The U.K. government has announced that English shoppers will soon be paying a deposit on drinks bottles and cans, as part of a push to fight the plastic waste problem. In South Africa, of course, consumers have been paying for plastic shopping bags at the checkouts for some time, although there is still no sign of the massive recycling industry this cost was meant to finance.
Many South African municipalities are also rolling out of three-stage refuse collections, to get residents to separate recyclables before rubbish collection, and recycling a good deal of plastic and other waste, but this is still far from a universal practice.
But here's some good news: you don't have to wait until various state authorities put plastic-recycling structures in place to make a difference. Here's a round-up of some relatively easy things you can do to reduce your plastic footprint today.
Get savvy on what items can and cannot be recycled
It was recently found that Brits have a worryingly low knowledge of recyclable items, and South Africans in general aren't much better-informed. This leads to items such as soap pump-dispenser tops, coffee cups and even plastic bags being thrown incorrectly in the recycling. Recycling the right stuff will make a huge difference: familiarise yourself here.
In particular, it's good to check out what plastics your local recycling facility recycles. It may surprise you, but a large number of everyday plastic items are recyclable, including drinks bottles, shampoo bottles and detergent containers. Lids of these items can also be recycled.
Use glass containers when you can instead of plastic
They're just as recyclable, and their manufacture is more environmentally friendly overall. So whether you need to buy a drink while you're out and about or are shopping for drinks in your local supermarket, opt for a glass bottle.
Always clean all packaging and bottles before you recycle them
Whether your municipality provides three separate collection bags for general refuse, paper and cardboard, and glass, plastic, and cans, or you make uses of the recycling bins at many supermarkets and schools, remove any food or drink residue with a rinse before recycling.
This way, you avoid contamination of an entire bag of recycled items, do make sure that everything is clean beforehand. Otherwise, you risk all of your ecofriendly efforts going to waste.
Don't worry about leaving labels on
This does not affect whether an item can be recycled. So there's no need to mess around removing them beforehand.
Get a reusable bottle
A relatively small switch which makes a rather large difference, especially if you're on the go and need to hydrate often. You could even treat yourself and buy one with a filter, so your drinks are both ecofriendly and top quality.