There’s a lot to recycling

The 2016 festive season is well under way, albeit toned down somewhat from its usual excesses, due to the current economic environment.

Recycling water through wetlands

It is however, still the perfect time to pay greater attention to the way we use the planet’s natural resources.

“It’s a time when people waste more, whether it’s disposable gift-wrap paper, Christmas cards, gift packaging, or decorations on every wall – through to excessive consumption.

Reducing, re-using or recycling all that Christmas packaging, can make an enormous difference to the environment,” said Donna Noble, Mpact Recycling’s communications manager. Mpact is the leading paper and now PET plastic recyclers in the country. According to the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (PRASA), one tonne of recycled paper can save up to three cubic metres of landfill space.

Last year, 1.2 million tonnes of paper and board was recycled, which was subsequently converted into new paper products.

“That volume of paper would have occupied 3.6 million cubic metres of landfill space, or 1,435 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” said Noble.

Come December 27, it’s as if people instinctively realise they need a detox.

It’s also a time when many people prepare for the New Year, by taking on an annual spring clean.

Noble offered some festive season recycling tips:

“The summer holidays and festive season are a time for family and friends. It’s the perfect opportunity to remind our loved ones to remain mindful of reducing their waste. Remember to recycle your wrapping paper, gift packaging, cardboard, cereal boxes, envelopes, egg boxes, office paper, plastic beverage bottles, newspapers, magazines, telephone directories, plus milk and juice cartons.

“A lot of what we call rubbish, is actually recyclable,” said Noble.

While Mpact only recycles the above products themselves, the following materials can still be separated and placed out for recycling: aluminium foil and trays; beverage cans; plastic toys and even outdoor furniture – and given to the collectors.

What better way to have fun and celebrate the season, than by making your own festive wrapping paper, decorations and gifts?

Before buying anything and later disposing of it, try re-use, up-cycle or DIY with materials you already have on hand:

  •  Re-use: consider gift-wrapping in newspaper with a colourful ribbon, or wrapping gifts in beautiful reusable cloth. Recycle it again once the gift giving is complete. People appreciate a DIY Christmas card or gift, far more than a commercial one.
  •  Up-cycle: when it comes to decorations, it can be a lot of fun to turn used paper into decorations. Get your kids to create a miniature Christmas tree or festive bows, out of old magazines. It’ll give them hours of fun and build a sense of anticipation. They can also make paper chains out of newspaper – and these decorations can be made to look great, with some festive glitter.
  •  Recycle: remember to encourage your children to recycle these decorations in the New Year, either through their local Ronnie Recycler school or community programme, or through the Ronnie kerbside collections which resume on January 3, 2017.

If you must purchase new decorations, then choose sturdy options that will last more than one festive season.

You can also stimulate interest, by sharing and swapping decorations with friends and family – to try out a new look each year.

Encourage friends and family to separate out their recyclables.

Separating your paper, plastic, glass and cans at source, enables a far greater percentage to be recycled.

This is because when they’re mixed with normal waste, they can become contaminated and unusable.

“Please remember that your items such as cold drink bottles, aren’t trash.

“They’re a livelihood for many thousands of collectors – and an essential raw material for improving sustainable plastic manufacturing.

“We therefore encourage you to support recycling wherever possible, by separating recyclable materials from other waste that might contaminate it.

“Doing your bit at home can make all the difference to job creation; and protecting the environment,” said Noble.

Recycling has become easier than ever.

Many suburban areas are today covered by a kerbside collection service for paper, while collectors in many areas also gather plastic bottles and other forms of plastic.

The collectors then sell their recyclables to their closest drop off site, such as any of the over 40 buy-back centres supported by Mpact in Gauteng alone.

“The post-Christmas clean up offers a big opportunity to recycle all that filing; and clean out cupboards and storerooms to make space for the New Year.

”This exercise often generates huge amounts of waste paper for recycling,” Noble explained.

She suggests confronting this often-daunting task carefully:

  •  First, set up a storage area – where you can easily separate out your recyclables.
  •  Second, get colourful containers or boxes; and label them for ease of reference.
  •  Third, involve the family so that it becomes a daily habit to separate. You’ll be surprised how little will actually go into your refuse bin.

“With one eye on our environment and the other on festive family fun, we can all have a good festive season in the knowledge that our planet won’t be suffering the hangover afterwards,” said Noble.

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