There are a raft of recyclable items that can’t go in the kerbside yellow recycling bin. But it doesn’t mean they have to go to landfill.
Homewares store Sheridan Australia accepts quilt covers, sheets and towels via in-store recycling bins and H&M does the same with clothes.
Cloud Nine runs a program allowing users to send used hair dryers and styling tools to them for free and Officeworks stores accept batteries, pens and e-waste.
There are also recycling solutions available for household items such as toothbrushes, coffee pods and contact lens packets. These items can’t go in the yellow recycling bin but can be recycled if done properly.
The problem is, who has time to drop their waste off at multiple stores and facilities across the country? It’s something Lottie Dalziel, NSW Young Australian of the Year, was keen to address with her community recycling program BRAD.
She knew there were recycling schemes for things like medical blister packs but each month she ended up putting this stuff in landfill because the local council wouldn’t take it.
“Blister packs weigh 4g but you need a tonne of them to be useful for recycling,” she said. “I decided to offer a collection point to gather enough of small things like bottle lids and bread tags so they could be recycled together.”
Unlike other schemes, which often focus on one item, Ms Dalziel set up BRAD to accept a range of items, including toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes, mascara, lip balm tubes, contact lens packaging, plastic razors and blades and even pumps and sprays from cleaning products.
“I wanted to make it easy for people to pop everything they’d collected in one shoebox and send it to me,” she said.
But what started in November 2020 as a small project in her kitchen quickly snowballed into a huge program which has now rescued 14 tonnes of waste from all around Australia and saved approximately 170,000 pieces of plastic from landfill.
For $15 (to cover postage and the cost of recycling), people get a postage label. They can then pop their collected items in the mail.
“We have a warehouse and an amazing team of volunteers who come and sort the waste and then send it off to the various places that recycle the items,” Ms Dalziel said. “Thirteen thousand households nationally have sent us their boxes filled with things to recycle. There’s a huge demand but I want producers of this waste – hospitals and manufacturers – to start thinking more about disposal because at the moment there is no thought to that.”
Taking steps to recycling
Another disposal solution that’s new to Australia is countrywide shoe recycling.
A scheme run by TreadLightly has seen all the big brands like Nike, Adidas and ASICS join sports retailers to take back and recycle the footwear they sell, even when it’s old and stinky. All consumers have to do is put their shoes in one of the 800 in-store bins around Australia.
“We have bins in shoe shops all over the country. Everyone has the opportunity to recycle their shoes for free,” said Shaun Bajada executive director of TreadLightly and ASGA, which is the official body for the sporting goods industry.
“In our pilot program in Victoria, we collected 100,000 pairs of shoes through 100 stores and now it’s national we’ve gone from collecting to 100kg a month to 15,000kg.”
Over the life of the program, TreadLightly and its recycling partner Save Our Soles have saved 450,000kg of shoes from landfill and now it’s busy turning our old footwear into something more palatable.
“The shoes get shredded and the components are separated. We aim to recycle 100 per cent of the shoe and Save Our Soles is constantly researching new ways to use the recycled crumb,” Mr Bajada said. Currently it makes shop flooring and underlay for sporting surfaces and playgrounds.
Its other challenge is educating people about the new bins.
“Earlier this year around 70 per cent of people were unaware you could recycle your shoes but that’s changing,” he said. “We have some of the best brands in the world promoting it and it’s great that they are all taking ownership.”
Emma Levett is a freelance journalist