Eco-friendly Home Organisation

The A-Z recycling & re-purposing guide

With the recent Kon Mari craze and Spring cleaning well underway, charity stores all across Australia are struggling to keep up with the number of donated items coming through their doors.

If you’ve recently done a big declutter, Mari Kondo style, or you just don’t know where to take that item to properly recycle or re-purpose it, read on.

Note: This article is focused on Australian locations and companies.

Click on any title below to go directly to that section.

A

Aerosol Cans | Aluminium Cans| Asbestos

B

Baby Clothes & Equipment | Batteries | Beverage Cartons | Books

C

Cars | Car Batteries| Chemical Drums | Clothing | Coffee Capsules & Cups | Contacts

D

DVD & CD Cases

E

Electronics Waste

F

Fruit & Veggie Scraps |Formal Wear | Furniture

G

Garden Cuttings | Gas Bottles | Glass Bottles and Jars | Glasses (eye glasses)

H

Hair products

L

Light Globes | Linen

M

Makeup | Mattresses | Medicines | Metal | Mobile Phones

N

Needles

O


Office Paper
| Oil

P

Paint | Paper, Cardboard & Phone books | Plastic bottles and Containers | Plastic bags & Soft plastics | Polystyrene | Printer Cartridges

S

School Uniforms | Shoes | Skincare products

T

Textbooks | Toothbrushes | Tyres

W

Wedding Dresses | White Goods | Writing implements

X

X-Rays


Aerosol Cans

Empty, intact aerosol cans can be safely recycled along with other metal packaging. If the aerosol can isn’t empty, it should be disposed of through your council’s hazardous waste program.

Aluminium Cans

Mostly used for drink cans in Australia, aluminium cans can be recycled via most kerbside and drop off recycling centres. Aluminium is 100% recyclable. Several states in Australia now have the container deposit scheme which means you get 10c back for every eligible can/bottle you recycle. It doesn’t sound like a lot but it can really add up!

Currently QLD, NSW, ACT, and NT run these refund schemes. TAS is introducing it in 2022 and WA is on track to start in June 2020. VIC has no current plan for a scheme, sorry guys.

Asbestos Disposal

Asbestos is a building material commonly found in many older properties across the country. Asbestos is classed as a hazardous material and can only be disposed of at certain locations in Australia. Find out where you can dispose of Asbestos here.


Baby clothes and equipment

When your little one grows out of their clothes or no longer uses equipment there are many places that you can donate items. Aside from selling them, giving to a second hand store or giving to another mum there are specialist organisations that will gladly take your donations.

Batteries

There are a wide range of battery types, many of which contain toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury and lead. Used rechargeable batteries are a hazardous waste and should not be placed in the garbage bin.

Aldi supermarkets offer a free battery recycling service at all their Australian stores. Any brand of AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries (both rechargeable and non-rechargeable) are accepted. Simply drop your used batteries into the dedicated bins in store.

For all other types, Battery World retail outlets will be able to take them off your hands.  

Beverage Containers

Just like Aluminium Cans, beverage containers such as juice and flavoured milk under 1L can be recycled through the container deposit scheme where you get 10c per eligible unit.

Books

Donate or sell any books that you no longer read. You can also recycle books that have been destroyed. Keep in mind that outdated books can still have a new life on AmazoneBay or Etsy.

If the book is still in good condition consider donating it to one of the below companies:

  • Your local Little Free Library
  • Street Library a collection of local libraries run by members of the community
  • Share-a-book providing new and quality pre-loved books to Indigenous, refugee and marginalised communities in need of resources.
  • Aboriginal Literacy Foundation donations of new and used children’s books, which are delivered to Indigenous communities throughout Australia
  • Adopt A Library encourages donations to libraries and schools in the US and around the world.
  • Biblionef sends children’s books to schools, orphanages etc. in developing countries.
  • Book Aid International provides new books to public libraries, schools, refugee camps, hospitals, prisons and universities around the world.
  • International Book Project collects, sorts and ships donated books to requests from around the world.

Cars and car parts

Vehicles that are no longer in operation can be very valuable for their second hand parts. Automotive repair businesses and car enthusiasts regularly visit car recycling yards to obtain functioning parts for vehicle repairs.

