Environment Not sure how to start recycling? It’s easier than you think

Not sure how to start recycling? It’s easier than you think

This Global Recycling Day, take a step towards ensuring a brighter (less-polluted) future for the next generation. Here are some practical tips:

Ndoni Mcunu is a Wits PhD candidate in Environmental Science with a focus on climate change (image: Ndonimcunu.com)

It’s time to take the bull – or plastic bottle – by the horns this Global Recycling Day! We asked a recycling company for some handy tips about how to start recycling in your home or workplace…

Q&A with Good News Daily (GND) and Laura Henderson (LH) of Greencycle:

GND: Tell us a bit about Greencycle?

LH: Greencycle is a non-profit organisation which provides a convenient and inexpensive recycling collection service to the homes and businesses of Port Elizabeth. Most of the household waste you throw away every week could go to recycling instead of landfill. Your glass jars and bottles, all your food and drink tins, all paper products, most types of plastic, as well as broken appliances and ink cartridges can be reused or transformed into new products.

Louise Simpson and I co-founded Greencycle in 2008, after fruitlessly searching for a comprehensive recycling service in the area.

GND: What are the three main things people should keep in mind when starting their recycling journey or learning how to start recycling?

LH: 1) Make sure you are recycling the correct things (ask for advice from your recycling provider, not your friends!)

2) You do not need lots of fancy bins – that usually just puts more unnecessary plastic in the world – it’s super easy to collect at home and for your family to join in (like putting a box under the sink, etc.)

3) Once you have started recycling, try only to buy items that can end up in your recycling.

GND: What would you say are the most important things to recycle and why?

LH: Obviously everyone focuses on plastic, but other things are super recyclable and can be recycled more than once. Focus on items like plastic bottles, plastic bags, cans, glass, e-waste and long-life cartons.

Read more: Here’s a handy how-to guide for recycling at home or work

GND: On average, what percentage of materials sent to you actually ends up being recycled? In other words, how much potential recyclate is sent in which is either mislabelled by companies as recyclable (when it’s not), or packaging which is thought by the public to be recyclable (when it’s not)?

LH: A big thing to remember – and we stress it a million times – is that the symbol ♻ does NOT mean something is recyclable. People say: “But it says it’s recyclable” when what they mean is that they have seen a triangle.

It is hard to measure what proportion is waste, but I would say somewhere between 10-20% of what comes in is not recyclable. We get lots of black polystyrene, lots of PET containers, lots of crinkly bags (salad bags and so on), lots of mixed plastics, and these are not recyclable.

GND: What are 2 DO’S for recycling?

LH: Do flatten cartons and boxes.  Leave lids on and keep small items together.

GND: What are 2 DON’TS for recycling?

LH: Do not give anything with food remnants. Contaminated recycling is often thrown away.  Do not give items for passing on (donations etc).  Resources do not allow for this sort of service and they may be thrown away.   

Click here to find a recycling drop-off site near you!

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