How you can recycle, recover and re-use

In the dim and distant days before the Flat Chat strata forum was born and my partner was briefly chair of our building, she said: “Why don’t we have a clothing recycling bin in the carpark?”

The naysayers lined up to complain that it was a waste of time and space, it would never be used and it would attract everything from rats to street kids looking for a warm place to sleep.

Within a few weeks of the bin’s arrival, those same people were complaining that it wasn’t getting emptied often enough, as residents realised there was better use for their limited storage than archiving old clothes that they probably would never wear again.

Fast forward 15 years, when a procession of other owners and committee members have taken up the torch and from that simple start, we now have a collection point for household goods and another for small electricals and batteries. There are council wheelie bins for recyclables and a giant container for cardboard boxes.

Magazines are collected for distribution to schools and social centres, books are gathered for charity shops, hospitals and prisons, and there’s a bin for documents to be securely shredded and turned into whatever you make secrets out of.

We even have a recycling bin for Nespresso pods (the real thing only – none of your cheap clones) that are taken to an outfit that harvests both the coffee grounds and the foil capsules. If you don’t have a Nespresso bin, you can pick up a recycling satchel from your local Post Office.

According to the Nespresso website, the pods are sent to a specialist recycling plant based in Nowra, NSW, from where the coffee is sent to an industrial composting facility, while the foil is put back into the system to produce new aluminium products.

Anyway, all of that means our building seems to have become a paragon of the recycling revolution, with the local council wanting to show other blocks how it could and should be done.

Not everyone is on board, of course. We should have a rest station next to the wheelie bins for the people who can’t quite summon the strength to tip their recycling from their plastic bags (which clog up the sorting machinery) and walk them to another bin just a few metres away.

But most people do the right thing most of the time. And considering that charities are complaining that they are suffering a 25 per cent decrease in donations (because people would rather sell their unwanted stuff on the internet than just give it away), that’s more important now than ever.

The whole “fast fashion” meets Ebay and Gumtree thing has changed the landscape for charities, with the quality of donations dropping too, as it’s only the things they can’t sell that people are passing on. Even our apartment block household goods collection point became an unofficial swap meet until notices went up saying the stuff was really for charity.

And we haven’t fully tackled the computer and mobile phone recycling challenge yet. Google “recycle computers” and you will find that there’s a variety of places your outdated technology can go. Some will extract the rare metals for re-use, others will re-purpose the equipment for less well-off communities here and abroad.

Choice online article explains why old computers and phones need to be recycled rather than dumped – recovering rare metals and preventing toxic leaching are just part of it – and has a comprehensive list of who to contact to get it done, including re-purposing the equipment for less well-off communities here and abroad.

The main thing is, old computers and phones shouldn’t end up as landfill. Your challenge would be to choose a service and then set up a collection point.

Actually, your challenge is to do something … but it only takes one person to start a movement.

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