Auto Parts Recyclers Association of Australia Inc (APRAA) is a national, non-profit industry association that has sought to improve the recycling of cars, especially from an environmental standpoint. eWreckers is a website dedicated to the reuse and resale of old cars, car parts, machinery, power tools and home appliances. Donate A Car is an Australian-wide organisation that will sell your car (or boat or Picasso) at the local Pickles auction yard and then donate all the proceeds to the charity of your choice.

Car Batteries

Car batteries have the highest recycle rate among all batteries which is fantastic. Car Batteries can be recycled at most automative stores such as Supercheap Auto and Repco, car workshops/mechanics as well as Battery World.

Chemical Drums

Empty/Chemical drums usually require different handling methods to ordinary waste to ensure nuisance-free, safe and proper storage, transportation and disposal. drumMUSTER provides Australian agricultural and veterinary chemical users with a recycling pathway for eligible empty agvet chemical containers.

Clothing

If you’ve cleaned out your wardrobe recently you probably have a stack of old clothes to recycle/donate. If you don’t have the time to try selling them on Facebook Marketplace or Ebay then donating to a second hand store (Salvos, Red Cross, Vinnies, The Smith Family, Give Now) is a good option.

Clothing can also be recycled at  H&M or Zara  who each have garment collection programs for any clothing or textiles, which they reuse or recycle.
Other options are:

See ‘Baby clothing and equipment’ above for items for children

Coffee Capsules and cups

Nespresso stores nationally will recycle your coffee capsules. There is also the option to post your used capsules back to Nespresso using a special Australia Post satchel or do a bulk collection.

7/11 stores nationally have partnered with Simply Cups to allow you to recycle your coffee cup

Contacts

TerraCycle and Bausch + Lomb have partnered to create a free recycling programme for any brand of used contact lenses and blister packs.  Find drop off locations here (National) .


DVD & CD Cases

A couple of years ago I condensed my CDs and DVDs. I imported my CDs into what was then Itunes, and put my DVDs into fabric CD collection cases. This saved a lot of space! Once I finished I was left with over 250 CD and DVD cases. The good news? I recycled all of them. You can recycle CD and DVD cases in most council recycle bins.


Electronics Waste

Australia is one of the world’s top ten consumers of electronic goods, buying more than 4 million computers and 3 million televisions every year.
Our reliance on electronic devices is rapidly increasing, making e-waste one of the fastest growing contributors to our waste stream.

In 2011 the Australian Government introduced a national, industry funded, recycling scheme for televisions and computers. The scheme prevents millions of old TVs and computers from being sent to landfill by providing opportunities for the community to recycle their unwanted televisions and computers free of charge. Click here to find drop off points.

E-waste items that can be recycled include:

  • TVs including color and B&W televisions
  • Laptops, notebooks, palmtops and tablets
  • Personal computers
  • Central processing units for personal computers
  • Monitors and projectors, including cathode-ray tube and flat screen monitors
  • All printers
  • Keyboards
  • Joysticks and game pads
  • Mouses and trackballs
  • Scanners
  • Compact disc drives, including burners
  • Digital video disc drives, including burners
  • Hard drives
  • Memory cards, including network, sound, video, IDE, SCSI and similar
  • Motherboards
  • Electrical transformers and static converters
  • Web cameras

For tech items that still work, World Vision takes donations of working smart phones, tablets, solar technology, desktop computers, laptops and cameras.


Fruit and Veggie Scraps

It’s estimated a staggering 180 kg (per person, per year) of food waste sits in Aussie landfill. This waste produces 15.3 kg of methane gas – a toxic greenhouse gas with global warming potential 21 times that of carbon dioxide.

There are many more environmentally friendly ways that you can get rid of your food scraps including my favourite – composting. Since my household started composting we have limited our waste to only 1 medium garbage bag per week. If you don’t have the space for a compost bin, like we don’t, there are options for taking your food waste to an outside location.

  • Share Waste: Share Waste is an app that connect people with waste to people in their area with compost bins. You simply message a user and arrange to drop off your waste.
  • Council compost bins: I take my waste to a local council composting hub where they then get used on the gardens.
  • Community gardens: Many of the community garden hubs in neighbourhoods have compost bins. Have a look at your council website to see if you can find one near you. If you have a friend or neighbour who grows fruit & veg or gardens a lot, ask them if they have a compost bin.
  • Chickens: Chickens are a great animal to keep if you have the room. Chickens can eat all kinds of leftover scraps , to as well as crushed egg shells. Check out a guide on what scraps to feed them here.

