What happens to recycled items

We explore where clothes, x-rays, polystyrene and soft plastics go once you drop them off at Recycle It Saturday.

More than 570 residents attended Recycle It Saturday in March and diverted 17 tonnes from landfill.

Want to recycle these items without leaving home? Book a power pick-up with RecycleSmart.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the items you drop off at our quarterly recycling events? We look at 4 items and share their journey once you’ve said goodbye.

Reusable clothes

Only drop off good quality clothing you would give to a friend.

When you drop off clothes at Recycle It Saturday, the clothes get donated to Australian charity The Salvation Army and resold in their Salvos Stores.

Only drop off clothing, sheets, towels and toys that are in good condition because they’ll be resold. Don’t bring anything you wouldn’t give to a friend.

With 350 outlets across Australia, as well as a new online shop, Salvos Stores raise money to help support The Salvation Army’s community programs. From helping people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, to providing support for people experiencing domestic or family violence – you can feel good knowing your old items are helping make a difference.

Salvos Stores diverts 30 million items from landfill each year. Not only are you helping those doing it tough, you’re also helping the planet.

Anything that Salvos Stores can’t sell after 6 weeks, depending on its condition, is sent to textile reuse markets overseas.


If you’ve ever received a home delivery or bought a new appliance, you’ll have dealt with polystyrene.

This flighty plastic is a nightmare for the planet. It can’t be recycled in our kerbside recycling bins, so this resource is often lost to landfill. But it could be so much more.

When you drop off your clean polystyrene at Recycle It Saturday, we compress it in our machine which reduces its size by about 90%.

Polystyrene before and after being compressed. You’d be surprised how heavy it can be.

Watch our machine compress the polystyrene. Video supplied by RecycleSmart.

Embedded content: https://cityofsydney.wistia.com/medias/rpgszzb420#

This polystyrene, now heavy and solid, is easier to transport to a local processer where it is shredded down into smaller plastics pellets. These pellets are essentially the raw material which gets turned into items like building insulation, flooring products and photo frames.

Next time you get a delivery, save that ‘styrene and Recycle It Saturday.


The silver in x-ray scans can be recovered and recycled into items like jewellery

Old x-ray, MRI and CT scans or films can be fully recycled when you drop them off at Recycle It Saturday. As for any personal details, they get destroyed in the recycling process.

We send these films to an Environment Protection Authority approved processor, where they’re heated in a refinery to over 1,000 degrees Celsius. This allows halide, a form of silver, to be extracted from the film. The halide is refined into a purer form of silver.

Back in its original, precious mineral state, this silver can be recycled back into items such as jewellery, utensil plating and electrical components.

The remaining product from the recycling process is added to road-based bitumen, so nothing goes to waste.

By recycling, we can recover precious metals and reduce the need to mine for new resources.

Soft plastics

Not sure what a soft plastic is? Give your plastic a scrunch. If you can easily scrunch it into a ball, you likely have a soft plastic.

Soft plastics include plastic bags and film, bread bags, chocolate and chips wrappers, bubble wrap, frozen food bags and re-usable supermarket bags. These plastics can’t be recycled in your yellow lid recycling bin. They get stuck in the recycling machinery and cause all kinds of problems.

You can recycle them with us by dropping them off to Recycle It Saturday. From there, your soft plastics are sent to a local processer where they get turned into small plastic pellets. These pellets can be made into street furniture, fitness circuits and more.

Remember, while it’s great there is a way to recycle soft plastics, always try to reduce your need for them. Opt for items that come sold in paper or cardboard, or have no packaging at all.

Most soft plastics are single use so in the long run, refusing and reducing your need for soft plastics is the best way to go.

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