After the steel bin: a look into waste removal in South Africa

As our population grows steadily so too grows our waste, and the need for viable alternative waste solutions. Unfortunately, it seems as if there is no imminent action on the horizon, and we can only watch from the side-lines as our landfills fill to the brim and our rivers and oceans become increasingly polluted. Despite this sombre state of affairs, there are a few things that the ordinary business or citizen can do to combat South Africa’s waste crisis, such as implementing disposal solutions such as the steel bin, and actively work to recycle our waste. In just a few minutes of reading, find out about the importance of steel bins and other disposal options as well as the pressing waste issue we are facing in our country.




The importance of the steel bin


Before we begin our journey to uncover the story of waste removal in South African , the importance of the steel bin, such as those stocked by us at Streetscape, cannot be understated. It goes without saying that without bins in public areas, waste would piled up on the streets to an extraordinary degree, making some ordinary activities and staying hygienic next to impossible. If you are in charge of any business endeavour that generates waste through services to the public, such as a restaurant, fast-food joint or shop, it is your duty to provide nearby disposal options to combat waste build-up.


Whether this takes the form of a steel bin in or outside your establishment, or nearby in an adjacent park that you know your customers frequent, it is up to you to ensure your waste is being disposed of responsibly. We at Street Scape offer two bin options, the concrete bin and the steel bin, but for the purpose of this article we will be focusing on the latter. There are several reasons why steel bins in particular are a popular choice for establishments around the globe. Mainly, it is the fact that steel is an incredibly hardy material resistant to rust and wear.


The steel bin is also a truly stylish option. We provide several different types of steel bins, so that our customers are able to make the choice between our:


  • The Timber Slatted Steel Bin Square
  • The Perforated Pedestal Bin
  • The Perforated Swing Steel Bin
  • The Timber Slatted Bin Round, and;
  • The Perforated Wall Mounted Steel Bin


With so much choice, providing waste disposal options in the form of a steel bin in and around your establishment should be a breeze, and you can rest easy knowing that you are both providing necessary resources as well as contributing towards the fight against the problem of littering that is so rife in our country. Now that you have a more solid idea of the importance of providing steel bins in the vicinity, you may be interested to know about what happens to waste in our country.


The pressing issue of waste removal in South Africa


Recent data has indicated that each day, South Africans dispose of enough solid waste to fill up a football field of 10 metres deep. Each citizen, of our population of around 57 million people, is said to generate around 2.5 kilograms of each day on average – depending on their earnings. That equates to a whopping 912.5 kilograms per year, per person. But where does this waste go after it has been disposed of?


The answer: landfills. South Africa has approximately 826 landfill sites across the country. According to 2017 statistics, we as a country generate around 54.2 million tons of municipal, commercial and industrial waste each year. Only 10% of this waste is recycled, and the other 90% is carted off to one of the many landfills, or ends up as litter on the streets, open plains, the ocean or rivers. To make matters worse, a lot of this waste consists of hazardous materials, such as fly ash, sewage sludge, brine, mercury, and asbestos.


This waste is known to produce various toxins that are harmful to humans and the environment alike. In several provinces such as Gauteng, new landfills have not been licensed for decades, meaning that many landfills are completely overloaded and cannot be compressed and maintained according to regulations. Some of them are approaching closure at a very rapid rate as a result. This is quite a predicament, since viable alternative waste disposable solutions are not being implemented fast enough to keep up with our growing population and increasing waste.




In reality, many institutions and organisations are of the opinion that we are facing a waste crises that requires recognition and action. It must be noted that there is a plethora of other pressing issues with which our government and institutions are faced that more often than not take preference over our growing waste issue. We have been focused on honourable causes such as fighting the poaching of rhinos, attempting to better the lives of those stricken with poverty and most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic. This however, does not change the fact that the waste crisis has been looming on the horizon for at least 15 years.


We may also have failed to recognise the effects that landfill waste disposal has had on our immediate environment and wildlife. Scientists have argued that the increasingly overflowing rubbish dumps have led to a shift in food habits of wild animals. Fill of harmful chemicals and materials, it makes sense that dumps are becoming a great risk to our indigenous animals. The main contributor to these problems Is plastic waste – which is widely known to cause disruptive reproduction patterns in animals as well as a plethora of health complications.


