41 Facts about Recycling

41 Facts about Recycling

Recycling is something that makes your environment cleaner and healthier. The good news is: Everyone can do it! It should be part of our everyday live. This way we can make sure that our children have a future with enough resources to meet their needs.

But what does recycling mean?

How much do we currently recycle?

And is there something specific to consider when getting things recycled?

These and many more questions will be answered with our 41 facts about recycling:

General Facts

1. Recycling means that an item that has been used or is “waste” is being sorted by its material, collected by a recycler and remanufactured or converted into new materials and products. It extends the life of a material that served its original purpose, by producing something new and useable.

2. 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled so far.

3. The current recycling rate is 14% globally. 40% end up in landfills, 14% in incineration plants and 32% in our environment and water or are incinerated in an uncontrolled manner.

4. Things you maybe thought can be recycled but they can´t: dirty and greasy pizza boxes, any dirty plastics, #7 plastics, tissues and paper towels, mirrors, wrapping paper, any kind of sticky tape or shredded paper.

5. Most materials that will be recycled can only be used to make lower quality products. This process is called downcycling.

6. Benefits of recycling are reducing pollution, saving money, saving energy, protecting wildlife, forests and wetlands, preserving natural resources, creating jobs, and the freeing up of space at overfull landfills.

7. Dirty items cannot be recycled. Items need to be rinsed and cleaned

Recycling in South Africa

8. The waste management industry in the country is worth approx. 25 billion Rand.

9. South Africa recycles over 70% of used steel beverage cans, 42% of glass packaging and 30% of plastic packaging.

10. South Africa has 826 landfill sites. We send approx. 95 million tonnes of waste to them. That means that less than 40% of the materials are recycled.

11. Plastics recycling in South Africa is growing. Currently more than 330 700 tonnes of plastic are recycled annually.

12. The average recycling rate for plastics is higher than the 31% figure for Europe.

13. There are more than 4 000 glass collection points in South Africa. They are also home to 32 dedicated Collect-A-Can (Cash for Can) companies. These collected 72% of all beverage cans and recovered more than 75% of all metal packaging in 2018.

Recycling Paper and Cardboard

14. White office paper, magazines and books, newspapers, or corrugated cardboard can be recycled.

15. Laminated or waxy paper (often found in boxes used for tomatoes or bananas), waxy paper ream wrappers or stickers cannot be recycled.

16. Recycling newspaper can save up to 250 trees per year.

17. Milk and juice cartons should be rinsed thoroughly and flattened in order to be recycled.

Recycling Glass

18. Glass is made of sand and can be melted down to remanufacture new glass products. Always include glass bottles with your recyclables, since they don’t decompose naturally in landfills.

19. Some types of glass can’t be recycled, because they have different melting points, thus won’t burn in a incinerator. These include drinking glasses, car headlights, saucers and ceramics, crystal, cups, mirrors and reinforced glass, sheet glass (windscreens and windowpanes), light bulbs and tubes, and laboratory glass. However, some sites can recycle them in a different process, but you should call ahead to make sure.

20. Bottles containing the remains of food and beverages need to be rinsed out and dried before recycled.

21. Paper labels can stay on the glass.

22. It’s even better to wash and RE-USE items like jars and vases for storage at home.

Recycling metal

23. Aluminium cans, tins, lids of glass containers, aluminium foil and foil packaging (if clean), and small metal items like staples and paperclips can be recycled.

24. Recycled aluminium can return to shelf in 60 days.

25. Aluminium can continuously recycled.

26. Leave labels on the paint and aerosol cans since their contents are often hazardous and recyclers need to know what’s inside.

27. Cans and tins can be recycled whether crushed, rusted or burnt.

28. Cans need to be rinsed and tins to be squashed before recycled.

29.Cash for Cans is a source of income in the informal sector.

30. Recycling one aluminium can save enough energy to run your TV for at least three hours.

Recycling PLastic

31. Over 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year – most of it is thrown away after it has been used only once.

32. Most plastic packaging have recycling logos imprinted. With these numbers you can identify the type of plastic – look for a recycling triangle with a number between 1 and 7. See this Plastics Guide for a detailed breakdown of the different types of plastic.

33. Most hard plastic food and beverage containers, household cleaner containers or plastic bags can be recycled.

34. Cling-wrap can’t be recycled.

35. Plastic with a 3 or a 7 cannot be recycled in Cape Town. Research what can and cannot be recycled by your municipality.

36. Most purely polystyrene (#6) products can now be recycled. Polystyrene does not decompose naturally in landfills, so avoid throwing it in your bin or black bag.

37. Plastic bottles should be rinsed and flattened before recycling to avoid contamination and save space.

Recycling Food Waste

38. Your organic kitchen and garden waste can become nutrition for your soil through composting. Organic or biodegradable food should be composted at home.

39. Cooked food waste and food that won’t decompose easily, like bones, should go in your wheelie bin or black bag. They can, however, be prepared for composting in a bokashi bin.

Where to recycle

40. You can dispose of residential or commercial waste recyclables via several waste disposal services, including drop-off sites, private recycling collection services or buy-back centres, industrial symbiosis, waste exchange or community-based programmes. There are several sites across the Western Cape where you can drop off your rubbish and other unwanted material. Some organisations will collect your recycled items from your home. Here are a few directories to give you some more information, if you live in the Western Cape:

41. Store your recyclables indoors if possible until it is convenient for you to access a recycling service. If possible, it is advisable to permanently contract a recycling service provider, to ensure regular disposal.

The bottom line

Recycling is better than traditional waste disposal!

It is a more responsible, and more sustainable method of managing resources. Waste can be an economically viable resource if channelled correctly through the right business mechanisms and can thus be beneficial to the economy.

However, our single-use society needs to re-learn how to go back to a circular economy, rather than a linear one. Besides education, we should also continue exploring our systems for ways to reduce waste where possible.




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