It is estimated that only 5% of South African households recycle their paper and cardboard. So what is the other 95% doing with it?
A significant amount of recyclable paper is going to landfill every year. This paper degrades along with other food waste, adding to the levels of greenhouse gases in the air we breathe. Methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In some cases, paper is incinerated, also causing air pollution.
By recycling paper, the carbon (originally stored by trees in the wood fibre) remains ‘locked up' – and out of the atmosphere – for longer. It also saves landfill space. In 2013 1,2 million tonnes of paper were collected for recycling saving 3,5 million cubic metres of landfill space – the equivalent of 1,403 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
So this National Recycling Day – 19 September 2014 – why not make a commitment to start recycling paper?
Here are a few tips from the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa to get you started:
• Invest a paper-only bin or box in your home or office for easy recycling.
• Keep your paper clean and dry.
• Not all paper can be recycled so get to know your recyclables.
− Recyclable: magazines (including the glossy variety), newspapers, brochures, office paper, shredded paper, cardboard (cereal boxes, toothpaste boxes, medicine boxes, pizza boxes, tissue boxes) and cartonboard, liquid board packaging including beverage and food cartons.
− Not recyclable: wet, soiled paper such as used paper plates, disposable nappies, tissues and toilet paper; foil, gift wrapping, carbon paper; wax-coated, foil-lined or laminated boxes; used cement and dog food bags.
• Find a recycling collection programme or drop-off point near you by visiting www.mywaste.co.za. Many schools and community organisations earn money from recyclable paper collection. Support these initiatives.
• Support job creation by keeping your recyclables aside for an informal collector who walks your neighbourhood every week. This increases the quality of the recyclables and the collector could earn a little more for better quality.
• Don't let the recycling pile get too big before you drop it off – keep a box/crate in your boot so you can do a weekly drop-off when you do your shopping or run other errands.
• Always keep in mind that you are recycling for a good reason – the future of our planet. This should be motivation enough to keep you going!