All year round we carefully separate our cans, papers, plastics and glass.  We drop off recycling at our local schools, diligently put out our weekly recycling bag or drive to the nearest recycling depot, and then bam!  The Festive Season arrives and we can so easily go off the rails.

To begin with, especially at this time of year, an alarming percentage of what we throw away probably need not have been wasted to begin with, and even more troubling, a lot of this waste is food.  We buy impulsively, overstock our fridges and cupboards and with true South African hospitality, definitely over-cater!  We buy with our eyes which retailers know very well, so they stock their shelves with oversized containers for maximum visual impact in the race to secure your rand.   Not only does all this lovely packaging attract us, it also entices our children.  Large boxes and other fancy forms of packaging seduce us into believing we are receiving better value.  The reality is that often such packaging is merely a filler, and the companies producing the packaging have hardly applied the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ principles.  ‘Reduce’ least of all.

The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) is increasingly subscribed to by more and more stakeholders in the waste management industry, which effectively means more overall control in critical areas.  Stan Jewaskiewitz, President of the IWMSA says “We are encouraged not to print out emails for the sake of our environment, for example, but we’re not applying that same standard to other areas of our lives.”  He appeals “This holiday period we need to make a conscious decision to be both careful and creative.  Think of alternative ways of wrapping or presenting gifts; don’t be fooled into purchasing goods that are packaged in such a way that they are obviously going to clog up the dustbin. Why not try to support companies that subscribe to sound environmental strategies?”

Jewaskiewitz, the IWMSA and its members ask us to become more aware of both purchasing and disposal as an integral whole.  Some simple solutions could be to reduce the amount of gift wrap you use by coming up with creative options.

The theme of this year’s IWMSA biennial Waste Conference, WasteCon2010 was “What is Your Waste Footprint?”  Some people wonder whether their seemingly small individual contribution to the overall effort can possibly have any impact. The truth is that we can’t depend on others; we all have to take individual responsibility for our behaviours and our own unique waste footprints.

So let’s make a special effort to continue to recycle wherever possible, remembering that this is an especially critical time of year in terms of general waste generation.

The IWMSA is a professional, multi-disciplinary organisation with voluntary membership established to promote the science and practice of waste management and is a non-profit organisation. For more information contact the IWMSA visit: