What to do with all kinds of waste

·3-min read

How to properly recycle waste and what it's used for:

BEVERAGE AND FOOD CONTAINERS:

Planet Ark says Australians understand that cans, plastic and glass bottles, jars, paper and cardboard belong in household recycling bins.

But what about hybrid packaging that's a bit of this and a bit of that? The best thing is check the packaging for the Australasian Recycling Label. It shows which bit goes in which bin.

Not all products carry the label but there are other options.

Try the Recycle Mate app, developed by the Australian Council of Recycling with some federal government funding. From a photo of a product, the app can tell what it is and what to do with it.

Otherwise ask the local council, as recycling rules can very from region to region.

SOFT PLASTICS:

Australians use about 70 billion pieces of soft, scrunchable plastics, such as food wrappers, each year. Given the volume, it's imperative they are recycled but most people don't bother.

These kinds of plastic can't go into household recycling bins because they jam automatic sorting machines.

But saving them from landfill is easy. Just return them to the grocery store and deposit them in the provided REDcycling bins.

Recycled soft plastics are used for a range of new products, including outdoor furniture, bollards, signs, garden edging, decking and fence posts.

BATTERIES:

Batteries should never go in a recycling or general waste bin.

They often cause fires in all sorts of settings, including garbage trucks and landfill sites.

They should be recycled because they contain toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and lead that can contaminate soil and water.

Some retailers, such as Officeworks, offer collection services and recyclers such as Envirostream break them down, harvesting steel, cooper and aluminium for return to the manufacturing sector.

Active components like cobalt, nickel and lithium are used to make a mixed metal dust which is used to help make new batteries.

PRINTER CARTRIDGES:

Another no-no for household recycling bins but they can be recycled.

Major retailers including JB HiFi, Australia Post, Officeworks, Hervey Norman accept them.

They are used to make a range of new products. Left over ink is harvested and used to make artists' ink. Toner is used in TonerPlas, an asphalt additive that is also made from plastic bags and glass bottles.

Cartridge casings are used in products from pens to furniture.

PAINT:

Paintback is a paint industry initiative that aims to keep paint and packaging out of landfill and waterways.

Tradies and households can return unwanted paint to authorised collection points.

The paint and the packaging are then separated. Containers are recycled where possible. Solvent paint is used as an alternative energy source. Water is separated from acrylic paint and the by-product is used in a variety of industrial applications.

MATTRESSES:

There are options to recycle saggy old mattresses depending on the location.

One operator of note is Soft Landing, which operates in NSW, Victoria, the ACT and Western Australia.

It harvests steel to send to Australian scrap metal recyclers and foam which goes to carpet-underlay manufacturers, to create jobs for people who've faced barriers to employment.

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