Paper recycling in South Africa

Paper and paper packaging is not waste but a valuable commodity. For many paper manufacturers, recycled paper is an alternative fibre, with some 65% of mills in South Africa using it for the production of corrugated boxes and board, newspapers, tissue products, kitchen and industrial paper toweling, cereal boxes, soap cartons and moulded paper products such as egg boxes and takeaway cup holders.
Paper and paper packaging is not waste but a valuable commodity. For many paper manufacturers, recycled paper is an alternative fibre, with some 65% of mills in South Africa using it for the production of corrugated boxes and board, newspapers, tissue products, kitchen and industrial paper toweling, cereal boxes, soap cartons and moulded paper products such as egg boxes and takeaway cup holders.

Paper recycling in South Africa

  • South Africa has been using waste paper to produce paper since 1920. 
  • Paper can be made from virgin fibre (wood of new trees), recovered fibre (recycled paper) and bagasse (waste from sugar cane processing).
  • In the case of virgin fibre, this comes from sustainably farmed trees – similar to wheat for our bread and corn for maize meal.
    • These trees are planted, and once mature – after about 15-20 years – they are harvested and new saplings are replanted in their place. This is what makes the paper products that we source from wood renewable.
  • At an environmental level, working forests are good for the environment, providing clean air, clean water, wildlife habitats; renewable, carbon-neutral energy and carbon storage.
  • At a socio-economic level, the growing and harvesting of trees, making paper products and recycling them provides sustainable jobs for millions.

Why is paper recycling important?

Sustainable supply of fibre
  • South Africa is a water-scarce country with limited hectares of land available for timber plantations which is why paper recycling has always been essential to ensure a sustainable local paper industry.
  • Virgin fibre is supplemented with recovered paper. Conversely, we will always need an injection of virgin fibre into the paper recycling process as paper is not infinitely recyclable.
  • Recycled paper is a valuable raw material that needs to be kept clean and dry – which is why separation-at-source (i.e. keeping it separate from your general rubbish) is so important. If it gets wet or dirty, it starts to degrades and loses its value and quality.
Job creation
  • Big and small companies as well as informal collectors make money (and employ people) through the recovery and processing of clean, quality recyclable paper.
  • Add to this the jobs of those who design, manufacture and operate advanced technologies that make paper recycling possible.
Landfill space
  • A tonne of recycled paper can save up to three cubic metres of landfill space and is used to make new paper products that we use every day.
Cleaner air
  • Paper buried in a landfill after mixing with other waste will degrade and release gases such as methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

 

Make a difference

Take the PRASA pledge to recycle your paper and board products
A small commitment to recycling will make a big difference to our country.
A small commitment to recycling will make a big difference to our country.
Keep a paper recycling bin at your desk.
Keep a paper recycling bin at your desk.
Liquid packaging such as milk and juice cartons are also recyclable.
Liquid packaging such as milk and juice cartons are also recyclable.
Keep paper clean and dry in a separate container.
Keep paper clean and dry in a separate container.
Always keep your paper (newspaper, magazines, office paper), cardboard and beverage cartons from general waste.
Always keep your paper (newspaper, magazines, office paper), cardboard and beverage cartons from general waste.
The Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (PRASA) is a subsidiary of PAMSA. It focuses on the procurement of recycled paper for re-manufacture and its activities cover the entire spectrum from paper recovery, collection and sorting to processing.  PRASA advocates for improved paper recycling and waste separation habits in homes, schools and businesses through a multitude of channels and activities.