Recycling: Making a difference to lives and the environment

It’s possible to make an income from recycling. As September is Glass Recycling Month, Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood is looking at how some women are earning an income from glass recycling, and how everyday South Africans can get involved.

Making a lifestyle a business

Nomkhosi Mashile is the owner and founder of Recycling Moms. She notes that recycling is important to her because it helps the environment and reduces pollution.

When asked why she started Recycling Moms, Mashile explains: “I wanted to make a positive impact on the environment. I also wanted to help create employment opportunities.”

Mashile currently has one male and one female employee. The company makes a profit through selling recyclables to recycling companies.

According to Mashile, corporates do not put enough emphasis on recycling. She believes that corporates need to start raising awareness about recycling within their companies.

Lizzie Sicwebu started recycling as a means to support her family when she was unemployed. “My life got better when I started recycling. I did not have an income. I was struggling to get work, so I started collecting cans for recycling to buy food for my family,” she reveals.

The importance of recycling

“South Africans are recycling far more than in the past, and our recycling rates are comparable with many similar countries; however there is always room for improvement. In the eight short years, since TGRC (The Glass Recycling Company) has been operating the glass recycling rate has increased from 18% to 40.9%,” notes Shabeer Jhetam, the CEO of TGRC.

Collect-a-Can, Southern African can recovery company, explains: “Recycling is important as it minimises the amount of waste that ends up at landfills, while it also keeps the environment clean and green for future generations.”

Jhetam agrees, stating: “Recycling helps to minimise negative environmental impact. Recycling has huge environmental benefits; it saves landfill space, saves raw materials, lessens demand for energy, and reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

“Recycling six glass bottles or jars will save enough energy to light a compact florescent bulb for nearly two days!  Recycling just six bottles or jars each week for a year will save enough energy to light a compact florescent bulb for three months or operate a computer for four days.

“In addition to the energy savings, for every ton of glass that is recycled, 670kg of CO2 is saved,” adds Jhetam.

Glass recycling

It is important to note that while most everyday glass products can be recycled at glass banks, there are certain glass items that cannot. For example, all glass jars and bottles can be recycled at glass banks.

However, Jhetam points out: “Windscreen glass, window pane glass, mirrors, light bulbs, drinking glasses and tumblers, PyrexTM and laboratory glass can’t be recycled with your bottles and jars. These items cannot be recycled with your regular glass recycling as this glass has different properties and melting points to packaging glass and shouldn’t be mixed for recycling.”

Furthermore, Jhetam notes: “In addition to recycling glass, you can also take back returnable glass bottles to retailers. These are glass beverage bottles that can be returned to a supermarket, liquor outlet or retailer once empty, for a refund. These glass containers will be sent to the beverage company where the bottles are sterilised and refilled ready to be reused several times. Returnable bottles include large beer bottles such as ‘quart bottles’, glass cola bottles and many spirit and liquor bottles.”

Saving the world one glass at a time

One of the advantages of glass is that it can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing its purity, unlike other products such as plastic or cotton, which can deteriorate during recycling.

“New bottles and jars manufactured in South Africa contain more than 40% recycled glass. In South Africa, all packaging glass recovered in South Africa goes back into making new glass bottles and jars. Therefore, we practice a Closed Loop System for all glass packaging – whereby material is recycled into the same product (i.e. a bottle is manufactured as a new bottle or jar again),” highlights Jhetam.

To start recycling you simply need to collect all of your glass bottles and containers, if they are dirty give them a rinse before putting them aside. You can also do this with other items such as cans, plastic and paper, just make sure to keep the different recyclable items separate.

When it comes time to recycle the items, you simply find the closest recycling point near you and drop off your glass, cans, paper or plastic.

Making money from recycling

Collect-a-can notes that collectors can get R10 per kilogram for aluminium cans, while steel cans fetch a price of 60 cents for one kilogram.

  • 76 aluminium cans = 1kg
  • 32 steel cans = 32 kg

To find a Collect-a-can office near you, click here.

Tips to help you recycle

Here are a few tips to help you get into the habit of recycling:

  • “Begin recycling at the office and not just at home, encourage your school or local community organisation to participate or start their own recycling programme,” advises Jhetam.
  • Collect-a-can suggest that parents start educating their children about the importance of recycling at home, and highlight the role that it plays in conserving the environment.
  • To make recycling easier, plan your trips to the recycling centre to fit in with your daily schedule, that way you don’t need to go out of your way to recycle.
  • If you don’t have the time to go to the recycling bank yourself, there are a number of services that you can hire to collect your recycling. Just remember that you will have to pay for these services.
  • “Households can implement different bin stations at their homes for the different recyclables including glass, cans, paper and plastic. It is better to separate waste at source in order to get a higher price for recyclable material,” adds Collect-a-can.

“Awareness is key to increasing recycling, and once individuals, corporates and communities realise how easy it is, many people adopt the behaviour! All recyclers in SA need to spread the message and encourage their friends and family to recycle,” adds Jhetam.