All sorts of products can have a second life.
Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week runs from 9 to 15 November. Now in its 14th year, the event aims to improve our recycling habits and cut our waste.
“People are really familiar with recycling the cans and cartons they use at home,” says campaign director Brad Gray. “But it gets more complicated with things that can’t go in the kerbside collection.
This week, to help you discard those trickier items, there will be special recycling collection points set up at Melbourne Central, Highpoint, Dandenong Plaza and Chirnside Park.
You’ll be able to drop off old batteries, printer cartridges, corks and compact fluorescent globes (which contain mercury and should not be put in the bin). You can even recycle your old eyeglasses. “They get cleaned and graded and then donated to communities around the world where people can’t afford to buy them,” Mr Gray says.
For this year’s recycling week, Planet Ark is also promoting swap parties, where people can exchange their unwanted treasure for free. There are 10 Victorian councils holding Big Aussie Swaps – check the website to see if your council is involved. If not, Mr Gray suggests staging your own with your friends and neighbours. “We’re encouraging people to re-use before they get to the recycling stage – it has an even better environmental benefit.”
He argues that it’s more important than ever before to get the most from our resources. “It takes thousands of litres of water to make a cotton dress or print a book and that’s water we can’t afford to waste. Swapping is a simple and fun way to save valuable resources.
According to deputy CEO of Sustainability Victoria, Jan Trewhella, a new kind of waste has begun to crowd our tips in recent years – high-tech gadgets such as computers, printers, mobile phones and DVD players. “Electronic waste is growing at about four times the rate of normal household waste,” she says. “And with the change to digital technology we’ll see lots more TVs entering the waste stream.”
Many of these gizmos contain lead, mercury and other hazardous materials. If they’re not discarded carefully, they can end up contaminating our soil, ground water or waterways.
But e-waste also contains precious metals such as gold, copper and silver, as well as plastic, glass and other materials that can be extracted through recycling. “We can reclaim these resources rather than losing them to landfill,” Ms Trewhella says.
Together with industry partners, Sustainability Victoria runs Byteback, a free disposal and recycling service for worn-out computer equipment. You can drop off up to ten items at a time, including PCs, printers, speakers, cords and other peripherals. There are collection stations in Melbourne and beyond, including Ballarat and Geelong. A nationwide e-waste collection scheme is slated to begin by 2011.
The government agency also recently launched Batteryback, a similar scheme that gathers spent single-use and rechargeable batteries. Collection points (only in Melbourne) are listed on the Resource Smart website.
Mobile phones and old printer cartridges are two other commonly thrown-out products that can be easily recycled. They can be dropped off through any Australia Post office.
For more information, visit Planet Ark’s comprehensive website, Recycling Near You. It lists instructions and links for almost any product, from car tyres to X-ray films, and can be searched by item and council area.