Guide to recycling and waste in the City of Melbourne

18 April 2024

Imagine living in a zero-waste city. We’ve got an ambitious strategy to reduce, collect and process and waste in innovative ways across the City of Melbourne, working in collaboration with businesses and community members.

The most powerful thing all of us can do to help create a cleaner, greener future is to avoid creating waste in the first place. However, if you do use an item be sure to dispose of it correctly using this handy guide.

Read on to learn more about bin collection, how to dispose of different items, waste-free shopping, and some of the projects underway that repurpose waste in innovative ways. You can also follow the links to jump to sections of interest.

Residential bin collection information

General waste (landfill) bins and food and garden waste bins are collected weekly. Recycling (yellow lid) bins are collected either fortnightly or weekly. Check out our waste collection calendar and map to check how often your bins are collected, and on what day of the week.

If you’ve got something unusual to dispose of and you’re not sure which bin it belongs in, search our handy A-Z guide to recycling and waste disposal​.

You can also report lost, stolen or damaged bins, and missed collections online.

A person throwing leaves into a wheelie bin with a green lid
We’re sending less waste to landfill thanks to our food and garden waste collection

Common recycling and waste errors

Unfortunately, some waste items are ending up in the wrong bins, which contaminates our recycling system and undoes the hard work of people’s recycling efforts.

One of the most common errors is putting items into your recycling bin inside a plastic bag. This means they will end up in landfill. Only loose items can be sorted and recycled correctly, and then turned into new products. Learn more about your recycling bin.

Polystyrene is a material people often dispose of incorrectly. It goes in your general waste bin as it easily breaks up into small pieces that can’t be sorted, contaminating other recyclables. Learn more about your general waste (landfill) bin.

When you’re getting rid of old clothes, remember that fabric can get stuck in sorting machines, which makes it harder for other items to get recycled. So swap unwanted items of clothing with friends, donate them to charity, turn them into something new, or send them to RCYCL.

A stack of compostable bags filled with clothing to be recycled
Subscribe to RCYCL, receive your compostable satchel, fill it with old clothes and return it to be recycled.

Lastly, food and organic waste accounts for more than half of household waste, and it doesn’t decompose naturally in landfill. Please keep it out of your yellow-lid recycling bin. Find out more about food waste.

What goes in what bin: search our A to Z guide

We offer a handy guide for how to recycle or dispose of various items, whether via a kerbside bin or collection service, local drop-off location, or through other service providers.

From aerosol cans to zip-lock bags and just about everything in between, you can search for items alphabetically in our A to Z guide to recycling and waste disposal.

Recycling bin – yellow lid

Residents are entitled to a 120-litre or 240-litre yellow lidded recycling bin, or larger equivalents for apartment buildings. You can upgrade your recycling bin to a 240 litre bin for free by submitting an online request or by calling 9658 9658.

Please put your recycling loose into the bin. Never put them in plastic bags or tie them together.

Recycling being disposed of in a yellow recycling bin.
Put recyclables into your bin loose, not in a plastic bag
What can go in your recycling bin:
  • hard or rigid plastic bottles and containers 
  • paper and cardboard including clean pizza boxes (no waxed or greasy cardboard)
  • aluminium cans, foil (scrunch into a ball) and trays
  • steel cans
  • empty aerosol cans
  • glass bottles and jars (that have contained food or drink).
What can’t go in your recycling bin:
  • soft plastics (such as food wrappers, plastic bags and chip packets)
  • cling wrap
  • bagged garbage or bagged recycling
  • long life milk or juice cartons
  • nappies or baby wipes
  • expanded polystyrene and foam (including meat trays)
  • window glass, glassware, mirrors, Pyrex and crockery
  • food or garden waste
  • textiles and clothing
  • batteries and electronic waste
  • syringes
  • waxed cardboard.

For a full list – and instructions for how to dispose of more unusual items – visit our A to Z guide to recycling and waste disposal.

Food and garden organics bin – lime green lid

Around half of the waste produced by the average City of Melbourne household is made up of food and garden organics. That’s why we’re working hard to divert this nutrient-rich material from landfill, where it would produce harmful gases and contribute to climate change.

Our food and garden organics (FOGO) collection is part of our commitment to improve waste and recycling services and reduce the amount of household waste going to landfill. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Food scraps, paper towel and leaves can go in the new food and garden waste bins.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​More than 2300 tonnes of food and garden organics have already been collected and converted into compost and organic fertiliser to be used on farms and our parks, gardens and sporting fields, creating a circular economy. 

Phase one of the r​​oll out began in June 2021 for ​s​ingle unit dwelling​s, followed by multi-unit dwellings up to five storeys. A pilot is currently underway for high-rise residential apartments. See how the service works in the following video.

To learn more about what how to manage your food and garden organic waste, visit Food and organics service.

General waste (landfill) bin – red or dark-green lid

All residents are entitled to a 120 litre landfill bin, or larger equivalents for apartment buildings. A 240 litre landfill bin is available in special circumstances and will usually incur an annual fee.

What can go in your general waste bin:
  • general rubbish
  • nappies (wrapped or bagged)
  • food waste – only if you do not have a food and garden waste service
  • polystyrene and foam (including meat trays)
  • plastic bags and soft plastics
  • window glass, glassware, mirrors, Pyrex and crockery.
What can’t go in your general waste bin

Any items that can be recycled in your yellow bin lid, in addition to:

For a full list – and instructions for how to dispose of more unusual items – visit our A to Z guide to recycling and waste disposal.

