Have you ever wondered what to do with clothing that’s too wrecked to go to the Salvo’s? Or how to dispose of electronic waste? Or those so called ‘bioplastic’ cups? This little guide answers all your questions to those trickier-to-recycle items.
It may seem elementary, but most people don’t recycle properly and I was one of them. I used to think I could recycle almost anything that didn’t have food on it.
But why all the rules?
The reason recycling has to be a certain way, is because it’s a big job that’s had to be systemised and that system has limitations. A lot of things can disrupt the machines used to sort and recycle rubbish. So when we put the wrong items in the wrong bins at home, it can contaminate a whole batch of good recyclable items, so the whole lot ends up in landfill anyway.
Recycling properly reduces pollution
Landfills are dire places, ever accumulating with trash that can take 1000’s of years to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases and leachate into waterways in the meantime. I feel like a century from now we’ll look back and realise the insanity of making items that are thrown into the middle of nowhere, rather than given a new life.
Each rubbish load has an impact
Recycling is so visual, you can really see what gets a new life and what doesn’t. I think about the fact the plastic in my bin only has a 9% chance of actually being recycled and it motivates me to buy less single-use packaging. I’ll do another blog that covers some of the trickier aspects of reducing single-use purchases next and it will be easier than you think I promise.
For now though, here are some lesser known recycling tips I’ve learned on what to do with:
Clothing that can’t be donated
If you send them to landfill they create methane. Charity shops send up to 30% of textiles to landfill each year which costs them money that would otherwise go to social welfare programs. Some businesses like Zara and H&M have clothing collection programs, where you can drop off any clothes (not just their brand) at their outlets where they then are mended and recycled. Otherwise, donate them to your local mechanic or earthmover.
Small plastics go to landfill
Things like straws, bottle caps and plastic cutlery should go into the landfill, not the recycling bin because they jam recycling equipment, causing them to shut down several times a day
Cardboard boxes with food grease on them
Pizza boxes or cardboard food containers are food soiled and therefore must go to landfill or be shredded and put into the compost bin. If your compost becomes full of takeaway boxes, it might be a sign to reduce your use of them. If the lid is in good condition, you can break it off and put it in the recycling bin.
Like yoghurt cups that are lined with plastic that can’t be removed go to landfill. If you can separate the materials and put them in the right bins then you can recycle them.
Like batteries and chargers leach toxic chemicals and need to go in e-waste bins. I Googled one near me (there was one at Bunnings) and kept these in the back of your car until I had time to go past and dispose of them.
Can’t be recycled, they go in landfill. If you're unsure, you can refer to the numbers on your plastic item (that looks like a recycle symbol with a number in it). The higher the number, the harder to recycle.
You can tell them apart because they’ll have a sign on them that looks like a recycling sign with a #7 inside. They go in the trash.
Can be recycled if it’s clean and only when bunched up into a ball roughly the size of a tennis ball.
Are often lined with BPA and so can’t be recycled, they go into landfill. Avoid asking for receipts where possible.
Can’t be recycled but can be dropped off at Australia Post, The Good Guys and Harvey Norman. Find a place near you at Close the Loop
Can either be food or plant derived, or fossil fuel derived and engineered to biodegrade (but leave a toxic residue). In landfill they have the potential to produce methane, which is worse than carbon dioxide. Degradable plastics made from fossil fuels just break down into microplastics. It’s too hard to decipher the greenwashing from the authentically green, which is why I avoid buying these items at all costs.