Be Prepared for Life

Activity Kit One:
"There's no place like Home"

Part 1. The Clean, Safe Home


Never before has there been a time where so much is wasted by so many. Many South African homes throw away almost 2 tons of rubbish every year.

This could mean a 10 million ton mountain of rubbish to be collected and dumped elsewhere each year. It costs a lot of money to move 10 million tons of anything. Most of this waste is not really 'rubbish' for it can be recycled [used again] and is thus worth money!

Paper, cardboard, books, magazines, newspaper, plastic bags, window glass, bottles, mirrors, food waste, garden waste [leaves and lawn clippings], metal cans, aluminium foil, and old iron ... can all be recycled!

When we throw this away in our rubbish bags we are paying someone to take reusable material away from us.

Project 1: Start a Recycling Depot

Don't mix all your rubbish in one bag! Have separate containers for glass, paper and metal. Start a compost heap with your kitchen and garden waste [see Project 11].

Flatten and bundle up your boxes and cans.

Start a recycling depot for your Group under shelter or in a unused garage. Once you have sorted the garbage into 20kg packets, collect enough to make a 100-300kg load and phone a recycling company in your area to give you cash for clean, sorted trash.

For more information write to: Earthlife Africa, PO Box 176, Observatory 7935


Household rubbish contains:
  • 10% glass
  • 30% paper
  • 10% metal
  • 30% kitchen and garden wastes
  • 20% other wastes that cannot be recycled

We could reduce the cost of collecting rubbish by 80% and sell what we recycle for reuse.

Sort a week's rubbish into five containers [glass, paper and card, metals, vegetable peels etc. and the rest]. Use a fish spring scale or a bathroom scale to measure the mass of your rubbish. What does THE REST [the other 20% waste that cannot be recycled] consist of?

Project 2: Make Your Own Paper

  Paper is one of the easiest products to recycle. This project will help you to understand how recycling works. You will need a wire screen, hot water, starch and a bowl. Tear your paper into the tiniest pieces that you can. Drop shredded paper into boiling water and soak for 10 minutes.

Two teaspoons of starch can be added. Stir or beat [electric beater] into a pulp. Pour the pulp into a shallow, flat dish. Insert the wire screen under the pulp. Spread pulp evenly over screen. Lift screen slowly allowing excess water to drain back into the flat dish. Place the screen of pulp on a paper covered board. Roll flat pressing out excess water with a glass bottle or similar roller. Leave for two days to dry in a warm place. Peel the paper off the screen when dry.

This paper can be used to spread a message on the importance of recycling. If we recycled half the paper we use, there would be more trees available to clean the atmosphere and protect our health.


Plastics are the most difficult waste to recycle. Many foods and household liquids are bought in plastic.

Project 3: Buy Less Plastic

Today people seem to want their purchases over wrapped. Count the layers of wrapping around your food and other items. Some things have as many as seven layers of wrapping around them. You pay for all seven layers and throw them all away afterwards.

Make a list of the items that your family buys every week and count the number of layers of unnecessary wrapping material. Return all clean and dry used plastic bags to supermarkets. [Soft plastics can be recycled]. Have a competition to see who can think of the most useful way of reusing plastic bottles. Here are a few starter ideas for 2 litre plastic cooldrink bottles...

MAKE A ...

Plant pot, seed tray, funnel, watering can, rain gauge, bird feeder, solar water heater, wind vibration mole chaser [see illustration].

Display your best ideas in a local shop window and encourage people not to throw these bottles away as they last almost indefinitely in natures garden.



Sometimes the air inside our homes is dangerous to breathe.

If someone smokes inside your home then all the family breathes that smoky air too. For every five cigarettes a smoker smokes in the same room you use, you smoke one cigarette indirectly yourself. This increases your chances of getting lung and heart diseases. Avoid smoking and smokers!

Many families pollute their own air space by cooking food indoors on gas stoves, paraffin burners or open fires without having windows open to dilute the dangerous gases formed by the burning process. Never cook in a closed space. It can be more dangerous than smoking!

The strong solvents used in paint are also dangerous so it is important to open the windows when painting. Don't use aerosol sprays at all, open a window to get rid of unpleasant household smells.


Most of us eat too much animal fat. This excess fat collects in our bodies and is one of the main cause of heart disease in South Africa.

When meat is well cooked, fat collected can be poured off and used for other safer purposes.

Project 4: Don't eat that fat


Solid animal fat when molten can be moulded in short pieces of plastic or metal pipe to make useful candles. They can serve as 'emergency food' as well as fat is rich in energy.

These candles can be coloured allowing a wax crayon to dissolve in the molten fat. Suspend a piece of thick string down the centre of the pipe. Block one end with Plasticene or clay and fill the pipe with hot fat using a funnel to protect your hands.

When it has cooled to room temperature the candle can slipped out by warming the casing in hot water for a short while.


Fat is the basic ingredient in soap. Boil the fat in an equal amount of water to clean the fat. Strain this hot fatty liquid through a fine cloth and allow the fat to separate on top of the cooling water.

Dissolve 500 grams of washing soda [Sodium Hydroxide] into a litre of cold water. Melt 750 grams of the cleaned fat and pour very slowly into 360 ml of the washing soda solution. Stir slowly for about an hour until the mixture becomes thick and white. Line an empty shoe box with a cloth, pouring the soap mixture into the box. Keep in a warm place for a week before cutting into soap blocks.

Part 2: Save Money at Home

© Copyright 1991 - 1994
Dr Frank Opie for the South African Scout Association