Why recycling matters

Over 42 million cubic metres of general waste is generated every year across South Africa. In addition, more than 5 million cubic metres of hazardous waste is produced every year. The average amount of waste generated per person per day in South Africa is 0.7 kg. This is closer to the average produced in developed countries (73 kg in the UK and 0.87 kg in Singapore), than to the average in developing countries such as 0.3 kg in Nepal.  These are 1999 figures and from looking at other country’s stats – they tend to double every ten years.  That puts us at almost 100 million tons.

I have challenged myself to reduce the waste we produce in our home – that is, the waste that would go into a landfill.  The easiest way to do this is to recycle, reduce and reuse.

In a previous post I told you all about our rubbish problem. One of the comments on this post (thanks Shamballa) motivated me to do something about recycling in our town.  I started asking around, and after a few dead ends, found out that Lisl (from my meditation classes)  and a few others were in the final stages of arranging recycling in Hoedspruit.  Around that time I also found out that our packhouse had 18 tons of cardboard waste that was going to be burned if we could not find some way to get it recycled.  Thanks to Lisl and Nico, we managed to get most of it to Nico’s recycling center. We still have a few more loads to go but I am very grateful that it was not burned.

One of our local supermarkets, the Spar, has kindly volunteered to have recycling bins on their premises.  Now I have a place to go to dump all the glass bottles that were left on my property by the previous owners.

I have been wracking my brains trying to find a convincing reason to motivate others to recycle and I have not got very far so all I can really tell you about is why I do it.  They sound rather cliché I’m afraid……

  1. I love our beautiful planet and I don’t like the sight of landfills.
  2. The sad and confused seagulls one sees at dumps hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away from the beautiful coastline where they belong.
  3. Landfills embarrass me for some reason – I think it’s the visibility of what a wasteful society we have become – everything is instant – you want it, you buy it, you use it – then you toss it – without a thought to what resources it took to make it and what will happen to it after you toss it into the bin.
  4. Plastic is made from oil.  Oil is a limited resource. What will happen when there is  little to no oil left and we can not afford it?
  5. If I don’t start to do something who will?  This is not a governmental problem – it’s our problem, and can only be solved by individuals.

So this is what I am doing and plan to do in the future:

  1. Produce as much of my own food and consumables as possible.
  2. Make food from scratch instead of buying pre-cooked and packaged meals.
  3. Reuse what I used to throw away.
  4. Avoid buying anything in plastic and tins (as far as possible) and if I do, I must find a use for the container.
  5. Recycle what I can not use.
  6. Make compost.

Already we have been able to drastically reduce our weekly bin bags and we are down to less than one bag a week.

If you are not already reusing, recycling and reducing, I hope this post at least makes you think about it.

If you’re not part of the solution you’re still part of the problem – Yvon Chouinard

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71 thoughts on “Why recycling matters

  1. It’s really great to see more and more posts about recycling. Makes me happy. I’ve said it before on other blogs, but I am a total convert after moving to Sweden. The land of recycling. They really are at the cutting edge and it’s reflected in the beauty of this place.

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  2. Recycling also saves on lost of cash. Cash you could maybe use for solar panels, etc.

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  3. People just can’t be bothered to recycle, they keep forgetting how IMPORTANT it is to take care of our environment. I think the only way to get people recycling is through greater pressure from governments and greater incentives, look at Germany! In Germany recycling is not a choice, but a requirement.

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  4. 1. Enzyme – its really wonderful making your own enzyme for soaking stained mugs, mopping floor. Stubborn stains goes off after an overnight soak! The floor feels like being skinned, walking feels real good. If anyone wants the formula, let me know – its just water, brown sugar and veggie-peels, fruit-peels. So cheap and effective. You dont need to buy detergent – that 3R in action!

    2. My home roof is now solar-paneled. Roughtimate ( rough estimate 😉 ) I think I am making some net-profi$ AFTER lessing my consumption. Officially I have not receive Electricit-Board’s bill yet – coz they are ‘ironing out’ the finer details first.

    3. Use boiling water to kill weeds that strays in the drain. Dont use weedkiller for its ingredient is oil and toxin-detergent that spoil the earth. No, at drains there are no earthworms so not guilty of killing earthworms….

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  5. Thank you for this post! Somebody needs to motivate others to recycle. We as humans are killing ourselves with pollution & the wildlife that make this planet so beautiful. It seems like bigger industries are getting more involved with the “Green” effort that is taking way. I hope this will influence people to follow their lead. We need to save our planet before it’s too late.

