The A-Z of Recycling in Australia

Six hands holding up the main kinds of materials that can be recycled

Ever thrown something in the bin that someone else told you could be recycled? Did you have a big argument and end up no closer to a definitive answer? Did you know that putting unrecyclable materials in a recycling bin can mean items that were going to be recycled might have to go to landfill now?

The reality of the situation is complex. Some items can be recycled in some parts of Australia but not in others. Some items are technically recyclable but nobody actually goes to the effort of recycling them, such as coffee cups. The situation is changing rapidly and each council around Australia has its own rules as to what can and can’t go in your recycling bin. To further complicate matters, some things, like batteries, can be recycled but only in specialist ways.

This article will act as a basic guide to what can and can’t be recycled. If you are in doubt, talk to your local council or waste management experts.


Glass is infinitely recyclable. That means that as a species, we can continue reusing glass that exists forever. Glass is manufactured from purified sand. It can be recycled around Australia. To recycle glass it is first washed to remove any impurities. It is then crushed and ground into tiny particles. These particles are then melted and moulded into new products. 


The manufacture of aluminium products from raw materials requires extreme amounts of energy. It is estimated that twenty cans can be produced from recycled aluminium with the same amount of energy it takes to make one from raw materials. All aluminium products can be recycled, including aluminium foil, pie trays and baking trays, not just cans.


Only hard plastics are typically recyclable across Australia. Takeaway containers, plastic bottles, plastic plates, cups and drink bottles are all recyclable. Technically, soft plastics like cling wrap are recyclable; however, they cannot be recycled due to their tendency to cling to machinery in the recycling process. This creates a big sticky mess that can bring the whole process to a smoking halt and not only disturbs the efficiency of the recycling plant but can pose a health risk to employees at the plant.

Paper and Cardboard

Paper and cardboard can definitely be recycled. Letters, pizza boxes, tissue boxes, toy boxes and newspapers can all be recycled. Only waxed cardboard cannot be recycled, and that is because the wax itself makes the paper fibres too difficult to extract.

We should all do our best to recycle as many paper and cardboard products as we can because these products more often than not come from our native forests! We’d all like to leave our forests standing so don’t contribute to their unnecessary felling by failing to recycle paper and cardboard.

Still Have Questions? Ask Our Experts!

In the Greater Brisbane Area, Smart Skip is well versed in the pathways of recycling. If you have any questions about what can or can’t be recycled call us on 13 75 47. We can also help you order a skip to dispose of all items that cannot be recycled.