There are many things that can go into your compost bin include: shredded paper and newspaper, cardboard, garden scraps, dead plants, leaves, fruit except citrus, vegetables except onions, egg shells, coffee grounds, sawdust and wood chippings, cotton and wool rags, teabags, manure from herbivores, grass clippings.

Formal Wear

There are many places which will accept donations of clean formal wear in good condition. They can then be given to women and girls who can’t afford to buy a brand new formal dress.

Aside from the usual second hand stores, companies include:

Furniture

There are often times when we move or renovate where we need to get rid of large furniture items.

One of the best options is to try selling them on Facebook Marketplace or donate them to a second hand store (Salvos, Red Cross, Vinnies, The Smith Family, Give Now). Many of these stores will even arrange to pick-up items from you.

Other options include:


Garden waste

Garden waste including leaves, grass clippings, branches, hay, flowers, sawdust, woodchips and bark can all be recycled.
See Fruit and Veggie scraps above.

Gas bottles

Pressurised gas bottles cannot be disposed of in garbage trucks or at landfills, as they present a danger when compacted. Therefore they must be collected separately. They can however be refilled many times in their life. SWAP’n’GO Gas Bottle Exchange any brand of BBQ gas bottle for a full one at any SWAP’n’GO BBQ gas bottle outlet. (National)

Glass Bottles and Jars

Just like aluminium cans, most glass drink containers can be recycled through your states container deposit scheme where you get 10c per eligible unit. Currently QLD, NSW, ACT, and NT run these refund schemes. TAS is introducing it in 2022 and WA is on track to start in June 2020. VIC has no current plan for a scheme, sorry guys.

Glass jars can be washed and used to store items such as food or even flowers. I use some for plant propagation.

Glasses (eye glasses)

Collected glasses are distributed worldwide to communities in need. In some of these communities an eye exam can cost a month’s wages, consequently poor eyesight often goes untreated, leading to further complications. Lions Recycle for Sight Australia collects glasses and you can find collection boxes at most optometrists across the country.


Hair products

See ‘makeup’.


Light Globes

The best way to dispose of the light globes depends upon their type. Fluorescent tubes, compact fluoros (CFLs), HIDs and metal halides all contain mercury and need to be recycled through council, commercial or community programs that safely separate the different elements. There is a specific globe recycling program with Mitre 10 in South Australia and programs in New South WalesVictoria and Tasmania that collect CFLs. 

Incandescent globes and halogens can be recycled through some of these programs. Ikea also accept regular light bulbs, low energy light bulbs (e.g. compact fluorescent)

Linen

Linen including sheets, towels etc can often find a second home if in good condition. Aside from the usual second hand stores below are some other options:

  • GivIt: This site will show you items that people or organisations have requested to be donated (National)
  • Friends with Dignity: create new home ‘sanctuaries’ for people affected by Domestic Violence. Furniture as well as appliances, clothing etc are always required (QLD)
  • Local animal shelters are always on the lookout for more towels
  • DV shelters are often in need. Contact your local police station to get in touch with a shelter near you
  • Old towels, clothes, bedding and other textiles are often appreciated by mechanics who can use them as rags
  • Project Africa takes donations of bedding and linen.

Makeup

We all have items of makeup that we no longer use or that has passed it’s expiry date, yes makeup does have expiry dates. Biome stores , partnered with Terracycle can take back makeup, hair products and skin care containers where it is melted down to be recycled into new containers.

All containers must be completely cleaned out. Biome cannot accept personal care and cosmetics packaging that haven’t been completely emptied, cut in half where possible, and cleaned out.

Accepted items include:
Cosmetics e.g. lipstick, lip gloss, mascara, eye shadow, bronzer, foundation, eyeliner, eye shadow, lip liner, and concealer packaging.

Hair care e.g. shampoo and conditioner bottles and caps, hair gel tubes, hair spray and hair treatment packaging.

Skin care e.g. lip balm, moisturiser, body wash, soap dispensers and tubes, body and hand lotion, tubes and shaving foam packaging.

recycle hair, skin, cosmetics at Biome

Other company specific recycling programs include:

Mattresses

A number of mattress recyclers operate in Australia who offer both collection and drop-off services. They divert waste mattresses from landfill and recover the components to recycle.

