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  • Writer's pictureThe Forever Africa Team

How to Know What to Recycle

Reuse, reduce, recycle. We’ve heard this countless times since the war on plastic started and now seeing it first hand in the decay of our environments and wildlife.

The rise of the plastic era treated the product as the 8th wonder of the world until we saw the aftermath. Continents of waste made up of single-use plastics, floating in our oceans, washing up on our shores, and overflowing landfills. With only one earth to call home, besides Elon Musk’s views on a colony on Mars, we have to all do our small part to minimise our plastic footprint. There has been a solid earthly camaraderie to humanity taking up the war against plastic.

More and more households are purchasing more environmentally conscious products and recycling their waste. However, a study from  Live Science states that around 8.4% of waste in 2017 was recycled in the United States, a whopping 91.6% was not. The article stipulates that it was not because of the American's lack of trying, but the lack of infrastructure to support the recycling industry. 

But what is happening in South Africa?

According to  Averda , South Africa’s plastic recycling rates are increasing annually. SA’s recycling rates are on par and above many developed countries. Averda states that the amount of plastic waste collected in 2018 was 519 370 tonnes, of which 352 000 tonnes were recycled! That is a 46.3% recycling rate, beating Europe’s 31.1%. This makes us a world-leader in mechanical recycling according to Averda.  

A large majority of the waste that is recycled comes from various landfill sites around South Africa. While these numbers are great and inspiring, the industry does need your help within your home and work environment to better separate your organic waste and non-recyclables. This is why we need to know more about the process, so we can help our local waste department. By knowing what can and can’t go into your clear bag, helps those recycling your waste do a better job for OUR environment.   

How can you help? 

By being more conscious about buying products that opt to not use plastic and aim for alternative!

Here are some great alternatives:

Msulwa’s ear buds and dental floss are natural and plastic free!

Another great idea is Stream Straws, giving an affordable alternative to single-use plastic straws.

What can you recycle? 


  • Food tins 

  • Cans (aluminium), foil and packaging made from foil 

  • Rusty cans 

  • Oil, aerosol cans & paint cans 


  • Beer bottles 

  • Wine bottles 

  • Various food jars- tomato sauce, hot sauce bottles etc (Don’t forget to rinse them out!) 

  • Pyrex, assortment of light bulbs & mirrors can be recycled but must be kept separate from other recycled glass as they made up from different type of glass) 

Paper & Cardboard (You cannot recycle laminated paper/ waxy paper, fruit juice/ milk cartons, stickers and carbon paper)

  • Newspapers  

  • Magazines (as long as they are not laminated) 

  • Ream paper 

  • Cardboard boxes (if they aren’t laminated) 

Plastic (Cling-wrap cannot be recycled) 

  • Food & drink containers made out of hard plastics such as juice bottles, water bottles, milk containers etc 

  • Household detergents  

  • Plastic bags, magazine wrappers, plastic around toilet paper rolls, beer packaging etc 

  • Don’t forget to rinse all the waste you recycle! 

By separating your recyclables, you help with the overall process! 

Here’s a fast-easy guide to see what codes on plastic mean and how you can separate them! 

Another great way to recycle is Ecobricking.

What is Ecobricking? Ecobricking is the compaction of plastic waste into a plastic bottle that serve as reusable building blocks. All you need is an empty 2 or 5-litre bottle that you compact with plastic. It helps when you are not sure about what can or can’t be recycled. All you need is a pair of scissors to cut up larger pieces of recyclables and a stick to compact the brick! Once you have decently compacted your Ecobricks, you can drop them off at various places around South Africa, where they can go to those that need them.  

An article from Engineering News stipulates that SA will not reach its recycling goal for 2025 of 50% waste to landfills. Engineering News states that the biggest issue is the Chinese ban on importing waste & now the coronavirus pandemic. This has affected both the formal and informal sectors of the recycling industry. It is crucial now, more than ever, to support the industry and do your part. Companies that consciously advocate making their products environmentally safe and friendly need your support more than ever.

Shop local, save YOUR environments & recycle. 

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