What happens to recycled items

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

Nearly 800 residents attended Recycle It Saturday in February and diverted 16 tonnes from landfill. That's about 20kg per person.

The next Recycle It Saturday is on Saturday 20 May from 9am to 3pm at Alexandra Canal Depot and is open to City of Sydney, Waverley and Woollahra council residents. Find out what you can drop off.

Due to processing issues, we can no longer accept soft plastics for recycling. Please put them in your red lid bin, not your yellow lid recycling bin.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the items you drop off at the event? 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, they get donated to charity or reused in communities around the world that need them most.

Clothes are taken to SCRgroup’s warehouse in Sydney. They are then baled and shipped to overseas partners for sorting. Once sorted, clothes are distributed to second-hand markets and charities around the world, including Australia.

That’s why it’s important to 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.


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.


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 a local processor where the silver is recycled using an electrolytic process. Firstly, the films are placed in a chemical bath that dissolves any silver in the imaging layer. An electric current is then passed through the solution, depositing the pure metallic silver on one of the electrodes.

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

The remaining backing film is made from plastic, which gets recycled into a range of products, from shampoo bottles to polyester fleece.

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


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

Electronics 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. Remember to delete your data before dropping your device off. The recycling process doesn’t include data wiping.

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.

Some electronics may be repaired and refurbished, before being resold by our local processor. These items undergo data wiping before they are resold.

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

The next Recycle It Saturday is on Saturday 20 May from 9am to 3pm at Alexandra Canal Depot. Find out what you can bring.

Posted . Last updated .

Subscribe for updates

Choose the news that interests you

Sign up
Sign up