Compiled by Robyn, South Africa ~ © April 2005


Earth Day is celebrated on April 22nd every year and calls our attention to the care of our precious Earth.  What can you learn about the earth by looking at a globe?  The earth consists of both land and water.  Mostly water.  The land is divided into landmasses called continents.  Who or what lives on the earth?  People, animals, fish, plants, trees etc.  What do you think these things need to live?  Warmth, water, air, light, food etc.  The Earth provides the natural resources that we need.  Man has interfered with these resources and that has caused many problems with the environment for example acid rain, global warming, the ozone layer, endangered species, pollution and more.


World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 every year.  The environment is all of the world we live in.  It includes the air we breathe, the water we drink, the countryside around us and the cities where we live.  We live in a beautiful world but our world is in trouble and unless we change our lives it won’t be beautiful forever.  These problems are caused mainly by pollution, waste products, litter, and wasting water and energy.  We cannot change everything we buy, or stop using petrol, but we can think about the choices we make and their effects on the environment and just start by changing the small things.  If everyone helps in a small way, we can solve the problems that threaten our world.  A clean environment is good for everyone and will make life better for all including plants and animals.


It is estimated that the total amount of domestic urban waste in South Africa is around 15 million tons a year!  This is usually taken away by refuse trucks and dumped in large spaces called land fill sites and buried.  This is unsightly and often unhygienic.  It also uses land that could be put to better use.  A large percentage of this waste could be reused or recycled. By doing this we can protect our resources, save energy, reduce pollution and reuse waste materials to create new useful objects.



The Professor’s Garden by Ben Maclennan ISBN:0864862571 (available from or

The Professor called his compost heap his creepy crawly factory, and said that when old things died they helped new things grow. In his overgrown garden, he and his young neighbour, Katie, collect fruit, tend the vegetables and share thoughts in the shade of the old plum tree. Just before he dies, the Professor gives Katie a special gift to help her to remember their time together, and to understand the natural cycles of life and death and renewal. Katie’s friendship with her eccentric old neighbour is delightfully rich and companionable, captured here both in the warmth of the text and in the subtly delicate illustrations.


One World by Michael Foreman ISBN:184270334X (also available from

A modern parable about a brother and sister who spend their day playing on the beach by a rock pool. They create their own tiny marine world in a bucket and, with its wildlife, shells, oil and even a tin can, it is a microcosm of the larger world outside. With a series of stunning watercolours, Michael Foreman makes clear his underlying concern about pollution within the environment, particularly on the seashore. The book's impact derives not only from Foreman's masterly skill as an artist, but also from the strength of his commitment to its theme.


The Lorax by Dr Seuss ISBN: 0007173113 (also available from

In this fable about the dangers of destroying our forests and woodlands, the long-suffering Lorax struggles to save all the Truffula Trees from the wicked Once-ler's axe.  In this cautionary tale of greed and environmental destruction, the lovable Lorax tries to save the Truffula Forest and its inhabitants from disaster at the hands of the cantankerous Once-ler.


The Earth and I by Frank Asch ISBN:0152004432 (also available from

A story about a friendship--a special friendship between children and the Earth. Inspired by hundreds of letters from schoolchildren, Frank Asch has created an environmental tale that encourages readers to observe the world around them and to forge their own friendships with the Earth.



Litter is the solid waste or rubbish that we see lying around and is usually created by people.  Litter can be hazardous to our health and it can harm people, plants, animals and the environment.  Where should litter go – IN THE BIN!  If you observe litter being discarded from a vehicle, take down the registration and other relevant details (place & time etc) and write or phone it through to KDBA (Keep Durban Beautiful Anti-Littering Awareness) at 031 303 1665.  The Police will be in contact with the transgressor (friendly warning only the first time!).  This is the KDBA's 'Tag-a-Motorist' project. Other cities may have a similar policy, contact your local municipality to find out. What else can you do? Get a group together and go and pick up some litter!



What happens to the waste or rubbish at the moment?  It is usually removed by refuse removal trucks once a week and taken to the municipal rubbish dump where it is buried.  If possible visit one of these sites and show children what happens to the rubbish.  Once you really think about this, you will find it more difficult to just throw things away without thinking about it.  Did you know that plastic lasts for about 30 years, aluminium up to 100 years and glass lasts even longer.


