Around the globe, consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of recycling and embracing measures to protect the environment. Unlike many other types of packaging materials, glass can be recycled endlessly, without the loss of quality or purity, and there is no limit as to how many times individuals can recycle glass.
Recent research conducted by The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC), an organisation with the mandate of increasing glass recycling, found that South Africans are certainly becoming more environmentally conscious. The research provided key insights into different regional viewpoints on the topic.
Youth passion for the environment
The study, conducted among South Africans aged between 15 – 34 years, aimed to track recycling and green trends, as well as perspectives. It was found that the clear majority (70%) of the generational grouping of South Africans expressed a passion for the environment. Not bad South Africa!
But is our environment clean enough?
More than half of the respondents were of the opinion that the environment around their home, school or local parks is clean and being looked after. The cleanest area regionally according to the survey is the Eastern Cape, whilst a tenth of the respondents believe that their environment is very dirty.
Recycling in the household
8 out of 10 people surveyed claimed to make a daily effort to recycle all their rubbish in their household and separate the different recyclables. This is a very commendable practice to be enforcing in the home and something that all South Africans should be doing.
But do you recycle endlessly recyclable glass?
When looking at different regions in the country, over three quarters of respondents residing in Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZuluNatal and the Western Cape, are active recyclers of their glass bottles and jars.
Glass recycling and how it is being done
The respondents make a clear effort to recycle their glass bottles and jars. Many of them (46%) sort their glass bottles, before putting them out for recyclers to collect. The remainder of them either take the glass to a glass bank, where they are recycled (28%) or return them to a bottle store or shebeen (26%). Returnable bottles can be returned to a beverage manufacturer to be hygienically sterilised and refilled (reused).
South Africa has one of the most efficient returnable bottle systems in the world, with the average returnable beer bottle for example being refilled 21 times during its environmentally-friendly lifecycle. Non-returnable (reusable) bottles can still be recycled.
Another interesting statistic unearthed by the study is the fact that more males than females recycle glass in their households. The research found that 75% of males participate in glass recycling, within their households and 73% females.
Reason to recycle
Respondents see the glass as more than half full with regards to why they feel motivated to recycle, with 56% stating that the reason behind their actions is due to wanting a cleaner environment. KwaZulu-Natal leads the pack in this area, with Gauteng coming in hot on its tail. Ironically despite their well-known green credentials, the Western Cape sample was least motivated to keep their environment clean.
Is TGRC doing enough?
Two thirds of the respondents are aware of TGRC’s support in making glass recycling easy for every-day recyclers and collectors, as well as creating awareness about glass recycling and how to locate your nearest glass bank. Creating awareness about the benefits of glass recycling is a high priority and creating and seeing a cleaner environment is what TGRC continuously strives towards.
If all this concern for the environment can be converted into real recycling action, South Africa will start to move away from a throwaway culture and move towards a circular economy model, where a ‘return and renew’ culture is adopted, that will assist in drastically reducing pollution. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, a circular economy is when economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. The concept recognises the importance of the economy needing to work effectively at all scales – for large and small businesses, for organisations and individuals, globally and locally.
TGRC urges South Africans to start recycling today, by dropping off all of their glass bottles and jars at their closest glass bank or drop-off facility. Those who are interested in discovering the impact of their recycling efforts would be, can check out TGRC’s energy calculator here.