With landfills brimming with food waste and other seemingly appealing scavenging items, wildlife cannot be blamed for taking an interest and using dumps as a foraging ground for convenience as well. In an ideal world, food waste would be separated from other materials in order to deter this behaviour – but at this point in time there are not enough facilities and resources to achieve this. In a few decades’ time, there is no telling of the damage and implications that may unfold.




However, there is still hope. The first step in any type of recovery process is the recognition of a problem existing. Environmental organisations and key government officials are actively fighting to change legislation and make the public more aware of the growing waste crisis in our country. One way that we as business and citizens can make a difference is through recycling and using compost heaps on our own premises.


Combatting the waste crisis through recycling




Many businesses and households are intimidated by the notion and practice of recycling. It is true that recycling takes time and thought – but there are few things more rewarding than knowing that you are actively working towards a better environment. There are a number of recycling drop-off zones throughout the country for this purpose – and all it takes is a quick drive at the end of the week to responsibly dispose of your recyclable matter.


At the time of a major data collection, South Africa’s recovery rates for the various recyclable materials were as follows:


  • Paper: 59%
  • Glass: 25%
  • Cans: 69%
  • Plastic: 17%


It is the informal recyclers who are responsible for the majority of the abovementioned recovery rates. These recyclers scour streets and landfills for recyclable materials to sell or to use – despite the unhygienic working conditions that they must endure. But our recycling efforts cannot rest atop the shoulders of these people alone. The Earth’s resources are certainly not infinite, and should we wish to maintain a world that is inhabitable for future generations, we should all contribute in some way or form to the recycling effort.


The following guide should help you get on the path to recycling efficiently, and make your household or business part of the solution to our growing waste problem:


What can be recycled?




  • Food jars, like mayonnaise, tomato sauce and jam containers. Note that they should be thoroughly rinsed before recycling
  • Beverage bottles


Glass that cannot be recycled:


  • Drinking glasses
  • Light bulbs, as many contain the toxin mercury. Light bulbs should be disposed of at special drop-off zones




  • Food tins
  • Cooldrink cans
  • Beer cans (regardless of whether they are clean or rusty)
  • Metal lids from glass gars
  • Aluminium cans
  • Paint, aerosol and oil cans
  • Foil and foil packaging




Most plastics are created from oil, which is a non-renewable resource. Thankfully, majority of plastic packaging we use today can be recycled – some examples being:


  • Ice cream containers
  • Fabric softener bottles
  • Water bottles
  • Milk containers
  • Plastic bags
  • Cling wrap


If you are unsure as to whether or not a plastic product is recyclable, examine the written information that may be on the product for the recycling symbol. However, it is unlikely that you will be faced with many plastic products today than cannot be recycled.




  • Books and magazines
  • Newspaper
  • White office paper
  • Cardboard boxes


The following paper products cannot be recycled:


  • Stickers
  • Confetti
  • Carbon paper
  • Wax or laminated paper




Unfortunately, disposable batteries are not recycled in many countries like South Africa. Despite this, they should never be tossed out with household waste, seeing as they contain various toxic chemicals that can drain into groundwater and soil and harm the environment. Rechargeable batteries, although more costly first off, are a great investment and are completely recyclable. They last a lot longer than normal batteries – which is an added bonus.




Many types of milk and fruit juice containers appear to be made out of paper and therefore seem recyclable. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. They are often lined with aluminium foil and plastics, which is why they must be recycled separately from your other recyclable materials. It is always worth examining container to see what they are made out of before tossing them away.


Some materials that cannot be recycled


  • Ceramics, like certain mugs and plates
  • Pyrex


Recycling in your very own steel bin


Now that you know more about the waste crisis with which we are faced, as well as the basics of recycling, you may feel more determined than ever to purchase a steel bin from us at Streetscape in order to begin your journey of combatting our waste predicament. Whether you are donating a steel bin to a public space, placing one in your own garden or within your business space – know that you are making a difference and becoming part of the solution. Purchasing multiple steel bins and labelling them to set up separate recycling categories is one step further in the right direction – since it makes the process even more streamlined and efficient in the long run.