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. Let's look at where you can recycle 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 popular. Silver is an important metal used in technology, healthcare and medicine. Recycled silver is also being used to make Australian sustainable jewellery.
But wait, does this mean we’re all going to get rich by recycling our old dusty X-rays hiding out in the bottom of our cupboards? 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, firstly call your local radiologist as many medical imaging businesses in Australia collect X-rays for recycling at specialist recycling facilities and they don't tend to advertise the fact (please note it's likely they only take the X-rays, ie no envelopes, papers, or paper scans). Secondly, check with your local council to see if they run the Recycle Smart service that collect x-rays and other hard to recycle items directly from your home address. Thirdly, check out Planet Ark’s excellent online recycling directory Recycle Near You which lists multiple drop off points around Australia. And finally, when you next have an X-ray, consider asking for the results to be digitally sent to your doctor, so you avoid creating the films in the first place.
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. Unfortunately in Australia, Terracycle is currently 'in between' corporate sponsors for their contact lens recycling program. However, individuals are still able to purchase a special recycling collection box. If this is not an option for you, consider asking on your local Facebook community group if there's a Terracycle donation drop off near by. Some optometrists have Terracycle collection boxes for contact lenses.
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. Contact SCR Group to find your local drop off.
If you would like to discover other ways you can reduce waste, head over to Asiki eco store at Erskineville, Sydney 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.
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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 Asiki - eco friendly products for sustainable living.
Photography: Owen Beard, Harlie Raethel, Angelos Michalopoulos (Unsplash), and Katherine Hynes.