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Non-Recyclable items

Sweet & Chip Packets

Most chips and confectionery packets are made from either Polypropylene (PP) and/or Low-Density Polypropylene (LDPE) and an Aluminium laminate that is meshed together to create a gleaming metalized (or foil-look) plastic film.

Why is it not recycled?

According to The Packaging Council of South Africa (PACSA), laminates are very difficult to recycle and that only very specialised recycled products can make use of these laminates. The amount of ink used for the wrappers can also cause quality problems down the line.

Note: The clean factory waste of chocolate and sweet wraps made from PP (known as BOPP) is recycled by Atlantic Plastics and Transpaco Recycling. However, the dirty and food-stained post-consumer wraps are not recycled due to the high costs involved to collect, transport, clean the wraps then recycle them only to make a negative return.

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So what now?

  • Upcycle the packets into colourful bags, or wallets, find ideas here.

  • Use the packets to make an Eco-brick and donate the Eco-brick to a participating school or project.

  • There are pilots underway that recycle the packets into school desks.

  • Alternatively, try out different treats that are packaged in eco-friendly packaging, that is biodegradable and compostable.

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Cotton Buds

Other non-recyclables like cotton balls, pads and wet wipes are also wet waste since they are mostly used for bodily fluids, so be sure to throw them in the bin.

Why is it not recycled?

Cotton buds are often not labelled to show the type of plastic they are made of.

The sticks are also small, narrow and the hygienic issues that come with it restrict its recyclability.

So what now?

  • Don't flush it down, throw it in the bin.

  • Consider cotton buds with a wood stick, much similar to matches.

  • Woolworths has released its plastic-free earbuds that are made from paper.

Key findings from cotton bud project

  • Cotton bud pollution is reported globally ( e.g. Cotton buds are a top 10 item found on UK beach cleanups).

  • There is a widespread incorrect disposal method, where the sticks are flushed away instead of being thrown into the bin. This has led to them to be a well-documented constituent of sewage-related debris, and buds more than often flush into the ocean.

  • Their buoyancy and narrowness of the sticks mean that they are not retained by the sewage screens of wastewater systems.

  • Just like other plastics, it persists in the environment.

Visit the Cotton Bud Project here.

Thermoform Trays (PET)

Thermoform plastic trays are made from Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), and PET is the polymer with the number 1 triangle sign.

Why PET traysis it not recycled?

Though thermoform trays are classified as PET, which is recyclable, technically, they are not. Trays usually come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the composition of these trays is usually not guaranteed to be consistent, making them more flexible and unreliable as compared to PET bottles. According to PETCO, due to the physical incompatibility with the existing PET recycling machinery in South Africa, the recycling plants and machinery are not suitable to transform thermoform trays into PET flakes. Turning the trays into flakes represents the first step in the process of recycling PET.

A high percentage of thermoform products used in South Africa usually contain additives or are manufactured to consist of layers of different plastic polymers, which makes them non-recyclable.

Even when pure PET is used for the trays, the sheets are coated with silicon-based lubricants, which could compromise the quality of the end-products that are manufactured through recycling.

What about polystyrene trays (PS #6)?

They are not collected for recycling. Throw them into your non-recyclables bin.

What about polypropylene trays (PP #5)?

They are recycled, you can simply clean them then throw into your recycling bag.

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So what now?

  • Plant small herbs in the trays to put in your garden.

  • Use the trays, with no holes underneath as a water bowl for your pets or set up a perch for birds to feed out of in your garden.

  • Use it to store bread tags or bottle caps, then get them recycled through your service provider once the tray is full.

Alternatives

  • Prepare your breakfast and lunch from home, to avoid buying food and the packaging during the day. Save the planet, and save a few bucks while you are at it!

  • Ask the shop to wrap your sandwich in brown paper. It makes more sense for the environment.

  • Bring your container to the shop to package the food items that may be placed in PET trays. You can also perhaps shop at stores where the items are sold loose. That way, you always pick the best looking food item in the bunch.

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Pringles

Why is it not recycled?

Pringle cans are not recycled because these containers are made from a combination of different types of mixed materials such as paper, foil lining, plastic and a metal bottom.

