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RECYCLING AND UPCYCLING Author: Tami Hawker The importance of recycling is unprecedented, as it is the first and foremost influential strategy people can use to combat waste, ruin and preserve natural resources. However, throughout history, people have not used the recycling approach effectively as we have depleted various natural resources and dumped waste ineffectively, which has caused health hazards across the globe. Apart from recycling, another method of combating waste pollution is upcycling our waste products. Let us delve deeper into understanding these methodologies. Recycling is the process of converting waste material into reusable material for the same or other purposes from its original state. Upcycling is similar, as this is a process in which discarded material is reused in such a way as to create another product of higher quality or value. There are many procedures by which waste material can be recycled and upcycled. And numerous organisations have developed to deal with waste pollution by using these various procedures to reuse waste.
The South African Plastics Recycling Organization (SAPRO) is one industry leader and sector representing the plastic re-processors in South Africa. These organisations use worn-out end-of-life plastics and re-process them into raw materials to manufacture new plastic products. The country is one the world's top recycling countries; however, only an estimated 7.5% of South Africans recycle, leaving over 90% of waste pollution to be dumped in landfills. In addition to SAPRO, the country's leading recycling sector is informal, comprised of Waste Pickers. In 2014, they saved the government R748.8 million through informal recycling services, powered by an estimated 58 470 South Africans that receive the income generated by the opportunities from the recycling sector, such as informal traders and individual recyclers. This essential industry was responsible for an R2.26 billion injection into the country's economy in 2018 before the COVID-19 pandemic. Post-COVID-19 numbers have dwindled due to restrictions and other factors affecting the re-processing cycle, such as Load Shedding, water shortages and high labour costs. Now with all the industry players at hand, the type of plastic they specialise in recycling and upcycling is very specific, as not all forms of plastic can be recycled. The following is a guideline to which type of plastic a person can recycle in the country; Low-density polyethene (LDPE), which is derived from packaging films or shopping bags; Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), such as water and cold drink bottling; High-density Polyethylene (HDPE), found in milk bottles, plastic drums and crates; as well as Polypropylene (PP) or Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), primarily used in construction material in building and plumbing. In summation, the recycling and upcycling industry in the country is a growing sector that helps boost the country's economy regardless of restrictive measures and counterproductive factors negating the re-processing cycle.