Together for tomorrow


The Waste Guide: Refuse, reuse and recycle

by | Jan 9, 2024

Reason to care: Waste has become the symptom and symbol of our linear capitalistic economic system that prioritises overproduction and overconsumption. Convenience has become a key to maintaining our fast-paced lives. But, the waste we create in pursuit of convenience is catching up with us and the planet. Landfills are reaching capacity, waste colonialism is having detrimental effects on communities in the Global South, and we are becoming more and more out of touch with nature’s inherently waste-free ways. If we just put a little bit of thought and consideration into how we can implement waste systems, and shift our habits to avoid excessive waste, it will go a long way in minimising our impact.

Small actions with big impacts: 

  • If possible choose products that are packaged or made from recycled, recyclable, or reusable materials. To become better acquainted with the jargon of waste, learn the difference between “biodegradable”, “compostable”, and “organic” here.
  • Start a home sorting system. This is one of the first steps you can take to minimise your household waste. For an easy guide on what you can and can’t recycle, click here.
  • Ensure that recyclables are clean – you can give them a quick rinse in your dish washing water. Don’t send dirty dairy or meat containers to be recycled. The recycling is sorted manually. Clean waste also makes the job of waste pickers much easier. To learn how you can support our waste reclaiming and recycling heroes, click here.
  • Create eco-bricks from soft plastic that you cannot recycle. There are still loads of soft plastics that are not recyclable. But, the good news is that you can turn them into eco-bricks by stuffing these non-recyclables into two-litre plastic bottles. Eco-bricks can be used to build anything from park benches to small structures. To learn how to make an eco-brick, follow this guide.
  • Try to avoid unnecessary waste when you are out of the house by carrying resusables, such as reusable shopping bags, a reusable coffee cup and water bottle, and reusable utensils. For more tips on ways to lighten your waste footprint, click here.
  • Recycle your e-waste. The World Economic Forum considers e-waste to be the “fastest growing waste stream in the world”, with an estimate of 48.5 million tons of waste stream in 2018. Improper disposal of e-waste has negative and permanent impacts on the health of human beings and the environment. But, if we choose to recycle our e-waste, there are many parts of our electronics that can be reclaimed and reused – see AuTerra’s breathtaking jewellery, for example. Check out Cape E-Waste for responsible ways to recycle your e-waste.

If you are looking for inspiration, look here:

Image: Pexels / Orzan Constantin

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Our work is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 12, which aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production. Read More