Short Guide to Recycling in South Africa

garbage-157110_1280 - guide to recycling

Recycling can simply be described as a process that changes waste material into something new that can be used in other ways. The benefits of recycling include less garbage filling up and polluting our planet, the conservation of natural resources and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.


Paper: Newspapers; magazines; cardboard boxes; cereal cartons; chocolate boxes; toilet roll inners; egg boxes; gift wrap; Tetrapak containers

Glass: Beer bottles, wine bottles; chutney bottles; jam jars.

Metal: Cool drink cans; food cans; tops and lids.

Plastic (Check for the P codes):




PET is a favourite of soft drink manufacturers. It’s also used for bottled water and a wide variety of food products that are packaged in it. South Africa has a PET recycling company, established in 2004, called Petco whose mission is “to achieve sustainable growth in PET recycling by facilitating post-consumer PET container collection”. Thanks to the efforts of Petco, PET container recycling is increasing significantly – from 2,000 tons in 2001 to 14,500 tons. Most used PET ends up in landfill sites in this country. Collectors gather the PET from there because they can earn a small amount of money for it – they are paid by weight, (in mid-2008 the value was somewhere around R1.80/kg to R2.20/kg depending on the colour of the PET). 1kg = about 25 x one-litre bottles or 50 x 500ml bottles. It takes about 30,000 PET bottles to make one ton of recycled PET, according to Petco.

PET is recycled into hollow-fibre filling for jackets, duvets, pillows and sleeping bags is the main use for clear PET bottles in South Africa. Green bottles are turned into building insulation (Isotherm); PET is also recycled in geotextiles for road stabilisation and dam linings, and Plastiwood.


You’ll find this logo on milk bottles, cleaning products, cosmetics and toiletries, crates and motor oils, among others.

HDPE is recycled into recycling bins, compost bins, buckets, detergent containers, posts, fencing, pipes, plastic timber and plastic chairs.

recycling-logo-3POLYVINYL CHLORIDE

PVC has been described as a “difficult” plastic. Its use is being phased out – in many cases it is being replaced by PET. Try to avoid buying products with PVC packaging, but if you can’t avoic it, it is unlikely to be recycled so the Plastics Federation of SA’s advice is to just throw it away with ordinary rubbish.


Number 4 plastic is used to make rubbish bags, frozen veggie bags, building film, some squeezable bottles and cosmetic tubs.

LDPE is recycled into bin liners, pallet sheets, irrigation piping, a variety of containers, and construction and building film.


This type of plastic is used in bottles, ice cream tubs, straws, microwave dishes, kettles, garden furniture, lunch boxes, packaging tape and bottle caps.

PP is recycled into pegs, bins, pipes, pallet sheets, oil funnels, car battery cases and trays.


There are two kinds of polystyrene: high-impact, from which products like coathangers and yoghurt cups are made, and expanded polystyrene, from which meat and vegetable trays are made.

PS is recycled into picture frames, curtain rails, finials, skirting boards, cornices, stationery eg, rulers, seedling trays, coathangers. Demand far outstrips supply in South Africa.


This is not the type of plastic you’re likely to recycle at home. And, according to the Plastic Federation of SA, it is not recycled in South Africa at the moment, so put it in the dustbin.

Advice from the Plastics Federation of SA is that if you have plastics not marked with a logo, but you think they may be recyclable, put them in a separate plastic bag, and drop them into the cage with the number 4 plastics. The recycling companies that collect the material from the drop-off sites will sort it out.


You have 3 recycling options: (1) organise yourself a kerbside or office collection service; (2) take your recyclables to a municipal drop-off point or a buy-back centre; (3) let informal recyclers take your recyclables to a buy-back centre. Click here for more information.

Plastic symbols source:

Creative Commons License

Things that can NOT be recycled include: Coat hangers; laminated or waxy paper; paper plates; waxy paper ream wrappers; carbon paper, punch confetti; stickers; sticky tape; post-it notes; pet food pouches; vacuum packs; disposable nappies; tissues; chips packets; chocolate wrappers; clingwrap; drinking glasses.


The 2 most widely used forms of Polystyrene are Expanded Polystyrene, also known as EPS, and High Impact Polystyrene, also known as HIPS. Polystyrene is found in your home, office, local grocery and favourite restaurant and comes in many shapes and forms. Polystyrene provides strength, lightness, durability, heat resistance, transparency, gloss, desirable appearance and practical toughness for a wide range of uses, including packaging, medical products, appliances and electronic products.

Remember Polystyrene is a Plastic therefore you will not find specific Polystyrene Containers at a drop off site. Please drop your Polystyrene in the Plastic Containers at these drop off sites. For more information visit


Electronic and electrical waste includes ICT equipment, Consumer electronics, Small household appliances and large household appliances. E-waste contains both valuable and potentially hazardous material that can be recovered through proper recycling, while hazardous fractions can be treated prior to safe disposal.

e-Waste Association of South Africa collect e-Waste ANYWHERE in South Africa and Africa. Contact them at (+27) 010 224 0673 or visit

Related Post: Waste Hierarchy

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