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Recycling 101

Why Recycle?

Unnecessary waste threatens our future.

Recycling benefits both the environment and the economy:

  • Less energy is used when recycled materials are included in the manufacturing process

  • Good for the South African economy as it decreases the necessity to import raw materials

  • Opportunities for income generation and alleviation of poverty through job creation

  • Prevents litter

  • Contributes to a cleaner, greener and healthier South Africa

  • Less waste, creates more landfill space (for non-recyclable material)

  • Creates pride in our environment

  • It’s your responsibility and mine.

You can help us to make a difference!

In the Eden District, every year tons of household recyclables go to landfills, become litter, and pollute our waters.

While packaging plays a key role in keeping products safe and transportable, it too often is discarded when it could be used again. Recycling protects resources from depletion, allows communities to manage the amount of trash they have to handle, and protects the environment by saving water and greenhouse gases.

Why should I recycle?

It’s a question that we’ve all asked ourselves. Henque Waste wants you to know that the answer is easy. “Every time we recycle, we reduce pollution and conserve resources. But recycling does more than that. Recyclables have potential. When you recycle something, you’re actually putting material back into the supply chain.” Another simple fact is that ‘recycling’ creates jobs. It’s simple, easy, and something that we can all do from the comfort of our homes and offices.

What actually happens to the materials placed into recycling bags and bins?

The current recycling system in the Eden & Hessequa Districts is designed so that empty, loose recyclable materials placed into recycling bags is collected with our fleet of collection vehicles, then delivered to our Materials Recovery Facilities across the district. These recyclables then go through a system that is designed to sort, break down, bale to eventually use those materials to create new products.

Your community recycling programs and the businesses that rely on recycling do not want to see that material in a landfill.

Common issues with landfills are:

  • Landfill are one of the causes of climate change as they generate and release biogas into the atmosphere. Biogas is a mixture formed primarily of methane gas (CH₄) and carbon dioxide (CO₂), two of the gases that cause climate change and an increase in the planet’s temperature.

  • They can cause fires or explosions. Sometimes methane produces by waste from landfill sites can cause explosions and fires. These are not regular fires with flames, but fires that occur inside the landfill. Dioxin emissions from these spontaneous uncontrolled fires are also very harmful to the environment, not to mention the damaging effects they have on aquifers, whose waterproofing membranes are affected by the fire.

  • Landfill sites are often responsible for the contamination of soil and groundwater, as the contaminating materials (such as heavy materials like lead and mercury) that the stored waste may contain can spread to the soil and water near the plant.

  • Landfills alter the fauna. These sites have particularly negative effects on bird migration. Some birds feed from landfill sites, inevitably ingesting plastic, aluminium, gypsum and other materials that are common among waste, which can even prove fatal.

  • Landfills reduce the value of the surrounding areas. The bad smells that emanate from landfill sites cannot be effectively controlled and, almost inevitably, reach nearby populations. Property prices are reduced in areas located near to these waste stores, which further perpetuates the devaluation of disadvantaged areas.

We understand that it could be hard to figure out what is and what is not recyclable and how to prepare your materials correctly. Knowing what is and isn’t recyclable can be a challenge, but we’re here to help. Learn more by viewing Henque Waste’s Recycling Facts.

Here are some examples of how materials are reused:

  • Recycled paper contributes to the creation of several products including paper, napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper. Paper can be recycled seven times.

  • After being broken down and placed into recycling bags and bins, cardboard boxes are made into new boxes within weeks. Perhaps you’ve even received the same box more than once!

  • Aluminium is the a very recyclable material and has no end-life. It can be recycled as many times as it is placed into a bag or bin which saves water and mined resources.

  • Plastics can be recycled into new bottles, picnic tables, insulation, picture frames, clothes, carpet, and more.

Plastics are synthetic materials which can be moulded or formed when soft and set.

  • Thermoplastics: These plastics can be softened by heating and will then harden again on cooling. This cycle of softening and hardening can be repeated over and over again. Thermoplastics can be compared to candle wax, chocolate or butter, which melts when heated and solidifies when cooled.

