Zandvlei Trust 


Reduce energy use and thus greenhouse gasses (CO2): Recycled goods require less energy than newly manufactured goods. Energy use inevitably means carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which is the gas mainly responsible for the greenhouse effect or global warming. Scientists are generally agreed that this is the most critical environmental problem facing the earth today. Recycling a product can use 50% less energy than manufacturing a new product.

Reduce the need for landfill sites: A typical family generates a small room full of garbage every year (about 20m3), or nearly 1kg of waste per person per day. The Western Cape generates 1.6 million tons of waste per year. Vast tracts of land are necessary to dump this. This land effectively becomes useless, and water seeping through it pollutes the groundwater and the earth.

Reduced rates: Waste collection, and landfill construction and management is costly and is becoming more expensive as 'suitable' landfill sites are less available. You carry this cost by paying rates. By reducing the volume of waste, rates increases can be limited.

Reduce pollution: Recycling and reusing goods reduces the need for newly manufactured goods, which reduced air and water pollution resulting from the manufacturing process.

Reduced use of natural resources: Reductions in manufacturing means that natural resources (such as water or trees to make paper) are not consumed as fast.

What should you do?

1. Recycle as much of your refuse as possible
2. Compost your organic material (kitchen and garden)
3. Re-use containers as much as possible
4. Shop selectively - see that goods you buy are not over-packaged in plastic, or try and buy goods in containers that can be recycled

About 70% of typical household wastes can be recycled.

The simplest way to reduce waste is to re-use goods as much as possible (such as plastic and glass containers).

Being 100% recyclable, glass recycling is a good example of closed-loop recycling. It involves crushing glass bottles and jars to make 'cullet'. This is melted and remoulded into new containers. Using cullet reduces energy consumption with a corresponding reduction in the use of virgin raw materials. In the Western Cape, glass is collected in the familiar bottle banks (or 'igloos'). All kinds of bottles including beverages, food jars etc are acceptable, (whole or broken). Glass separated by colour commands a higher price but only if collected in high enough quantity (5 tons) to justify transportation. Some types of glass - light bulbs, laminated glass, wire reinforced glass and ceramic dishware - cannot be recycled. These items have different properties, and can cause damage to a furnace when mixed with glass containers.

Paper and paper products make up about a third of our refuse. Paper recycling involves de-inking, bleaching and repulping. Newspapers can be de-inked and used to make newsprint, boxboard, or moulded pulp products such as egg trays. Locally-made recycled paper stocks are becoming widely available.


Whether in the form of cans, cars, refrigerators, or old toys, steel is recyclable. For decades steel scrap has been an essential ingredient in making new steel. Major savings in energy over org extraction can be gained. Because of its magnetic properties, steel can easily be separated from other materials. Steel food cans are often called tin cans because a thin coating of tin keeps the flavor of food intact and inhibits corrosion. 

Aluminium cans must be separated from steel cans before recycling. They are then shredded, delaquered and melted down into sheets to make new aluminium products. Huge energy savings (over ore extraction) result, without deterioration of properties. With the proposed introduction of aluminium beverage cans, and the relatively high price for recovered aluminium, this sector is set for growth. Locally, most scrap metal companies will pick up quantities of a ton or more within a 20km or so radius from Cape Town. 

It is relatively easy technically to recycle plastics (though there is deterioration in properties resulting from repeated heat processing). However, commercially it is the most difficult material for recycling due to the number of different polymers needed to be collected, sorted and cleaned. Thereafter, the plastics must be ground, washed and compressed into pellets. The pellets are then melted and moulded into desired shape. If improved performance is required, some virgin material can be mixed in. Most plastics producers routinely recycle their own off-cuts and other plant scrap. The cost of collecting and separating the plastic waste, results in a cost 20% higher than virgin resins. It is possible to blend mixed polymers together. Locally, plastic recovery is commercially viable only if the volumes of separated polymers are large enough. Distance from markets is also a limiting factor. Worldwide, much research is being done on ways to make recycling plastic easier and cheaper.

Kitchen and garden refuse should first and foremost be recycled back into the earth via home composting. This enriches the soil at no cost, and helps build up its structure. Several Western Cape municipalities operate large - scale composting plants using a mixture of general garden and some domestic waste.

Click to see the easy way to make your own Compost

Paints, thinners, batteries, pesticides and car oil all need to be disposed of with care. Garages will accept used car oil, but no municipalities in the Western Cape have yet instituted special household hazardous waste collection schemes. 

This information was made available by the;
Sustainable Living Centre, P.O.Box 261, Noordhoek, 7878, Cape Town
Tel (021) 789 2920 fax (021) 789 2954
email  web

Source for “facts”: Recycling Realities, Facts, Myths and choices (the Fairest Cape Association)
For more information on educational workshops and training courses on waste and recycling, contact:
Ms Barbara Genman: The Fairest Cape Association,
3rd Floor, City Hall, Darling Street, Cape Town, 8001
tel: (021) 462 2040  fax: (021) 461 9519


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