When it comes to household items it’s always best to reduce, reuse and recycle, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Some items can’t go in our regular recycling systems, and others need more specialised disposal methods, and it can be mighty confusing figuring it all out! Today I wanted to share a little guide on how to dispose of household items like these, so hopefully you find it helpful!
Incandescent bulbs can’t be recycled, so they unfortunately need to go in the general waste bin. Fluorescent lights and compact fluoros are recyclable but as they contain mercury they can’t go straight into your recycling bin at home. Instead, they need to be dropped off at a recycling centre, and you can find your closest centre through the Recycling Near You website (Australia wide)
Polystyrene is unfortunately non-degradable and has a nasty habit of spreading itself out over vast distances, so it’s really best to avoid it wherever possible. If you do end up with polystyrene it does just need to be disposed of in your general waste bin, however if you have large amounts then there are some collection points in capital cities that will take it off your hands, so again, consult the Recycling Near You website!
Batteries definitely shouldn’t be thrown out with your general waste as the chemicals contained in them (zinc, mercury and cadmium, to name a few) can leach into the ground and water tables, causing contamination problems. It’s best to collect them up at home and then take them to a collection bin which you will find at ALDI supermarkets, as well as most Bunnings, Officeworks and Coles. Your local Council may have a drop-off location as well, so check their website (and if they don’t, you could always ask them to start one!).
The best way to determine whether an aerosol can is recyclable is to attempt to stick a magnet to the side, if it sticks it can go straight in your recycling bin (with the lid off). If not, they can generally be recycled through your Council’s drop-off service, or hazardous waste service.
Avoid putting any expired medicine in the bin or down the sink as the chemicals can cause contamination of the soil and waterways and have huge impact on aquatic life. Luckily there is a Federally funded program that allows us to drop off any unwanted or expired medication to any pharmacy in Australia, where they are disposed of properly.
Computers & TVs
Older style TVs and computer monitors contain chemicals like mercury and lead so they can’t be easily disposed of, however some parts are recyclable. The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme was set up to deal with this problem and requires all industries that sell these products to also take responsibility for their disposal. Often this can be arranged when you purchase a new computer or TV, but otherwise you can find someone to take them off your hands here.
Other electronic waste like printers, CDs, DVDs, electronic appliances and the like that you no longer need (and can’t donate) can be recycled by making use of your Councils e-waste service. This varies across Council areas – where I live there is a 24 hour drop off site, whereas some Councils run specific e-waste drop-off days across the year. So check your local Council website for more info!
Printer cartridges include valuable resources that can be recycled into new products quite easily, so they should definitely be recycled! This is another example of one that needs to be dropped off at a specialised location though, so the Planet Ark Recycling Near You website is once again your friend here (it’s a seriously helpful website!).
Old mobile phones are full of useful components like copper, gold, lithium and cobalt so recycling them rather than let them pile up in a drawer somewhere is definitely an excellent idea. Mobile Muster is the not-for-profit to give them to, and they have collection points in various locations including some Council buildings, the zoo, Australia Post centres, Officeworks, Salvation Army Stores and many other spots. You can find the closest drop-off point to you on their website, or even download a free postal label and send them in yourself!
Paint and paint thinner are full of chemicals so shouldn’t go in your normal waste and definitely shouldn’t go down the sink! In Victoria there is a program called Detox Your Home which collects paint in different municipalities across the year, otherwise there are lots of other hazardous waste collection services available across the country. Your Council and Planet Ark are your go-to resources here as well! If you’re in Victoria there are some permanent paint drop off locations, and you can find those on the Sustainability Victoria website.
Garden Chemicals, Car Oil & Varnishes
Much like paint, garden chemicals, oils and varnishes should never go down your sink and need to be collected as part of a hazardous waste service so they can be properly disposed of. For Victorians, the schedule of upcoming mobile Detox Your Home locations to dispose of your household chemicals can be found right here.