What Can I Recycle? An Inspirational List

When I first investigated going green, I truly believed I knew it all. Boy, was I wrong. Since the last time I’d investigated recycling back in the nineties (I know, I know), there’d been a transformation in the services available. There are now hundreds of social enterprises, and government and private programs, recycling everything from tin foil to computer keyboards.

There are also programs that collect and dispose of toxic items in the most environmentally responsible way possible.

You’d never know this if you relied on the mainstream media alone. Sadly, they aren’t that interested in recycling. A lot of interesting developments are going on behind the scenes, but unless you search them out on the internet, you probably won’t hear about them.

Even local councils, who offer many recycling services, don’t always do a great job of promoting them.

The following is a list of items that are recyclable in my local area, Malvern, in Melbourne, Victoria. It’s mainly meant as inspiration for you to seek out services in your area, because recycling services tend to be localised, often at the local government level. However, a few of the services listed here are Melbourne or Victoria-wide.

A great place to start if you’re in Australia and want to search out recycling services in your area is the Recycling Near You website.

Of course, these kinds of recycling services are no substitute for government action. As well as doing our bit, let’s tell our MPs that the excessive packaging and over-reliance on plastic has to stop, and that recycling toxic items like batteries must be mandatory (as it is in Europe).

Recycling is better than throwing out, but in the case of plastic especially, it’s equally important to try to use less in the first place, and there are some tips for doing that here.

The list below isn’t exhaustive. This website provides information on items that can and can't be recycled throughout the UK, and it runs the gamut from spectacles to eggshells. Also, I haven't included paper and cardboard because unless you've been living on Mars you will know about these.


My local council, Stonnington, runs a battery recycling service. Malvern Library has a box on the loans counter where you can deposit batteries for recycling.

Another option is Batteryback™, a free service run by the Victorian Government that recycles old and used household batteries. The batteries can be dropped off at some Bunnings, Coles, Michaels Camera and Officeworks stores. The list of stores can be found here.

The list of batteries they recycle is impressive, and includes batteries for:
  • mobile phones 
  • video cameras 
  • digital cameras 
  • hearing aids 
  • cordless phones 
  • portable electric shavers 
  • cordless power tools 
  • laptop computers 
  • palm pilots 
  • remote controlled toys 
  • portable video games 
  • portable disc players. 
Recently ALDI supermarkets teamed up with Planet Ark to offer a free battery recycling service in every store. There is a dedicated recycling bin located at the front of every ALDI store where you can drop used AA, AAA, C, D or 9V batteries, both rechargeable and non-rechargeable.

Hard plastic

Local councils differ in the extent to which they allow you to put plastic in the recycling bin. I’m lucky in that my local council recycles plastic, but I had no idea the kinds of hard plastic I could throw in my recycling bin. I knew I could recycle yoghurt containers, but apart from that I was pretty ignorant. In fact, I can put in my recycling bin:
  • pen cases and lids (not the ink tube) 
  • takeaway containers 
  • plastic bottles for household items – eg, cooking oil, shampoo, vinegar – including the lids 
  • bits of hard plastic that often come with groceries, eg the plastic clipper used to secure plastic bags on bread. 
It’s important to wash thoroughly any plastics that have held food, shampoo etc. before you throw them in the bin.

If your local council doesn't enable plastic curbside recycling, pressure them to provide it!

Floppy disks

I managed to find somewhere in Melbourne that would recycle my obsolete pile of floppy disks! I had to search around a bit, and as the group I found were a volunteer outfit I happily gave them a donation of five dollars. They are Computerbank, based in Victoria Street, West Melbourne, a not-for-profit group that refurbishes donated computers for low-income people, students and community groups. If you have a laptop you’re ready to let go of, speak to them first.

Plastic bags

Most of us know that supermarkets recycle plastic bags but this is still worth a mention. My local Coles and Woolworths have bins in which you can place plastic bags for recycling. You can recycle supermarket plastic bags and the heavier store bags, packaging film (eg plastic packaging for paper towels, toilet paper and junk mail), as well as drycleaning plastic. However, cling wrap, compostable bags and prepackaged food bags, including frozen food bags and prewashed salad bags, normally can’t be included. Remember to ensure the bags are clean before you put them in.