We have too much waste on planet earth.  This creates all kinds of problems.  What is the solution?  The three R’s! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!


REDUCE means to make less rubbish.  How can I reduce? 

§     Buy goods in bulk or goods with less packaging.  Avoid over-packaged products e.g. plastic-wrapped vegetables on polystyrene trays.

§     Take a basket or bag to put your shopping in or re-useable plastic bags, to the supermarket to avoid using new plastic shopping bags each time.

§     Choose returnable or reusable containers.
Buy refills and concentrates - these usually involve less packaging.

§     Choose durable articles that will last, rather than products that will soon need replacing.

§     Choose products with recycled content (this information is usually on the label), or that can be easily recycled.

§     Buy local produce - it requires less packaging to keep fresh (and less energy for transportation).

§     Try to buy only what you need, and consider cutting down on unnecessary luxuries! Each item purchased undergoes some form of processing, transportation and packaging - all of which use resources and produce waste.

§     Choose less heavily processed products (e.g. fresh fruit instead of canned). These have used up fewer resources and produced less waste.

§     Use rechargeable batteries where possible, cloth dishtowels and napkins instead of paper ones, and refillable ink pens. Avoid disposable plates, cups and cutlery.

§     Store food in the fridge in re-useable, airtight containers, rather than plastic cling film, tinfoil or plastic bags.

§     In the office and at school, photocopy on both sides of the paper.


This is the most important step - if we do it well there will be less to re-use and recycle.


REUSE means to use things over again.  How can I reuse? 

§     Make things with your waste.  Crafts, pot plant holders, vases etc.  Reuse things around the house as many times as you can. If you have no further use for it, find someone who does. ONE PERSON'S TRASH IS ANOTHER PERSON'S TREASURE.

§     Many charities welcome donations of unwanted gifts, clothes, furniture, toys and books.

§     Repair broken items, or pay someone to repair them, rather than just discarding them.

§     Make your own gifts and gift wrap instead of always buying new items.

§     Return glass bottles with deposits to shops for reuse.

§     Wash and dry plastic bags for re-use.

§     Staple together office paper that has only been written on one side, for scrap paper.

§     Nursery schools make good use of the inside core of toilet rolls and paper towels, egg boxes, cereal boxes and jam jars.


RECYCLE - If a product cannot be re-used, then recycle it. Recycle means to change the item into something else so that the material can be used again.  We can recycle four kinds of inorganic materials – glass, paper, plastic and metal.  How can I recycle? 

§     Make big boxes or bins for all four types of material and start collecting items for recycling.  Find out where there are recycling grounds or bins or containers near you where you can take them to be recycled.  Glass is 100% recyclable - make use of bottle banks.

§     Make a compost heap at home for your organic waste. Organic kitchen and garden waste can be added to the compost heap, or used to feed pets or birds.

§     Used motor oil can be handed in for recycling at your local garage.

§     If you feel you don't have the time or inclination to do your own recycling, arrange to give your recyclable waste to one of the many informal waste collectors who depend on recycling for their livelihood.

§     To find out what recycling programmes operate in your area, contact either the local branch of Keep South Africa Beautiful, your City Cleansing Branch or the Wildlife Society. There are many recycling programmes operating nationwide - see contacts below.


Recyclable-an item which can be crushed or melted down or otherwise used as a new item instead of being thrown away.



To make paper, trees have to be cut down and transported to a factory where machines break them up and turn them into paper.  Trees take a long time to grow and on average, each of us uses up about 2 trees of paper per year.  Work out how many trees your family uses per year.  It takes 15 litres of water to make 50g of paper.  The paper making process creates bad water pollution.  To save trees and water, we can reuse and recycle paper. Contact Sappi WOW 0800 2213309 to find out where you can recycle paper in your area.


Where does paper come from?  What do you think will happen if we just keep cutting down all the trees?  How can we help?  By reusing/recycling our paper.  Set aside a suitable collection container in your house and label it recyclable paper.  Find out where you can drop it off. Ensure paper you put into the banks is clean - and read the instructions on the sides of the banks to find out what type of paper is accepted or phone any of the paper recyclers for advice.



