How recycling this household item will earn you extra cash

Nadine Carroll
·4-min read

Daily medication, vitamins, and chewing gum are just some of the items that are often sold in blister packs leaving users baffled how to dispose of empty packets responsibly.

While the cardboard packaging capsules often come in can be placed in your standard council recycling bin, blister packs cannot and some consumers are left with mountains of empty blisters packs and no idea how to recycle them.

Blister packs are usually made from a mixture of plastic and foil, and fall into the ‘rigid plastic’ category which means they can’t be recycled the same way as softer plastics and because of their small size, they often fall through the cracks of standard recycling streams.

pills in blister packs
How to recycle medical blister packs has been a mystery until now. Source: Getty

Solving such dilemmas and how to reduce Australia’s approximate 2.7 tonnes of waste a year is what drives Lottie Dalziel, founder of eco site Banish.

Australia ranks fifth highest in generating the most municipal waste in the world, Ms Dalziel said. In 2018 she made a New Year’s resolution to reduce the amount of waste she was producing, but found credible information hard to come by.

During her research she realised there were lots of other Aussies with the same problem, so she launched Banish, a website designed to give Australians information and tools they need to reduce their waste and environmental footprint.

Hard-to-recycle products

One of the initiatives on Banish is their recycling and disposable program launched in November, 2020, with Terracycle. It offers an end-to-end solution for some of those hard-to-recycle household items including shampoo bottles, toothpaste tubes, plastic razors and blister packs.

“Blister packs are difficult to recycle as they are made from two different materials plastic and aluminum foil. Banish works in partnership with Terracycle's Zero Waste Boxes to help all Australians recycle their blister packs,” Ms Dalziel told Yahoo News Australia.

The website has a detailed list of items that can be recycled with Banish and breaks down the best way to prepare items to send them in.

three council rubbish bins waiting to be picked up
Council recycling bins don't allow medical blister packs to be placed in recycling bins. Source: Getty

Rewards for recycling

A Perth woman recently discovered the program and was delighted to have a way to recycle the shoebox full of blister packs she had been wondering what to do with.

“I’ve been collecting these blister packs for ages instead of chucking them into landfill, not really knowing what to do with them until now,” the woman wrote on Facebook, sharing her find in a local community group.

In return for a full shoebox or satchel worth of recyclables, Banish rewards recyclers with a $15 voucher to spend in their online store (limit one per household, per month).

Ms Dalziel encourages recyclers to reuse packaging or cardboard boxes to send in their items to Banish to keep the amount of waste to a minimum.

A Facebook post by a woman who found a way to recycle blister packs
One woman from Perth was excited to share that she found a way to recycle blister packs and get paid to do it. Source: Facebook

The Banish online store only stocks items that adhere to their strict guidelines including being fair trade, paraben-free and are not tested on animals. All the orders are also shipped with no plastic packaging, bubble wrap or sticky tape either.

People in the group were more than happy to jump on board to get rid of blister packs responsibly and also go shopping.

“Finally some great news, I collected a lot but ended up giving in before I found this out,” a user on Facebook responded.

How TerraCycle recycle items

The recycled products make their way to TerraCycle who weigh, sort and clean the items before preparing them to be processed.

Organic matter is composted, metals are smelted into new products, plastic materials are shredded into small pieces and converted into pellets and other raw formats that manufacturers use in new products.

Blister packs are sent offshore as Ms Dalziel explains Australia doesn’t have any facilities to handle them. The packs are then separated into plastic and aluminium, shredded into tiny pieces and remade into plastic and aluminium.

Banish estimate only nine per cent of the plastic that has ever been made has been recycled and they hope to increase that with their recycling program.

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