If you like to shop at supermarkets other than Coles and Woolworths, individual IGA stores seem to do their own thing when it comes to recycling, so you may need to contact your local store to see what they offer; my nearest store, Ashburton, doesn’t provide the option of recycling plastic bags.

(While ALDI doesn’t appear to offer plastic bag recycling, it’s only fair to mention that they are the only supermarket not providing free, single-use plastic bags to customers.)

Food markets may also have their own sustainable plastic bags policies. Victoria Market, for instance, is phasing out free, single-use plastic bags. Alternatives include biodegradable bags, ‘green bags’ designed for multiple use and paper bags.

Computers, televisions, printers and computer parts 

When it comes to e-waste, there are a number of options available to me.

My local council offers its residents free recycling of whitegoods, TVs PCs etc, if dropped off at the waste transfer station (or ‘tip’ as we used to call it!).

Borondoora Council, a few suburbs away from me, runs a free e-waste recycling service at its Riversdale Recycling and Waste Centre (they wouldn’t take my floppy disks, hence the previous search). Items that can be dropped off for recycling free of charge, for non-residents as well as residents, are:

  • televisions 
  • personal computers 
  • laptops, notebooks, palmtops and tablets 
  • computer monitors 
  • computer parts: hard drives, motherboards, cables, internal power supplies, DVD and CD drives 
  • computer peripherals: mice, keyboards, joysticks, game-pads, scanners, web cameras 
  • printers and scanners. 
The e-waste recycling service is a free scheme, but the Recycling and Waste Centre will also recycle the following items for a small fee:
  • game consoles 
  • video and DVD players 
  • radios/stereos 
  • power tools 
  • kitchen and household appliances 
  • whitegoods 
  • universal power supplies.

Printer cartridges, mobile phones, light globes, car batteries and car parts, scrap metal

Stonnington Council specifies that light globes can’t be put in the recycling bin. However, the waste transfer station does recycle light globes and fluoro tubes free of charge if you live in Stonnington. They also provide free recycling of car batteries, automotive oil, scrap metal, car parts and mobile phones and batteries if you drop them off at the transfer station. Contact your local council to see what they offer.

My local Officeworks store has a drop-off bin for recycling old mobile phones and printer cartridges.

Garden waste

My local council offers the option of hiring a green waste bin, emptied every two weeks, for around seventy dollars a year. They will also provide free recycling of garden waste, including tree branches, that is dropped off at the transfer station.

Cans, tins and aluminium foil 

Some local councils, mine included, offer curbside recycling of aluminium, aerosol and steel cans and tins, as well as aluminium foil. Contact your local council to see if they do.

Cansmart is an Australia-wide industry body that promotes the recycling of steel. This page has a guide for preparing tins to place in the recycling bin.

Chemical and hazardous waste 

Detox your Home is a free service for householders to dispose of potentially dangerous household chemical products safely and easily without harming the environment. It’s run by Sustainability Victoria in partnership with local governments.

Victorians can take their household chemical products to a Detox your Home drop-off point at a permanent site or through the mobile service. The Detox your Home mobile drop-off service accepts a wide range of household chemical products; check the webpages for details. However, I rang the information number and they couldn’t tell me which hazardous chemical products are actually recycled.

Pharmaceutical drugs Pills and medicines that have been sitting in the cupboard too long pose a potential risk to children, and can cause harm to the environment if flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink. The Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) project enables consumers in Australia to take their unwanted medicines to their local pharmacy for safe disposal in an environmentally responsible way.

Until next time!


easytolearn said...

The information that you have provide is really helpful. I always find it very interesting to read your posts and your replies.


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John Daubert said...

The focus needs to be on the ideas above. Thanks for sharing and reminding us of our interconnections with our environment. e waste recycling