Options include:

Medicines

Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) project is a national scheme for out-of-date and unwanted medicines. The returned medicines are then disposed of safely. You can take your out-of-date and unwanted medicines to any pharmacy in Australia. All pharmacies are equipped to accept all medicines.

Metal

Scrap metals include a number of materials such as aluminium, brass, copper, stainless steel, cast iron, lead, zinc and nickel.

Recycling scrap metal contributes to a significant saving in greenhouse gas emissions. Making items from recycled aluminium uses just 5% of the energy as making the same item from raw materials. Scrap metal can be collected by companies like the Bingo Skip Bins or delivered to scrap metal dealers. 

Mobile Phones & accessories

MobileMuster recycles all mobile phone components, including all brands of handsets, along with their batteries, chargers and accessories. Free of charge.

You can recycle your mobile phones, batteries, chargers and accessories at any one of the 3,000 plus public drop off points including Nokia Care and Motorola Service One Centres; mobile phone retailers Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, 3 Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Crazy Johns, Fone Zone, Allphones as well as participating local councils, Cartridge World stores and selected ANZ and Sydney Credit Union branches.


Needles

Sharps must never be placed in kerbside recycling, garbage or garden organics bins. Recycling and garden organics are normally sorted by hand (and sometimes garbage is sorted this way too), and any sharps would pose an unacceptable risk for sorting staff. You should speak to your pharmacy about securing a sharps bin.


Office Paper

When paper is disposed of in landfill rather than recycled, it creates methane as it breaks down. Methane is a major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming with a life span 21 times longer than carbon dioxide.  Manufacturing recycled paper can use up to 90% less water and 50% less energy than making it from trees.

Most council kerbside recycling services collect paper for recycling. 

Oil- Cooking

Disposing of cooking oil incorrectly in drains and sinks can cause plumbing and environmental problems. Small amounts of cooking oil can be disposed of in garden composts. Household cooking oil can be stored in a sealable jar or wiped up with absorbent paper, to then be placed in your general waste bin.

Oil- Motor Oil

Used motor oil, or ‘sump oil’ as it is sometimes called, should not be thrown away as it can pollute water ways and soils. Although it gets dirty, used oil can still be cleaned and re-used.

Council facilities such as transfer stations, waste management centres or landfill sites accept used oil.


Paint

Paintback® is taking unwanted paint and packaging’s colourful past to a brighter future of responsible disposal and innovative reuse. Paintback®, established in 2016, is a world-first, industry-led initiative designed to divert unwanted paint and packaging from ending up in landfill and vital waterways.

The following list outlines all eligible products and products not accepted by Paintback:

Paper, Cardboard & Phone Books

Paper and cardboard are produced from tree fibres and represent a large part of the waste stream. Most cardboard is produced from recycled paper and it can be recycled many times over. There are opportunities to recycle cardboard and paper, both at home and at your workplace.

Phone books can be recycled through kerbside collections in most council areas around Australia. To cancel phone book deliveries please click here.

Plastic Bottles and Containers

Plastic drink bottles can be recycled through the container deposit scheme where you get 10c per eligible unit. Other plastic bottles and containers can be recycled in your kerbside recycling. Currently QLD, NSW, ACT, and NT run these refund schemes. TAS is introducing it in 2022 and WA is on track to start in June 2020. VIC has no current plan for a scheme, sorry guys.

Plastic bags & Soft plastics

Plastic bags can cause big problems when placed in your kerbside recycling bin. Most supermarkets accept plastic shopping bags for recycling, look for the plastic bag recycling collection bin at the front of the store. Torn or damaged reusable ‘green bags’ that can no longer be reused can also be placed in these collection bins.

Many Soft Plastics (including plastic bags), can now be recycled at selected supermarkets through a scheme run by the REDcycle program. These soft plastics include pasta and rice bags, lolly and biscuit packets, fresh fruit and veggie bags, frozen food bags, magazine and newspaper wrapping, and clean plastic wrap/film.
Examples of what is accepted are:

Polystyrene

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) or Styrofoam as it’s more commonly known, is a lightweight, rigid cellular plastic that is used widely as a packaging medium. Its shock absorbing characteristics lend it to uses such as the storage and transport of fragile and expensive items such as electronic equipment, chemicals and wines. There are selected locations that recycle EPS. See here for more information.

