Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My adventures in domestic recycling


So I haven't published any new content to this blog lately, but that does not mean that I have not been saving the environment, little by little.

I have recycling diligently since Oct 2008. I guess I have gathered about 40 boxes of recyclable material in that time. That's for two people!

Storage and convenience problem

I have a very simple system which means its quick, clean and easy to recycle.

I have three boxes stacked in my garage, which is attached to the house and a main traffic path. The boxes are open with a flap or two folded in. The top box is generally for plastics. Next box down is for paper. Finally in the bottom box I recycle cans, glass, batteries, light bulbs, nails etc.

To recycle glass you just pick up the top boxes and go for it, plastics you shove in the top. I have had up to 7 boxes stacked. The bottom boxes are the full boxes and don't need to be moved much.

Actually I am lazy about this and just stuff the top box until it is full. It takes about 2 mins on an evening (once or twice a week) to sort everything out and the top box is ready to go for plastics again.

How I recycle my junk

First thing is I rinse the items shortly after using them, if they need it.

I don't crush bottles, cans or other plastic containers.

Then I leave it to dry by the morning I have gathered a few things in the corner (eg sweet wrappers, packaging from dinner, papers, sauces that's almost finished etc. On the way to the car, I take the stuff and jam it in the top box, regardless of what it is.

What do I recycle?


My logic is as follows:
This drop off point is controlled by Mondi and these drop off points will know how to sort the plastics and other material.

The drop off point is kept up to date on which materials they can sort and which need to be discarded. Much more so than I. Technologies change all the time.

Social Impact

I use a drop off point at a local municipal dumping area in JHB East. My first impressions were that this place was a hovel. The tar in the area is stained and covered in an impressive layer of grime. The recyclable material is lying exposed like cheap European p*rn. Signs are dented, rusted, broken or all three. The people who run the site, are dirt poor, dirty and smelly. The sorting area is basically a few rusty drums and some very large plastic bags with two or three people sorting plastics, rummaging a living from what people have thrown away.

No attempt is made to hide the rubbish and poverty for what it is. That is why I help these people out by sorting and cleaning. This stuff is worth money to them and more so clean.

I keep reusables in a seperate bag. Reusables are for me: Take away salt and peper, sturdy plastic containers, serviettes, paper and plastic packets, damaged or useless tools, almost empy sauce bottles and things I don't want anymore. These are things that will make a difference.

My domestic worker expresses interest in the recycling, obvously she can get money for it too. But these people are broken, and she understands that. She is entitled to the reusables of course.

The first time I arrived at the site, I proudly unloaded a black bin bag full of plastics and a large box of paper. The guy was so disappointed at what I had dropped off. I felt a bit sheepish for my pride and gave the guy a couple of bucks.

Anyway by the time I got everything ship shape and got back to my car door, the guy was standing there holding my black bag of plastics. He said"Sir we dont want any rubbish". So I was like "What do you mean, that's cleaned plastic in there". He looked at me skeptically and opened the bag and looked through it. He came up smiling and says "Hai man this is good stuff".

He has never forgotten my car and I make sure he gets a little extra every time.