Plastic bottle caps and bread tags for wheelchairs 


I first heard of re-purposing plastics milk bottle caps and bread tags from a work colleague. What stood out for me was how a small change in one’s routine can have a huge social impact and change people’s lives by improving mobility for disabled people through donations of wheelchairs made from recycled bread tags and plastic bottle caps. The High Impact Polystyrene (HIP) in the bread tags and bottle caps is valuable for recycling because of its high density and it is easy to process, sturdy and durable1. These properties make HIP ideal for making items such as coat hangers, cutlery and bottles. Bottle caps from milk, water and cool drink bottles can also be recycled and again it is the total weight of the HIP that matters.

So how many bread tags or plastic bottle caps does it take to make one wheelchair? The answer is 200 kilograms or 200 bread bags packed full. This sounds like it’s a lot but to put this into perspective, in 2003 the bread production in South Africa was 2 800 million loaves2. For argument’s sake let’s say each person consumes one loaf of bread each week, four people would need to collect tags for a year to raise enough tags for one wheelchair. The time frame can be reduced further with more people joining the movement and reducing the amount of bread tags and plastic bottle caps that are land-filled.

How can you contribute?

Whether you are an individual, corporate or independent organisation, you can contribute to these causes by collecting bread tags and or plastic tags and taking them to the various collection points. For more information contact the following organisations:

Breadtags for Wheelchairs 

The Sweethearts Foundation

Cited Works

  1. Polystyrene Packaging
  2. SACB

Designing for recycling in manufacturing industries

The future environmental impact of materials used in manufacturing can be determined at the design stage of a product. Currently, around 80% of electronics are being sent to landfills1 and according to the United Nations, 20-50 million metric tons of e-waste are discarded every year2. Ideally, manufacturers should strive for producing products that require less ‘end-of-pipe’ treatment whilst keeping in mind that the products still achieve their purpose, are feasible to manufacture, are safe and reliable and lastly they are competitively priced. Archiving all these goals can be steep, which is why some manufacturers do not prioritise designing for recycling. Designing for recycling can be costly and time consuming as it often requires capital for research and development and there are several can be risks due to the number of unknowns1.

Entire processes can be redesigned for example rethinking entry materials, additional or alternative products of the process or alternative technologies for specific processes. An example of this is in the paper manufacturing industry, recycled paper can be used to substitute for virgin tree pulp but it has shorter fibres which produces weaker paper which is not good to look at. The recycled pulp and the virgin pulp can be combined to produce recycled paper products that meet the strength and aesthetic requirements. This concept is known as source reduction as it makes use of less virgin materials3.

Packaging is a major aspect of designing for recycling. Plastics form the bulk of most packaging materials and are a growing part of the waste stream. When designing the types of plastics used for packaging, the properties should also be considered in terms of recyclability and biodegradability. Thermoplastics are easier to recycle than thermosets and elastomers. Thermoplastics become soft when heated and they can be moulded or shaped with pressure when cooled which also allows for reversible transformation. On the other hand, thermosets can be softened and moulded and set once hardened. Elastomers are rubber-like plastics which are not recyclable4. There have been some chemical engineering innovations that separate and reprocess plastics by machine without significant material breakdown which enables reuse of several plastic products3.

Another approach to designing for recycling is through systems thinking. This means rethinking the re-use of materials by other industries. It also includes use of methods such as life cycle assessments (LCA) which assess the environmental impact of a product from raw material extraction to material processing. Efficient distribution systems for products can also be used and codes can be identification of materials that are difficult to recognise5.

A lot of work still needs to be done especially for the treatment of class III renewable materials which are not technically and economically feasible to recycle such as fertilisers, detergents and lubricants. The main challenge arising from most of these materials is in the separation into recyclable components as things tend to naturally mix than to unmix (second law of thermodynamics) 4. There is potential for manufacturers to explore upfront additional chemical and physical separation techniques during the design phase which can be used in the later stages of a product’s lifecycle. This might result in simplification of designs such as using less raw materials which can be separated with more ease into reusable components.

Cited Works

  1. Design for recycling Residus 
  2. Earth 911
  3. Chemical Engineering Paper Recycling Recycle and Reuse
  4. Design for recycling Dartmouth
  5. Design for the environment

9 free recycling apps and games for mobile devices

There are a number of free recycling apps and games that you and your kids can enjoy. Games are a fun way of learning more about recycling and teaching young ones about the importance of recycling and how to recycle. Games offered on both iOS and Android platforms range from sorting out trash to cleaning up spaces in a limited amount of time. Some of the free apps listed here however offer in-app purchases. Feel free to comment below on any other fun recycling games that you have played!

