Recycling FAQs

Why is recycling so important?

Recycling makes a real difference for the environment, our economy and society. Recycling helps conserve important raw materials and protects natural habitats for the future. It also saves on energy and is less expensive than using new materials.

The City of Onkaparinga takes recycling very seriously - it is important that only certain items go in the recycling bin. In fact, you may find your bin rejected from collection if there is contamination (the wrong stuff) in there.

Recycling right helps keep the system efficient, which keeps costs down for Council and ratepayers. It’s just the Right thing to do! Recycling is not hard, it just requires a little of your attention.  A little attention from you can make a huge difference.

Why can I place only certain things in my bins?

When thinking about what can and cannot be recycled at home, you need to know what happens to your recycling after it is collected from your kerbside.

  • Our collection trucks transport your recycling bin material from your kerbside to a Transfer Station in Lonsdale.
  • There, it will be baled up then transportation to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Coolaroo, Victoria, where the materials are sorted.
  • Once sorted, the materials are sold and sent to special processing facilities that recycle each type of material individually (such as aluminium, steel, glass, paper and cardboard, different plastics etc).

The most important thing to remember is that all the household recyclables are initially sorted by hand and then later sorted mechanically. This is the reason why any materials that are not recyclable or not safe to be handled, could spread disease or create a putrid smell should never be placed in a recycling bin.

Unsafe materials include needles, nappies, medical wastes or anything that still contains food or leftovers; such as unwashed tins containing pet food, unwashed bottles containing sauce or milk products etc. These unsafe materials cannot be handled by staff and must be sent to landfill as garbage.

Which plastics can I recycle? Some plastic items don’t show a recycling symbol.

Only certain plastic items can be collected in your recycling bin. Although many different types of plastic are recyclable in theory, the Australian plastics recycling market is restricted by our small population.

Think of plastic recycling as recycling for rigid plastic packaging material (plus a few other plastic household items, such as bowls and toys).
Don’t even bother looking for the triangle. If you have a plastic packaging or household item, just ask yourself:

  • Is it foam? if yes - then place it in the waste bin
  • Is it a plastic bag or soft, scrunchy plastic? if yes – either take it to Coles or Woolworths for recycling, or place it in the waste bin.

If not foam or soft plastic, then you should probably place it in the recycling bin.

The type of plastic items you would throw in the recycling bin are the sort of items you would usually find in your kitchen, bathroom or laundry like food and beverage containers, cleaning products and personal care products (shampoo etc).

The numbered triangle symbol seen on the bottom of some plastic packaging can be confusing as not all items even have a symbol. This symbol shows the type of plastic that the product is made from, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it is recyclable. For example, polystyrene foam has a code 6 on it but there is currently no market for these foams in Australia so we cannot collect it in the recycling bin.

What about plastic trays?

Foam trays should not go in the recycling bin.

Plastic meat trays & fruit trays, strawberry punnets, biscuit trays, sushi trays and plastic clamshell packaging (eg takeaway sandwich containers) can all go in the recycling bin.

Can I place plastic bags in my recycling bin?

No. Empty plastic bags and other soft plastics can only be recycled through special plastic bag collection bins in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. Plastic bags cannot be collected as part of household kerbside recycling collection as they can cause damage to machinery at the sorting facility.

Please do not tie up recyclables in plastic bags in your recycling bin – leave everything loose.

Recyclables (such as bottles and jars) tied in plastic bags in recycling bins will not be recycled due to safety risks in sorting. Sorting staff don't have the time to open all the bags and it is unsafe for them to do so. The whole bag containing the recyclables will be sent to landfill as garbage.

Can I recycle plastic pot plants?

Yes, however because plastic pot plants often contain residual plant matter we would ask if you could please lightly brush out any residue.

What do I do with the lids on bottles and jars?

Plastic lids (including pump and spray bottle tops) can be left on plastic containers. It is also helpful if plastic bottles are drained and flattened as well. An optical sorting system is used to sort plastics, and round bottles tend to roll around on the conveyor belt, making them hard to separate out.

Loose plastic lids and other small pieces of rigid plastic, such as bread tags and cable ties can be placed in a rinsed plastic bottle. When the bottle is full, just screw on a lid and pop the full bottle in the recycling bin. This will be recycled as a mixed plastic.

Plastic lids on liquid paperboard items such as long-life packs can stay screwed onto the container.

Metal and plastic lids should not be left on glass bottles and jars. Please remove the lids and place the lids and bottles/jars loose in the recycling bin. This keeps all the different material types separate.

Do I have to take the labels off?

No, labels don’t need to be removed. When the recyclables are cleaned they are generally immersed in water for an extended period of time, which removes any labels.

What about staples and window faced envelopes?

Small quantities of staples and the windows on envelopes do not need to be removed.  When paper and cardboard is recycled it is immersed in water and turned into paper pulp. During this process any non-paper items that are heavy or very light are separated and removed.

Can I recycle phone books?

Yes, phone books can be placed in your recycling bin.

Can pizza boxes be recycled?

Yes, in general empty and clean pizza boxes can be recycled. As long as there is no food left in the box it can go in the recycling bin – a little bit of grease is no problem. If the pizza box is very greasy then place it in the green organics bin (or compost).