Printer cartridges

You can drop off your used or empty laser and inkjet cartridges at all Officeworks stores and participating Australia Post, Harvey Norman, The Good Guys, JB Hi-Fi, Office National and Office Products Depot outlets. Inkjet cartridges, toner cartridges and toner bottles are accepted. This includes cartridges used in printers, photocopiers and fax machines.

(Please note, some boxes may not be visible or on display due to limited store floor space, in these cases please ask the staff at the counter and hand cartridge directly to them.)


School uniforms

Many schools will have programs that help with second hand uniforms. IF they’re in good condition they can also be sold. If you have uniforms your child has outgrown contact the school to see if they want them for spares for the first aid rooms, spares for accidents or even for disadvantaged children.

Another option is an online platform like The Uniform Exchange or Old School Trading.

Project Africa takes donations of many items from schools such as – working computers, photocopiers, all I.T. equipment, disused desks, chairs, text books, library books, manual arts tools, sport equipment, pencils, pens, exercise books, paper, uniforms etc.

Shoes

There are many organisation who take donations of shoes.

Skincare products

See ‘makeup’.

Sporting goods

Fair Game collects pre-loved sports equipment and distributes it in response to specific requests from under-serviced communities.

Boots for all takes donations of the below items:

  • sports balls
  • sports bags
  • cricket bats, pads, gloves, helmets
  • softball & baseball bats & gloves
  • shin guards
  • team uniforms
  • active wear
  • general sportswear
  • general fitness equipment

Textbooks

Unused text books can be sold on many platforms such as StudentVIP, IloveBooks (VIC), Facebook Marketplace etc.

You can also ask your university if there is the option to donate them to the book stores on campus or if there is anyone that can’t afford the books.

  • Project Africa takes donations of textbooks and library books.
  • World Vision takes donations of school supplies including textbooks, story books, classroom supplies, educational toys, backpacks, crayons, stationery, calculators and lab equipment.
  • University of Newcastle will accept donations to its library.

Toothbrushes

TerraCycle and Colgate® have partnered to create a free recycling program for oral care product packaging . Below you’ll find which items can be recycled. Electronic toothbrush handles and bases are not recyclable through this program and instead should be collected and shipped separately through the Electric Toothbrush Recycling Program, which has specific shipping requirements.

You can also drop off these items to Biome stores to be recycled.

Tyres

Each year in Australia, the equivalent of 48 million tyres reach the end of their life, only 16% of these are domestically recycled. Around two thirds of used tyres in Australia end up in landfill, are stockpiled, illegally dumped or have an unknown fate.

This represents both a waste of resources and creates health and environmental issues. Each passenger car tyre contains approximately 1.5kg of steel, 0.5kg of textiles and 7 kg of rubber.

Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) and a voluntary industry funded tyre product stewardship scheme.


Wedding Dresses

After the big day if you don’t want to keep your wedding dress there are several options, either selling or even donating to be upcycled.

White Goods

Whitegoods are large domestic appliances used for routine chores. Generally speaking they aren’t easily transportable, which separates them from appliances like toasters and mixers. Examples of a common whitegood include a fridge, freezer, microwave oven, stove, dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer and air conditioner.

If it’s not possible to re-sell the appliance, it will generally be accepted at a council refuse centre. 

  • 1800 E-Waste can recycle but they do charge per item of electronic waste and pricing varies depending on the item.
  • Scrappy’s is a recycling service operating in VIC.

Writing implements

Terracycle and Bic have joined forces to bring out the writing implements recycling program. All writing instruments (except for wooden pencils, crayons and chalk) are accepted. Any brand of pen, felt tip, highlighter, marker, correction fluid pot (must be empty), correction tape, mechanical pencil and eraser pen regardless of their composition.


X-Rays

X-ray films contain silver in the form of halides, which can be extracted and converted into pure silver, this means they shouldn’t just be thrown in the bin. There are a few companies who will take your old xrays and recycle them.

  • SILTECH– Licenced by the EPA and have 5 recycling centres in 5 states. 03 9357 9540  (National service)
  • CMA ECOCYCLE AUSTRALIA– 1300 32 62 92 (National service)

The above organisations will accept all x-ray film that can be posted directly to them or dropped off at one of their drop-off locations.


Do you have any other items to add that you have found good uses for?
Wondering where to recycle something?
Comment below and I’ll do my best to help.

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