Recycling dos and don’ts



Not all paper, plastics, glass and metals are created equal. Most products made from these materials can be recycled but some can’t, so here’s a general guide to which products you can and can’t recycle and how to prepare packaging for recycling.

Preparing items for recycling

As a general rule, clean all containers – whatever they are made from – of food or liquids before recycling. Remove staples or any other non-paper materials such as plastic binders when recycling paper.

Recycling paper

When recycling paper, in general, dyed or waxed papers cannot be recycled while boxes, office paper and books can. Check the table below to see what types of paper you should and should not recycle.


Don’t recycle

Computer paper

Paper cups and plates

Used photocopy paper

Yoghurt cartons

Windowless envelopes

Sweet wrappers and chip packets

Old books

Blueprint paper

Pale coloured paper, such as invoices

Cigarette ends


Tissues and paper towels


Carbon paper

Flattened cardboard and corrugated cardboard such as boxes

Post-it notes

Telephone books

Waxed cartons or boxes

Paperboard boxes, such as cereal and other packaged food

Waxed paper

Mixed metal and paper

Office and school paper

Food-contaminated paper

Egg cartons



Food and seed bags


Tissue paper or foil gift wrap


Hardback books

Recycling glass

Recycling glass has significant cost- and energy-saving benefits; glass can be repeatedly recycled with no loss of quality, and for every 10% of recycled glass used to make new glass containers, energy costs drop by 2% to 3%. Every ton of glass containers recycled saves over a ton of natural resources, and the energy saved by recycling one glass bottle can light a 100 watt light bulb for four hours, or run a computer for 30 minutes. Here’s what glass you can and can’t recycle:


Don’t recycle

Clear, brown and green glass jars and drinks bottles

Broken glass


Mirror or window glass


Glass plates


Light bulbs


Heat-resistant glass, such as Pyrex


Ceramics such as dishware, ovenware, and decorative items


Recycling plastic

Over one million tons of plastic are thrown away in South Africa each year, and because the material is not biodegradable, the polluting effects on the environment are cumulative. The good news is that a significant portion of all plastic packaging can be recycled; here’s a guideline:


Don’t recycle

Cold drink and water bottles

Plastic without a recycling symbol

Milk, juice, and oil jugs

Pesticide and chemical containers

Dish, shampoo, lotion, and soap bottles

Anti-freeze and motor oil containers

Bleach, detergent, and other household cleaning containers


Butter and ice cream tubs

Laundry baskets and unsanitary containers

Yoghurt cups and microwave trays

Polystyrene drinking cups and plates

Clean plastic flower pots


Prescription pill bottles


Thin plastic, such as grocery store bags, dry cleaning bags, produce bags, newspaper sleeve




Recycling metals

Extracting metals is a dirty, energy-heavy business. Recycling metals such as aluminium cans, which can be recycled indefinitely without losing quality,  drastically reduces the need to continue mining new metal ore, saving energy and reducing the damage mining causes to the environment.


Don’t recycle

Aluminium cans, such as food, drink and pet food cans

Paint and aerosol containers

Aluminium foil, pie tins, trays

Pesticide and chemical containers

Jar lids

Syringes and needles


Oil filters and batteries

Please do not recycle:

  • Styrofoam
  • Medical waste, toxic and biohazard waste