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Everyday recycling - for all it's worth!

Everyday recycling



Nature knows no waste - each and every material in it is constantly recycled for a new purpose. Yet, in our modern world we have started drowning in 'waste'.

Luckily, recycling initiatives are springing up all over the place, whose aim is to replicate the natural way of things - eg. to take materials considered to be 'waste' and give them value again. Believe it or not, EVERY material thing that passes through our hands and our lives can have further value after we are finished with it. It just depends on if we are clever enough, and have the resources and technology to capture that value.


9 everyday items we can recycle? 


What type of things do we all use in our homes and workplaces, that we can recycle and give value to again? There's heaps - some are obvious and you will know about; others might provide you with some new inspiration!

1. Paper and cardboard.

Used paper fibre can be recycled into new paper, toilet paper, stationery, napkins and boxes - basically any paper product, several times. The fibres do get a little more broken each time they are recycled; reducing the quality of the paper they can produce. Paper such as Ecocern make is high quality, beautiful and very environmentally friendly - test it out for yourself.

Ecocern recycled fibre paper

2. Hard plastic.

In our council area (Nillumbik, VIC), we are allowed to put all hard plastics into our recycle bin. The MRF (Materials Recovery Facility, or Recycling Centre) has awesome machinery that can sort hard plastics by type, so that they can be turned into pellets, re-melted and formed into new plastic products like Full Circle cleaning brushes, Onya produce bags, and chairs. (If you live around us, we highly recommend taking a tour of the Rethink MRF - it is very interesting and informative!)

Onya shopping bag

3. Aluminium.

Did you know that making a product from recycled aluminium requires only 5% of the energy that was originally required to mine the source material? Recycled aluminium can be made into new products such as more drink cans (of course), and aluminium foil. Aluminium is an extremely valuable material and the more of it we can recycle the better - so hang on to those drink cans and recycle them properly!

Recycled aluminium foil

4. Steel.

Steel can be melted down and recycled into new steel products. In our council area, we can take any type of metal items to our local recycling and recovery centre for FREE and they will be recycled. This includes thinks like old steel guttering, chair legs, old chicken wire, gates, metal frames. If your local council does not offer this, take old metal to a scrap metal merchant for free disposal.

5. Food scraps and animal waste.

We might not think of either of these as valuable waste, but they can be! Not only can composting your food scraps and animal waste convert them into valuable nutrient-rich compost, but it avoids all the methane produced by organic wastes that end up in landfill. Methane is a green-house gas that is much more potent that CO2. Composting at home is easy with a little help from a Bokashi bin and a Fresh air kitchen scraps collector, and animal waste can be easily turned back into earth with an Ensopet pet waste kit.

Ensopet pet waste composting

6. Mobile phones.

Lots of electronics shops have mobile phone recycling bins; to find your closest one check the Mobile Muster website. Even better - go one step further and organise for your workplace or organisation to have it's OWN Mobile Muster mobile phone recycling's so simple and completely FREE. Just contact them and organise to have a bin sent to your workplace/school/kindy/community centre - collection of full boxes is free.

7. Printer cartridges.

Just like mobile phones, it is incredibly easy and FREE to have a printer cartridge recycle bin at your workplace or organisation - so if there is none near you, do your community a service and organise one. Collections of full boxes are free. Planet Ark are the ones who provide printer cartridge recycling boxes, and what they do with them is even more exciting than offering you free boxes to collect them. They make brand new Enviroliner felt tip pens from the cartridges - the plastic outer becomes the shell of the pen, and the left over ink becomes the pen ink. Love it!


8. Batteries

Definitely worth keeping out of landfill, many councils also offer battery recycle bins so that the valuable and toxic components can be reclaimed and used again.


9. Soft plastic

Many people are not aware that it is now possible to have soft plastic recycled. The RED Recycle group has a program where they collect all types of soft plastic (bread bags, biscuit packets, frozen food bags, rice and pasta bags, confectionery packets, plastic shopping bags and old reusable bags) and recycle them into outdoor signage and furniture. There are collection bins in selected Coles and Woolworths stores - and some Shires (including Nillumbik Shire in VIC) now take soft plastic in their recycle bins (just put it all into a bag, tie the bag and put it in with your recycling. If your Shire does not yet accept soft plastic for recycling, go to RED's drop off point locator to find your closest RED Recycle collection bin.

RED Recycle soft plastic recycling


We hope we have inspired you to recycle for all it's worth and help create value where there was thought to be none! What ideas do you have for everyday items to recycle into something new and valuable? Let us know, we would love to hear. 


First published June 2015 by Lucinda Flynn, updated July 2017 

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