Thinking green, by Caitlin

Thoughts and ideas on environmental topics from Caitlin Howlett, editor of Green Lifestyle.

Recycling difficult items


Some 'difficult-to-recycle' items G collected and found ways to recycle.

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I grew up up on a farm, so when I moved to the 'big smoke', I certainly didn't take kerbside recycling for granted. It was such a relief to have co-mingled recycling picked up once a week from my doorstep instead of having to separate recyclables (including glass by colour!) and make the monthly trip with the trailer to the recycling facility.

But there remain a few hard-to-recycle objects that most households - urban or rural - have trouble knowing what to do with, and unfortunately this means that mattresses, bicycles, TVs and other e-waste, and all sorts of things end up in landfill.

The problem is that while the materials in many items are recyclable, they can only be dealt with en masse. So, we took it upon ourselves to recycle as an individual, and try our hardest not to send some of those difficult items to landfill on Council cleanup day.

As usual at G, any unwanted items that still worked were gifted to friends, or given away on Freecycle. Then, I used Planet Ark's helpful and easy to use Recycling Near You website, where you can search by product or postcode for recycling facilities near you. Here's our list of our random items, and how we recycled them:

- Old laptop: I have requested with my local council to have my laptop picked up at the next e-waste kerbside pickup service. However, kerbside e-waste collections are rare for councils; most of them have e-waste collection days where residents of the area can drop off for free. Search for computer recycling options near you here.

- Wine bottle corks: I collected corks from friends and family and then posted these to Friends of the Zoo in Victoria. We also could have posted them to Girl Guides who take them for Queensland and the Northern Territory, but seeing as there's no contact in NSW anymore, Victoria was a little closer for me to post. Search for nearby options and/or postal options for corks here.

- Old mobile phone: Read about G's office collection with MobileMuster here. Phones can be taken to Australia Post, Officeworks and JB HiFi locations nationwide, as well as mobile phone retailers.

- Used CFL, Halogen and incandescent light globes: I timed this with my next visit to Ikea, and all I had to do was make a purchase so I could drop these off. Some local councils also have drop off points, and in South Australia Mitre 10 stores will accept them for recycling for free. For more options for your old light globes, click here.

- Old batteries: I checked here where my nearest drop off location is, and it is the Planet Ark offices in Sydney. As a general rule, individuals cannot post batteries unless they go through an official program (like the Transpacific one that Planet Ark uses), so long as they're packaged appropriately. SITA run a similar program; for more info, click here.

- Smashed ceramic cups: I did consider taking this to The Bower, a recycling centre near me that collects items for artists to use (ceramics make beautiful mosaics). However because it was so small and not worth the trip for one item, I simply broke the cup into smaller pieces and used it in place of drainage stones at the bottom of a pot plant. I've planted some spinach and rocket, which should grow well through winter.

- Broken old rice cooker & a broken hair straightener: These can be recycled through many e-waste recyclers and in some cases, at council-run e-waste recycling events, found here. My next one isn't for another month, so I'll have to hold onto them until then, so maybe I'll ask friends and family if they have any other things I can drop off for them in the meantime.

- Broken umbrella: We're making a shopping bag out of the material, as this video shows. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a way to recycle the metal, so we'll try to recycle it with the rice cooker, but sadly, it will probably just end up in landfill.

The kind folks at Planet Ark did a bit of research for G, and they told us that most recently, the most commonly searched items on their website are computers, clothing & textiles, batteries and then phones. You might like to have a look at their graph by flicking through the gallery on the right hand side.

There's more options than it might seem at first, so just think twice, and remember to jump on the internet to check out your options before chucking difficult to recycle objects in the bin.