We probably don’t have to tell you this, but recycling is a great way to contribute to a more sustainable future. Not only does it help to reduce landfill and decrease emissions, but every time you recycle you’re also supporting new industries and helping to develop new, more sustainable products. 

As Spyro Kalos, head of MobileMuster, says, consumers have the opportunity “to ensure products are disposed of sustainably when they have reached the end of their useful lives. In the case of mobile phones and electronics, they are highly recyclable. Through our recycling process, MobileMuster recovers over 95 per cent of the materials that go into making mobiles. The material recovered then goes into the production of new products, which ultimately lessens the need to mine for virgin material.”

The good news is that change is happening and recycling is becoming easier all the time, thanks to clever campaigns and forward-thinking organisations doing their part. We asked Officeworks’ Ryan Swenson for some tips on how to recycle and reduce waste at home and in the office.

Recycling Electrical Goods

Four green e-waste recycling bins for ink and toner cartridges and computers and tech accessories found at Officeworks.

Got a computer, printer, or mobile phone that’s past its use-by date? Join the club. Electronic waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in Australia. “Australians actually produce about 23 kilograms of electronic waste per person each year,” Ryan says. Any household item with a plug or power cord that’s no longer working is considered to be electronic waste, and these goods can’t be placed in standard council recycling bins as they’re potentially hazardous. 

Here’s how to solve the pesky problem of old tech like chargers and keyboards cluttering up your life. The Bring It Back program at Officeworks is designed to make life easy, with designated recycling stations located at the front of most stores. Each year, Officeworks recycles more than 800 tonnes of electronics, plastics and consumables, repurposing materials – such as precious gold and copper from tech, for example – and reducing the amount of waste going into landfill. 

Do your part by gathering your old hard drives, computer monitors and cables, and taking them to your nearest Officeworks location to be sorted into the appropriate slot. “If you’re bringing in larger items, you may need to speak to a member of our customer service team,” Ryan says. “And, if you’re dropping off a mobile phone or a laptop, we do encourage you to wipe it or erase your data for added security.”

Another option is to check if your unwanted tech is eligible to trade in for an instant Officeworks gift card.

Hot Tip: Batteries, if not disposed of properly, can leak harmful waste. If you have old batteries to get rid of, find your closest drop off with B-Cycle to responsibly recycle them.

SEE ALSO: How to Adopt Sustainable Business Practices

Recycling Office Supplies

Here’s something you might not know. “As part of our Bring It Back program, we accept old writing instruments like pens and coloured markers,” says Ryan. “You can bring them into Officeworks stores and drop them off. It’s a great solution, and we’re working with partners like Bic and TerraCycle to collect those materials and turn them into items like outdoor classroom furniture.” 

Look for the Officeworks People & Planet Positive range online or in store when you’re shopping for stationery and you’ll find affordable alternatives that are more sustainable (think pens, pencils, glue and erasers that are plastic-free or made from recyclable materials). 

Printer, toner and photocopier cartridges are a staple in most offices, and getting rid of them can be a challenge. For ink and toner cartridge recycling, drop off your used or empty cartridges at all Officeworks stores and participating Australia Post outlets. 

Hot Tip: To find the nearest recycling service for the items you have, visit Planet Ark’s RecyclingNearYou website, which includes a listing of Officeworks stores and their various waste streams.

What to Try

Packaging Materials Are Ready for Recycling

Get the whole family involved in recycling waste products around the home.

These days, thankfully, there are many companies choosing to use sustainable packaging when they ship products. Cardboard can be flattened and placed into your recycling bin, and some packing peanuts and satchels can go straight into your home compost bin – always read labels carefully though and look for signs that these items are home compostable.

Excess packaging, however, is sometimes unavoidable, especially when you're dealing with breakables like televisions and computers. These items may come with polystyrene and shredded paper (the pieces are too small and contaminate other recyclable materials), neither of which can be recycled and wind up in landfill. You can, however, add shredded paper to your home composting bin.

“If you’re purchasing something and the packaging is difficult to recycle, provide feedback to where you purchased it from,” says Ryan. “That feedback is usually taken on board and it does help companies improve their sustainable practices.” 

Another option to consider? Use it again around the home. Take packaging material like bubble wrap and tissue paper and reuse them for wrapping gifts. Cardboard boxes are also great for storage.

SEE ALSO: How Kids Can Make a Difference and Have a Meaningful Year

Clothing and Fabric Recycling

A number of options are available for clothing and fabric recycling.

Here’s a startling statistic: humans create around 92 million tonnes of textile waste each year, and the bulk of that ends up in landfill. These figures appear to be increasing year after year, but we can turn things around by reusing and recycling our clothes. 

Old unwanted clothing, bedding and fabric should never go into recycling bins. Instead, if they're in good condition, consider gifting them to a charitable organisation like The Smith Family, Vinnies or The Salvation Army. Retail chain stores like Uniqlo, H&M and Zara will accept worn or damaged clothing – pop them in the bins provided to be shredded and recycled into useful stuff like insulation, cleaning cloths and textile fibres. 

Do your part to help our furry friends by donating old towels and sheets to vets and animal shelters in your area. “At the end of the day, it’s about contributing to a circular economy,” Ryan says. “By taking a little bit of time to do some research and having awareness of all the good initiatives out there, it's amazing what you can achieve, whether that’s at work or at home. At Officeworks, we have a commitment to becoming a zero-waste business and we’re also repairing and repurposing products to extend their life.”  

Hot Tip: If you are looking to purchase repaired or repurposed items, often much cheaper than new products, consider heading to the Circonomy website, they repair, repurpose and resell unwanted items.

SEE ALSO: What Should I Do With My E Waste?

This article was originally published March 2022 and has been updated.