick n Pay – they have recycling collection bins for used batteries at their Hypermarkets, as well as at selected corporate stores all around South Africa. They’ll sort and dispose of, or recycle, the batteries.
Said Michael Rogers, MD of Uniross: “Generally, rechargeable batteries can be recycled, but non-rechargeable batteries cannot. That is why non-rechargeables are so harmful to the environment. They should be safely disposed of in concrete blocks. It is estimated that the annual battery consumption in South Africa amounts to a staggering 50 million, more than 95 per cent of which are disposable batteries. Every year 2 500 tons of batteries are disposed into our landfills and these eventually corrode and degrade.”
B) Re-use or recycle printer cartridges
Printer cartridges are very harmful to the environment. According to the Cartridge Depot, more than 2,8 ? of motor oil is used to produce a laser cartridge. An astounding 25 million printer cartridges go to landfills each month! The plastics used in printer cartridges are made of engineering grade polymer that has a very slow decomposing rate of between 450 and 1 000 years, depending on the cartridge type. Ink and toner may also leak from cartridges and pollute the surrounding area.
By recycling printer cartridges, you’ll be conserving natural resources and energy through reducing the need for virgin materials. Up to 97 per cent of the materials that make up a printer cartridge can be recycled or reused.
Printer cartridges can, in extreme cases, be refilled up to 15 times before reaching the end of their lives; most, though, average about six refills.
C) Use Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs
Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs use less energy, last longer and cost less to use than standard incandescent bulbs.
CFL bulbs, or Energy Saving Globes as they’re known in South Africa, are readily available from most stores, including Builders Warehouse, Mica, and Clicks.
According to Eskom, CFLs contain mercury and the cumulative impact of millions of CFLs does become a more significant issue that could present a potential risk to the environment. Expended CFLs should, therefore, be disposed of properly. Eskom advises us to make use of one of the following options (in order of preference) for CFL disposal available in South Africa:
– Deliver lamps to any of the retailers offering a take back service for CFLs.
– Deliver used lamps to existing electronic waste (eWaste) disposal sites.
– Store CFLs in a safe place, in a non-breakable container or plastic bag to contain the bulb in the event of a breakage that might occur until infrastructure is in place for the safe disposal of CFLs in your area.
– Some Municipalities provide an annual or periodic hazardous waste collection day or event. Typically CFLs, along with any other household hazardous waste such as batteries, oil-based paint or motor oil can be taken to these collection days. Check with your local authority whether these are available in your area.
– Dump with your general waste as a last resort. Any of the options listed above are preferred, but you can lawfully dispose of CFLs in your household waste. Should you revert to this option, it is recommended that you wrap the bulb in newspaper and place it in a plastic bag to reduce the risk of bulb breakage, contamination of other potentially recyclable materials and to protect yourself and waste removal staff from cuts.
– Woolworths formally announced a planned CFL take back offering in March in collaboration with NOVA Lighting. They furthermore confirmed that suitably designed bins were rolled out to 46 Woolworths stores nationally. Consumers can make use of this service by taking failed CFLs to any of the participating Woolworths stores.
– Pick ‘n Pay has developed and rolled out a similar take back service in collaboration with Philips Lighting. Watch out for these bins in your local branch.
While mercury stays safely contained in intact CFLs, it escapes from broken CFLs into the immediate surroundings. The breakage of a CFL bulb needs to be handled with care and certain procedures should be followed in removing the broken bulb and its content from a home.
What precautions should I take when using CFLs?
CFLs can break when dropped or handled roughly. Be careful when removing a bulb from its packaging, installing it or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the lamp by its base (not the glass), and never twist the CFL into a light socket with force.
What do I do if a CFL breaks?
In the case of breakage, the amount of mercury inside an individual lamp is too small to pose a hazard to users. Although the accidental breakage of a lamp is unlikely to cause any health problems, it’s good practice to minimise any unnecessary exposure to mercury, as well as risk of cuts from glass fragments.
The following guidelines are therefore recommended in the case of accidental breakage of a CFL:
* Do not allow children or pregnant women to enter the affected area
* Open windows and allow air to circulate to the affected area
* Wear gloves, if available, as a precaution also against broken glass
* First sweep up all of the glass fragments and phosphor powder (do not vacuum)
* Place in a plastic bag
* Wipe the area with a damp paper towel to pick up stray shards of glass or fine particles
* Place the used towel in the plastic bag as well.
For more on what Eskom has to say about CFLs, |click here|
D) Avoid aerosol cans
They have no practical reuse or recycling potential. Instead, look for products like hair spray or room freshener that come in pump spray bottles that are recyclable.
E) Re-use shopping bags
If you bring home shopping bags, reuse them as garbage bags or return them to the store for recycling.
Most supermarkets now have recycling bins for both plastic and paper bags. Even better, bring your own cloth or mesh bag with you when you go shopping.
So go on, do your bit… let’s minimise our waste!
* Article: Going green part 1 – Start an earthworm farm (including video)
* Article: Going green part 3 – Measure and reduce your carbon footprint. Here’s how…
Source: This article was adapted with permission from HOMEMAKERSonline