Waste and recycling information

Coffee grounds for gardens

Ground to Ground - coffee grounds for gardensMaking a difference, one coffee at a time

We drink a lot of coffee! Coffee is now the dominant hot drink in Australia, with more than 2.1 billion cups bought from cafes and other vendors in 2013.

After all those cups of coffee, espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes have been made, there's a mountain of coffee grounds left behind. Unfortunately, most of it gets tossed into the waste bin and hauled off to landfill.

We are encouraging coffee shops to recycle their coffee grounds. The Coffee Grounds for Gardens program is based on the Groundtoground.org encouraging the use of coffee grounds for use in gardens. With our program, coffee shops can:

  • recycle internally (grounds utilised by the store staff)
  • establish a local connection (eg a community garden or school to collect the grounds)
  • make coffee grounds available for members of the community to collect
  • organise an organics recycling collection by a waste management company.

Some wonderful links in our community have been forged over coffee grounds: All Saints Catholic Primary School collects coffee grounds in the Seaford area for use in the school garden and Elizabeth House Positive Ageing Centre also collects from several outlets in Port Noarlunga and uses the grounds in their community garden and orchard. 

Who is recycling their coffee grounds?

There are now nearly forty coffee outlets in the Onkaparinga area recycling their coffee grounds. Look out for our Coffee grounds for gardens signs at participating stores, or click here for a list of their locations.

How coffee can add to your garden:

  • Coffee is a great source of nitrogen - a much needed plant fertiliser. The nitrogen in coffee grounds is the kind that needs to break down in the soil before being released, so it ends up feeding a slow and steady drip of fertiliser to your plants.
  • The nitrogen in coffee nicely balances the addition of "brown" materials (leaves, straw and cardboard) in a compost heap.
  • In addition to nitrogen, coffee grounds also contain magnesium and copper in just the right amounts to be beneficial to your plants.
  • Coffee grounds act as an effective repellent against slugs, snails, ants and cats when sprinkled around your garden.

Earthworms and compost worms LOVE coffee grounds, so you can add coffee grounds to your worm farm as well!

If you are a coffee shop or store that makes coffee and would like more information about the program or how to get involved, contact our Waste & Recycling Education Officer on (08) 8384 0666.


Illegal dumping

Keeping our community clean

Nobody likes to live in an area with rubbish everywhere, and there really is no magical rubbish fairy flying by in the night, waving a wand to make it all disappear.

The City of Onkaparinga is committed to helping keep our reserves, creeks, beaches and roads as clean as possible. On a scheduled plan, we undertake a variety of services to help manage thrown away rubbish and roadside litter. However, money and time used for picking up and disposing of illegal dumping and litter means there is less to use for other services supporting our community.

Report illegal dumping

Help us keep our communities clean and report illegal dumping and littering. Contact council on (08) 8384 0666, email mail@onkaparinga.sa.gov.au or report using the My Local Services app.

More information


Shopping trolleys

Isn’t it annoying when you see these abandoned on the side of the road?

As well as being an eyesore, they are a hazard to pedestrians and traffic and many end up dumped in waterways, causing buildup of debris and restricting water flow.

Retailers have systems in place to collect trolleys that have been removed from stores and car parks. However they need their customers' help to return their trolleys after use, and report abandoned trolleys, so that they can collect them within 24 hours.

Report abandoned shopping trolleys to the relevant retailer in the following ways:

Retailer Contact
ALDI Telephone primary ALDI number 132 534 and select option 2 to report a discarded trolley
1st Choice liquor stores

Report to Coles Abandoned Trolleys via:

  • the Coles online form
  • phone 1800 TROLLEY (1800 876 553)
  • Coles Supermarket app for iOS and Android
    - select the ‘Report an abandoned trolley’ function
Big W
Dan Murphy's
Report to Trolley Tracker via:
Foodland Trolley collection is reliant upon consumers calling the nearest Foodland retail outlet or Foodland head office and making a verbal report.


Your responsibilities

If you use a shopping trolley, it is your responsibility to ensure the trolley remains in the shopping centre precinct. Council may issue on-the-spot fines if you do not have a reasonable excuse for removing a trolley from a shopping centre precinct.


Street sweeping

Rubbish on your road or footpath usually ends up in the gutter, and as there is no Rubbish Fairy to pick it up, it waits there until our street sweepers come along.

You can help Council keep your street clear by:

  • removing any debris, especially any non-plant matter caught in your gutter
  • collecting any excess leaves on the nature strip or footpath and placing them in your compost or the green organics bin
  • check to make sure gutter debris is free of sticks, branches and rocks, as they will damage the machinery.

Street sweeping provides two important benefits to our community.

