It is not waste until we waste it!

The landscape in our City is changing.  A hole has become a mound and is now a substantial hill visible from the sea and from kilometres away.  Even worse, a lot of our waste ends up in the environment.  In an international scientific study on marine plastic pollution published in 2015 South Africa was ranked at 11th in a list of 20 countries that generated the highest volumes of “mismanaged plastic waste”.  South Africa came in worse than India, the entire United States and 23 European countries.

Nature knows no waste – everything is recycled.  The good news is that we know about diminishing resources, poisonous pollution and increasing resource costs and we now have the technology and systems to start the shift to a zero waste society.  What can’t be recycled or reused indefinitely should not be produced.  We need to refuse unnecessary packaging and goods, reuse as is or as upcycled, recycle into new products and return value to the soil through composting.  We need to stop thinking that something is rubbish when it is no longer useful to us. This thinking allows us to throw things away, in a world where there is no such place as ‘away’. Everywhere is a home to living organisms. Everything that we discard contains raw materials. None of these natural resources would be wasted in a truly sustainable society.


1 Step one: Understand what the categories of waste are.

  • organic including food left overs and garden clippings;
  • hazardous products with potentially toxic chemicals. These include batteries, fluorescent and CFL lights (mercury content), some electrical equipment, and chemicals including paints, cleaning agents and pesticides;
  • general household / consumer waste typically thrown out from homes and public places including packaging, old clothing and appliances.  Much of this can be recycled.

It is notoriously difficult to determine what plastic is recyclable and what is not.  Producers are being pressurized to improve the labelling so that it is easier to identify recyclable plastic.  Another issue is that not all recyclable plastic is locally recycled. There is increasing Government and consumer pressure to change this.


2 Step two:  Identify the categories of `waste’ and the volumes produced.

Click here to use the 2018 09 Waste mini audit template for GAIA to help you identify categories of and volumes of waste. This will help record what to recycle, to compost and to dispose of responsibly. If your home or business uses a single bin for all waste, you have two options:

Sort through the bins to identify the different kinds of discarded items to fill in the audit table (MEGA YUCK ) or;

Set up separate containers each for paper, packaging (bottles, cans, clean plastic etc.), organic kitchen waste, garden clippings and hazardous waste, etc. This makes the audit process easier and starts the journey of separating to recycle.

3 Step three: What is being wasted that can be diverted to other uses.

The Waste Audit Table above should give a clear idea of what items are currently being sent to land fill sites, and what can be diverted for composting and recycling. Identify and focus on the easy to recycle items, the items that make up the largest volume of your waste and the hazardous waste that needs special disposal.

There are an increasing number of drop-off recycling centres and also recyclers that will collect larger volumes.  Local authorities also have waste transfer stations where materials are separated for recycling.  Ask local recyclers which of the plastics they take.

Charity shops accept clothing and household goods in acceptable condition.

Battery centres accept batteries.

PnP and Woolworths shopping centres have bins for household batteries and CFLs and Fluorescent tubes.

For hazardous waste: There are dedicated disposal sites for hazardous products in many urban centres. Find out where these are, or which licensed contractor collects them for disposal. If there are no sites for hazardous waste, lobby your local authority and environmental authority to provide one.

If you need professional help with managing your recyclables or doing a Waste Audit in Cape Town then email for a home, school or small business waste audit

Kim Kruyshaar Sept 2018