Beverage cans now contribute less than 1% of litter, thanks to the highly successful efforts of Collect-a-Can in South Africa.  There was a recovery rate of 66% in 2003 making the can the most successfully recycled primary packaging in SA and SA ranking among the top six countries worldwide in terms of recovery rates.


All food tins and cooldrink cans are made from metal, which has to be dug up from the earth.  Although most cans will rust and break down, aluminium (cooldrink) cans last almost indefinitely.  All steel is recyclable.  Aluminium cans and tin (steel) cans need to be separated.  You can tell the difference between tin and aluminium cans by using a magnet.  The magnet will not stick to the aluminium!  Tinfoil is made of aluminium so that it won’t rust.  Sort your metal. It is essential that you at least collect ALL aluminium cans and drop them off at your nearest drop off point when you can.  Wash and crush cans first before putting them in collection containers.  For information on where you can drop off your cans, phone COLLECT-A-CAN on 0800111242.



Roughly 15% of all South African glass is currently being recycled (2005).  Some glass bottles are returnable for refunds.  Glass is 100% recyclable.  Some bottles are washed for re-use, while other glass is crushed and melted and remoulded.  Sorting – Glass needs to be sorted before recycling.  You can use this as an opportunity for a sorting task.  Sort your bottles into bottles which can be sold, and different coloured glass.  Glass needs to be cleaned and any metal lids, caps or labels need to be removed.

Lightbulbs, wire reinforced glass, ceramics, laboratory glass, crystal & opaque drinking glasses, mirrors, windshields, window glass and heat resistant ovenware cannot be recycled.  To find out where your nearest bottle banks or drop of points are, contact Consol on (011) 8740000.   Be careful with glass as broken glass can cut you!



A lot of our plastic waste can either be reused or recycled but it needs to be sorted carefully.  Hard plastic like cooldrink bottles can be made into rulers and maths sets.  Soft plastic is made into black bags, agricultural piping, flower pots, milk crates and vehicle floor mats.  Polywood (plastic wood) is a unique South African product which is made from 100% recycled plastic materials and is used to manufacture park benches, jetties and wharfs, fence posts and plant holders.  Polycrate is used to make municipal refuse bins, builders buckets and stacking containers.  SAPR recovers PET soft drink bottles and converts the polyester fibre into pillows, duvets and clothing!  All plastic products are marked with a symbol underneath.  These codes tell us what kind of plastic it is.  Some hard plastic containers like those used for some sunflower oils and vinegars cannot be recycled locally as they contain PVC.  These are usually marked with the number 3 symbol underneath.  Recyclable plastics include coke bottles, milk bottles, household cleaning bottles, plastic film, soft packaging, plastic crates, Styrofoam cups and yoghurt containers.  To recycle plastic separate out PVC plastics.  Make sure the other plastic containers are clean.  Contact your local waste centre to see where you can take plastic to be recycled in your area.



Earth Activities-

Look at a globe.  Draw or paint an earth.  Discuss what lives on the earth, draw these things.  Cut them out from a magazine and stick these around your earth.  We found fish, birds, animals, people, flowers, trees, etc.


Scratch Art Earth

Colour in a circle with blue and green wax crayons.  With a sharp object such as a coin, scratch out shapes of different things that live on the earth…fish, flowers, trees, people, birds, any animals etc.  This makes a nice art project.  You can write things around your earth like… ‘We need to look after our precious earth.’ etc.


Make a paper plate earth.  Paint the circles blue.  When dry, paint the continents green and brown.  Draw smiley face on them.  Write sentences on paper that would make the earth happy eg. Don't litter, Plant flowers, Don't cut down trees etc.


Cut out and make a large paper earth.  Write sentences about the earth and stick them up.  Cut out pictures of different things that live on the earth like people, animals, plants, trees, fish, insects etc.


Make an earth day pendant from Enchanted Learning


Recycling Activities:

Show children what the recycling logo looks like.  Collect some examples of packaging items that show the recycling logo and some that don’t.  What does this mean?  Are the other items recyclable?


