Can recycling make you ill?

Recycling is all about doing good for the environment, right? After all, we want to keep our land and water around for as long as possible. Ironically though, your health may suffer if recycling is done the wrong way.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Recycling helps reduce the pollution that’s caused by waste. Recycling works by taking waste material (like used plastic bottles, glass and newspapers), and creating something else useful.

Recycle effectively

  1. Recycle plastic bags separately

Plastic bags slow down the recycling process. People who sort the bags must individually open them up and only after that can they dispose the bags. This makes the process more difficult.

  1. Try not to shred paper

The length of the paper fibre determines if it can be useful to recycle into material like printer paper or low-grade materials.

  1. Compress bottles and put the lid back on

There’s neither water nor air inside, which makes recycling easier.

  1. Keep cardboard and other recyclables clean

Cardboard is recyclable and grease can damage it and make it impossible to recycle.

What’s making you ill?

Waste has a significant negative impact on the environment. Harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses are released from rubbish in landfill sites.

The majority of municipal solid waste is buried in landfills which are sites designated for dumping rubbish. Landfills are harmful to our health as they release potent greenhouse gasses. According to the report Solid Waste Management in South Africa 2017, South Africa and its major metropolitan municipalities are increasingly facing one of their biggest challenges as more people are living in the cities.

Pollution is responsible for nine million deaths globally. Two-thirds are due to air pollution, a report on The Lancet Commission On pollution and Health has found.

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You’re ill because…

  • Harmful chemicals that come from a trash can mix into water and soil. Water and soil pollution can result from this mix too, which can harm plants and fish in lakes and streams.
  • Leachate is a poisonous mixture that’s formed when it gets mixed with rain water. This can be a highly dangerous mixture if it reaches our water supplies.
  • When rain falls on open dumps, most of the contaminated water penetrates deep into the ground and pollutes the ground water.
  • Pollution and heavy metals can be damaging to a child’s brain. In fact, research shows that air pollution is the biggest contributor to early death.
  • Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal that can damage organs in your body.
  • Lead particles can end up being inhaled during recycling, smelting, stripping leaded paint, and using use of leaded petrol or aviation fuel.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people can be exposed to lead through ingestion of lead-contaminated dust, water (leaded pipes), and food (lead-glazed containers).


Take care of your environment  

A well-operated recycling program can help to preserve the flora and fauna of the planet. Look out for health threats in your community, and join programs to keep the world healthy – for yourself and your children!

  • Broken sewage pipes and systems.
  • Medical and chemical waste dumping.
  • Uncontrolled waste dumps.
  • Pollution of air, rivers and water supplies by factories.
  • Unhygienic housing and slaughterhouses that sell to the public.
  • A flow of human waste into drinking water supplies like rivers and dams.

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