Separate your waste – Help Recycling cart collectors

Written by on July 18, 2013 in Lifestyle

By Fatima Gabru


Why separate your waste? Mostly, because it restores the dignity of the people who are doing a very vital job of collecting recyclable material that would otherwise be ending up in a landfill.

While many of us see them as a nuisance on the roads, these ‘cart-collectors’, or informal collectors, are fulfilling a vital role of recycling material that would otherwise be accumulating on a rubbish dump somewhere. Most of this material would, in all likelihood, NOT decompose in any of our lifetimes, increasing the burden of us handing over an overly polluted world to the coming generations.

We have paper and cardboard, plastic, glass, and can (metal) collectors who provide an essential service to us, our planet and the future generations.  So, let us help them keep their dignity while they earn an honest livelihood by separating our trash material and leaving it in separate bags at the top of the big bin (even better, place it alongside) on bin collection day/s.  This helps to lend dignity to the ‘cart-collectors’ by ensuring that they do not have to rummage in our trash for any recyclable material. While helping to restore the dignity of the poor who want to earn an honest livelihood (almost all of the direct collectors of waste material in South Africa are the poor), you also help them collect more material, which increases their earnings from collecting these materials. Of course, this also increases the amount of trash that is recycled. Lots of good karma points from such a simple act!

Another point of importance is that we should be striving to be communities who act proactively to protect the environment. Furthermore, separating waste at the point from which it is going to be thrown away decreases the weight of waste that municipalities have to collect, which obviously decreases the amount of material that goes into a landfill, which in turn has the added bonus of decreasing our carbon footprint in terms of the decreased amount of fuel required to collect and get rid of waste.

In an ideal world we should all REDUCE our consumption/buying of goods that we do not really need, and that is not easily decomposable or recyclable when unpackaged or discarded. Then we should REUSE goods/materials as much as is safely possible, and finally to RECYCLE what we have no need for anymore. The materials most commonly recycled in South Africa are PET-plastic, paper, Tetrapaks (milk and juice containers) and glass. Another very achievable way of recycling is to create a compost heap in your garden in which to throw all your organic (food) waste material. And if you don’t have a garden; consider investing in a ‘worm-farm’, which could offer you an opportunity to earn money from the compost that that your organic waste will help you produce. This also leads to much “cleaner” bins being put out ‘dustbin days’.

Start by making small recycling/reusing changes in your buying and disposing habits every couple of months, or even once/twice a year. For change one, work on creating a separate bin for plastics that should be disposed of in a separate bag, and placed at the top (or alongside) of your big bin on bin collection day. For change two, work on creating a separate paper bin, and so on until you have contributed to a community that has an inbuilt culture of REDUCING, REUSING and enhances the processing of RECYCLING.

For those who will not be disposing of their waste themselves, and who rely on domestic helpers to do so, speak to your domestic helpers and train them about why and how you would like separating your waste material. Explain why you are asking them to put the recyclable waste material in separate bags, and to place these bags on top or alongside your bins. This training and informing will further spread the message of REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE.

For more information on recycling and material that is recyclable check out the following websites:,,,,

By Fatima Gabru




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