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South Africa struggles with recycling rate

South Africa – ‘Only 3.3% of the country’s urban population regularly recycled household waste in 2010,’ a new study by South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has revealed. According to another analysis, around 25% of the estimated 19 million tons of municipal waste generated domestically in 2011 constituted recyclables, including metals, glass, paper and plastics.

Citing the requirements of South Africa’s Waste Act and the National Waste Management Strategy, CSIR warns that a substantial task lies ahead in attempting to convince all households in the country’€™s metropolitan municipalities, secondary cities and large towns to separate their waste into recyclable and non-recyclable fractions by 2016. 

‘It is alarming that two-thirds of the more than 2000 urban South African households surveyed do not know where to dispose of their household recyclables,’ says CSIR research project leader Wilma Strydom. She notes that over 73% of South Africans living in urban areas reported no recycling activity at all, with studies suggesting this is largely the result of a lack of space or time, inconvenient recycling facilities and ignorance as to what is recyclable and what is not.

‘The results show that a two-bag system – simply separating dry waste from wet waste like food scraps – combined with a regular kerbside collection service, would create the best opportunity to mobilise South Africans to start recycling,’€™ remarks Ms Strydom.

According to Dr Suzan Oelofse, a principal CSIR researcher, the participation of households in the nation’€™s recycling programmes ‘€˜will be crucial to achieving the 2016 target’€™. She reasons: ‘If 70% of all households can achieve a 70% recovery rate of their household recyclables, we will be able to achieve a recovery rate of 49%.’

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