Valentine Realign: Circularity, Recycling, and Other Love Languages This Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day is often associated with flowers, chocolates, and greeting cards. While the giving and receiving of these tokens of affection are lovely, there's an opportunity to express that in ways that are sustainable and environmentally conscious. With recent data from FNB indicating a significant increase in spending across South Africa on Valentine's Day - restaurants up 45%, spas 36%, and cinemas a staggering 228% - it's evident that alongside love, consumerism is also in the air. This rise in consumption inevitably leads to an increase in waste, particularly from single-use items and packaging.

We all have tremendous appreciation for our planet, our country and our communities, and recycling and circular practices are love languages meaningful to all these aspects of society.

Love Language #1: Sustainable Gifts

Some may see it as a spendy holiday but for most, Valentine’s Day is more about baubles. These cards, chocolate boxes, and trinkets easily end up in the trash, going uncollected, and straight to landfills. It’s crucial to understand what materials can be recycled. Mpact Recycling accepts various items, and you can find out more about what they collect on our Downloadable Resources page.

It’s a harsh reality but yes, the love of your life may throw away the card and teddy bear you so painstakingly selected. Consider gifts that align with the principles of circularity, so that if those gifts do end up in the trash, they can be collected and recycled into other things.

Greeting cards are fully recyclable provided they don’t contain glitter, plastic sequins, electronic components, or other complicated apparatus. When you’re choosing the perfect card, look for the symbol that denotes its recyclability.

Another common gift is a plush toy. Believe it or not, there are fully recyclable varieties of stuffed animals with stuffing and fur that can be collected and refashioned into countless products. Certain companies also specialise in plushies that are made 100% of recyclables already, offering some guarantee of circularity. You can also ensure that non-recyclable plushies are donated, regifted or upcycled, instead of simply throwing them away.

For chocolates and other candy gifts, choose brands that package their sweets in recyclable containers. Do your research as to which are committed to sustainable packaging for their treat offerings.

There are also wrapping papers that have a clear recyclable status, if you care to find them. When wrapping, do bear in mind that clear sticky tape isn’t recyclable, so consider using string or twine instead of tape for your gifting.

Love Language #2: Small Gestures

It’s perfectly okay to keep sustainable practices like recycling to yourself, enacting them in your capacity or within your household. However, to truly work, these practices need to be performed at a considerable scale. As such we promote them at a community level, such as our efforts at housing estates and neighbourhood events.

There are sustainability-conscious individuals in any given group of people and when you’re on that journey yourself, a great starting point is to get in touch with these groups. Perhaps some have lived in your area longer, or others have prior experience in the administration involved in community recycling programmes. These people can add tremendous insight and focus to your efforts, not only from a home recycling perspective, but by putting a spotlight on the unique environmental and sustainability concerns (be it littering, dumping, public spaces, or combinations thereof) faced by your community.

We also encourage households to get a grasp of their areas’ existing systems. It’s not enough to put the wheelie bins out on Friday. Rather, when you do put the bins out, talk to the collectors. Ask them to which sites they take their recyclables, and what recyclables they look for. This will add insight as to what should be separated from waste before bin day and provide a valuable understanding of the existing recycling infrastructure of your area.

You can also initiate change by discussing sustainability issues with your peers or colleagues. More community involvement in waste collection and management eventually leads to cleaner suburbs maintained by the increased activity around them. These activities include income and entrepreneurial opportunities that can uplift and empower those willing to pursue them.  

Finding Your Nearest Recycling Branch

To make recycling part of your routine, it's helpful to know where you can take your recyclables. You can locate the nearest Mpact Recycling branch to you by visiting their Branch Locator page.

Love Language #3: Consideration

Some of the consumer practices we encourage around recyclables are based on consideration for collectors and other waste handlers down the chain. For example, we advise people to rinse, flatten, and re-lid liquid board packaging (long-life milk or juice containers) after use, because the compacted shape makes it easier for collectors to carry large volumes and for branches to store. The rinsing removes contamination, so processing them into usable material becomes a lot more straightforward.

Aside from recyclables, it's crucial to address the overall disposal of waste responsibly, especially items that pose health and safety risks. Medical and hazardous waste should not be placed in recycling bins due to the significant health risks they pose. Improper disposal of such items can lead to severe environmental and public health consequences.

Medical syringes, if not disposed of properly, can pose significant health risks. Needles can carry infectious diseases and may cause injuries to unsuspecting individuals, including recycling workers. To ensure the safety of everyone tasked with handling your recycling after use, it's crucial to follow proper disposal protocols for medical waste, using services & facilities specialised for this purpose.

Ammunition is a potentially dangerous material that should never be thrown away haphazardly. The risk of fire, especially in recycling facilities, increases when live ammunition is not handled properly. To prevent accidents and protect the environment, it's essential to find specialised disposal services for unused or expired ammunition. Local police stations will take in all ammunition, as will your nearest shooting range.


As we celebrate this Valentine's Day, let's make room in our hearts for the planet with sustainable and responsible practices. Commitment to the environment can be even more enduring and meaningful.

By adopting and promoting recycling, embracing circular thinking, and cultivating a deep understanding of the importance of proper waste disposal, we contribute positively to the environment and foster the means toward improving quality of life and the economy.

So, as we nurture our relationships, let's extend that care to the Earth, recognising that our actions today shape the world we pass on to future generations. Through small, intentional changes, we can watch our relationship with the environment flourish, creating a legacy that transcends generations.

Happy Valentine’s Day to those we hold close to our hearts and the beautiful planet that sustains us all.

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