  • Thermosets: These plastics materials when processed, for instance into the shape of a saucepan handle, are hardened by heating. Such materials cannot be softened by further heating (they are like concrete, once it is set, it cannot be softened again.

Where do plastics come from?

Most plastics are derived from petrochemical feedstock, which in turn originates from oil, natural gas and coal. In South Africa the gas comes from coal. So, as you can see, these are finite resources which will not be available forever. We simply have to recycle these valuable resources.

SASOL makes ethylene and propylene gas from the refining of coal at the factory at Sasolburg. Sasol Polymers polymerises the ethylene and propylene into polymers called polyethylene and polypropylene. These polymers are then in a powder form. In the granulation plant additives and fillers are added to the powder and the compound is then granulated and bagged – ready to be sold to a converter. This is known as virgin material.


From plastics to the finished products:

The most common processes used in the plastics industry require specialized equipment which melts, compresses and cools the plastic granules during the forming process. Some of the processing techniques are:

  • Blow moulding – bottles, tanks and sit-on trays.

  • Extrusion – tubes, pipes, gutters, sheets and film for bags.

  • Injection Moulding – cups, plates, bowls, crates and bottle caps.


What are the different types of plastics?

A special system of identifying plastics is used worldwide to identify packaging plastics. A polymer identifying logo is put on the product (with bottles usually on the base). The number in the triangle denotes the type of polymer used.


  • Polyethylene terephthalate – cooldrink bottles, preserved fruit containers and washing liquid bottles

  • High density polyethylene – milk bottles, motor oil containers, buckets, crates and bags

  • Polyvinyl chloride – clear trays for foods and toiletries, clear bottles, pipes and gutters

  • Low density polyethylene – frozen vegetable bags, garbage bags, building film and soft squeezable bottles.

  • Polypropylene – bottle caps, automotive battery cases, cups and plates

  • Polystyrene – disposal plates and cups, yoghurt containers, takeaway food tubs and toys 

  • Other – mostly engineering plastics


Glass does not degrade through the recycling process and is therefore 100% recyclable. Recycled glass can become glass bottles, jugs, and windows to name a few and can be back on the shelf as new bottles within weeks.


Can one person really make a difference? So, what can one person do?


It is important for people to understand that a single bottle, a single can, a single box all matter. When we choose to recycle, we start a chain reaction of positive change. People just need to understand that by participating, they’re really affecting positive changes right in their own communities.


Recycling is an essential service, and most people feel and understand that we’re too wasteful.


The top five reasons why people recycle are:

1.      To make sure the world is inhabitable for future generations.

2.      To make the world a better place for future generations.

3.      To preserve natural resources.

4.      To reduce carbon emissions.

5.      To minimize accumulation in landfills


Do manufacturers really use recycled material?

YES. Big business and industry rely on recycled material. The supply that comes from our homes and offices are crucial. As individual recyclers, the material that we put into our bins or carts eventually makes its way back to packaging manufacturers and the consumer goods industry. By doing this, we are reducing the use of virgin materials, which conserves natural resources, and we create more supply of recyclable materials (known as feedstock), which is then made into new material that will be used again. This provides a closed loop system and a circular economy rather than a system that ends up with more waste and less reuse.


Recycling Facts:

  1. Batteries and small electronics cannot go into you recycling bag or bin as these can cause fires in collection trucks and facilities

  2. Do you know what to do with plastic bags?

  3. Recyclables should be loose and free to be sorted at the recycling facility – do however remove bottle caps and be sure to flatten your recyclables

  4. Polystyrene (Styrofoam) is currently not recyclable in SA

  5. Garden hoses and electric cords CAN NOT be recycled. They get tangled up in the recycling sorting equipment. But if you have time, by all means, get crafty!

  6. Shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, Dish soap bottles and window cleaner bottles are all recyclable, but be sure to remove spray nozzles and empty!

  7. All metal is not recyclable. Most recycling facilities only accept empty and dry drink cans and food cans. Metal pots and pans, crow bars, metal chains, or other scrap metal does not belong in your curbside recycling. When looking to recycle these items, check with one of our friendly Henque Waste consultants.

  8. Batteries, bug killers (pesticides), old paint & old motor oil are all hazardous materials. None of them belong in your recycling bag or bin.