  • The collection and removal of silt, leaves, litter and other debris from our roads and kerbs not only makes our environment look clean and healthy, it also minimises water pooling in the street and assists in improving the water quality of our waterways.
  • The other important, but less visible benefit is the removal of metal particles and other harmful waste products left by passing vehicles. Although virtually invisible, these particles can be particularly harmful to fish and other wildlife if they reach our rivers and beaches.

Street sweeping is an effective method of removing both the large and tiny pollutants that collect on our roads.

Our sweepers clean residential streets on a regular schedule throughout the year. The sweepers remove an average of 207 tonnes of debris per month (approximately 2,500 tonnes per year) from our streets, before it goes into the storm drains. Most of the debris collected is recycled into compost.

In our fleet, we have four road brooms. We currently have 1,850 kilometres of kerbing included in the sweeping program, along with walkways, share paths (foot/bike paths) and car parks that are swept by hand.

When not sweeping roads, our busy brooms are used to help clean up after oil spills and road accidents, assisting with sweeping for road works and special events such as Amy’s Ride and Tour Down Under. So with an average sweeping speed of 5-7 km per hour, you can understand why it takes our team a while to work their way through all our streets.


Kerbside bin audits

In order to determine a benchmark for measurement for future improvements regarding diversion from landfill rates and bin contamination issues, council engaged KESAB Environmental Solutions to undertake a kerbside bin audit. The audit was conducted at the Southern Operations Centre from Monday 31 March to Friday 11 April 2014.  This is the first organisational audit of this scale and one of the largest undertaken by councils in South Australia. Nine hundred domestic and 100 business kerbside bins were collected and the contents physically audited. A total of 12.09 tonnes was audited.

On 1 April 2014 council commenced new collection and processing contracts for recycling and green organics. A contractual requirement, this audit provides us with a snapshot of an average Onkaparinga household’s waste production. This information will advise council and our contracted processors (SKM Recycling and Peats Soil) of current community recycling practices and underpin future education initiatives and assessments of services provided.

Household bins

As a snapshot, each week, the average household in Onkaparinga places approximately 20kg materials in their household bins (or just over one tonne per annum):

  • 10.36 kg waste to landfill (538 kg/year)
  • 4.75 kg recyclables (247 kg/year)
  • 4.88 kg green organics (254 kg/year)

Waste bins

Total audited: 3170.04kg

Correct content: 2321kg (73% by weight)

Divertible content: 27%

  • 27% (by weight) of the contents of the waste bins could have been placed in the recycling bin (18%) or green organics bin (9%)
  • 2% of the content of waste bins was e-waste (now banned from landfill)
  • 28% of appropriate waste bin materials consisted of disposable nappies
  • Food waste comprised 32% of waste bin materials.

Recycling bins

Total audited: 2868.51kg

Correct content: 2493kg (87%)

Contamination level: 13%

  • Contamination included bagged materials, compostable paper, wood, e-waste, textiles & dog waste.
  • Bagged materials were the largest contaminant by volume and comprise a mixture of recyclable and non-recyclable items.

Green organics bins

Total audited: 6052.35kg

Correct content: 5915kg (98%)

Contamination level: 2% (800 items)

  • Contamination included bagged materials, treated wood, plastic and food packaging.

Business bins

Waste and recycling bins were collected from businesses including offices, hair dressers, medical and veterinary clinics, real estate, bakery and café’s.

Waste bins

A total of 435.86 kg (4,700 litres) was audited equating to 8.22kg per bin.

33% (by weight) of the contents of the waste bins was: recyclable (23%), compostable (2%) or collectable through other avenues (E-Waste, clean film) (8%).

Recycling bins

A total of 422.08 kg (7,448 litres) was audited equating to 8.28kg per bin.

13.8% (by weight) of the content of the recycling bins was contamination, such as bagged materials, e-waste & textiles.



Degradable, biodegradable, compostable bags – what’s the difference?

With so many claims of degradable, biodegradable and compostable, how do we know which bags to use?


Go in the waste to landfill bin

Degradable describes where the ordinary plastics are treated with additives, usually consisting of heavy metals to cause the material to disintegrate over a number of years.  

  • Causes of the degradation: sunlight, time, water, chemicals, micro-organisms
  • Time to degrade: varies a lot, but generally a long time
  • Residue: possibility of residues is high

Degradable bags are still toxic and are also likely to survive long enough to be a threat to animals – and because they break down into tiny pieces, smaller animals could eat them that would otherwise be unable to consume the whole, non-degradable plastic bags.


Go in the waste to landfill bin

Biodegradable plastic bags are a specific type of degradable but that still doesn’t mean they are ok to compost.

  • Causes of the degradation: mainly naturally occurring micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi
  • Time to degrade: can vary from days to months to years depending on the material & environment
  • Residue: depends on the nature of material, time and the environment


Compostable bag logoGo in the waste to green organics bin

Compostable plastic bags are a specific type of biodegradable. The main differences between them are; how fast they break down; how small the particles are that they break down into, and the toxicity of these particles.

