How to recycle obscure items

Not a week goes by that I don’t come across an odd item that I haven’t the faintest what to do with. A search of Ecosia quickly reveals all, but I’m usually distracted by some lengthy article on green living, completely unrelated to my quest. I’d have saved so much time over the years, if there’d been a singular list, explaining where to direct my odds and ends.

I’ve put this guide together as a reminder to myself, and to save you time and encourage the correct recycling of materials. If we don’t know that an item can be recycled, it will more than likely end up in landfill - I want to save your unwanted items from a trashy fate. What better than to see them shared, upcycled or remade as something else?

Old bras and swimwear

Project Uplift will forward your bras and swimmers to women in need and has collection points all over Australia. Many women don’t have access to comfortable, well-fitting bras, or simply can’t afford them, resulting in pain or discomfort. Empower women worldwide by visiting the Project Uplift directory and finding out where to take yours – just make sure they’re in wearable condition. If they’re not fit for wear, read on …

Unwearable clothes

Rips, fading and stains that won’t budge – kids seem to render clothes unwearable with expert flair. I feel guilty enough about refilling little wardrobes each year, and worse, when their outgrown garb isn’t fit for the Salvos bin.

When old clothing sits in landfill it expels methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 25 times more effective than Co2, at trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere. And Aussies are ditching 6000kg of clothing every ten minutes – now that’s what I call a fashion faux pas! 

So, what to do with your not-so-glad rags? Don’t be tempted to send them to charity with the good stuff. 30 percent of donated attire is not fit for sale, costing our charities money. Dollars spent sorting and sending crappy items to landfill, are dollars that can’t help those in dire need. If you wouldn’t donate it to a friend, don’t ask a charity to do your dirty work.

Seek out quilting and sewing groups in your local community, who are often looking for donations and will breathe new life into dodgy textiles. Boomerang Bags collect donated cotton fabric and turn it into cloth bags, to help wipe out single-use plastic; Facebook groups, Buy Nothing and Pay it Forward, often see requests from members, seeking fabrics for fabulous upcycling projects. Check out Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You directory, which can point you in the direction of textile recyclers, like King Cotton or SCR group.

Bread tags

Choose fancy sprouted sourdough over plain old Wonder White and you might end up with less of a ‘bread belly’, but you’ll still be left with an annoying bread tag that can’t be binned kerbside. While it’s a good idea to buy a reusable bread bag (like one of these) and head to your local baker (is there anything better than a warm-from-the-oven loaf? – I’ve been “gluten-free” for a while now, but this is my vice), there’ll still be occasions where you can’t resist a six pack of choc-chip hot crossies or some old school white bread for your barbie.

Store your tags in a glass jar and, once you’ve saved up a good amount, take them to a Bread Tags for Wheelchairs collection point. These legends on-sell your tags to plastics recycling companies, to be made into seedling trays, picture frames, coat hangers and other nifty items, and use the profits to buy wheelchairs for those in need.

Sunnies and prescription specs

If your old glasses are still in good condition, hand them into your local OPSM or Personal Eyes store and they’ll be forwarded to someone less fortunate. Contrary to their name, the lenses in your glasses are made from a combination of plastics and other materials, making them near impossible to recycle. For this reason, it’s a good idea to prolong the life of your specs – put their protective case to good use and have them mended if they become loose.

There’s no need to replace your frames, when you need stronger prescription lenses; most optometrists will pop out the old ones and pop in the new. When you’re due a new pair, flick out the lenses and donate to your local kindy for pretend play. If the frames are aluminium, feel free to dispose of in your yellow bin.

Mobile phones and batteries

I’m positive that the number one design brief of phone manufacturers is to create products with limited lifespan, propelling consumers to seek out newer, more expensive models all the time. A typical phone plan lasts for two years and I’ve been lucky to have even one phone last that long. Investing in a shock-resistant protective case, will extend the life of your cell, but certainly not forever.

So, what to do with the broken-screened phone that costs nearly as much to fix as it does to replace? Take it to a Sony store or Leading Edge Computers, where it will be recycled, and the money raised, donated to youth cancer charity, YouCan.  Alternatively Mobile Muster offer a federal government accredited mobile phone recycling program with the option to drop off at multiple locations (including Officeworks) or mail them in. Find your closest collection point here.

If you haven’t yet made the switch to rechargable batteries, or have some old disposables hanging around, take them to your local ALDI or Officeworks, where you’ll find a dedicated collection bin. Keep in mind that they only accept common household varieties: AA, AAA, C, D and 9V. Rechargables require considerably less resources than regular household batteries and can be reused countless times, so they’re definitely worth the investment.

Odd or holey socks?!

Manrags offer a recycling scheme for those pesky odd or holey socks that seem to be neverending! Simply purchase a compostable postal satchel for just $2 and return 20 clean socks (or 10 pairs) for recycling. Any socks that can be salvaged will be cleaned and donated to people in need and the rest will be turned into new textiles. 

Collect those bottle tops


Unfortunately, it looks as though Lids 4 Kids are no longer collecting plastic bottle tops for Envision (who were turning them into mobility aids for child amputees).

If you now need to find a way to dispose of plastic bottle tops, consider calling your local council to see if they'll accept them for recycling. Some councils accept them inside plastic milk bottles in your regular kerbside recycling bin. Otherwise local kindergartens or daycares may appreciate them for craft projects. 


We love a recycling challenge!

Come across an obscure item that you’re not sure what to do with? Let us know and we’ll aim to find a solution and add it to our list. While recycling is an awesome endeavour, it’s important that we all strive to consume less and, when we do buy, choose reusable options and those made of high-quality materials that will stand the test of time.

This is definitely something to keep in mind, going into the silly season. Look for well-made gifts, comprised of strong natural or recyclable materials. Steer the kids away from the latest fad toys and consider giving experiences, rather than physical items. Don’t be a stranger – give us a shout below and let us know if you’ve found this article helpful, or if there’s an oddball item we’ve left out.



  • Posted by Jean McGregor on

    Sorry to tell you but OPSM at least at Parramatta do not recycle spectacles frames . They will not reuse as they once did (I was told that my frames were far too old 2 yrs!) & do not give to charity. Very disappointed

  • Posted by Susan Ratley on

    Lids for kids is still collecting, just not for envision now. The lids are still recycled

  • Posted by Elizabeth Ferguson on

    Any suggestions how to recycle rubber bands?

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