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  6. I especially like your first two goals for what you’re going to do in the future – these actually fall under the fourth ‘R’ of RETHINK. We should all be rethinking what goods we actually need to buy, because by reducing our consumption, we reduce our waste. Making, growing, and cooking our own things is better for the environment, healthier, and can be so much fun! Great post!

    http://theruttedroad.wordpress.com/

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  7. I recommend not looking at U.S. waste statistics if you don’t want to be horribly depressed. They love touting the blue bins here, but rarely mention the amount of recyclables they won’t take (glass, plastics after #2, etc.).

    Not to mention that, in particular, reduce and reuse don’t get nearly the emphasis they deserve…. Kudos for the post!

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  8. I wish my bosses in Corporate America felt the same as you. I’m going to print this out and put on their desks. They get mad at me when I recycle…isn’t that so terribly sad? Thanks for the great work you are doing.

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  9. I am so behind the times. I used to recycle all of the time then I got remarried into a family with teenage boys at home and the men didn’t do much in the recycling department.

    I guess all it takes is one person taking a stand and doing something about it…

    Maybe that should be me~! (hopefully everyone will think that way) 😉

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  10. Wow. I personally LOVE your approach/thinking on recycling.
    It makes me happy to think there are other people out there who care about our planet/environment as much as I do. 🙂
    I’ve actually been thinking about trying to find an ecovillage to live in so my footprint on the world isn’t as big.
    You have a wonderful heart and great initiative. 🙂
    Thanks for caring. 🙂

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  11. If you’re not part of the solution you’re still part of the problem
    – Yvon Chouinard

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  12. You should come visit the forum at SufficientSelf.com. We’re very interested in the same principles that you are talking about working on in the future: most of us grow/raise our own, limit the amount of petroleum products, and generally try to be good stewards.

    Keep up the good work and the good blogging!

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  13. #2 especially. Not only is cooking for yourself better for you as you can control the ingredients – but saves on packaging waste. I try to buy items like oats in bulk rather than smaller cardboard cartons. I don’t know if you have this there – but in the USA we have “American Cheese” that sometimes comes in slices individually wrapped in plastic. Uggh. What a waste. And when you have food leftovers, put them in reusable plastic containers rather than disposable plastic bags or aluminum foil.

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    • Good tips for everyone to follow – thank you. I know what you call American cheese – we have it here too. It’s very processed and I don’t like it. I am going to attempt to make my own cheese soon 🙂

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  14. Like many have said it is great to see more postings about the three Rs.
    I used to live in Canada Now I live in France. Both places seem to be embracing the three Rs but in France the biggest challenge is buying large quantities of foods we like regularly like yogurt. In France they only come is tiny 125 ml pots. In Canada it was easy to get 1 kg at a time. It is also difficult here to find bulk food items like grains.
    The good news is the abundance of fresh produce or baked bread in the daily markets and as you can see from the photos on my fun website http://www.crazyparking.com people will park just about anywhere to get to a market or bakery.
    D

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    • Yeah – buying in bulk is a good idea if you cannot produce the product yourself. Lol on the parking – I have spent quite some time in France and the parking there always amazed me – also the way the bump the cars to park – crazy 🙂

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  15. My husband and I are right there beside you, Slowvelder! We’ve already started a few of the things you’ve mentioned, but now we’ll be adding in a few of what you’ve started, as well. Thanks for the great work and together, I think we can save the planet! (got tired of being pessimistic, so I’m trying out optimism and am certain it’ll last) 🙂

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  16. Always good to be reminded constantly that we can recycle and reuse and make a real difference. What a nice photo on this home page, Africa is so beautiful!

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  17. Greetings from India,

    Recycling is a way of life in India, because you can actually sell waste. Almost everything is recycled from Newspapers, magazines, all kinds of plastic, glass, metal, etc. Therefore the carbon foot print is fas lesser among Indians.

    The so called developed countries are opening their eyes only now. It is not for the love of the planet. They are doing it for themselves. Planet Earth is here to stay. It is the human race which is in trouble.

    In India, it is compulsory to have a solar water heater and rain water harvesting if you are building a house. A lot of Indians use public transport for commuting. A lot of groceries stores, especially in smaller towns, pack the groceries in used newspaper.

    You have opened your eyes now. I dont know if it for the love of the planet or yourself, but whatever it is, it is a good move and I hope a lot of people take your direction.

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    • Thanks for your comment Rohit – I think it’s more than just the human race that is under threat – we influence the whole environment and have already wiped out so many animal species. Third world countries like yours and mine definitely produce less waste than the western world however we are starting to catch up and that is of great concern.

