Stacks of plastic containers

Takeaway food containers – a quick guide to what you can and can’t recycle

Because restaurants and cafes have been closed for a while, you might have been supporting local businesses by having more takeaway meals instead. Here is a quick guide to which takeaway packaging can be recycled and those which must go into the general waste bin.

May 15, 2020

Items for your yellow-top recycling bin:

Rinse items to make sure they are free from any food residue and place them loose in the bin. Remove any lids from bottles (some can be recycled separately).

  • Coffee cup lids
  • Aluminium cans (preferably crushed)
  • Clean/food-free cardboard such as pizza boxes – the lid, if clean, can be recycled – the base maybe not if it’s contaminated with food.
  • Hard plastic containers and lids (those commonly used in Asian-style takeaway)
  • Plastic bottles
  • Glass bottles
  • Metal lids from glass bottles
  • Paper bags
  • Plastic cups

Items for your general waste bin:

  • Plastic straws
  • Coffee cups (because although they contain paper, they are also coated in a type of plastic)
  • Polystyrene containers & cups
  • Anything with food residue; dirty containers cannot be recycled
  • Napkins and paper towels. They are already made from recycled products, so the paper fibres are too short to be recycled again; also, they are usually contaminated with food.
  • Juice boxes & other silver-lined drink cartons
  • Lids from plastic drink bottles can’t be recycled as they are too small to be picked up by the factory sorting machines
  • Plastic knives, forks & spoons

Two more ways to recycle your takeaway items


Soft, scrunchable plastics can be taken to your local Coles or Woolworths and put in the REDcycle bins to be recycled and turned into a range of items from outdoor furniture to exercise equipment!

FOGO bins

Some local councils have a new three-bin system which includes a FOGO (Food Organics and Garden Organics) bin with a bright green lid. All food scraps, including meat, bones and leftovers can go in this bin. This bin will be composted so you can also put small amounts of paper towels, compostable coffee cups, and plates and containers made from cardboard which have food residue on them.

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