Category Archives: Recycling

International Coastal Clean Up Day

coastal-cleanup-dayThis Saturday 17th September has been designated International Coastal Cleanup Day. It’s an annual event raising awareness of the problems of marine pollution and doing something practical to help.

Volunteers not only collect litter from disposable cups to fishing nets to cigarette butts and so on, but catalogue the data so that action can be taken to try and reduce the amounts of litter in the ocean and on beaches. Last year there were 9 million people involved worldwide and they managed to collect more than 3.2 million kilograms of litter from beaches in more than 100 countries.

If you’re in Cape Town you can join the Aquarium’s coastal cleanup in Muizenberg, or contact for details of other cleanup events happening on the same day. We’ll be heading to Big Bay for the cleanup event there.

Electrolux Vac from the SeaAnother recycling initiative we like is Electrolux’s Vac from the Sea. They have created several signature vacuum cleaners made from recycled plastic collected on beaches and oceans around the world. They are now in the process of making a South African model. Unfortunately these cool vacs are not for sale, but for awareness and promotional campaigns, but they’ve got the idea right and are aiming to increase the amount of recycled plastics in their retail range.

Newspapers – Reuse Before You Recycle

© Oleg Pidodnya |

Recycling newspapers is easy enough to do, and recycled paper can be made into many products but, before you recycle that stack of papers, think about re-using them.

In fact there are so many ways of using old newspapers around the home, that I am dreading the day when there is no-one left in our family actually reading the things. My husband gets his news electronically, so we never buy them and rely on the older generation for our supply, my mother-in- law, who still buys a daily paper to keep in touch. What we will do if she gives up the news habit, I really don’t know! Any ideas?

Here are just a few of the uses that they can be put to.

1. Soaking up spills, pet urine and other unfortunate puddles.
A few sheets of newspaper will quickly soak the liquid up away from the floor, making the clean up easier. Our three dogs lose all their house training when there are storms and we wake up to puddles in the house, so this is a frequent need, going through stacks of paper in no time in winter. The paper can then be added to the compost heap, if you can bear to tear it into slightly smaller pieces so that it will decompose properly.

2. Lighting fires.
Newspaper is an essential kindling for any fire. Twist a few sheets lengthwise into loose screws and place under the rest of the kindling (small slivers of wood, pine cones etc), to get your fire going without any need for fire lighters.

3. Lining pet cages
Bunnies and guinea-pigs need regular cleaning of their cages. It makes it a whole lot easier if you place several sheets of newspaper at the bottom of the cage to soak up urine and water spills. The whole lot  can be lifted out when dirty and discarded on the compost heap.

4. Wrapping paper
Large items can be tricky to wrap and require huge amounts of expensive new wrapping paper to cover. Go retro and pick out the best pages of newspaper for wrapping Christmas gifts. Choose the cartoon pages for kids, fun headlines for adults and so on. Tie it all with re-usable ribbon or raffia, saved from last Christmas, and you have a totally green, recyclable wrapping for free.

5. Planting trees
Trees planted in light sandy soils need help to retain moisture around their roots, especially in hot, dry climates, such as the Western Cape in summer.. Torn newspapers added to the base of the planting hole before the compost will help moisture retention and give the tree a good start. This is especially important if you are planting large trees which need all the help they can get to settle in.

These are just a few of the things we use newspaper for. What about you? Share any great green tips with us in the comments.

Re-use – 3 things you don’t need to recycle

© Kit Heathcock

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by all there is to do to make my lifestyle as green as possible, I go back to the fundamental  mantra for green living: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

Recycling is essential, but first on the list is Reduce. Reduce the amount of non-essentials you bring into your home in the first place, in the way of packaging, cheap plastic freebies from supermarkets and take-away food chains, promotional leaflets, junk mail and so on.

Then comes Re-use. Re-use anything you can possibly think of before it hits the recycling bin. This is where you need to get imaginative and creative. Re-using jam jars for your own preserves is one obvious example, but there are so many other things that will keep resources in use for longer and so reduce the carbon footprint of each item. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Jam jars – besides your own jam making, jam jars have a multitude of possible uses: vases for posies of herbs and garden flowers; water glasses when you break the last of your conventional glasses; funky containers for party jellies/jellos; lanterns for festivals; pen-holders….

T-shirts – worn T-shirts can also be re-used in many ways: holey ones can be cut up into squares for all-purpose cleaning cloths; they can be cut into strips for rag rugs; they can be used for stuffing cushions or toys. T-shirts in reasonable condition can be re-purposed as skirts, nighties or kids dress up outfits.

Envelopes – Plain envelopes in good condition can simply be re-used with a blank label covering the address. Envelopes that are slightly worn can make good receptacles for collecting your receipts together every month. Torn envelopes are the perfect size for telephone notes or for shopping lists; simply use a paper clip or other clip to keep them all together in a handy place and grab one whenever you have the urge to make lists.

Got any other great ideas for re-using common household items? Let me know in the comments, so we can share all our  best green living tips here!