A guide on how to recycle

When you think of recycling you probably picture a complex system of containers to keep in your own home. While it may take some effort, recycling is actually really important. This is because it is an important way to conserve our natural resources and to contribute to preserving our environment. So if you are interested, here is a quick guide to help you get into the recycling game.

What can you actually recycle?

Aluminium is valuable as a recyclable material, so make sure to keep your cold drink and beer cans for this purpose. Other metals that you can recycle include metal lids of glass jars, copper, aluminium foil, foil packaging, food tins, rusty cans and even paint, oil, and aerosol cans. But make sure that you keep the labels on certain items that may contain hazardous materials so the recyclers can be aware of it.


When the glass is recycled it is done according to the colours clear, green and brown. Keep in mind that most recycling centres will prefer it when items are separated this way. However, light bulbs, sheet glass, mirrors and pyrex need to be separated from the rest of the glass products as they have different composition and melting points. Your used ordinary light bulbs and CFLs (energy-saving compact fluorescent lights) can be taken to Pick n Pay and Woolworths stores as they have drop-off points.


Plastic doesn’t actually break down in landfills, but it can be recycled to make many diverse products. Fabric softener bottles, plastic bags, cling-wrap and Ice cream and milk containers can all be recycled. Keep in mind that plastic items are assigned different numbers in order to grade them. #1 are for water bottles, food jars and ownable film. #2 for milk containers, wheelie bins and juice bottles. #4 is for shopping bags, food containers, gloves. #7 for mixed plastics such as polycarbonates that are not recyclable. Almost all recycling centres accept plastics #1 and #2.

Paper and Cardboard

Newspapers, magazines, flyers, newspaper inserts, phone books, envelopes, computer paper, old letters, and paper packaging can all be placed together in one recycling bin. However, do not include carbon paper, stickers, cardboard, laminated paper, laminated cardboard with your paper recycling as it cannot be recycled. Corrugated cardboard is also a highly valuable recyclable item, however, you need to make sure that you keep it dry.

So then how do you recycle these items?
Keep everything separated

To make things easier for yourself, it’s better to make separate bins in order to recycle different items. Make labels for glass, cans, plastic and paper bins. Most recycling depots will separate items according to these categories. So rather than separating them yourself, it’s probably easier to do it beforehand. It’s also a good idea to give everything a rinse before you separate the items so that it’s easier for those who are sorting everything out at the depot.

Buy recyclable items

We are the consumers, so the more recyclable products we buy the more of them will be made available to us. So look for products with recycled content and which are packaged with recycled materials. This is so that the materials that we are recycling are actually put to use and to make your own recycling easier. So make sure to keep an eye out for these products when you are doing the rounds at the supermarket.

As you can see, recycling doesn’t have to be a mission. You can slowly collect recyclable items in their separate bins and then take them to your closest recycling depot. If you’re not sure where to go, here is a guide to the various places where you can take your recyclables to in South Africa.

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