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
- Polystyrene Packaging
People don’t recycle for various reasons. The following are some of the 5 reasons commonly cited:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lack of space. Some people claim they do not have the space in their homes for recycling bins to segregate materials.
- 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.
You should consider recycling or continue to recycle for several reasons.
- Saves energy. Less energy is used in manufacturing products from recycled materials than from raw materials.
- Lowers the costs of manufacturing goods. Lower product prices result from savings in energy that arise from recycling.
- 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.
- Promotes economic development and creates jobs. Jobs are created in garbage collection, waste segregation and landfill management.
- Reduces the harsh effects of climate change. Carbon dioxide emissions produced in the manufacturing processes are reduced by using non-virgin materials.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reduces dependency on oil. Feedstocks derived from refining of crude oil are used to make plastics. Recycling more plastic will reduce dependency on oil.
- Preserves landfill space. Less of the recyclable materials report to landfills.