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  18. Recycling harms the earth more than it helps it. Check out Penn & Teller’s take on “BullSh*t” for more info. All those recycling trucks and factory are using more energy than they are saving.

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    • I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion. To me, recycling is so much more than just shipping off your junk to recycling plants as I mentioned in my post – I recycle in my own home – reusing stuff that would normally go into the trash and not buying stuff that is not biodegradable as much as possible. That forms the much more important part to me. Thanks for coming to visit my blog.

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  19. I love what you are talking about here. I’ve recently started a blog, and so I haven’t really been able to talk so much about the deeper issues I’d like to, but I plan to soon. (I’d feel odd starting a blog and then right away going off on rants about my beliefs and what I want to do to help the environment and so on).

    I’m a big believer in being eco-friendly. I’m an American/Canadian citizen with Mediteranian European roots. I’ve lived in both countries as well as in Greece and Italy (my mother and father lands I guesse). I love every country and they each have their upsides…and their downs. In Canada for example it was very easy for my family and I to live in a more self sustaining and eco-friednly way. We used to buy in bulk alot, use biodegradable products packadging, fairtrade products and so on. We could recycle and re-use items many times. Hardly anything ever went to waste if we could help it. We even use re-chargeable and recycleable batteries rather than regular AA and other batteries.

    I miss all that though. I’m currentlly spending the year in Greece (to improve my greek fluency and to follow some indepth studies I want to do before university) and I can say it’s quite horrid the mentality here. I was walking around the city late on night (or early one morning) with some friends after watching a concert, and we were all shocked and appaled to see a garbadge truck stop right in front of us and pick up the grey garbadge bin AND THE BLUE RECYLCIN BIN ASWELL!!! Most people will dump rubish in both because they simple can not care to do any better. Litterr is a horrible problem here and the disregard for the environment is truly horrendous. But I’m sure you’ve all heard of the anarchistic forest fires that ravage the country every summer. Yes, they are purposefully set.

    So it’s not so shocking that kids at my school scorn me for using a glass water bottle that i bring from home rather than buying a plastic one fromt he cantine. Or that I use blackle (www.blackle.com) as my prime search engine instead of google. Or that I actually respect the recylcing bins everywhere and pick up recycle and ltiter to put in the proper bins when I walk by them.

    Well anyways, its been three weeks now, and I’m horribly tired of talking about myself, so I think tonights post (especially after reading your inspirational blog) will be of why each little step counts. (something people believe here is that what they do doesnt matter cause they all think they are special and that if they cause any problems to the environment special smart men in white labcoats with shiny safety goggles will come to clean up their messes). So come visit the page (www.mirellarose.wordpress.com) and I would really appreciate your input Slowvelder.

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    • Thank you for your comment. Having been to Greece I understand what you are saying, and the sad thing is, it’s such a beautiful country. I will definitely pop over to see your blog – good luck and happy blogging 🙂

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  20. Congartulations on using this forum to push recyclable living – the more people that can have a similar attitude the better! Was at a beer lunch today and was told about the difference in water that is used to make one litre of beer – apparently some of the major brewers take up to 8 litres of water to make one litre of beer, while those that take an environmentally caring attitude can produce beer using around 2 litres of water – a significant difference!

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  21. I am all for recycling and religiously recyle all paper, tins, glass and plastic every week, however, none of this will do much good in the end unless the supermarkets etc will reduce the amount of packaging
    on their products!!

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    • yeah I agree. The trick is to find a way to use as little as possible from the supermarkets. You’ll be amazed at what you can make yourself if you put your mind to it. The supermarkets will eventually have to make a plan because they wont be able to find affordable packaging materials.

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  22. It’s a very wise thought. I always arrange at least one recycle project for my students in a year, twice if possible. It challenges me to find different kind of recycle project for them, and when they repeatedly find and do recycle project each year, it will stick in their mind, and finally realize that recycle thing can be fun, and very useful. Go green! I love it.

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  23. It is hard to implement ideas on recycling even though we are at the forefront
    in Chile on this issue, a notable high unemployment in
    part to the young labor force, which prevents a strong concentration
    this issue due to lack of work that leads the mind to focus
    serious problems that are most urgent daily needs.
    Lack further educate local authorities to implement their
    money, more strongly in recycling points.

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  24. Hello!

    Saw your featured blog and read it because we are big into the “Three R’s!”
    (We added a fourth — Re-act . . . where we try to engage with local politicians to help reduce the eco-footprint of our community.)

