How To Recycle in Sydney: Blister Packs and Beyond

Afonso Firmo
May 10, 2024
5 min read

Sydney, home to 5.5 million residents (a whopping one fifth of the country’s population), is the beating heart of Australia, boasting some of the nation's most iconic landmarks and attracting people from all walks of life. From the vibrant CBD to the leafy suburbs (Real Housewives of Sydney has us experiencing serious envy), the city buzzes with energy and opportunity. But like many big cities worldwide, Sydney faces the challenge of managing its waste and reducing its environmental impact. With more than a fifth of Australia's population calling Sydney home, there's a growing urgency to embrace sustainable practices and recycling initiatives.

Let's Break Down the Numbers:

In recent years, Sydney has made strides in waste recycling, surpassing waste disposal rates since 2015–16. Construction and demolition (C&D) waste make up a significant portion of what's disposed of and recycled. However, waste and littering pose risks to the environment and public health, calling for swift action. Between 2016 and 2020, recycling in NSW surged, reaching 14.1 million tonnes in 2019–20, while litter volume decreased by 43% over six years, thanks in part to initiatives like the Return and Earn scheme. Yet challenges persist, with illegal dumping and improper recycling remaining significant issues.

Consumer behaviour is key: Misplaced recyclables and consumer preferences for recycled products impact recycling outcomes and market demand, while social cues and accountability influence public behaviour like littering. Cost saving & convenience can also drive people to dump rubbish illegally or overlook recycling protocol. Looking ahead, waste generation in NSW is set to increase to nearly 34 million tonnes annually by 2041. But the NSW Government is taking steps to address this, with plans to ban the export of unprocessed plastic, paper, glass, and tires, signalling a shift towards local processing and recycling.

Sydney is tackling waste head-on, adopting a comprehensive approach to waste management that emphasises community engagement, policy reform, and innovation. The NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 outlines actions to meet future needs, reduce emissions, and protect the environment. From funding recycling infrastructure to combating illegal dumping, the strategies aim for a circular economy and community engagement.

Sydney's waste game plan is pretty impressive! Initiatives like the Waste Less, Recycle More program funding recycling projects and cracking down on illegal dumping with their Illegal Dumping Strategy. There are also litter prevention programs like the Don't be a Tosser! campaign and Litter Prevention Grants, which aim to clean up local areas and cut down on litter by 60% over the next six years. The Container Deposit Scheme, Return and Earn, is doing wonders for reducing drink container litter and diverting more materials to recycling. NSW also has a Waste Crime Taskforce to tackle serious waste-related crimes.

Community Driven Initiatives

But it's not just about government action. Community-driven initiatives are vital too. These initiatives offer opportunities for resource reuse and recycling while promoting social engagement and skill-building. From garage sales to toy libraries, Sydney residents have a wealth of options to contribute to environmental conservation and build a greener future. You can read about some key initiatives available to residents of NSW, both online and in person, below.

Beauty & Pharmacy

Pharmacycle Australia offers a comprehensive recycling service for used and empty medication packaging. Boasting more than 390 active Pharmacycle locations nationwide. As Australia's sole end-to-end solution to recycle blister packs, Pharmacycle has diverted over 24 million blister packs from landfill since July 2022 - a mammoth contribution to the war on waste! To locate your nearest drop-off point for empty blister pack recycling, visit our website. You can follow Pharmacycle on Instagram for waste reduction tips and other valuable sustainability content.

If you’re one of the many people on their sustainability journey who have wondered, ‘no way  to ?', fear not! Major pharmacy chains like have drop off points for blister pack recycling, Chemist Warehouse being one of those! Collection boxes are provided by Pharmacycle,  a leading initiative, which has paved the way for pharmacy recycling programs fighting the war on waste. 

BeautyCycle by David Jones is a specialised beauty packaging recycling program available at participating David Jones beauty departments nationwide.

Household & Parental Resources

Garage Sale Trail is a nationwide festival of garage sales held annually in November, facilitating the reuse of goods and diverting them from landfill.

Kindershare operates as an online platform for parents to rent out equipment such as prams and toys, reducing the need for new purchases.

Toy Libraries Australia offers access to a variety of toys and games for borrowing or hire through over 280 libraries nationwide.

We Care Connect at Wyong collects and distributes various items to families in need on the Central Coast from Gosford to the Hunter Valley.

Peninsula Seniors Toy Recyclers refurbishes and gifts toys, bikes, and games to children and family charities on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

Bikes4Life collects and restores bicycles for donation to Australians in need, with branches in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

Revolve ReCYCLING, based in Sydney, accepts unwanted bikes and other Personal Transport Vehicles (PTVs) for repair and recycling.

Book Swaps & Bag Share

Book Swaps & Community Libraries offer opportunities to exchange books affordably, often organised by local councils or organisations.

Bag Share Schemes allow individuals to borrow reusable shopping bags from participating stores, reducing single-use plastic bag consumption. Check out Boomerang Bags for a great starting point! 


WorkVentures refurbishes donated computers and provides them to a diverse community including seniors, students, migrants, and Centrelink clients.

Computers For Young and Old operates in Jamisontown, NSW, refurbishing computers for various age groups.

The Asylum Seeker Centre accepts second-hand laptops, tablets, and phones, distributing them to individuals seeking asylum in Australia.

The Reconnect Project is a charity and social enterprise that refurbishes donated electronic devices like mobile phones, tablets, and computers, and donates them to those in need.


The Make A Wish Foundation provides clothing bins at various Westfield malls in VIC and NSW, accepting wearable garments.

Clothing Cleanup offers a pickup service in Sydney for wearable clothing, including shoes, handbags, and accessories.

High End Hammy Downs is an app/website for kids' hand-me-down clothes, enabling swapping, giving, or receiving for free.

Rebel Sport & The Australian Sporting Goods Association initiated the Save Our Soles program, collecting old sneakers and sports shoes at Rebel stores.

Dress for Success accepts quality women's clothing and accessories suitable for job interviews or the workplace, operating in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart, and Adelaide.

Fashion retailers or wholesalers can donate brand-new clothing to Thread Together, which redirects new clothing to those in need, reducing landfill waste.

Using platforms like Depop or The Volte to resell or rent wardrobe pieces is another way to reduce textile waste and shop sustainably. Plus it’s great for your pocket, earning you some extra coin!

Moving Towards a Greener Future

We still have a journey ahead of us to conquer waste, but it's heartening to witness the efforts of community members striving to preserve our planet's health for the long haul.

As a global city on the world stage, Sydney is evolving its sustainable waste management practices, refining comprehensive strategies, and highlighting a myriad of community-driven initiatives.

With both individuals and businesses jumping on board recycling efforts and embracing eco-friendly practices, Sydney remains at the forefront of forging a greener, more sustainable path for future generations.

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