Recycling is a wonderful thing, and with the growing knowledge that our resources are limited and the impact their extraction is having on our environment, there are few that would deny that recycling is indeed the way of the future.
For many of us it has already become a way of life and thanks to environmental education programs, many people now know what they can and can’t recycle in their bins at home. In fact it is great to see that more and more the ‘3 R’s mantra’: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is something that everyone has heard and understands. Even more importantly we understand how these actions can protect our environment, conserve our resources and decrease the costs of products and their waste management.
But can we do more? Well, considering that Australians are among the highest producers of waste in the world, then the answer is that “Yes, of course we can do more!” Even better is the fact that it isn’t all that difficult to do a little bit more to reduce our impact.
What can be tricky is whether or not something can be recycled or not, and it isn’t always obvious. “When in doubt, throw it out” is one way to prevent non-recyclable items from ending up at the recycling facility where they could cause load contamination and blockages, leading to costly shut downs. But we can do better simply by being a little more careful and remembering that municipal recycling facilities are only equipped to deal with:
- clean paper and cardboard
- glass jars and bottles (no other types of glass)
- plastic containers (not ‘scrunchable’ plastics)
- tin cans
- aluminium cans and aerosol cans
Yet there are plenty of things which can still be recycled by specialist organisations rather than going into the home recycling bin. So let’s take a look at 6 common items that you maybe didn’t know you could recycle…
1. SCRUNCH IT AND SEE
‘Scrunchable‘, or ‘soft plastics’, CANNOT go into household recycling bins as they get caught in equipment at the sorting facility and cause expensive shut downs. But, you can put your scrunchable plastics into a REDcycle collection bin at selected Coles and Woolworths / Safeway stores. These scrunchable plastics can then be made into hard plastic items such as furniture for schools or parks. Here are some examples of soft plastic packaging items that you could put into the REDcycle bin:
- plastic shopping bags
- bread, rice and pasta bags
- biscuit packets and trays
- frozen food bags
- lolly packets
- newspaper wrap
- bubble wrap
- dry cleaning bags
- old green shopping (and other re-usable) bags
2. FROM YOUR MORNING COFFEE TO YOUR MORNING SMILE
Toothpaste tubes, tooth brushes, dental floss containers and some coffee casules can all be recycled. Contact Terracycle and arrange to send these items for recycling, where they can be transformed into products such as garden pavers, benches, watering cans and soap dispensers among other things. You can also sign up for Terracycle’s Zero Waste Box to collect other unusual items such as:
- office stationery e.g. binders, mail room supplies, pens, pencils and markers
- plastic gloves
- beard nets and hairnets
3. TRICKY STYROFOAM
Can Styrofoam be recycled? Yes and no. Styrofoam or EPS is Expanded Polystyrene, is a cheap, lightweight and convenient packaging solution which can cause problems for the environment as it is toxic, can kill animals and takes an incredibly long time to break down. Styrofoam CANNOT go into a home recycling bin but there are ways to dispose of it safely without ending up in landfill or the environment. Try contacting Expanded Polystyrene Australia who have special equipment which can process and convert polystyrene into other products. Of course with a product such as this the best solution is often to avoid using it in the first place, however it is good to know that some recent award-winning scientific research has shown that it is possible to treat Styrofoam with D-limonene, a natural solvent, thereby reducing it to a biodegradable substance. This will then provide a solution for countries currently unable to recycle Styrofoam.
4. WHEN YOU JUST CAN’T SLEEP
You can recycle old mattresses too! Search for a mattress recycler in your local area at recyclingnearyou.com.au. Mattresses contain steel, wood and foam, all of which can be recycled, which would not only divert thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill each year but also provide employment opportunities for people through the manual dismantling process. And here’s a clever idea that Garbologie came up with for old mattress springs – a vine trellis! Garbologie’s concept is taking “materials that were once dead and reinvigorated them”, thereby creating new resources, jobs, thriving communities.
5. POWERED DOWN
Old batteries are actually hazardous waste and throwing them in the bin means that they will end up in landfill leaching toxic lead, mercury, cadmium and other toxic nasties into our soil and waterways. The good thing is that, although there are many types of batteries, there are also many different organisations that can take them off your hands. To find out more take a look at recyclingnearyou.com.au or some of the following suggestions of types of batteries and where to take them:
- household / single-use & rechargeable batteries: Aldi
- laptop batteries: TechCollect
- button cell, used in hearing aids and watches: SUEZ
- car batteries: Auto part retailers or service stations
- mobile phones and their batteries: MobileMuster
Did you know that one of the world’s most popular collectables are postage stamps? If you are looking for a great cause to donate your stamp collection to, check out the list of organisations at givenow.com.au who will use them to raise funds for charitable purposes.
SO WHAT NOW?
So now we have learnt that while there are many items which CANNOT go into your home recycling bin, there are plenty of items which can still be recycled by other means. Take a moment to visit recyclingnearyou.com.au to take advantage of all the recycling services available to help you recycle as much as possible. You might be surprised to discover what else you could be recycling!