Imagine a world where each one of us instinctively recycled and the amount of waste to landfill is minimal to none. It might be hard for our generation, but for school children today it is becoming a reality. One reason for this is the effort put into educating children on waste management.
The Polystyrene Packaging Council’s Director, Adri Spangenberg can vouch how successful education is. She recently gave a presentation on polystyrene recycling at Paarl Gymnasium.
‘During their hall period I gave a ten minute presentation discussing the two different types of polystyrene, Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS). The children were so surprised to hear that there were two types and luckily I brought some products along to show them.
EPS products include:
- hot beverage cups
- vegetable and meat trays
- take away boxes
HIPS products include:
- yoghurt tubs
- salad bowls
- disposable cutlery
- CD cases
‘I showed them photo frames and stationery made from recycled polystyrene, they were so surprised. This really got them enthusiastic about recycling.’ She gave each child who asked a question one of these recycled pens or pencils, which really got the questions rolling.
Plastics are precious too
According to Adri the school children had only heard bad stories about polystyrene and plastic. ‘When they saw the recycled products their mouths hung open. It is very valuable to us that they learn about this.’ Paarl Gymnasium’s school children were aware that paper, cans and glass can be recycled, and now they know you can recycle plastics too. ‘The children asked me if the polystyrene should be sorted according to colour. I answered for recycling the only prerequisite is that the polystyrene should be clean,” she said.
They also asked Adri how polystyrene can be reused. ‘There are various ways, you could plant little plants in the tubs or use it as aerators in the soil,” she replied. “Children are very curious about the numbers used to classify plastics. It’s a great opportunity to be able to teach them that a yoghurt tub is a number 6 for example, and can be recycled.”
Look closely at your plastic container. Typically at the bottom of it there will be a symbol or code showing which type of plastic it’s made of, making it easier to sort. The different kinds of coded plastics are:
- PET – polyethylene terephthalate (cooldrink bottles)
- PE-HD – high density polyethylene opaque bottles (milk bottles)
- PVC – polyvinyl chloride clear plastic bottles (dishwashing liquid)
- PE-LD – low density polyethylene thin film (carrier bags)
- PP – polypropylene (yoghurt tubs)
- PS – polystyrene (crack when bent sharply ie. yoghurt or clear meat/egg containers)
The Polystyrene Packaging Council is planning to formalise its education. “Education is a continuous process and we still have a long way to go in South Africa. Only a few people in this country recycle. Children actually grasp the idea much faster,” Adri said.
PSPC is willing to assist any school that needs recycling education. They are currently working indirectly with about 20 schools in Johannesburg, 10 in Durban and 5 in Cape Town. They provide teachers and educators with valuable information and training on polystyrene.
For more information or to contact PSPC to educate your school’s educators visit their website at www.polystyrenepackaging.co.za.