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Talking Waste Management

The National Waste Management Strategy (2011) specifies that all metropolitan municipalities, secondary cities and large towns must have initiated programmes for waste separation at source.
Images: ©Unsplash Images: ©Unsplash

While some municipalities have launched successful programmes, research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has highlighted the difficulties faced by authorities in achieving this goal.

Municipalities face critical challenges in getting this right, including high transport costs, seasonal high-volume waste issues, lack of service in rural and informal areas, lack of accessible waste drop-off areas, and lack of resources to facilitate recycling.

These obstacles are further underscored by a general lack of public awareness and difficulty in accessing recycling depots or collection points. The CSIR research showed that:

1.  More than two thirds of urban South African households surveyed do not know where to dispose of their household recyclables.

2.  Over 73% of South Africans living in urban areas reported no recycling activity at all. This was largely attributed to a lack of space or time, inconvenient recycling facilities, and ignorance as to what is recyclable and what is not.

Image: ©iStock - ManuWeOn an encouraging note, the survey also indicated that South Africans might adopt a more positive approach to recycling if it were more convenient. This was highlighted by the overall acceptance of something as simple as a two-container system, where wet and dry waste is separated and a regular kerbside service collected the recyclable goods at a scheduled time each week.

This is where businesses such as Whole Earth Recycling have come to play an important role in stimulating the recycling process. “Our service is simple, yet highly efficient,” says owner Carmen Rayner. “We provide each household with a roll of 10 blue recycling refuse bags every month. All of their recycling (paper, plastic, glass, cans, cartons such as Tetra Pak and electronic waste – anything with a plug) can be placed into the same blue bag; we take care of the sorting. The recycling bags are placed outside on the kerb on a designated day of the week and we collect.”

Initially Whole Earth employed four sorters, but today, eight years since the company was founded, it runs athomas-charters-296769 community-based project that provides employment for up to 24 sorters. “The sorting team generates an income and pays for their rent and other expenses by sorting and selling the recyclable material that is collected by and given to them by Whole Earth Recycling. By recycling you are contributing towards job creation, while reducing the impact that we are having on our environment. Every little bit helps,” says Rayner.

Many companies in the mould of Whole Earth service both urban and business clients. However, the nature of business recycling can vary considerably to urban requirements. Another company that focuses on the convenience aspect for its consumers is Mpact Recycling. Mpact Recycling has a strong recycling heritage dating back 40 years, when it was previously Mondi Recycling and part of the Mondi Group. Since 1975 the company has recycled paper from all parts of South Africa with a strong focus on ensuring it does not go to landfill. Mpact Recycling collects approximately 450 000 tonnes of recovered paper a year and supplies this recovered fibre to the group’s paper mills for processing into recycled-based carton board and container board for sale to South Africa’s packaging industry. Paper is collected kilogram by kilogram and piece by piece. The tonnages are vitally important and Mpact Recycling’s educational programmes play a central role in educating South Africans from all walks of life about the difference they can make by recycling.  The company focuses on providing the mechanisms that make recycling easy – from houses, to schools, to offices, to complexes, businesses and more.

“Every one of us has the potential to make a difference simply by separating and sorting our recyclables,” says John Hunt, MD of Mpact Recycling. “From there, recyclables move onto places like buy-back centres, or they go into paper banks at schools and community centres, or diego-ph-249471out onto the kerbside for collection in certain areas.”

Another organisation worth watching, as it has successfully created a circular economy, specifically with respect to the tyre industry, is Redisa (the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa). “In South Africa, it is estimated we have millions of waste tyres lying in dumps and stockpiles. Almost 10 million waste tyres are added to this number every year. While some of these waste tyres make their way to recycling facilities via formal and informal networks of collectors, many of them are burned for their scrap metal content, releasing toxic fumes and liquids in the process,” says CEO Hermann Erdmann.

Waste tyres supplied by Redisa can be used as a substitute (through co-processing) for up to 20% of current coal usage. At PPC, indications are that waste tyres will replace 10% of coal usage at its De Hoek plant alone. Natal Portland Cement, AfriSam and Lafarge are also in support of the substitution, and are currently engaging with Redisa on how the supply of waste tyres for controlled burning in kilns can reduce the overhead costs of coal.

“Given that the world will be home to five billion middle-class consumers within the next 20 years, natural resources are being placed under increasing stress to meet housing, product and lifestyle demands. At Redisa we believe waste should be looked at differently – not as waste, but as something with value,” says Erdmann.

Little black book

  • The Glass Recycling Company –
  • Consol –
  • Paper Recycling Association of South Africa –
  • Mpact Recycling –
  • Sappi –
  • Collect-a-can –
  • Redisa –

Residential and business contacts: 

  • – Offers a list of recycling companies on this link:
  • – An online waste directory supplying contact information within your area for any recycling or waste requirements
  • – Recycling collection and management service in Johannesburg
  • – Responsible computer and e-waste solutions
  • – Recycling collection and management service in Johannesburg
  • – The City of Cape Town’s recycling initiative
  • – A recycling collection and management service based in Cape Town
  • – Recycling collection and management in Cape Town
  • – Residential recycling in Cape Town
  • – Recycling collection and management in Cape Town
  • – Institute of Waste Management South Africa, a non-profit organisation that promotes and supports professional waste management practices
Can be recycled:

  • All plastics with a number within a triangle – codes 1, 2, 4, 5
  • Milk bottles, margarine, large yoghurt, cold drink bottles packaging, mayonnaise and detergent containers
  • Polystyrene

Aluminium and steel

  • Soft drink cans
  • Beer cans
  • Empty food tins
  • Bottle lids

Paper & cardboard

  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Cardboard & cereal & food boxes
  • Toilet rolls
  • Phone books & school books
  • Office paper, envelopes & mail


  • All empty glass bottles and jars


  • Printer cartridges & e-waste



Can’t be recycled:
  • Food & teabags
  • Disposable coffee cups
  • Small yoghurt containers
  • Code 3, 6 & 7 plastics
  • Ceramics or crockery
  • Floor tiles
  • Waxed paper no tissues
  • Stickers or sticker backing
  • Sweet, chocolate & chip papers
  • Window glass
  • Containers holding poisonous substances
  • Batteries & light bulbs
  • Tubes eg. beauty products or toothpaste
  • Foil-lined pharmaceuticals
  • Pesticide containers
  • Brakefluid or used oil


All bottles to be empty before placing in bins.

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