Go Green and Promote Recycling in Cape Town

There is a lot corporates can do to decrease their carbon footprint and it should be at the top of their list of priorities. Traditionally, the term ‘carbon footprint,’ refers to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by an individual, event or organization. But today the term has come to mean so much more. A company’s carbon footprint can be extended to include its overall environmental impact – how it expends natural resources, its approach to ecological preservation, its stance on environmental matters.

At a time when the global environment is under considerable strain, corporates play a significant role in reducing society’s overall carbon footprint. It’s time for companies to review their environmental policies. Many local companies have identified that there are a number of sites dedicated to recycling in Cape Town, and that’s a great place to start. Sometimes what’s required is a major shift, and other times, a few simple steps are all it takes to make less of a negative impact on our fragile ecosystem. Here are a few solutions that companies can implement quickly and easily:

Incentivise Recycling

Now is an optimal time for companies to prioritise recycling. According to a recent article by Georgina Crouth for IOL: “As much as 65 percent of the general waste that we generate could be recycled, yet we only currently recycle about 10 percent of our waste.” These figures are staggering. Companies can play a big role in changing the status quo. One way of doing this is by incentivising employees to recycle. Why not host interdepartmental competitions within companies, where individual departments are challenged to bring in the most recyclable waste? Smaller monthly prizes could lead up to a more substantial prize at the end of the year. This prize could be incorporated into the company’s end of year staff awards. Transporting this waste doesn’t have to be a struggle. A number of companies who do recycling in Cape Town, as well as organisations in other provinces, collect waste from companies directly and transport them to processing plants. We have the resources to make a difference.

2. Go Paperless – Like Mr Price

35% of our waste stream is made up of paper, and even though paper recycling companies abound, the average corporate could still make a better effort to get all kinds of paper recycled, including boxes, magazines and food containers. The ideal solution is to simply introduce a culture of paper-saving amongst employees. Methods to curb paper usage by reducing printing allowances is one way to do it. Another method is to reuse paper that has only been printed on one side. Programs like Adobe Acrobat Professional and other pdf creators allow for documents to be signed electronically – reducing the necessity for printing. Popular fashion retailer, Mr Price, has found a simple way to become paperless on a customer-facing level. Instead of printing receipts, customers can now get their receipts emailed to them, a few seconds after they have made their purchase. Less printing, less paper usage, less carbon footprint.

Invest in Green Initiatives

Most South African companies, whether large or small, have some form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) objective or program. The benefits of participating in these kinds of programs are numerous. Studies have shown that companies that adopt CSR objectives benefit from an enhancement of their public image, and a lower employee turnover. The South African Companies Act 61 of 1972 does not oblige companies to engage in CSR projects. However, South Africa’s Policy Document and King II and King III reports provide best practice guides on how South African companies can play a role in addressing social, environmental and economic concerns. A number of NGO’s that contribute to reducing the country’s carbon footprint, are always in need of support. WWF South Africa is a branch of one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations. The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa is another leading body with a 90 year history of supporting sustainable initiatives. Groundwork is a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste. These are just three of a myriad of options that companies have to choose from if investing green is part of how they would like to get behind positive change.

In South Africa, approximately 59 million tons of waste gets generated each year, but only 10% of it is currently being recycled. This means that a significant 90% ends up in landfills. Additionally, only about 12.9% of households in metropolitan areas of South Africa claim to actively engage in recycling.

To enhance recycling efforts, it’s crucial to understand the process, which involves three key steps: collection of recyclable materials, sorting and processing for resale, and the manufacturing of new products using recycled materials.

Recycling is part of the “3 R’s” concept — Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle as we’ve all come to know along the years. This framework guides sustainable living by encouraging people to first reduce their consumption, then reuse items, and finally, ensure waste is recycled into new materials rather than ending up in landfills.

Why is recycling so important? If we continue at our current waste disposal rate, landfills will soon reach capacity. Recycling is essential for transitioning from a linear economy (make, use, and discard) to a circular one, which prolongs the lifespan of products through recycling, reusing, repairing, and sharing.

Recycling has a pivotal role in protecting the environment and reducing the number of landfills. In South Africa, with its 59 million tons of waste, only 10% is recycled, leaving a substantial portion to accumulate in landfills.

Recycling is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. It conserves resources by reducing the need for raw materials like oil and trees. Manufacturing from recycled materials consumes less energy, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating global warming. Additionally, recycling diverts waste from landfills, reducing harm to the environment and conserving space.

By decreasing the demand for new raw materials, recycling helps preserve ecosystems and wildlife habitats. It also leads to reduced pollution, as less energy is consumed and fewer emissions are released into the air and water.

Getting started with recycling may seem daunting, but it becomes straightforward once you establish a routine.

Familiarize yourself with what’s recyclable in your area. Then Separate recyclables to prevent contamination.

Educating children about recycling is vital for a sustainable future. Leading by example, teaching them the basics, turning recycling into a fun game, providing easy recycling solutions, and visiting recycling facilities are effective ways to involve kids in the process.