The cans are currently only recycled in the UK through a partnership programme between Pringles and TerraCycle. Terracycle is known for finding ways to recycle even the most difficult things to recycle.

So what now?

  • Make a mini drum-kit by taping a few together with some tape and ropes.

  • Use it as a carrier plastic bag dispenser, for the carrier bags that you already have.

  • Use it to hold a few tennis balls.

  • Turn it into a stationary holder.

Ceramic Plates & Mugs

Why is it not recycled?

The melting points for ceramics and your general clear glass are different, and most recycling facilities cannot melt ceramics. If recycled, the ceramics will only damage the quality of the clear recycled glass.

So what now?

  • Sse them in your garden to catch the water that drips from the plant pots.

  • Grow some small herbs directly in them.

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Plastic Cutlery 

Plastic utensils are typically made of two types of plastics: polypropylene and polystyrene.

Why is it not recycled?

The manufacturers of these plastic cutleries do not often label them, it is a challenge to know if a combination of plastics was used or it was just one type.

Most recycling processors do not accept them for recycling.

So what now?

Use bamboo or metal cutlery.

Kitchen Sponge

The sponges that are commonly bought in shops are synthetic. These are made from polyester foam that is very durable, elastic, light and cheap.

Why is it not recycled?

There is no machinery to recycle synthetic sponges.

Although some sponges are said to be biodegradable, they still contain antibacterial chemicals such as triclosan, to keep the bacteria at bay. These chemicals are not ideal for composting either.

Alternatives

  • Loofah sponge 

  • Silicon dish cleaner

  • Wooden brush with compostable brittles

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Wax/Baked Paper

Waxed paper is paper that has been coated with a thin layer of wax to give it its non-stick and water-resistant properties.

What now?

Throw it in the non-recyclables bin.

Why is it not recycled?

Waxed paper is not recyclable because of the wax coating. Clean paper is recycled with water and since oil does not mix with water, the wax will only contaminate and compromise the whole batch if recycled.

Medication Casing (Laminated Foil)

The medication casing used to package the tablet pills are made of thermoformed plastic packaging, which is bonded to a piece of aluminum foil.

Why is it not recycled?

In recycling, materials are usually collected and sorted with the same items then recycled. Tablets are packaged in packets made of thermoformed plastic and aluminium. These packets are difficult to separate at general recycling processing plants, thus they are not recyclable

Alternatives

If possible, ask for equivalent medication that comes in a bottle, that way you can recycle the bottle afterwards.

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Cigarette Butts

Although most parts of the cigarette are biodegradable, the filter is not. According to 5gyres, the filter is made from cellulose acetate - which is a form of non-biodegradable plastic.

Why is it not recycled?

Although most parts of the cigarette are biodegradable, the filter is not. According to 5gyres, the filter is made from cellulose acetate - which is a form of non-biodegradable plastic.

Alternatives

  • Try your best to quit and think of the planet for your motivation.

  • If you cannot, use an e-cigarette, it is environmentally friendlier. To understand the environmental problems that traditional cigarettes cause, refer to The Tobacco-Free Life's website.

  • Roll your own, so that you can refuse and avoid the filter.

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Window Pane

Why is it not recycled?

Window panes and light bulbs are made from glass that has a different melting point to packaging glass, so they cannot be recycled together.

So what now?

Throw it in the bin, and wrap broken glasses in paper to protect the waste pickers that might scratch in your bin on collection days.

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Try your best to quit and think of the planet for your motivation.

If you cannot, use an e-cigarette, it is environmentally friendlier. To understand the environmental problems that traditional cigarettes cause, refer to The Tobacco-Free Life's website.

Roll your own, so that you can refuse and avoid the filter.

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Paper Towl

Paper towel is an absorbent, disposable towel made from used paper and is used for cleaning, wiping liquids and greases around the house.

Why is it not recycled?

  • Paper towel's fibres are weak and are not suitable for recycling, like toilet paper.

  • They cannot be mixed with other clean recyclable items to increase their recyclability.

So what now?

  • Compost it, if you did not use it for harmful chemicals or anything that cannot go into your compost.

  • Throw it in the non-recyclable bin, if what you wiped with it can also be safely discarded in the bin (such as hazardous liquids).

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