In our new Consumer Guide, we discuss the importance of recycling in our country and, indeed, the world. Today is National Recycling Day in South Africa and I hope everyone will take the time to look at the waste we create in our day-to-day activities and think about how to deal with this issue.

First, it would be good to dispel some myths that hover around the recycling of waste in South Africa. Namely – recycling is not easy, makes no difference, or is not my responsibility.

Recycling can be simple

I often have people telling me that it is not easy to recycle in South Africa, because the recycling dropoff points are far away, or the municipality does not collect the different types of waste. This is true in some cases – I was lucky enough to live (up until recently) in an area that had this service and had my eyes opened after moving into an area that has far fewer waste collection services.

What I have done since then is look around my area for various recycling points, and once a month, I take my separate bags to these drop off points.

If you do not have space in your house, collect the rubbish (plastics, tin, paper and glass) in one bin and leave your organic waste in a separate bin outside. You can separate it at a later stage, when you’re ready to take it to a waste collection point. This makes recycling a lot easier than you might think.

Recycling makes a difference!

Each individual who decides to recycle is already having an impact on people around them – by showing how easy it can be, or by getting their friends and family to do the same. The more individuals think like this, the easier it will become to recycle, and our waste problem in South Africa will stop becoming exponentionally worse.

If all 50 million South Africans took the decision to recycle their waste, imagine the impact this would have on our environment!

I firmly believe that everyone who creates waste through daily consumption has a responsibility to dispose of it properly. South Africa produces over 42 million cubic metres of waste per year, of this 12% of household waste is plastic bottles. This may sound like a small percentage, but in the bigger picture, that adds up to 70,000 tons a year!

Recycle something rather than nothing.

Not everything can be recycled, this is true. There are some items that are either extremely difficult to recycle and some that we should avoid altogether because of their limited use after we throw them away. What we can do as concerned citizens and consumers, is educate ourselves about these products, and avoid them when we come across them, or when we do need to purchase them, to make sure we know about the company’s cradle-to-grave responsibility.

Electronic waste, for example, should not be thrown away into general bins, and should rather be taken to specific sites where it can be taken apart and disposed of ethically.

This morning, I took three months of stored-up paper and glass to the local recycling dropoff point near my house, on my way to work. It was early and I expected to be the only person there sorting out my waste. Within a few minutes, two other people joined me as they started to sort out their bottles, plastic and paper.

When I spoke to them they told me they did this on a weekly basis, as there was no recycling in their area, but that they felt it was easy to do, taking only a few minutes. I felt so proud to be a part of this (for now) small group of people, and I hope that in the future I will run into a lot more people on their weekly recycling runs.

I found this video that gave me new hope for recycling initiatives in South Africa. I hope everyone participates today in building a greener, cleaner city, wherever you are!