Recycling and composting are two of the best ways to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfills. These methods also reduce your carbon footprint and improve the environmental performance for businesses.
What to recycle
Certain types of commercial waste such as recyclables, garden waste and clean builder's rubble can be dropped off in limited quantities at the City's drop-off sites for recycling, provided that you use a vehicle with a carrying capacity of 1,5 tonnes or less. Please confirm with the official in charge, as our drop-off sites are primarily intended for receiving household waste.
Please see the table below for a list of recyclable goods and guidelines for recycling them.
Recycling guide for household and commercial waste
Paper, cardboard, milk and juice cartons
Separate white office paper from magazines and newspapers.
Flatten cardboard boxes to save space.
Store paper and cardboard inside to avoid it getting wet.
Milk and juice cartons should be rinsed thoroughly, then flattened before recycling.
Separate into aluminium and steel to increase its value.
Cans and tins can be recycled whether crushed, rusted or burnt.
Rinse and squash tins in preparation for recycling.
Motor oil cans to be kept separate as they are considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of separately.
Cash for Cans is a source of income for many in the informal sector.
Glass is made of sand and can be melted down and re-used - always include glass bottles with your recyclables as they don’t decompose in landfills.
Throw into glass banks (large containers for recycling glass).
Wash and re-use items such as jars and vases for storage.
Some kinds of glass can’t be recycled – different melting points mean they won’t burn in a furnace. These include: drinking glasses, cups, saucers and ceramic ware, sheet glass (windscreens and window panes), mirrors and reinforced glass, light bulbs and tubes, car headlights, laboratory glass, and crystal.
Commercial sheet glass, reinforced glass, light bulbs and tubes can be recycled using different processes.
Food and green waste
Cooked food waste, and food that won’t decompose easily - such as bones - should go in your wheelie bin or black bag.
Organic or biodegradable food should be composted at home. Small businesses can compost organic waste on their premises using similar techniques.
Service providers can assist you to recycle or compost most of your biodegradable organic food and green waste, but you need to separate it from your packaging and other waste. Find a service provider.
Plastic (Including polystyrene and Tetra Pak)
There are many different kinds of plastic, and it’s important that similar kinds are recycled together.
Most plastics packaging items have recycling logos imprinted on them to help you identify the kind of plastic – look for a recycling triangle with a number between 1 and 7.
Plastic with a 3 or a 7 cannot be recycled in Cape Town.
Note that polystyrene does not decompose in landfills so avoid throwing it in your bin or black bag – the cleanest polystyrene (Plastic No 6) can now be recycled.
For a detailed breakdown of the different kinds of plastics and what they’re used in, see the Plastics Guide.
Rinse and flatten plastic bottles before recycling to avoid contamination and save space.
Builder's rubble, construction and demolition waste
Builder's rubble is a major contributor to landfill waste so it should be recycled wherever possible.
Service providers can assist you to recycle most of your builder's rubble, but you need to separate it from your packaging and other waste.
Why reduce your waste?
Waste produced by households and businesses poses a significant challenge to the waste disposal industry. This makes it everyone's responsibility to reduce waste wherever possible, and to find environmentally responsible ways of diverting waste from landfills.
When waste, especially organic waste, is buried in landfills, it decomposes to produce a harmful greenhouse gas called methane. By separating recyclable and compostable materials from other rubbish, you are reducing the amount of waste that goes to the landfills – this lowers your carbon footprint and helps to protect our environment. Consider composting your organic waste at home.
For helpful tips on reducing your household waste, please see our Reduce your waste page.
Where do I fit in?
See our graphic below to see how the recycling process works.
Recycling tips for your home and business
By making a few simple changes to your waste disposal system, you can greatly reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
Separating your waste at home or business is the first step in recycling. Have a separate set of bins or areas for your organic waste, recyclables, and the rest of your rubbish.
Set aside one recycling bin for your paper and cardboard, one for plastic and tins, and a separate one for glass as it can break and contaminate the other recyclables. Paper, cardboard, plastic and tins can be combined to save space if needed.
Store your recyclables indoors if possible until it is convenient for you to access a recycling service. It is advisable to permanently contract a recycling service provider, if possible, to ensure regular disposal.
Your organic kitchen and garden waste can become food for your soil through composting. Read about how to start composting at home.
Where possible, redesign your products and processes to use fewer resources.
Repair or reuse items instead of throwing them away. For more tips, see our reduce your waste page.
Donate unused or unwanted materials or items to charities or sell them at a market or car boot sale.
Commercial and industrial waste refers to any waste that is produced by a business or industry. This may be general office waste such as paper, glass and cans; or food waste such as that produced by restaurants, canteens or hotels; or other industrial waste including general packaging waste; and manufacturing waste which includes general waste or potentially hazardous waste.
Certain waste such as electronic waste (e-waste), used oil and fluorescent tubes is classified as hazardous waste, but can be collected for recycling. Commercial sheet glass can also be recycled. If not collected, this waste is classified as hazardous waste and must be disposed of in the correct safe and legal way, not put out for collection with general waste.
Contact your local community centres, churches or schools to see if they are running any recycling or re-use programmes, or explore our recycling activities and programmes by following the City Connect links below.