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The Importance of Recycling

Recycling can be defined as the reprocessing of materials into new products and prevents useful material resources being wasted. This will reduce the consumption of raw materials and reduce energy usage. Recyclable materials can originate from many sources including the home and industries such as glass, paper, aluminium, asphalt, iron, textiles and plastics. Food and garden waste which is known as biodegradable waste is also recyclable with the assistance of microorganisms through composting and anaerobic digestion.

These recyclable materials should be sorted and separated into the various material types as listed above so that there is no contamination with other materials. This helps to increase the value of the materials and helps to ensure easier reprocessing going forward.

It is very easy to throw away containers, plastic bottles and paper when you are finished with them but it would be better if we were able to recycle these materials daily, as this has an impact on the natural environment and on us.

Recycling should be happening quickly and effectively as the amount of waste we create is constantly increasing for the following reasons:

  • Due to increased wealth, more people are buying more products which in turn creates more waste.
  • The population is constantly increasing which also means that there is more waste that needs to be recycled.
  • There are constantly new materials, packaging and technological products which are being produced and many of these are not biodegradable.

Recycling is very important as waste has a negative impact on the natural environment. A few examples of this can be seen below:

  • Harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases are released from rubbish in landfill sites and recycling will help to reduce the pollution created by this waste.
  • Deforestation can cause habitat destruction and global warming. Recycling helps to reduce the need for raw materials and thus the rain forests can be preserved.
  • Making products from raw materials requires a large amount of energy. Recycling helps to preserve natural resources and requires much less energy to be used.

Recycling is also something that is important to cities and towns and the people who are living in them. A few reasons for this are:

  • There is no space for waste as landfill sites are being filled up quickly.
  • If products are made from recycled materials and products instead of raw materials, the financial expenditure in the economy would be drastically reduced.
  • If we recycle, the need for raw materials reduces and less energy is used thereby preserving natural resources for future generations.

Start recycling as soon as possible and there are a few options available for you:

  • Organise a pavement or office collection service for yourself – these are run by private companies and it is possible that you would have to pay for these services. However, the prices are not exorbitant and the services are convenient which makes up for the cost. These services give you a list of the materials that they recycle and all that is required of you is to rinse off the residue and put it in a bag or wheelie bin. Once every week or every fortnight, they will collect the bins or bags from the pavement making it easy and convenient for you – so no excuses for not recycling.
  • Allow informal recyclers to take the recyclable materials to the buy-back centre.
  • Other services include Remade which is located in various places across South Africa and offers a variety of recycling services including industrial, commercial, office and domestic.
  • Ecomonkey is a collection service which has many branches throughout Johannesburg and they provide the wheelie bins for your recycling and can collect either weekly or fortnightly.
  • Whole Earth Recycling is another collection service which collects the recyclable materials on a weekly basis from houses, schools and offices in Johannesburg.
  • Clearer Conscience is a collection service based in Cape Town. They can collect your recyclables a few times a week or once a month depending on what is convenient for you.
  • Recycle 1stis another collection agency which is new in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. They can do collections twice a month. Prices and information on collections can be found online.
  • Take recyclables to a municipal drop off point or a buy-back centre – if you decide on this option then you have to separate your recyclables at home and store them until you are able to drop them off.
  • Use My Waste to locate your nearest drop-off centre and the type of materials that are recycled at certain centres.
  • Collect-a-Can is the main collector of used cans and they have offices based across South Africa.

In order for us to make sure that we always have recycling in mind, we should focus on the three R’s which are Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

  • It is important to reduce the amount that you consume. If you don’t need it then it is better that you do not buy it and in that way the amount of waste generated is reduced.
  • When buying products, take the following things into account: the products or brands that have the least amount of packaging or those that be reused, recycled or composted. Keep an eye out for the products that are earth-friendly.
  • Look for products that are made from recycled materials. What you buy influences what is made because if there is a demand for recycled plastic products, then more plastic will be recycled and less will end up in land mines or polluting the oceans.
  • Do not throw anything away before thinking if it can be reused in some way. Containers can be used as stationery holders, Christmas gifts or plant holders. Use your imagination and be creative and you will be amazed at the ideas you will come up with.

Lastly, some fun facts about recycling that you might not know:

  • Glass is 100% recyclable, but it is not biodegradable and the raw materials involved in making glass which are lime, soda and sand have to be dug from the earth and melted together at very high temperatures and so by recycling, energy is saved.
  • The energy saved by recycling one bottle is enough to power a 100 watt light bulb for almost an hour!
  • Every ton of glass recycled saves 1.2 tons of raw materials.
  • Every metric ton of paper recycled saves 17 trees and uses 40% less energy and 50% less water.

Please think about all of these factors next time you throw out recyclable materials. It only takes a few minutes every day to recycle and in turn make the environment around us a better place to live.