Household Recycling in Cairns Q&A

Everything you wanted to know about Council recycling in Cairns

What is Recycling?

Recycling is the process of breaking down and re-using materials to form new materials and objects.

Is recycling truly beneficial for our region and the environment?

Waste that Cairns sends to landfill has both environmental and economic impacts  on our region, recycling more material reduces these impacts, conserves natural resources such as water, minerals, timber and reduces pollution.

What Council recycling options do we have in Cairns?

Recyclable packaging can be placed in Cairns Regional Council household yellow lid recycling bins.  Recyclable material can also be transported to Council Transfer Stations located in Smithfield, Portsmith, Gordonvale and Babinda.

Where is household recycling sent in Cairns?

Recyclable items placed in the yellow lid recycling bin are processed at the Cairns Regional Council Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) located in Portsmith.  Through a process of hand and mechanical sorting, recyclable material is separated, baled and transported to contractors located in South East Queensland who reprocess these items into new products.

View our Cairns Waste Story video to learn more about Council processes.

What actually belongs in my yellow lid recycling bin?

Cairns Regional Council targets these specific items in our recycling bins:

  • Rigid (hard) plastic bottles and containers
  • Paper and cardboard products
  • Aluminium and steel cans
  • Glass bottles and jars

View the Council pantry card ( PDF, 5.4 MB ) to confirm acceptable items for recycling bins in the Cairns region.  For a  comprehensive list of Waste and Recyclable items view the CRC A-Z of Waste ( PDF, 0.3 MB ).

What are the top 3 incorrect items being placed in recycling bins across Cairns?

  • Soft plastic bags  - this includes bagged recycling, which cannot be recycled
  • Organic material - food scraps and garden waste
  • Coffee cups

Does Cairns household recycling really get recycled?

Yes! In the previous 12 months, Council's Materials Recovery Facility sent more than 8,000 tonnes of household recyclable plastic, aluminium, steel, cardboard/paper and glass for reprocessing in South East Queensland by private contractors.

The images visible below show actual bales of Cairns recyclable material being processed by one of our current contractors in October (2018). These bottles were shredded, washed, reheated, pellitized and delivered for remaking back into new supermarket available milk bottles here in Queensland.  This example of a circular flow of material from creation, use, collection, recycling, remaking and reusing highlights our best way forward for a waste reducing future.

What can I do with soft plastics & other items that can't go in my yellow lid bin?

Just because some items don't belong in recycling bins doesn't mean they have to be sent to landfill.  Many specialist recyclers want items such as soft plastics (eg. shopping, frozen vegetable, chip packets) and have placed specially marked containers at supermarkets across Cairns to allow this material to be reused and recycled. Further information about specialist recycling programs can be viewed at Planet Ark's Recycling Near You website.  We would also recommend viewing our full accepted items list for Council Transfer Stations. ( PDF, 0.09 MB )

What is the Container Refund Scheme?

The newest additional to recycling in the Cairns region is the State Government's Container Refund Scheme. View our container refund information page for further information on the initiative known as the 'Containers for Change' program.

Is recycling the best action I can take towards managing my waste at home?

The most important action we can take is actually to avoid and reduce our waste as much as possible.  The less waste we create will ensure a cleaner and greener future for the Cairns Region. Make sure to view our tips for reducing waste.

How can I learn more about recycling, waste avoidance and reuse?

Please view our Water and Waste Education page for further information about services and resources the Council have on offer.

Where can I learn more about National Recycling Week?

National Recycling Week, organised by Planet Ark, runs mid November each year. View their website for further information.

Last updated: 16 June 2020