Two thirds of South Africa’s paper was successfully recycled in 2015, according to the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa’s (PRASA) latest results.

PRASA was elated “that no less than two thirds (66%) of the nation’s potentially recoverable paper and cardboard was recycled during the course of last year, totalling an impressive 1.2 million tons”, it said in a statement. These figures competed with rates in America and the United Kingdom, PRASA added.

A similar volume of material would have occupied 3.6 million cubic metres of landfill space, approximately equivalent to 1,435 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

More can be done

PRASA noted that more can be done to improve SA’s recycling and waste habits.

“There is little or no difference between the effort needed to simply discard paper into a rubbish bin versus putting it into a recycling bin, but the rewards for recycling are boundless,” Ursula Henneberry, PRASA operations director said.

“You reduce your waste footprint by ensuring that paper packaging and products are reprocessed into new items instead of ending up in landfill,” she added.

Henneberry said that recycling creates jobs – from the people who walk the streets collecting recyclables to bigger companies that employed individuals to collect and sort recyclables.

It is estimated that around 100,000 people earn a living from recycling across various waste platforms.

Easily recyclable items include:

  • Magazines and brochures, including the glossy varieties
  • Milk, juice and food cartons (rinsed and flattened)
  • Newspapers
  • Office materials, including shredded papers and envelopes
  • Cardboard boxes of any kind. These can include dry food, e.g. cereal boxes, medicine and cosmetic boxes, toilet and kitchen paper roll cores and flattened packing cartons
  • Old telephone directories and discarded hardcover and paperback books
  • Paper gift-wrapping materials

Materials that should NOT be included in the paper recycling process include:

  • Wet or dirty paper and cardboard
  • Sticky notes
  • Wax coated, foil lined and laminated products
  • Used paper plates, disposable nappies, tissues and toilet paper
  • Cement and dog food bags
  • Foil gift wrapping and carbon paper

There are many programmes available to support local paper recycling efforts, from free curbside collections in many residential areas to large paper banks at schools and community organisations.