To put this figure into perspective, the bales of paper recovered in 2021 would stretch a distance of 1,357km if the bales were laid end to end. That is a distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
While South Africa has a thriving paper recycling economy, there is much more than can be done at a household, school and business level to turn waste into wealth — especially for informal waste collectors and small recycling businesses, says the organisation.
Recyclables have a value — for the collectors, it is monetary. For paper, packaging and tissue manufacturers, old paper products are the ingredients for new products, adds Fibre Circle.
“There are many products that we touch or use every day that needs to stay out of the rubbish bin and be kept separate for recycling. This is called separation-at-source. By keeping paper and paper packaging clean and dry, we maximise its potential for re-use and divert it from landfills,” says the organisation.
According to Fibre Circle, separation-at-source starts with the small act of putting a paper-only bin or box in the kitchen and filling it with your paper recycling. One tonne of recovered paper will save three cubic metres of landfill space, which is fast becoming scarce.
“Be kind to both the planet and waste collectors and put a bag of your clean recyclables next to your bin on rubbish day. This will save collectors a lot of time and is more hygienic for them. It is always a good idea to check with your local collector what he or she collects, as they won’t take recyclables that they cannot sell to a buy-back centre,” adds Fibre Circle.
Common paper recyclables collected by waste collectors include:
- cardboard boxes
- office paper
- dry food packaging such as cereal boxes
- pizza boxes and burger boxes (remove as much as food residue as possible)
- toilet roll cores
- grocery delivery bags and takeaway bags
- milk and juice cartons (depending on the area), and
- paper-based soft drink and coffee cups (depending on the area).
“Some paper items might be recyclable but not taken by waste collectors; you can take these to a local recycling centre. Apart from paper items, many collectors will take PET cold drink bottles, fabric softener bottles, tins and cans,” says Fibre Circle.
Individuals are encouraged to not add the following to recycling:
- food waste
- tissues, toilet paper and paper towels
- very dirty paper, such as paper plates, and
- laminated office paper.
“Since 2003, the South African paper industry has diverted more than 20 million tonnes of paper and paper packaging from landfill. This has saved 62 million cubic metres of landfill space. If baled, the amount of paper would go around the equator 1.5 times,” concludes Fibre Circle.
For more information, visit www.fibrecircle.co.za.
Fibre Circle Clean-Up and Recycle Week Recycle Paper and paper packaging Recycling initiatives Sustainability South African recycling Recycling in SA Packaging sector Packaging sector South Africa trash into treasure