Saturday, May 31, 2008

Recycling Gets Go Ahead

- Ellen Nicol -

The Council has just given the go ahead for the proposed recycling project. It has been confirmed that an enclosure is soon to be constructed by the Municipality at the solid waste disposal site. Once completed, Prince Albert will be on the road to going greener.

The Municipality says that residents will be advised of the commencement date of the project, whilst a team of volunteers will visit as many households as possible to inform residents of the items that can be recycled and to encourage householders to take part in the project.

How it will work

The Municipality will give each householder a sturdy bag in which to put all recyclable material. This recycle refuse bag is to be put out for collection together with the usual black refuse bags on collection days and will be picked up by the Municipal refuse workers. When a refuse bag is taken away to be emptied, the municipality workers will replace it with another for the householder to fill for next collection.

The recycle bags will be emptied in the special enclosure at the Municipal solid waste site. Once the enclosure is almost full, the recyclable material will be sorted and the Municipality will be able to determine the volume and value of the material that will then be removed and sold to defray expenses.

Why should we recycle?

Because a crisis is staring us in the eyes!

Statistics show that there is a 7% annual growth in waste generation in South Africa. In the Western Cape there is on average less than five years’ worth of available space left to dump rubbish. Prince Albert is no exception. Our solid waste disposal site is nearly full and the Municipality has had to apply for permission to raise the site by two metres in the immediate future and a further two metres after that. The next step would be to open a new site. This is a costly process and locks up land unnecessarily. Astonishing as it sounds, by recycling and composting organic material, a household can reduce the waste sent to landfill by between 60 and 80%.

A lot that we bring into our homes ends up as rubbish. A waste characterization study performed for the Western Cape shows that 65% of waste generated by households is packaging, like plastic shopping bags, cardboard and paper covering for postal packages or plastic film put around perishables.

Although these have almost no use to us, they do have some value. Firstly, it costs to make these materials – energy and natural resources have to be used in their manufacture. And if we recycle and sell the material, it has value again. Not only does it have monetary value; it also saves the energy and resources that would have been used to produce it.

Some examples of what can be recycled

Paper and cardboard:
Magazines, newspaper, packaging, boxes

Clean, dry, unbroken glass:
Empty food jars, beverage bottles such as wine bottles, or other non-returnable bottles. No broken glass, light bulbs or fluorescent lights.

Cans and scrap metal:
Scrap metal, beverage cans, food tins, aerosol cans, oil cans and paint tins. All beverage, oil and paint tins must be empty and food tins rinsed out and dried.

Plastic containers used previously for cooldrink, water, food, cleaning agents etc., plastic bags, plastic film used for packaging of food. All need to be clean and dry.

It is generally accepted that recycling has very significant benefits:

  • It reduces the need for natural resources for manufacture of new items;
  • The environmental impact of landfill sites is reduced as these sites need not be so large and only contain non-recyclable refuse.
  • It helps with job creation – Prince Albert Municipality will initially employ two additional workers to help with the project. Once the project proves feasible, an entrepreneur may be able to take it forward, employing even more people.
  • Because manufacturing processes for new materials are reduced, so carbon dioxide (green house gas) and other types of air pollution are similarly decreased
  • Energy use is reduced – less energy is needed to recycle than to make something completely new;
  • It reduces litter because it gives waste a value.

How to immediately reduce the impact of waste on the environment

  • Try to buy items with less packaging, or leave the packaging material at the check out counter and only take the items.
  • Put all recyclable items aside and keep them for when the recycling project is up and running. If you are able to, take your recyclable items to the recycling depot in Oudtshoorn (Retain, Reuse, Recycle next to Olea Olives in the Oudtshoorn industrial area);
  • Think carefully before you put something in your ordinary refuse – can you reduce its size to save space in the landfill? You can for instance flatten the boxes in which fruit juice or long life milk is bought. You can start a compost heap to deal with organic waste;
  • If you have electronic or toxic waste such as old computers or used batteries keep them until the recycling project is able to deliver them to specialist recyclers in Cape Town where they can be dealt with responsibly.

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