Sydney’s bin system is pretty easy to understand: yellow bins are for recyclables – including aluminum, glass, hard plastics and cardboard – while garden waste such as grass clippings, leaves and branches belong in the greens.

And everything else? In the red bins, theoretically. But there’s another solution you might not know about.

Recyclesmart is a waste-management initiative making it easy to recycle more. It takes certain recyclables that can’t go in the yellow bins – such as soft plastics, electronic waste, textiles, books and even toys – and diverts them from landfill.

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It’s as easy as booking an Uber, and only costs $5 per small shopping bag of waste. You can opt into a monthly plan, which costs $10 for two bags for everyday items, with add-ons available for large electronics or clunky cardboard (perfect if you’re doing a deep clean or moving house).

“We realised the best way to get people to do the right thing is to make it really easy and simple for them,” says co-founder Giorgio Barrachi. “Think about Deliveroo – people don’t want to go out and pick food up themselves, they’d rather have someone to do it for them. It’s the same concept.”

All you need to do is book a “power pick-up” through the Recycle Smart website, pay online and leave your rubbish out in the bags. An independent driver is tapped to do the pick-up (you don’t need to be there when it happens), then it’s dropped off at collection centres within your local council.

Items Recyclesmart collects include scrunchable soft plastics such as produce bags, cereal-box liners, bubble wrap and squeeze pouches; e-waste including old blenders, charging cables, computer parts, mobile phones and torches; textiles such as clothing, belts, towels and shoes; and so-called “problem waste”, including books, fluorescent globes, batteries, printer cartridges, toys and CDs.

You don’t need to sort the waste out yourself, so all four kinds can go in the same bag. If your waste is left out in plastic bags, Recyclesmart will recycle the bag as well. Reusable shopping bags and canvas totes will be returned, and you can also request to be sent a bag to use.

Soft plastics will be converted into materials that can be used for roads, outdoor furniture and fencing, while electronic waste can potentially become asphalt, concrete building materials, new batteries and more.

Toys, books and wearable clothes are donated to local charities and op shops, while unwearable items get diverted to programs by vetted partners to recover and create new fibres. Other problem waste, such as batteries and lightbulbs, is dropped off at proper recycling facilities capable of processing them.

Since launching in October 2019, the Recyclesmart team has helped divert over 470 tonnes of recyclable waste from landfill.

Recyclesmart currently services five councils in Greater Sydney, covering around 1 million residents in the Inner West, Waverley, Randwick, Penrith or Burwood council areas. The company is working to add more areas.

“We’re also talking to [councils in Melbourne and Brisbane],” Barrachi says. “It’s been quite a busy couple of months, but we’ve been seeing a lot of traction and lots of people using our service which I’m very happy with. We want to go nationwide very soon.”

This article was first published on February 12, 2021, and has since been updated.

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