ReRecyclingMoocycling Moo! Lite  (iOS) by good luck, have fun, LLC 

Recycling Moo! Lite allows you to  save the world from garbage by eating anything to make electricity.


EduEdukidscational Kids Recycling (Android) by Nikos Kouremenos  

Educational Kids Recycling helps you learn to properly recycle and separate recyclable items.



Trash Chaos (iOS) by Yogome, Inc 

Trash Chaos is an adventure game that teaches kids about recycling and taking care of the environment.


tossRecycling toss (Android) by Aidem Systems Inc 

Recycling toss allows you to kill time by classifying gabbage and to tossing it in different recycle bins.



Garbage Trucker Recycling Simulator (iOS) by Tapinator, Inc. 

Garbage Trucker Recycling Simulator allows you to clean up the city by collecting trash and dropping it at recycling plants across the city.


RRRecycle Rangers (iOS and Android) by Digicrafts

Recycle Rangers makes you save the world by recycling all the items in time.


I Recycle (Android) by High Touch      irecycle

I Recycle allows you to recycle different materials in six different environments, each level has its recycled items waiting to be discovered.


Rrecy timeecycle time (Android) by Snakehead Games Inc

Recycle time makes you sort trash by flicking left or right and as the tempo builds, you will need to think faster.


Rraceace to recycle (iOS) by Country of Orange 

Race to recycle tests your recycling skills as materials roll down the conveyor belt; learn to sort through landfill waste, recyclable materials and green waste.


5 reasons why people don’t recycle

People don’t recycle for various reasons. The following are some of the 5 reasons commonly cited:

  1. Inaccessibility of recycling facilities. This has been referred to most frequently as the reason why people don’t recycle. Geolocation services attempt to solve this problem by linking users to nearest recycling centres hence reducing their travel time and going through several searches looking for a suitable recycling centre. These initiatives in conjunction with recycling facilities, can be used to establish more convenient drop off places for the users’ convenience.
  2. It’s too time consuming/not sure what’s recyclable and not recyclable. The process of segregating waste has been deemed time consuming as well as cleaning materials before they can be recycled.
  3. Recycling is too costly, no payment for recycling. In as much as some facilities offer incentives for recycling, payments for the practice are not always guaranteed which is why some people do not recycle.
  4. Lack of space. Some people claim they do not have the space in their homes for recycling bins to segregate materials.
  5. It’s too hard/not worth the effort/does not make a difference. There is a belief that recycling does not make a difference due to contradicting information on overfilling of landfills, climate change or depletion of natural resources.

The moral of the story is you can find a million reasons for not doing something, starting on the other hand does makes a difference collectively. Also check out 10 reasons why you should recycle. 

10 reasons why you should recycle

You should consider recycling or continue to recycle for several reasons.


  1. Saves energy. Less energy is used in manufacturing products from recycled materials than from raw materials.
  2. Lowers the costs of manufacturing goods. Lower product prices result from savings in energy that arise from recycling.
  3. Preserves natural resources (trees, wildlife, water). Less natural resources are used for manufacturing reducing the strain on existing natural resources. This promotes biodiversity and protects wildlife.
  4. Promotes economic development and creates jobs. Jobs are created in garbage collection, waste segregation and landfill management.
  5. Reduces the harsh effects of climate change. Carbon dioxide emissions produced in the manufacturing processes are reduced by using non-virgin materials.
  6. Reduces water pollution. Water pollution resulting from most recycling processes is less than water pollution resulting from manufacturing from virgin materials. This has been found to be true for the paper manufacturing industry.
  7. Reduces air pollution. Incinerators for municipal waste release pollutants into the atmosphere. Reducing the amount of waste that needs to be incinerated reduces air pollution.
  8. Reduces the amounts of heavy toxic materials in landfills. E-waste and batteries for example often containing elements such as mercury, lead and mercury which pose a threat to human health when leached into ground water.
  9. Reduces dependency on oil. Feedstocks derived from refining of crude oil are used to make plastics. Recycling more plastic will reduce dependency on oil.
  10. Preserves landfill space. Less of the recyclable materials report to landfills.