Why can't paper towel be recycled?

Paper towels are made out of 'wet-strength paper' meaning they are designed not to break down in water so that they fulfil their purpose of absorbing liquid. This means that they don't easily break down in the paper recycling process. Put paper towel in the green organics bin.

Why can’t tissues and serviettes be recycled?

These items are usually used to clean up and then contain food or other waste that cannot be recycled.  These items should go in the green organics or waste bins.

Can shredded paper be put in the recycling bin?

Shredded paper becomes like confetti at the sorting facility. The machinery is not designed to process pieces of paper smaller than a regular flyer.

In offices, shredded paper is usually collected in a ‘paper only’ bin, which goes directly to a paper recycling facility, rather than a sorting facility.

At home there are a few options:

  • use your shredded paper in your worm farm, compost bin or no-dig garden?
  • try contacting pet stores or the RSPCA to see if they will take it
  • it can go in the green organics bin (if possible, mixed with the lawn clippings to moisten it and help it stick together) 

What types of cans can I recycle?

Canned food containers are made from steel or aluminium and are 100% recyclable, providing they are empty and clear of leftover food.

Aerosol cans can be recycled if they are empty and the lid is removed.

Aluminium drink cans can also be recycled if empty.

Paint cans can be recycled if they are empty.

Can I recycle paint tins?

If a paint tin is empty and as much paint has been wiped out as possible (just with the brush), it can go in the recycling bin.

Dried paint hardened in the tin; try to remove the hardened paint to put in the waste bin. If the paint cannot be removed then the tin and dry paint go in the waste bin.

Liquid paint in the tin is not recyclable in your recycling bin because this paint that is hazardous to workers and will contaminate other recyclables and machinery. You can take liquid paint to Hazardous Waste collections for FREE where they will be recycled after treatment.

Pots and pans can go in the recycling bin; however other metals like coat hangers, motor parts and other scrap metals cannot. These other metal items can be dangerous, too large or contaminated by plastic fittings or other materials so should not go in the recycling bin.


What types of glass can I recycle?

Think of glass recycling as recycling for glass packaging material only. These are the only types of glass items that should go in your recycling bin. Glass bottles and jars of any colour can be recycled in the recycling bin.

Drinking glasses, window glass, mirrors, light globes, ceramics, vases, Pyrex (heatproof cooking glass) and china cannot be recycled. This is because they heat at a different temperature to regular glass bottles and jars and can contaminate a whole load of sorted glass.

Sometimes when the recycling from your bin is tipped into the truck, the glass is broken. This broken glass can still be separated at the sorting facility and is used as ‘mixed glass cullet’ in road base or other industrial applications.

How do I recycle clothing, shoes and fabrics?

If in usable condition, these items should be washed and given another chance: passed onto friends or family, donated to a charity or sold through newspapers or online.

These items are not accepted in the recycling bin.

If not at all usable, these items should go in the red waste bin.

Where should I take electronic items like TVs, printers, radios, hairdryers and other appliances?

Due to the potentially hazardous nature of electrical goods, the Environmental Protection Authority has banned e-waste from being sent to landfill. Therefore, these items are not to be placed in kerbside bins.

  • TVs, computers and computer accessories (including printers, scanners, keyboards, mice & cables) can be dropped off at select locations at no cost. This free service is part of the National TV & Computer Recycling Scheme and these items will be recycled as extensively as possible.
  • All other household electronic items can be included in your hard waste collection. These items will be collected and recycled for their metal content. If you wish these items to be more fully recycled, there are two (2) locations in Adelaide you can take them to (fees may apply).

Locations for the National TV & Computer Recycling Scheme and local recyclers are available on our website.

What about cooking oil – how do I get rid of that?

Any oil in a liquid state is not suitable to be placed in any of the kerbside bins, as it is hazardous to workers. It can also contaminate the whole load and machinery.  Oil can also cause road hazards if it leaks from the truck whist travelling.
Small amounts of cooking oil can be soaked into newspaper or paper towel then placed in the red bin.

Information regarding disposal of waste motor oil and larger amounts of cooking oil are available on our website.

Why can’t Onkaparinga residents put their food waste in the green bin like several other councils allow?

To support a service where all food waste can go in the green organics bin, the green bin must be collected fortnightly. In Onkaparinga, our green bins are collected every four (4) weeks.

If some foods, particularly processed/cooked food, meat and dairy products are left in the bin too long, they attract pests and rodents and can become extremely smelly. The food may be too far along the decomposition process to be suitable for composting.

Fruit and vegetable scraps can go in the green organics bin – loose or in newspaper.

Do not place any plastic in the green bin.

I’ve heard that everything just goes to landfill anyway, so why bother separating my waste at home?

This is not correct.

The reason you can feel assured that most of your recyclables actually get recycled is that they have a dollar value.

Recyclables are a commodity - goods that can be sold. Those bottles, cans and boxes you recycle can be broken down into raw materials again and sold to manufacturers. As more and more people buy products made from recycled materials, manufacturers buy more recycled materials for their products. This means the prices for these commodities increase, which means recycling becomes more widespread and cost effective.

So recyclables are valuable. Waste, on the other hand, is not. In fact, waste costs Council more to dispose of at landfill then recycling costs. So it makes good sense to recycle.