Sustainable spring cleaning

Published: 17 November 2022

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to mean overflowing household bins.

Many of the most common items we throw away can be diverted from landfill and recycled, repurposed or reused.

Here are our 10 top tips to ensure your spring clean recyclables don’t end up getting trashed.

1. CDs and DVDs

stack of CDs

Your indie rock collection might have been cool in the 90s, but when was the last time you listened to anything outside a Spotify playlist?

If you’re feeling ready to let go of your CDs and DVDs and they’re still in good condition, you can donate them to a charity.

The plastic and aluminium in CDs and DVDs can also be recovered and reused in the manufacture of other products.

So if you wouldn’t wish your Maroon 5 albums on your worst enemy, you can drop them off at your local Officeworks to be recycled. They will also accept items like printer cartridges, mobile phones, keyboards and cables, so be ruthless.

2. X-rays

If you’d rather not be reminded of that time you slipped over while playing Marco Polo, it might be time to get rid of the x-ray of your broken arm.

X-ray films are processed in a refinery to extract the silver which can be used for utensils, jewellery or electrical components.

Services like Siltech and Ecocycle will accept photos of your bones at their collection points, or simply send them in the mail.

3. Clothes and shoes

woman holding boxes of shoes with box of clothes on a bed

In Australia, we buy almost 15 kilos of clothes every year, making us one of the highest consumers of textiles per capita in the world. Sadly, most of this ends up in landfill, but you can make a change.

For threads that are still in good condition, your first port of call should be your local donation bin or charity shop.

If you’ve got items you wouldn’t give to a loved one (holey undies anyone?) there are more and more textile recyclers out there who would love to take these off your hands, like Upparel which can turn your old clothes into furniture, insulation and more.

Treadlightly will take your old sneakers and transform them into gym mats, floors and playgrounds.

Some clothing brands like H&M, Zara and Uniqlo also offer donation bins for garments in any condition.

After your clean-out, why not organise a clothes swap with friends and family, rather than buying anything new, so you can save money and freshen up your wardrobe while reducing your impact.

4. Sheets and towels

Animal shelters like the RSPCA will take your unwanted sheets, towels and blankets and use them to keep the animals in their care warm and cosy.

It’s also worth checking with your local vet to see if they are in need.

Sheridan will take sheets and towels of any brand and turn them into recycled yarn or insulation.

5. Trophies and medals

close-up of trophies and medals

You’re not impressing anyone with your year 9 basketball most-improved-player trophy.

Contact schools or community sports clubs in your area to see if they can rescue the remnants of your childhood sporting career.

Organisations like Reverse Art Truck can also take old trophies and medals off your hands.

6. Batteries

Everyone has a drawer in their house filled with spare change, golf balls, random keys and old batteries.

If it’s becoming harder to close that drawer, it’s time for a clean out.

Batteries contain harmful materials and don’t belong in our household bins. You can find a local drop-off point to recycle old batteries at B-Cycle or by contacting your local council.

Learn more about safely storing old batteries.

7. Mattresses

discarded mattresses in landfill

Australians throw away about 1.8 million mattresses and more than 500,000 bed bases a year, with a high percentage ending up in landfill.

Luckily, many charities will accept mattresses in good condition, and some will even pick them up from you. You could also join your local ‘Buy Nothing’ or ‘Good Karma’ Facebook group and see if someone in your neighbourhood is in need.

If your mattress has seen better days, you can recycle it. Some companies will charge a fee to collect your mattress, while others may do it for free like retailers who participate in the Recycle My Mattress initiative.

Many local councils also offer mattress recycling as part of their hard rubbish collection service. Check the waste and recycling information for your local council to confirm if any fees are involved. And if you live in an apartment, contact your facility manager.

8. Plant pots

Check recycling information for your local council to see if they take plastic nursery pots through their household recycling service. If they do, simply look for a number 5 in a triangle on the base of your pot and give it a good wash before popping in your recycling bin. 

If plastic pots aren’t accepted in your area, then organisations like Garden City Plastics have collection points across Australia and will give your old plant pot a second chance.

Use the handy map at Plastic Plant Pot Recycling to find a drop-off point near you. 

You could also contact your local gardening club to see if they’re taking donations. 

9. Books

a woman giving books to a man to put in a box

If you couldn’t squeeze a pamphlet onto your bookshelves, let alone that collector’s edition of Lord of the Rings, it might be time to select some books you probably won’t read again and find them a new home.

Charity shops will take book donations, or you could try selling them online to make a bit of extra cash.

Many neighbourhoods have street libraries that will no doubt welcome some new titles to share with the local community.

10. Household chemicals

Highly toxic substances like weed killer or cleaning products should never be thrown in the bin or poured down the drain.

If the cupboard under your kitchen sink is full to bursting, the Sustainability Victoria Detox Your Home program is here to help, with drop-off events held across the state throughout the year.

Toxic chemicals dropped off at these events are immediately sorted by qualified chemists and transported to a specialist waste treatment facility where they are either recycled or stored in secure landfills.

Find out where the team is heading to next and how to plan ahead.

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