Go through magazines and pamphlets and find pictures of things you can reuse or recycle.  Make a collage of things you can reuse around the house and a picture with sections for the five things you can recycle.  Label your picture ‘I Can Help’


Collect an assortment of cleaned waste – samples of different materials eg clothes, hard and soft plastics, leather, paper, cardboard, apple core etc.  For each product ask – is this article a waste product or not….what can we do with it…can it be reused….can it be recycled? etc. Try and make something out of all the items.  Be creative.


Make things from rubbish.  Reuse toilet rolls, cereal boxes, toothpaste boxes, tins etc. to make useful things for around the house.  Here are some ideas…

§         Milk carton for a garden birdfeeder.

§         Glass bottles for flower vases.

§         Tins washed and covered for pen holders.

Remember – all items taken for recycling must be washed beforehand.


Collect milk top lids and other lids.  Give items like these to a local preschool for crafts.


Tree Activities:

Trees – Make a collection of bark patterns by going to your local botanical gardens and making bark rubbings of some of the trees.  Write the name of the tree beside the rubbing.


Make your own paper as per instructions below and add some flower seeds to it.

Make your Own Recycled Paper from


Plant a tree!  Grow an avocado seed…

Wash an avocado seed.  Stick 3 toothpicks in the sides of the seed, and suspend it broad end down in a glass of water.  The water should just cover the bottom of the seed.  Place the glass in a warm location, out of direct sunlight.  Change the water frequently and be patient... it may take a month or more to sprout.  Once your avocado has leaves, plant it in a large pot with the seed half exposed.  Allow it to dry out between waterings.  Avocados require very well drained soil, full sun, and very little pruning...cut back tall upright shoots to control height.  Replant outside when it gets too big for pot.



Keep Durban Beautiful (031) 376243

Keep Johannesburg Beautiful (011) 3395111

Sappi WOW (War on Waste) 0800 2213309

The Wildlife Society (011) 4821670 to get the number for your area.

Consol’s Glass Recycling Department on (011) 8740000

Sappi Environmental Toll free no. 0800 11 48 41

Sappi Waste - Ph: 0800 221 330

Mondi Recycling tollfree 0800 022112 - Offer a range of free services including Paper Pick-Up, Paperbanks and Confidential Shredding Services. Support fundraising by collecting waste paper in bulk.

Natal Recycling Forum. The Secretary, PO Box 1535, Durban, 4000. Tel. 031-376 243.

National Coordinating Committee for Recycling. P.O. Box 1378, Pinegowrie, 2123. Tel. 011-7891101.

Nampak Recycling - Ph: 0800 018 818
Glass Recycling Association - Ph: (011) 827 4311

Collect - A - Can - Ph: 0800 111 232
ACRA (Aluminium Cans) - Ph: (011) 454 1408

OILKOL (used motor oil) - Ph: (011) 762 5506

Recycling Plastics - Ph: (011) 828 0720
Plastics Federation of SA - Ph: (011) 314 4021


Read about Nampak’s Collect-a-Can and other Recycling Projects in South Africa


Consol Glass’s Recycling Information


ETHEKWINI ONLINE – Durban Solid Waste’s Recycling Home Page


Waste Wise – Keeping Cape Town Clean


Earthlife Africa Johannesburg


Pikitup Johannesburg


Green Clippingsis a free weekly digest of environmental news published by the African Health & Development Organisation


Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa

EnviroKids Magazine is a fun 32-page colourful magazine produced by WESSA for its junior members up to age 14 years.  Each issue of EnviroKids has a different theme and is filled with easy-to-read articles and bright illustrations or photos.  To obtain a copy contact your local Wildlife Society.


WWF (World Wildlife Fund) South Africa


Delta Environmental Centre


Pick n Pay’s Enviro Facts


BP Africa Environment and Community – Recycling Oil


BP Cleaner Fuels


Southern Africa Environment Project (SAEP)

Mondi Packaging – Recycling


Echo-Enviro’s Enviromental Information Pages


Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism


Recycling Plastics


Prevent Plastic Pollution


UWC Enviro Facts


The Value of Trees





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