6 things you didn't know you could recycle

6 things you didn't know you could recycle

By Lucy Jones  December 17th, 2021

Get ready to step your recycling game up in 2022.


You might think you know everything there is to know about recycling. You separate your paper, cardboard, glass and plastics, follow the Australasian Recycling Label to the letter and collect your soft plastics for store drop-off each month. Go you!  

But there’s always more to learn in the weird and wonderful world of recycling. We’ve pulled together a list of rare recyclables that will surprise even the most vigilant waste warriors among you. So strap in, read on and get ready to step your recycling game up with these expert tips from the team behind your favourite search engine — Recycling Near You.  

1. Reading glasses 

Attention fellow four eyes: it’s time to empty out that drawer full of glasses with outdated prescriptions. We know it’s hard to part with those Paris Hilton-inspired oversized purple sunnies you thought would be timeless, but the fact that your old specs will be going to a great cause should ease your mind.   

Prescription glasses can be recycled through most Lions Clubs around the country as long as the lenses are in good condition. The good folks at Lions Clubs redistribute glasses to communities in need all around the world through a program called Lions Recycle for Sight Australia. Donated eye or sunglasses can make a huge difference to someone living in difficult circumstances who can’t afford to purchase new prescription glasses.   

Some optometrists will also take back old frames for reuse. Before donating your specs, ensure that they are in good working condition without scratches or damage. Head to the Glasses page on Recycling Near You for information on participating optometrists.  

2. Headphones 

So your headphones finally gave out on you after countless hours spent blaring Celine Dion directly into your brain? Well, just like the song, your broken headphones could go on, and on and on if you ensure they are recycled correctly. Headphones are a form of electronic waste and should never be thrown in your red bin because they contain components that are damaging to the environment and valuable stuff that can be recovered for reuse.    

The first option for headphone recycling is returning them to their manufacturer as many companies offer take-back schemes for their own products. If you have broken AirPods, for example, you can return them to an Apple store and they will take care of the recycling bit for you.   

You can also take your headphones directly to an e-waste recycler or an organisation that recycles, refurbishes or reuses electrical appliances and accessories. To find one close by, jump onto the Electrical Appliances page on Recycling Near You and punch your postcode into the search bar.  

3. Medicine blister packs  

Ever stared at a Panadol blister pack wondering what the heck to do with the mixed plastic and aluminium packaging while waiting for the painkiller to kick in? Firstly, same. Secondly, we have some good news for you: this packaging is in fact recyclable! Just not through your council’s kerbside recycling service.  

If you live in New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland you may be able to recycle blister packs through your local Chemists’ Own pharmacy. TerraCycle and Chemists’ Own have partnered to trial a free recycling program for all over-the-counter blister packs at select store locations. You can view the full list of participating stores here.  

Fun fact: out-of-date or unwanted medicines cannot be recycled or reused for obvious reasons. However, they can (and should!) be dropped off at your local pharmacy so that they can be disposed of safely. Visit the Medicines page on Recycling Near you to find your closest drop-off location.  

4. Paint 

So you went and bought a bunch of paint for that summer holiday DIY project and unleashed your creativity on an unsuspecting wall or two. Now you have a stunning mural to admire daily and a not-so-stunning pile of half-empty paint tins in the shed. Instead of letting those tins sit in the shed for 20 years, you can dispose of them for free easily and responsibly through Paintback.   

Paintback is a not-for-profit established by the Aussie paint industry to manage this tricky and potentially hazardous form of waste. Paint contains chemicals such as solvents and metals that can contaminate groundwater and attract hefty disposal fees. Paintback negates this with a free national recycling program paint and its packaging. Visit Recycling Near You to find your nearest drop-off location.  

5. Used cooking oil   

We love a good quality olive oil as much as the next guy. What we do not love is people pouring this liquid gold down the sink. And your pipes won’t love it either. Oil is one of the main causes of clogged pipes and, according to a Google search we wish we’d never done, can lead to fat build ups that cause sewage to overflow. No bueno.  

On a much more bueno note, used cooking oil can be collected and recycled into a range of products including bio-fuel and detergents.   

You’ve probably seen trucks picking up and dropping off oil from businesses in your local area. Let’s all take a moment to give thanks to these legends for keeping the nation’s hot chip shops running. For more on that, visit Business Recycling.   

But did you know that your local waste transfer station or landfill will also accept used household cooking oil? Simply pour used oil back into a container, search for your nearest facility on Recycling Near You, drop off your old oil and sleep soundly in the knowledge that your pipes are clear of fat and poo!  

6. Mattresses  

Do not be *that guy* (no offence guys but it’s usually you) who dumps their old mattress on the side of the road. You’re officially entering adulthood by upgrading to that comfy memory foam mattress and saying goodbye to old springy, and for that, we take our hats off to you sir. But when your Hinge date finds out you just left your old bed on the street to rot, she’ll be out of there faster than you can say flax linen sheets.   

A massive 1.6 to 1.8 million mattresses are sent to landfill in Australia every year, where they take up just under one cubic metre of space each. This big waste problem is made even bigger when you consider that most mattress components can be recovered and turned into new products.  

Visit the Mattresses page on Recycling Near You to access local collection and drop-off services. Most of these will require a small fee, but it's more than worth it for the benefits to the environment and your love life. Your old bed will be collected, broken down into its wood, foam and metal components and recycled. Roof sheeting, mulch and carpet are just a few of the products that can be produced from old mattress parts. 

We hope you learned something from this list and remember, when in doubt, head to Recycling Near You to unlock the next level of recycling knowledge.  


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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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