Paper recycling

South Africa’s paper recycling stats are above average in comparison to the world but this stat could be even higher with businesses taking up the cause.


The dream is that businesses become 100% paperless but in reality, this is sometimes hard. The Good Things Guy team recently took to task, the idea of paper recycling in our office. While GTG is obviously a paperless company, our parent company still makes use of printing and other paper usages.

We approached the subject and the company was more than happy for us to implement an office recycling programme. That set us in motion to seek out a vendor that is willing to collect recycled paper from our parent office. Because the amount of paper is rather small, we have run into a few hiccups. If you are a paper recycling company based in the North of Johannesburg we would love to set up a meeting! You can contact us via email here.

Anyway, while seeking out information about recycling in the office, we were sent this incredible list of mistakes offices make when recycling and solutions to correct those mistakes.

South Africa’s paper recovery rate is well above the global average at 68.4% of recoverable paper. This means that 1.4 million tonnes of paper and paper packaging was diverted from landfill in 2016. This would cover 254 soccer fields.

However, it is estimated that less than 10% of businesses recycle their used paper and cardboard.

Even the ‘paperless’ businesses still use recyclable paper products – from the large cardboard box that protected new equipment to tea boxes and toilet roll cores. By making small changes to your recycling practices, businesses can make a big difference to the circular economy.

Recycling reduces waste going to landfill, provides raw material for new products and sustains jobs.

Four common recycling mistakes in an office environment

The Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (PRASA) outlines some common recycling blunders with helpful tips to make sure that paper and board remain in a clean and dry condition for effective reprocessing.

Mistake 1: Putting non-recyclable paper products into the recycling bin

A number of paper-based items should not be recycled: dirty paper plates, cigarette butts, tissues, toilet paper, paper towel, sticky notes, carbon paper, as well as foil-lined, wax-coated and laminated paper.

This is because certain elements like waxes, foils, laminates and glues are not recyclable and can wreak havoc in a paper mill.

Educate, inform and empower:
  • Educate employees and cleaning teams around what is recyclable and what is not.
  • Empower cleaning teams with the correct recycling knowledge.
  • Use printable material available on
  • Appoint a recycling champion who is able to drive and monitor the programme.
  • Showcase successes to demonstrate the programme’s effectiveness.

Mistake 2: Putting wet waste into the recycling bin

Wet waste – food, tea bags, cigarette butts and soiled take-away containers – contaminates the paper and reduces its value. Paper also starts to degrade once wet.

Keep it separate:
  • Set-up a two-bin system – receptacles for paper-only and bins for food, liquid and non-recyclable waste.

Mistake 3: Making it difficult and time-consuming for employees to recycle

We are all human. Nobody likes to walk too far to throw something away.

An Australian study showed that paper recycling rose from 28% with one bin per office to 94% when paper trays were located on desks.

Make it easier:
  • Ensure that each desk has a paper-only bin.
  • Install paper-only bins in key locations: printing/copying stations, meeting and break rooms, kitchen areas and reception.
  • For every paper-only bin, there should be a general bin alongside it.

Mistake 4: Not knowing what to do with your recyclables

Your office has collected all this paper but doesn’t know what to do with it.

How to correct these mistakes:
  • Assign a sheltered area to keep recycled paper clean and dry.
  • Partner with a collection agent – a big company, a smaller business or an informal collector.
  • Support a local school or charity’s recycling fundraising initiatives.

Sources: PRASA Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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