What happens to recycled items

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

More than 815 residents attended Recycle It Saturday in February 2022 and diverted more than 22 tonnes from landfill. That's about 27kg per person.

The next Recycle It Saturday takes place on Saturday 28 May from 9am to 3pm at Alexandra Canal Depot. Find out what you can bring.

We can’t accept any paint at this Recycle It Saturday. If you have paint to recycle, hold on to it for now. We hope to accept paint again at our drop-off events later in the year.

The event is open to residents who live in the City of Sydney, Waverley or Woollahra council areas.

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.

Clothes in great condition

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 in great condition that can 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 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 donated items are making 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.

Polystyrene

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

This lightweight 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.

Embedded content: https://cityofsydney.wistia.com/medias/a8gqf8bk6r#

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 turned into items like building insulation, flooring products and photo frames.

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

X-rays

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. 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 metal state, this silver can be recycled 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.

Electronics

Who are you calling broken? It's what's inside e-waste that counts

E-waste, or electronic waste, includes everything from old televisions and computers to microwaves and mobile phones.

These electronics are not really waste at all, but materials with valuable resources. Electronics collected at Recycle It Saturday are sent to a local processor where they are sorted and broken down into various parts including glass, metals, plastics, batteries, cabling and circuit boards. These materials are used to make new products.

The plastic in many electronics and devices can be recycled into new plastic products, such as shipping pallets, outdoor furniture, play equipment and pens.

Batteries are an important item to recycle. They contain materials that are non-renewable - once we run out, they can’t be replenished. The good news is battery materials such as mercury, lithium and zinc can be recycled over and over again to make new batteries.

The electronics we collect are diverted from landfill and around 95% of raw materials recovered are recycled.

Who knows, you may have parts of your old mobile in your new device.

The next Recycle It Saturday takes place on Saturday 28 May from 9am to 3pm at Alexandra Canal Depot. Find out what you can bring.

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