    I am excited to see you live in rural South Africa.
    My family and I live in KZN.
    I teach at a rural independent school and we have participated in the eco-school programme for the last five years. Caring for this big beautiful world of ours is very important to us. And education is VITAL!

    So, we just want to say “kudos” to you.
    Every little positive change we enact makes a difference!

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  25. I am awsome ………………….but recylaling is awsomer like me like totally …………………………………LOL…………… i awsome no ur not dude dont lie………………….

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  26. I live in the Town of Tonawanda here in New York State and we have a pretty decent recycling system here which is great. What I’ve also done is taken a lesson from our Depression Era ancestors. A lot of the methods they used to save money also had the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. I’ve been making my own all-purpose cleaner and Febreeze for example and I did re-use old febreeze containers for these things. For the cleaner I just use 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap made with biodegradable surfactants, available at Dollar Tree, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of vinegar (vinegar made from alcohol distilled from grain is also available at Dollar Tree for about 2 bucks per gallon) and 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol, which is likely not derived form natural sources but I think is likely less toxic than what commercially produced cheapo cleaners put in their crap. I’ve also read about the prospect of perhaps using algae as a biological source of oil from which gasoline and diesel can be made and probably also things like plastic. this is something I talk about in my blog about the environment. Yes us mad conservatives have ideas too….:-P

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  27. oh yeah…for the febreeze I make it from 1 cup of liquid fabric softener made with biodegradable surfactants (again available at Dollar Tree)……1 cup of the vinegar from dollar tree and 2 cups of water…the vinegar smell goes away after a bit from your clothes and takes the odor with it

    I like how Dollar Tree also has been trying to get more organic things in their store. I once found Organic frozen shredded hash brown potatoes at Dollar Tree for a lot less than they probably would’ve had it in the supermarket….supermarket prices for organic things is expensive around here….LOL

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  28. Lovely blog here. And I am so glad You got on the fresh press page so I happened to notice it/you.
    I have recycled and pre-cycled, re-used and re-made it seems like forever. I am always pleased to see someone else discover this spirit of caring and living. Yet it amazes me how so many people still need to be convinced that recycling has any value. No you cannot “save the world” just by recycling but it is really important for each and everyone of us take full responsibility for our choices and to minimize our impact on the beautiful planet we share.
    I am impressed also by the international following you have at this site. Your subtitle is precious… slow life in… that is something we can all learn more about.

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  29. Stumbled upon your post on Freshly Pressed. 🙂 I find your own reasons for recycling motivating and like you, I think recycling is important. Great post and keep up your good work! 😀

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  30. I totally agree. I also try to recycle/reuse as much as possibly, mostly by reusing those plastic water bottles or not using them (my mom won’t stop buying them e_e I’ve tried to get her to stop but she refuses…). Also, if there isn’t a recycling bin anywhere and I have something that needs to be recycled I won’t be lazy and just throw it away but hold onto it until I come across one. I recommend others to do the same! 🙂

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  31. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers

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  32. I am the first time on this site and am really enthusiastic about and so many good articles.
    I think it’s just very good.

    Thanks..

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  33. I liked your article. I heard a quote by Chief Seattle, It went something like this:

    “We did not inherit this earth from our ancestors, we a borrowing it from our children.”

    It almost made me cry the first time I read it. It is imperative for our children and grandchildren’s sake. We are making steps forward, but there is plenty to do. I hope our greedy government can walk away from their billion dollar mistake of investing in oil based companies and products. Thats another topic I wish not to engage.

    keep write good content!

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  34. you can also make your own non-toxic skunk odor solution for your pets….in an open plastic bowl mix 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 to 2 teaspoons of liquid hand soap (not detergent)….do NOT under ANY circumstances mix it in a closed container…..because this mixture accelerates peroxide’s decomposition to water and oxygen….the amount of oxygen released will quickly build up enough pressure in any closed container to turn said container into a bomb…also do not use metal bowls…as you risk the metal reacting with the peroxide…full recipe and directions are here:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~skunkremedy/home/sk00001.htm

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  35. Pingback: Compare Mobile Phone Recycling And See Who Pays The Most Cash | Free Mobilephone reviews Blogs

  36. Yes, recycling is good, but it still uses energy and resources. By far more important is REDUCE and REUSE. It is really quite easy to use less, it just requires looking at life and things a bit differently. And again, reusing things already made is far better than buying new. Again, it’s a habit that is quite easy to get into.

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    • Absolutely agree. I find it quite fun trying to find different ways of doing things in order to reduce and reuse. Thanks for visiting.

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