'Taking-away' the recycling confusion

Posted on: July 13, 2020

We all love the convenience of take-away food, but that convenience comes with an abundance of plastic and cardboard containers, not all of which can be recycled.

So just what can you put in the yellow bin once you’ve finished your grab-and-go grub?

Your guide to take-away recycling

These on-the-go vessels and takeaway packaging should be placed in a recycling bin.

Item Extra Notes

Plastic bottles

Empty, lids off

Glass bottles

Empty, lids off

Aluminium cans

Cardboard (e.g. clamshells, trays, boxes)

Must be food-free

Paper bags

Must be food-free

These items below can go into your FOGO bin.

If you do not have a FOGO bin these items should go in your general waste bin or be composted. Don't forget to remove the packaging from your food scraps before you add them to your FOGO bin.

  Item Extra notes

Food scraps

 Meats, cheeses and bones are all good to FOGO

Butchers paper

Check it doesn’t have a plastic lining

These items below should always go in the general waste bin.

  Item Extra notes

Paper straws


Coffee cups and their lids

Soft drink cups (coated paperboard)


Anything with food residue (including paper, cardboard and plastic items that can’t be washed)

An item that has a small smear of sauce wiped off or a little bit of grease can still be recycled



Wooden utensils


Soft plastics (chip packets, chocolate wrappers)

Plastic lids

You can also take these home and recycle them through a specialist program. Collect and return your drink containers to Containers for Change. Just check for the 10c mark 

Juice boxes and any other silver-lined drink


Frequently asked questions

Close up man holding a takeaway cup and takeaway bag of food

Aussies spend a third of their food budget on take-away food and drinks so it’s important to dispose of packaging in a way that will maximise recycling potential.

Are take-away cups recyclable?

No. Coffee cups and cardboard-based soft drink containers need to be placed in a general waste bin. 

Can pizza boxes be recycled?

Yes – if they don’t have food residue on them. A small amount of grease is OK, but crust and melted on cheese are a no-no. If the lid is clean, you can tear it off for recycling before putting the rest in general waste. The same goes for the cartons you get your fries in.

Can takeaway coffee cups be recycled?

In most instances, no. Even though they may look like cardboard, they typically contain a thin plastic lining, which makes them difficult to recycle.

There are some specialist programs available such as the partnership between Simply Cups and 7-Eleven, Detpak’s RecycleMeTM program.

If you can, BYO reusable cup and this won’t be a worry anymore. 

What can I do with bottle lids?

Lids are too small for many large recycling plants to process, however you do have options to keep them out of landfill.

  1. Take them back to a Containers for Change drop off with your eligible 10c bottles. Just remember to take them off first.
  2. Start a plastic lid collection and take them to a collection point for specialist recycling. Visit Recycle Right to find your nearest.

Is there an alternative to take-away in single-use packaging?

Closeup of lady holding a reusable metal lunch container

Your voice is powerful – just ask for your takeaways to be placed in a container you already own

Absolutely! A lot of the time it is just a case of asking for something different. If you choose to refuse by using your own reusable containers, cups and utensils instead you’ll prevent a lot of waste from being created in the first place!

The BYO Containers website is a great way to locate outlets near you that are happy for you to bring your own containers.

Got questions?

We’re here to help – if you have a question about what you can and can’t recycle please send us an email.

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