The Waste Hierarchy

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 polluting our planet, the conservation of natural resources and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Critics argue that the energy and costs used in the entire recycling process, from collection of the waste until its conversion, outweigh the costs and energy saved from the production process of raw materials. Advocates for both sides of this debate refute each other’s claims and the validity of their arguments which have resulted in a recycling controversy.

As this controversy ensues the emphasis should be put on the entire, “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” philosophy. If we all do our bit to waste less, we will have less that needs to be recycled (or fed to the ever-growing landfill cities and islands). Here are some tips for each of these components:


The culture of consumerism is blinding. Reducing waste starts with mindful and conscious shopping and consumption – be aware of who and what you endorse through your purchase-habits, and how these products are packaged.

Purchase good quality and durable products that will last for a long period of time.

Opt for products with larger contents as bulk shopping uses less packaging.

Make some simple changes to avoid purchasing disposable products like polystyrene cups, paper plates, razors and lighters etc.

Reduce paper mail by requesting that all your bills and other mail are sent to you electronically.

Reduce your use of plastic bags by using fabric shopping bags.

Disposable nappies cannot be recycledsubstitute these with cloth diapers; there are awesome products available these days, take a look at The EcoBaby Company for some fine examples.

Supporting local produce and farmers reduces your carbon footprint.


Plastic bags are of course a household item that is perfect for reusing.

Various glass and plastic containers can be reused for storage of anything from candle holders, homemade jam and leftovers to beads and seeds.

You don`t have to spend a fortune when decorating, you can simply bring out your creative side. There are so many interesting and enjoyable ways to upcycle like converting an old bath into a herb garden or a couch; an old ladder into a bookshelf, making lanterns from cans and decorating chandeliers with CD’s, turning tennis rackets into mirrors, even old unwanted instruments into beautiful and functional pieces of art. The list goes on and on..

Image found on Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Another great idea to reuse waste is to dry out your tea bags and douse them with paraffin and voila – you have firelighters for your braai!

Creating Eco-bricks are also a wonderful way of reusing plastic refuse, especially since you can stuff 2 litre plastic bottles with non-recyclable plastics like clingwrap; chips packets and chocolate wrappers. To find out more about eco-bricks go have a look at what the Eco-Brick Exchange is doing.


Purchase products that carry the recycle symbol; this means that the product has been produced from recycled material and/or that the product is recyclable.

Ensure that the disposable items you buy are made from materials that are collected for recycling in your community; separate your paper, cardboard, plastic, cans and glass as required (some recycling companies don’t require separating) by your local recycling company and watch your black bags shrink. Some waste-removals don`t even require you to seperate the glass form the plastic and so on.

Visit the National Recycling Forums webpage for all sorts of South African related recycling information including a list of recycling companies so you can connect with one in your area if you haven’t already.

Invest in a composter (or make one) in your garden; an earthworm farm or if you have limited space a Bokashi Recycle Bin is prefect. In this way you can turn all of your organic waste into valuable compost and vermi-compost for your garden or pot plants.

Be warned, applying the “reduce, reuse, recycle” philosophy has been known to be addictive, challenging and fun! Whatever your current recycling habits are,  just take a moment to question and rethink them. Also realise the implications and power of your home and lifestyle product choices; where you choose to spend your money can influence industries, society and the environment.

A Short Guide to Recyclables in South Africa

+ Save Energy + Reduce Pressure on the Environment + Reduce Consumption of Raw Materials + Reduce Pollution and Landfills + Reduce Greenhouse Emissions + Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

RAG recycling leaflet-page-001 RAG recycling leaflet-page-002


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