Get with the (recycling) programme


Recycling is becoming the centre focus in South Africa’s environmental efforts. Going ‘green’ is more about simply recycling waste products, but it is the logical and easy place to start. It takes next to no time, and can be done in the home, office, school or anywhere. Due to the increasing popularity of recycling initiatives, and the support from large companies, many exciting developments in this industry are arising.

South African recycling regulations and legislation

The regulation of plastic, especially plastic shopping bags, is documented in South Africa’s Regulation Gazette No. 7661. This regulation, effective since 2003, outlaws the manufacture or trade of plastic bags that exceed a thickness of 80 micrometers. Further prohibitions are in place for plastic bags that have printing on them.

Polystyrene, a substance just as commonly used as plastic, is 100 percent recyclable, but only 14 percent of South African polystyrene products were recycled in 2010/11. This figure has since increased and The Polystyrene Packaging Council (PSPC) of South Africa estimates a 10 percent recycling growth rate per year in the upcoming years.

PCB-containing materials, used in the insulation of electrics, are being phased out and regulated in South Africa as well. No persons may use, produce or sell PCBs, with the intention that by 2023, no PCBs will be present in South African industries.

Vehicle tyres must also, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, be properly recycled or disposed of in a manner that does not cause harm to the environment. Responsibility is placed on recycling companies, tyre manufacturers and dealers, and individual vehicle owners alike to ensure the safe recycling of tyres.

South Africa also manages and prohibits the use, production or distribution of ozone-depleting substances, such as CFCs. The phasing out of CFCs and similar substances intends to have eradicated the imports, sales and uses of these substances by 2040.

Global trends in recycling

  • Safety
    Safety has become a top priority in recycling efforts. This focus has arisen from statistics from the Bureau of Labour Statistics showing that the waste and recycling industry ranks fifth in fatality rates. The development of safer technologies, especially in equipment and machinery, is playing a large role in ensuring workers’ safety while promoting environmental safety as well.
  • Sorting
    Collecting and sorting recycled waste is becoming more efficient with automated services. This includes collection trucks with automated loading capabilities, which additionally provides more security and efficiency because the drivers can remain in the vehicle. This efficiency saves on collection times, load capacities and other benefits that in themselves increase environmental safety.
  • Cost
    Because it is often cheaper and easier to manufacture products from virgin materials, companies are focussing on diversion programs to defend recycling as a feasible economic pursuit. These include approaches to resource reallocation, and strengthening a circular economy, i.e. resupplying recycled materials as secondary resources. Government and businesses are encouraged to promote recycling through changes in procurement processes especially.

South Africa makes an effort

The growth of composting programs, especially in farming and rural areas of South Africa, has great environmental benefits. Not only does it reduce the need for artificial compost and fertilisers that can pose health risks as well as ozone damage, but it reduces the amount of organic waste ending up in landfills or polluting the streets.

CNG technology is also taking the recycling industry by storm. CNG, or compressed natural gas, particularly methane, can be converted into a clean, alternative energy source. This technology provides a cleaner and more cost-effective business model.

ISOTHERM is one company in South Africa that is promoting an eco-friendly business model, with their insulation products being produced entirely from recycled plastic PET bottles. Their business development approach is founded upon environmental and social responsibility, and they provide an example of how recycling can be used as an effective and successful business model.

With these developments in both technology and environmental consciousness, businesses are leading the movement towards a greener, sustainable South Africa. Individuals and smaller businesses can partake in these same efforts too, since recycling can be done on any scale. Whether you are just reusing your canvas grocery bags, turning your old office documents into garden mulch, or upgrading your company’s fleet of vehicles to more energy-efficient, low-emission models, you are contributing to a better environment.


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