Where to recycle X-rays, contact lenses and single shoes in Australia
by Katherine Hynes
Just because your local council says something can’t be recycled, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unrecyclable.
Thankfully there are various businesses and organisations around Australia collecting and recycling a variety of ‘hard to recycle’ items. All it takes is a little knowledge of where to go.
We’ve done the research to help you divert more waste from landfill.
In our second ‘weird things you can recycle series’, we’re focusing on X-rays, contact lenses and single shoes.
Where to recycle X-rays
Did you know X-rays contain the precious metal silver? With world supplies of silver dwindling and experts warning we could run out by 2030, silver retrieval from old X-rays is becoming increasingly important. Silver doesn’t just make pretty jewellery, it’s an important metal used in technology, healthcare and medicine.
But wait, does this mean we’re all going to get rich by recycling our old dusty X-rays that have been hiding out in the bottom of the cupboard for years? Sadly, no. Each X-ray film contains only a tiny amount of silver, so the act of recycling will only make you ‘rich’ in save-the-planet karma.
To recycle your old X-rays, check first with your radiologist as many medical imaging businesses collect X-rays for recycling at specialist recycling facilities ( I recycle mine at Alfred Imaging, Newtown, Sydney). Failing that, check out Planet Ark’s excellent recycling directory recyclingnearyou.com.au which lists multiple drop off points around Australia. Just type in your postcode and select ‘X-ray film’ in the drop down menu.
Where to recycle contact lenses
Australians love their contact lenses, but unfortunately an estimated 20% of wearers may be disposing of them incorrectly, i.e. flushing down toilets or washing down sinks. Because contact lenses are small plastic discs and our sewerage treatment works don’t often detect them, many make their way to the ocean, adding to marine plastic pollution and being mistaken for food by fish and bird life.
So how do we dispose of them responsibly? Instead of popping them in the bin, consider collecting them for recycling.
One of the superstars of the recycling industry is Terracycle, a company dedicated to recycling ‘difficult to recycle’ items. Terracycle has partnered with Bausch & Lomb to collect any brand of used contact lenses and blister packs for recycling.
There are two ways you can get your waste to Terracycle. Either find your nearest drop off point or package up your waste and request a free pre-paid address label. Stick the label on your parcel and then drop it off at your local post office.
Your old contact lenses and aluminium blister packs will be recycled into new plastic and metal products, keeping resources in circulation and out of landfill and oceans.
Where to recycle a single shoe
Like the mystery of the missing sock, sometimes we just lose a shoe, or maybe the dog eats one, or perhaps you wear out a runner on one side only. Whatever the case, surprisingly there’s now a recycling business in Australia that accepts single, lonely, odd shoes.
SCR Group locates markets around the world for clothing, accessories and shoes that Australians no longer want but can’t be resold in Australia. They’ve found there’s demand in the Middle East for single shoes. Find your nearest SCR Group collection bin.
If you would like to discover other ways you can reduce waste, head over to The Ekologi Store where you’ll find zero waste starter kits, shampoo and conditioner bars, stainless steel clothes pegs, plastic free cleaning, reusable produce bags, African market baskets, and eco-friendly gift ideas.
Sign up and get 10% off your first online order. Local and International Shipping is carbon-neutral and plastic-free.
If you would like to talk more about recycling weird things or you have some tips to share, come join the conversation on our Facebook Group ‘Zero Waste Australia’.
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We also have other articles you may be interested in, such as ‘Where to recycle worn, stained and damaged clothes in Australia’ and ‘How to stop junk mail in Australia’.
Katherine Hynes is an actor, voiceover artist and Zero Waste advocate. She is also the co-founder of The Ekologi Store - zero waste essentials for sustainable living.
Photography: Owen Beard, Harlie Raethel, Angelos Michalopoulos (Unsplash), and Katherine Hynes.