South Africa’s National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) aims to see all South African households in the country’s major centres separating household waste by 2016. However, a survey conducted by the CSIR has indicated that most South African households do not know how or what to recycle, or where to dispose of their household recyclables. John Hunt, managing director, Mpact Recycling, discusses how South African consumers can become more environmentally conscious without spending more money. Simply making an effort to buy green and recycle.

Studies dating back at least three decades clearly show the power of social norms. We tend to ascribe our actions to more high-minded motives, or to practical concerns about money. But at its core, our behaviour often boils down to that old mantra: monkey see, monkey do. Researchers are now learning how to harness that instinct to nudge us to go green. Purchasing environmentally responsible products is as much part of the recycling process as the disposing of them.

Another CSIR study revealed that as much as a quarter of all the municipal waste generated in South Africa comprises mainline recyclables such as glass, paper, tins and plastics. The disposal of these recyclables as municipal waste is compromising the lifespan of the country’s landfills, many of which are running out of space.

Everyone should be sorting household, school and office waste into paper, plastic, glass, cans and other. This can easily be done by having different coloured or marked containers and by sorting each day as these items are discarded. The balance of the waste is classified as rubbish and goes into the traditional refuse bin for municipal collections.

If you are looking at being more green around the home, there are a few simple tips that any household can follow. Keep waste paper clean and dry, as quality is important for a good end product. The waste paper can then be dropped off at any of the 2,000 Ronnie Banks conveniently located countrywide at schools, communities and churches. Alternatively, check to see if Mpact Recycling offers kerbside collection in your area. Over 200,000 homes are serviced within Ekurhuleni, City of Johannesburg and City of Tshwane. In the green Ronnie bag that Mpact Recycling provides homes with, you can discard newspaper, magazines, catalogues, phone books, old mail, computer paper, envelopes, gift wrapping paper, cardboard, food boxes, shoeboxes, paper towel and toilet paper tubes, as well as paper egg cartons.

Households, schools, shopping centres and offices can also support their local recyclers or trolley-preneurs by putting out the other recyclables (plastic, glass and cans) into clear bags for them to take on their rounds each week.

This Clean Up Week (14 - 20 September) and Recycle Day (18 September) get recycling. It’s never been easier getting into the routine, and it makes a big difference in terms of job creation as well as preserving the environment.