How To Prepare Your Recyclables for Recycling

Make Spring Cleaning Easy with These Recycling Tips


Recycling is on the rise worldwide, and South Africa is catching on. According to a recent SA Plastics Pact report, we achieved a 35.4% recycling rate for plastic packaging in 2020. Many South Africans use recycling as an income source, plus it helps put valuable materials back into economic circulation. Here’s how businesses, schools, and anyone can get involved.


What Materials Can You Recycle in South Africa?


Recycling means processing waste materials into new ones we can use again. It typically takes specialised machinery, most of which we have in South Africa. You can recycle almost anything with the right technology, and our 300+ recycling companies[1] have already made great progress. Here are six materials you can recycle in South Africa:



According to PAMSA, South Africa achieved a 60.7% paper recycling rate in 2022. That means we saved over 1 million tonnes of paper from landfills! Paper comes in different “grades” depending on what it’s made of. Here are some everyday paper products you can recycle:

  •       Newspapers and magazines
  •       Textbooks and notepads
  •       Used office paper (documents, flyers, etc.)
  •       Cardboard boxes and paper bags
  •       Coloured and kraft paper (birthday cards, posters, etc.)
  •       Juice boxes and milk cartons


2. Plastic

Plastic is made from fossil fuels such as crude oil or natural gas. These natural materials can last a lifetime, so we can recycle and reuse them many times without damaging their structural integrity. Like paper, plastic comes in different grades with different recycling requirements. Here are some plastic products you can recycle in South Africa:

  •       PET: cooldrink bottles, water bottles, peanut butter and mayonnaise jars, etc.
  •       HDPE: shampoo bottles, milk jugs, detergent containers, children’s toys, etc.
  •       LDPE: plastic grocery packets, bread, fruit, vegetable bags, etc.
  •       PVC: blister packs, piping, fruit containers, labels, etc.
  •       PP: yoghurt containers, bottle caps, cosmetics containers, paint tubs, etc.



Although polystyrene is technically a type of plastic, we wanted to mention it separately to draw attention to its recyclability. Many people think you can’t recycle polystyrene, but the truth is that it is 100% recyclable. In fact, South Africa has a booming polystyrene recycling industry. Here are some polystyrene items you can collect for recycling:

  •       Fruit and meat trays
  •       Takeaway containers and cups
  •       Appliance packaging
  •       Insulation



Glass is infinitely recyclable, meaning we can recycle it over and over again without the material losing quality. You can send most glass items to a recycling plant, but make sure you never send broken glass, which is a safety hazard for the people who handle it. Here are some examples of glass packaging you can collect and recycle:

  •       Jam and sauce jars
  •       Beer, wine, and liquor bottles
  •       Medicine and cosmetics containers



Metal is the most valuable material to recycle, and South Africa has a thriving scrap metal industry.  You may want to work directly with a buy-back centre if you have large amounts of metal on hand. If you only recycle small amounts, you can put them in the recycling bin. Here are some examples of everyday metal packaging you can recycle:

  •       Cooldrink and beer cans
  •       Paint tins
  •       Food tins (tuna, sweetcorn, etc)
  •       Bottle tops and jar lids



Electronic waste should NEVER go in the regular rubbish bin. It contains chemicals and hazardous materials that can pollute the earth. Rather, put e-waste out with your recycling (in a separate bag) or take it to a collection centre near you (see the bottom of our home page). If the device can be refurbished or repaired, it’s best to take it to a refurbishment centre so we can extend the life of the device. Remember to erase all your data and reset it to factory settings before you take your phone or computer for refurbishment or recycling. Here are some examples of e-waste:

  •       Batteries
  •       Light bulbs
  •       Vapes and e-cigarettes
  •       Solar panels
  •       Broken chargers, wires, plugs, etc.
  •       Broken phones, laptops, and appliances
  •       Desktop computers, monitors, TVs, switches, hubs, routers and cameras


Why You Should Always Rinse Your Recyclables


Always rinse your recyclables (except paper!) before putting them in the recycling bin. Dirty sauce jars, beer bottles, and food cans can ruin a batch of recycling, rendering all your collection efforts pointless. What’s more, recycling without rinsing can cause unpleasant odours around your collection bins, attract pests, and deter people from using them.


Remember to let them dry out, too. Wet jars and bottles can leak onto the paper and cardboard in your recycling bin,  making recycling impossible.


The Importance of Separating Different Recyclable Materials


Knowing how to separate your recyclables is important if you want to recycle successfully. Each material requires a different recycling method, so accidentally leaving some plastic in a paper recycling stream, for example, could sabotage the process. Separation at the source can make recycling faster and reduce contaminants from affecting more materials than necessary.


What About Packaging Made From Mixed Materials?


Mixed materials can be tricky because each one needs to end up in a separate waste stream. Try to separate them as much as possible, but you may need to work directly with a buy-back centre where you can’t. Cosmetics packaging is a common culprit for material mixing. Still, thankfully there are take-back programmes, such as MAC’s Back-to-MAC scheme, that you can use to recycle such containers successfully.


Start Recycling Today


Whether you go through kilograms of paper a week or only take your bin out once a month, recycling is for you. eWASA is a registered producer responsibility organisation (PRO) that helps businesses meet their recycling targets to remain EPR compliant. Chat with us about your recycling needs to start saving waste from landfills today.







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