For plastic to be considered compostable, it:

  • must be able to break down at the same rate as paper
  • needs to look like compost
  • should not produce any toxic material
  • should be able to support plant life

To meet the Australian Standard for compostability AS4736, bags need to meet the following criteria:

  • disintegrate into less than 2mm pieces in compost within 12 weeks 
  • no toxic substances should be formed during composting
  • hazardous substances such as heavy metals should not be present
  • bag should contain more than 50% organic materials
  • Causes of the degradation: microbiological, in a controlled environment
  • Time to degrade: days to weeks
  • Residue: no toxic residues left


Recycling at the MRF

What happens to your recycling once it’s collected from your house?

Recycling trucks collect approximately 600 recycling bins before delivering their load to the transfer station in Lonsdale. There, the materials are baled up ready to be transported to SKM Recycling’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) for sorting and separation.

A MRF is like a huge workshop where the recyclable materials that are collected from homes and businesses are taken to be sorted into different types or “streams” such as paper, plastics and aluminium. Some of the sorting is done by machines and some is done by hand.

After they have been separated into different streams, the materials are then transported to various manufacturers where they are reprocessed into recycled products such as glass containers, aluminium cans, paper, cardboard, plastic packaging and steel products.

So basically, your yellow/recycling bin is there to collect packaging, to be recycled into more packaging.

How does it work?

Materials are pushed onto a conveyor belt to begin the sorting process:

Manual Sort

By hand, sorters remove larger, obvious contaminants (such as bagged items, clothing, gas cylinders, car batteries, carpet, etc.)

It’s very important that certain items are kept out of the recycling bin as they can be dangerous, contaminate the other recyclables, or damage the sorting equipment.

Find out more about what should go in which bin.


A vibrating disc screen is used to separate items paper and cardboard from other recyclables.

Screening systems have holes of different sizes to allow different sized items to fall through. For example, small pieces of glass will fall through screens at a different place to steel can.

Paper & Cardboard

Once separated out from other recyclables, sorters manually separate out the cardboard. Materials are then baled.


Different pieces of equipment, combined by more manual sorting are used to separate containers by material type and size: steel, glass, aluminium and plastic.

Steel cans
Strong magnets are used to full out steel cans and other ferrous metals ready for baling for sale.

Materials then pass through a Glass recyclables pass through an automated ceramic detection system removing ceramic product which contaminates the recyclables and glass fines (which are then separated for recycling).

Then an “air classifier” separates heavy items such as glass from lighter items such as aluminium and plastic by blowing the lighter items away from the heavier items. The glass is then separated into clear, brown and green by an optical sorting process. Materials are stored ready for transport.

Because aluminium does not container iron, magnets will not separate aluminium cans and foil. A magnetic field is used to generate an electrical current called an “eddy current” in the aluminium. This current generates a secondary magnetic field in the aluminium that causes it to be pushed away from the other materials and separated. Materials are then stored ready for transport.

Plastics go through and optical sorting system which separates the plastic into different grades such as PET/White, HDPE/Coloured, HDPE/PP ready for baling.

What happens to your recycling flowchart

What happens to the sorted materials?

Old and unwanted becomes new and useful. Once sorted at the materials recovery facility (MRF), recyclable product is sold to recyclers & manufacturers to make new products. Some, but not all items for common recyclable items are listed below.

Old newspapers are recycled to make new newspaper

Glass bottles & jars
Glass is 100% recyclable and can be made into new glass bottles and jars
Glass for different uses is made differently – so only bottles and jars can go in the yellow/recycling bin

Paper & Cardboard
Old paper & cardboard are recycled into making new paper & cardboard products

Steel cans
Recycled steel can be melted and made into almost any type of steel items such as more steel cans, road signs or truck or car parts

Aluminium cans
Recycled aluminium can be made into cans, car parts and a range of other products


PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
Found in: Soft drink, water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers

Recycled into: new soft drink bottles, detergent bottles, Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, panelling, straps, PET plastic packaging sheets, etc.

HDPE (high density polyethylene)
Found in: Milk bottles, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; butter and yogurt tubs.

Recycled into: Milk bottles, laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing

V (Vinyl) or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Found in: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, some clear food packaging

Recycled into: Decks, panelling, mud flaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats

LDPE (low density polyethylene)
Found in: Squeezable bottles

Recycled into: rubbish bin liners and bins, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tiles

PP (polypropylene)
Found in: some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles

Recycled into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays

PS (polystyrene)
NO foam in your kerbside bin – please place in red waste to landfill bin

Found in: foam packaging, disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases

Mixed plastics (other)
Found in: water cooler water bottles, certain food containers

Recycled into: Plastic lumber, custom-made products