• Nkazi Miti

Non-Recyclable: Oil Bottles & Containers


Have you ever thrown oil into a glass of water? Yes? What happens?

The oil dunks itself in there and then immediately starts to float up. After enough time you'll notice that the water is almost cleanly separated from the oil, with the oil sitting comfortably on top of the water.

The reason for this is that the oil is denser than the water, due to the oil molecules being attracted more to themselves (i.e. oil) and water molecules being attracted to, well... other water molecules.

Now that we've gotten that explanation out of the way, we can safely state that oil bottles and containers are a big “NO-NO”! Oil is normally packaged in plastic bottles and containers. The issue is just that; "oil in plastic". When such a dense liquid is packaged in a disposable material like plastic, it usually embeds itself making the plastic contaminated. As a result, the plastic becomes non-recyclable.

Yes, the plastic is supposed to be washed during the recycling process, but try washing oil off plastic with cold or lukewarm water. The oil is difficult to wash off the plastic. This happens during the recycling process, and as a result, the plastic is still contaminated, risking the entire plastic recycling batch to be contaminated and ending up in the landfill.

There have been small strides in companies and organisations attempting ways of recycling oil bottles and containers, but very few of them exist in South Africa. So what do we do with these items when we have them in our homes and want to recycle them? Try and find some creative ways to reuse them in your home to avoid having to place them in the rubbish bin:)


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