Recycling 101, The Hows and Wheres of Recycling

Est. Reading: 4 minutes
We all know that the landfills are overfilled, the oceans are overflowing with plastic and turtles are chocking to death on plastic. We all want to do something about this but it just seems like too much of a schlep. So we've come up with a recycling 101 guide to help make recycling easier for you.  bin

So, you want a cleaner environment? You're sick of seeing streets lined with trash, hearing stories of animals suffocating on plastic and don't care for the mess you see in public spaces everyday? You've decided it's time to care for the environment. To do this, you've stopped buying plastic bags, you have a hemp bag with steel straws in your handbag, you bought a reusable water bottle and your favourite coffee shop uses those biodegradable coffee cups. You've got two of Rs, reduce and reuse, sorted. But now for the recycling. We have found the best recycling organisations to make recycling a breeze.


Recycling plastic has become necessary in recent years. This is because plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose. Despite this fact, plastic is still found in almost all our day-to-day items, such as plastic bags, sandwich bags, Tupperware, water bottles, packaging, even chewing gum is made out of plastic. Plastic can also be tricky to recycle because there are so many different types of plastic and because a lot of packaging is made from several materials. Most supermarkets have switched to recyclable bags and now have an option for paper ones, too. However, this just isn't doing enough. Apart from reducing our use of single-use plastic, we also need to make an effort to recycle our plastic. Here are some organisations that can assist:

Petco: Petco specialises in the recycling of PET plastic, the type of plastic that is used for bottles, jars and containers. They take these items and use them to make fibre for pillows and duvets, fruit trays and new bottles. Petco has many drop-off sites around Joburg, which you can find here.

Owl Rescue: Owl Rescue, based in the North West, use old bottles to make owl houses, bat houses and bee hives. They do not benefit from this great initiative but do it simply because they care about the environment. You can purchase a bag from them where you can store your own bottles or even collect bottles from your family, friends and colleagues. They will come and collect the plastic free of charge. You can order a bag here.



Paper recycling is one of the most established areas of recycling in South Africa. Recycled paper can be used to make newspaper, cardboard and even egg cartons. Regular paper, old magazines and books can all be recycled so that more trees don't need to be cut down.

Mpact Recycling: This recycling company collects 630 000 tonnes of paper a year, which gets processed into cartonboard and container board. Mpact has designated drop-offs zones where you can leave your used paper. They will then fetch your recycling material from this site. Find your closest drop-off zone here


Melting down crushed glass uses much less resources than making glass from scratch and is, therefore, cheaper and better for the environment. Melted glass can be used to make many items, such as new glasses and glass fibre. What many people don't realise is that glass is one of the longest lasting items on this list - taking about 1 million years to disintegrate.

The Glass Recycling Company: This company has 4 017 glass banks across the country where you can drop off your glass for recycling. They will then recycle it, which creates jobs, reduces our carbon footprint and clears up the landfills. Find a glass bank close to you here.


Metal can take anywhere between 50 - 500 years to break down, depending on what type of metal it is. It is also a lot cheaper and requires less resources to recycle metal rather than processing new metal. So, recycling your metal should be a no-brainer. The most common house-hold metal comes in the form of bottle caps, lids, foil and cans. Here is how you can recycle your metal:

SA Metal: This company won't help with small household pieces of metal. They will, however, pay you for your scrap metal and then recycle it. So, if you're looking to get rid of an old car, fridge, washing machine, pool pump, fencing or even some old tools, contact them to recycle it for you.

Whole Earth: Whole Earth is a great recycling initiative for families and businesses. They provide you with a bag, you fill it and they come fetch it. You don't even need to sort your recycling items. Not only do they recycle cans and other metal, they also recycle glass, paper, plastic and electrical waste. Get your recycling bag here.


There are many other items that should be recycled or disposed of in a correct manner. These include:

Oil: Old car oil can't just be thrown down the basin as it will contaminate the water supply. For safe disposal of old oil, contact the Rose Foundation.

Batteries: Batteries are another item that can't just be thrown in the garbage. Although the chemicals no longer react in a battery once it has died, the chemicals are still present. All batteries should be disposed of correctly so that they do not harm anyone. You can take all your old batteries with you the next time you go to your favourite Joburg shopping centre. Most shopping centres have bins especially for old batteries.

Light Bulbs: These are another difficult item to recycle because they are so fragile and are made of several different materials. Luckily, shopping centres have bins for these, too. If you can't find a bin, head on over to your local Woolworths.

Electronics: These are difficult to recycle due to the many parts, including batteries. Most shopping centres have electronic disposal bins or you can head on over to Jackson's Real Food Market, where you can recycle your old cell phones.


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