Be wise about your waste

2016-03-24 06:00
Light bulbs cannot be recycled. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Light bulbs cannot be recycled. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

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AS the expression goes, “waste not, want not”. By using resources sparsely and knowing what can be recycled, we can all contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment.

The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) gives helpful tips and insight on what should be left out of the dustbin.

“There are various waste streams and most of them are appropriate for recycling. By seeing waste as a resource, we can help protect virgin materials and aim to create a circular economy where very little waste is generated,” said Suzan Oelofse, president of the IWMSA.

Mark Gibson, founder of the website MyWaste, elaborated: “It all comes down to knowing the different waste materials and what should be done with them. The website enables residents to select the waste they want to recycle. We then provide them with a list of their nearest recyclers and buy-back centres.”

Oelofse and Gibson explore the most common waste streams here and the best course of action to keep it out of landfill sites.

• Batteries

“Car batteries are recyclable. Alkaline batteries are not often recycled and should be disposed of as a hazardous material. The best option would be to switch to rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, which are widely recycled after their lifespan,” said Gibson.

• Cans

Oelofse said that nearly all cans and tins can be recycled. “These include food cans, aluminium cans, paint tins, steel beverage cans, oil cans and aerosol cans. Just make sure they are clean.”

• Electronic waste (E-waste)

E-waste is anything that operates from a power source (electricity or batteries) and includes computers, phones, household appliances and light bulbs, to name a few.

“E-waste contains hazardous materials such as mercury and should not be disposed of at landfill. A lot of supermarkets collect e-waste for recycling, such as old bulbs and batteries,” said Gibson.

• Food waste

Another common waste stream in the dustbin is food. Old scraps of food and even garden waste can easily be composted at home.

• Glass

“Most glass containers can be recycled, no matter the colour. Glass bottles do not need to be separated by colour. However, it is advisable that the lids are removed,” said Oelofse.

Glass and break-ware items that can’t be recycled include computer and TV screens, light bulbs, car head lights, laboratory glass, windscreens, window glass, crystal and opaque drinking glass, mirrors, heat-resistant ovenware, ceramics and clay pots.

• Oil

All used oil can be recycled.

• Paper

Paper is another widely accepted waste stream for recycling and includes newspapers, magazines, office paper, cardboard boxes and pamphlets.

• Plastic

Many plastics can be recycled. Caps and lids should be removed from plastic packaging.

“The recyclability depends on the equipment of recyclers and what the lid is made of.” - Supplied.

• To find your nearest recycler or buy-back centre, visit MyWaste at

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