While September marked the transformation of South Africa into a warmer and greener landscape, it was also the month when “greener” and more sustainable environmental practices took centre stage. Glass Recycling Month, as well as Clean-up and Recycle Week, a Clean-Up SA initiative, drew the attention of communities across the country to the social, economic and environmental benefits of recycling and called upon all citizens to play their part in building a sustainable future for our nation.
“This year, Glass Recycling Month served to highlight the importance of selecting and recycling glass packaging. In this way we protect the environment, reduce our carbon footprint as a country and conserve much needed energy for our national electricity grid,” explains The Glass Recycling Company chief executive officer, Shabeer Jhetam.
Indeed, as a nation we consume 3 million tons of glass packaging annually but only need to produce 1 million tons as a direct result of not only our advanced returnable system, but also our country’s intensive recycling efforts. This means that far less carbon and greenhouse emissions are created in the production of our country’s glass requirements, than would be necessary were we to create all our glass bottles and jars from scratch.
Preserve Our Future
South Africa is one of 20 countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions per capita, and so it is imperative that we all play our part by stepping up our recycling efforts. Conserving energy is an efficient way to lower our carbon footprint and by visiting www.tgrc.co.za and making use of the website’s energy calculator, consumers can view just how much energy they are saving by recycling glass. The recycling of only one glass container per week, by way of example, has the power to light a compact florescent bulb for 7 hours 8 minutes; operate a computer for 20 minutes; and switch on a TV for 13 minutes.
“With over a billion bottles being recycled in the past year, and a recycling rate of 40.9% we can certainly say that South Africans from all walks of life are ensuring that glass is being diverted from our landfills at an increasingly rapid rate. With that said, there is still more that we as responsible citizens can do to the preserve the future of our country and indeed our planet,” adds Jhetam.
Of all the glass packaging used in South Africa annually, an exceptional 80% is prevented from entering landfills. This is made possible through the combined efforts of recycling and the use of returnable/refillable bottles. As a result, glass is the packaging type that is most diverted from landfills in our country.
While Glass Recycling Month may be drawing to a close, make sure you heed the glass recycling call and play your part in ensuring a greener future for our nation. To find one of the 4 000 glass banks conveniently located around the country, visit www.tgrc.co.za for more information. All it takes is at least one glass container a week to really make a difference.
Glass Recycling Tips:
Here are some simple tips from TGRC to help you recycle glass more effectively and contribute to a greener SA:
- Glass containers, bottles and jars, such as those used for food and beverages can be recycled.
- Encourage those around you to do the same – wouldn’t they feel guilty throwing away glass that can be so easily recycled? Take your kids with you and show them how and where to put their bottles.
- Make sure you take back returnable bottles. These will be washed and sterilised hygienically by the manufacturer, refilled and reused – these include large beer bottles, certain glass cool drink bottles and even many of the bottles used for spirits and liquor.
- In South Africa, it’s not necessary to place different coloured glass into separate banks or wash glass before placing it into “Glass Banks” making glass recycling time efficient.
South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, announced that it will be organizing the world’s second-ever ‘EcoMobility World Festival’ in October 2015. The festival is a month-long car-free city district event which is supposed to help visualize an ecomobile future for residents and visitors in Johannesburg.
“We want to close off certain streets in Sandton, our second largest Central Business District to car traffic and instead use these lanes for public transport, walking, cycling and other forms of EcoMobility during the entire Transport Month in October”, the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Parks Tau said last year.
With Africa rated as one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change, events like the Ecomobility festival could be what the continent – and the world at large – needs to reduce emissions that threaten the environment.
The first EcoMobility festival took place in 2013 in the South Korean city of Suwon. Residents of the neighbourhood collectively decided to get rid of every car for one month as a way to help the city reduce carbon emissions by helping citizens get an intuitive sense of what that future could look like. The masterminds of the event, The Urban Idea, explained how hard and stressful the planning period was. “When planning began, the neighbourhood was filled with cars, and people typically drove everywhere, even pulling up on sidewalks to park in front of shops while they ran errands. Most of the people could not envision how their neighbourhood would be car-free,” Konrad Otto-Zimmerman, creative director at The Urban Idea said. “They simply said it couldn’t work.”
However, two years of planning and countless town hall meetings later, 1,500 cars were moved out of the neighbourhood to parking lots elsewhere in the city. The city handed out 400 temporary bikes and electric scooters to neighbours, and set up a bike school to teach the many residents how to ride. Mail was delivered by electric vehicles and shuttle buses ran every 15 minutes to take people to their cars.
By the time the festival was over, residents of the city interacted better, exercised more regularly and were more actively involved in the community than they were before the festival. The town even requested that permanent changes be made to the use of cars in the city after the festival.
A similar experiment took place in Belgium when 22 streets were turned into “Living Streets” for 10 weeks when the city of Ghent asked a group of citizens to imagine a sustainable future for the city.
On the South Africa project, Otto-Zimmerman commented, “It takes an open-minded mayor who likes innovation and provocation, and has a greener vision of a city… and someone who has enough influence and supporters to go through the exercise, because it’s in principle controversial.”
The EcoMobility World Festival in Johannesburg will mobilize and raise local and international support for ecomobile alternatives to fossil-fuel transport. The festival will showcase the new Rea Vaya bus rapid transport scheme and public transport-, cycling- and walking-friendly infrastructure that the city is constructing in Sandton.
Pulling off an EcoMobility Festival is not a cheap venture. The Suwon Project cost over $10 million dollars to produce, although it was reported that a large portion of the budget went into repairing streets that were already in need of renovation.
The Mayor of Johannesburg notes, “We want to show residents and visitors that an ecomobile future is possible and that public transport, walking and cycling can be accessible, safe, attractive and cool!” Mayor Parks Tau also ensured that the city will provide alternative transport in and out of Sandton during this month. The city will host discussions, fun runs, cycle rides and other events to attract people to Sandton to experience the car-free environment.
The Urban Idea says they are planning to organize an EcoMobility World Festival every year in different city on another continent. How many countries or communities – African or worldwide – will be willing to sacrifice the comfort of their cars for a month of “healthy living”?