Recycling is an important component of protecting the environment and helping conserve resources and energy, preserves valuable landfill space and supports a healthy environment.

As recycling is becoming second nature to most, the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) shares a few lessons when it comes to recycling. Steve Kalule, IWMSA Eastern Cape Branch Chairman says, “As a partner in the community, the IWMSA is committed to helping the communities we serve to keep their environment clean through promoting innovative recycling programs. Recycling is an easy way to protect our environment and ensure the well-being of our community for generations to come.  However, the success of recycling depends on the active participation of every member of the community. By participating, people will be reducing the amount of trash that is disposed in the landfill, encouraging the reuse of materials made from recycled products and continuing the recycling circle.”

The IWMSA have prepared a few facts and tips when it comes to recycling:

Aluminium and Steel cans – South Africa has a 70% recycling rate when it comes to steel and aluminium cans (source: Collect-a-Can). For every one ton of aluminium cans recycled, 14,000 kWh of energy is saved, 6295 litres of oil is saved and 14.5265 cubic meters of landfill space is saved (which is equivalent to the size of a minibus taxi). When recycling steel cans, make sure that they are washed; clean cans fetch a better price at buy-back centres than dirty cans.

Cardboard can be recycled by removing all other materials in the box such as plastic wrap, polystyrene peanuts and other packing materials. Cardboard boxes need to be broken down to save storage space and if possible cardboard should be kept dry and free from food waste. However, cardboard can get wet and still be recycled but is more difficult to carry due to the added weight of the water. For every ton of cardboard that is recycled it helps save about 174.12 litres of oil.

Glass can be recycled by rinsing the containers with water and keeping them clean. Labels on glass containers do not have to be removed because they are removed during the crushing process and burned off during the melting process. It is important not to break the glass and mixing broken colours as this will make the glass unacceptable for recycling. Space wise, 1.52 cubic meters of landfill space (this is the size of an average refrigerator) is saved for every ton of glass that would be recycled.

Examples of paper that can be recycled include magazines and catalogues, telephone books, direct mail, brochures, pamphlets and booklets in addition to cereal, cake, chip and cracker boxes. It is important to remove the liner and all food from the box, flatten the box and place flattened box in a paper sack with your junk mail, mixed paper, magazines and catalogues. Although most paper can be recycled there is also non-recyclable paper such as tissue, waxed and carbon paper. An estimated 17 trees are saved and 26497.8 liters of water for each ton of paper that is recycled.

Plastic containers that can be recycled include cold drink bottles, cooking-oil bottles and peanut-butter jars, milk, water and juice bottles, bleach and detergent bottles, margarine tubs and some grocery bags. All food packaging, cling-wrap, carryout bags and heavy-duty bags can also be recycled. For containers one needs to remove plastic tops from the plastic containers being recycled and containers should be rinsed with water. Crushing the containers will help save space while storing them and recycling a ton of plastic helps save 5,774 kWh of energy.

For more helpful hints, contact the IWMSA.

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 visit