Garden and hard waste collections

We offer residents one free garden waste collection each month and one free hard waste collection per year. You can also take items to the Citywide Transfer Station.

Book a free garden waste collection

E-waste and chemical disposal

E-waste (electronic waste) is anything with a plug, cord or battery. The Victorian Government has banned all e-waste from landfill. Please take your e-waste to a drop-off location for recycling. E-waste will be taken apart, shredded, sorted and then recycled into new items.

To learn more about accepted e-waste items and drop-off locations, or to book an e-waste collection bin, visit E-waste.

A person standing in front of a sign which reads "We can reboot this stuff".
Dispose of your e-waste mindfully

It’s also important that you don’t put chemicals into your landfill or recycling bin. You can drop off unwanted chemicals for free at your closest Detox Your Home collection point. The chemicals will either be recycled or disposed of safely. To learn more, visit Chemical waste collections or browse our A to Z guide to recycling and waste disposal.

Commercial waste and recycling

Everyone has a role to play in keeping the city clean but for Commercial Waste and Recycling Manager Catherine Ng – it really is her job.

With more than 1000 garbage trucks entering the CBD each day, it’s a fine balance between ensuring the city looks and is clean, while minimising the impact of noise and amenity issues on visitors and the residents who live there. 

“Encroachment is a big issue in waste,” Catherine said. “We want Melbourne to look presentable for our visitors and rows of overflowing bins in laneways isn’t a good look.”

“Our central city waste laws help keep our laneways and streets clean and we work with businesses to store their bins on premises.”

A woman standing in front of a garbage compacter that is covered in artwork
Catherine Ng with a colourful garbage compacter in a city laneway

While most commercial waste is picked up by private collectors, Catherine said her team educates businesses about how they can access our waste and recycling hubs.

“The majority of businesses don’t recycle. So, we educate them on our waste and recycling hubs and about our organic waste collection service. We want to work with them and encourage them to make use of our service. Compliance is our last resort.”

Businesses can apply to access five garbage compacters in the central city that take non-recyclable materials to landfill. The machine compresses the garbage so more can fit in compared to regular bins.  

There are also 14 cardboard and commingle recycling bins which can be accessed at any time.

Catherine’s team has been working with other branches across the organisation to develop miniature garbage compacters that fit within Melbourne’s iconic laneways.  

These are co-designed by the City of Melbourne, with a mini compacter coming to a trial site in Literature Lane soon. If successful, the mini compacters could be installed across the city meaning more businesses can utilise the service and do away with their private bins.

Waste and recycling innovations

Alongside regular waste collection across the municipality, the City of Melbourne is committed to managing waste in new ways to create a more circular economy.

This includes supporting Kensington to become Australia’s first Circular Economy Precinct – a program that includes a pioneering reusable milk keg system for local cafes.

Other projects include turning tonnes of residential food and garden organic waste into mulch for our parks and gardens and repurposing construction waste to prepare the ground for native wildflower meadows.

Two people planting seed in a wide sandy stretch of ground
Expert horticulturalists are using construction waste to prepare the ground for resilient planting

We also manage an expanding network of central-city garbage compacters, and support street-art projects to deter waste-dumping in problem areas.

Another small but mighty project is using glass, concrete and organic waste to create more sustainable raingardens – nifty layered garden beds that help avoid flooding and support biodiversity.

Amira Moshinsky and her team from the University of Melbourne won our Fishermans Bend Innovation Challenge with their smart idea to make raingardens more sustainable and cost-effective.

“We realised that rather than using scarce and often costly resources, we could use high-volume waste streams, such as glass, concrete and organic waste to form the layers within the raingarden beds,” Amira said.

“I’m passionate about the ability to upcycle wasted materials into a product that can enhance urban resilience and be used as a tool to educate the community on circular economy ideals.”

Two people working in a studio with PVC pipe
Amira and her colleague at work on a raingarden prototype

Read on to discover more innovative companies helping Melburnians reduce their environmental impact.

How to recycle old clothes with RCYCL

Did you know that your old clothes can be shredded, spun and woven into new items? Change the way you dispose of clothing thanks to Melbourne Award-winning business RCYCL.

“I love fashion. It has been my career for many years. I love the thrill of finding the next trend and seeing the latest designs,” said Belinda Paul from RCYCL.  

“But it had me thinking that fashion is a reflection of us as people, we all love fashion, and we are all consumers of fashion but what can we all do at an individual level to help the longevity of our cherished items?”

“I created RCYCL to allow people to be responsible consumers, to be responsible with their old clothes and to give them an alternative to throwing them in the bin,” Belinda said. 

“I wanted to provide a solution for people who think that disposing of clothing is the only way to get rid of clothes that are unable to be upcycled or donated.”

How coffee waste can help fight climate change

Enjoy cuppas from cafes that turn coffee waste and soft plastics into valuable resources. Reground, a Melbourne Award-winning social enterprise, is making this possible across Melbourne.

Ground coffee and chaff are byproducts of roasting and brewing coffee. Australia produces around 75,000 tonnes of these materials every year, and the majority goes into landfill.

A truck full of coffee grounds
Reground collects coffee waste from cafes and turns it into nutrient-rich compost

When food and organic matter rots away in landfill it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This makes a significant contribution to climate change, and it’s entirely avoidable.

Coffee waste doesn’t need to be waste at all. In fact, grounds and chaff can create nutrient-rich compost that supercharges plant growth, particularly green vegetables. Worms and chickens love it too.

Reground delivers coffee grounds and chaff directly to home gardeners and community gardens in the City of Melbourne for free. Learn more from Fiona Parsons from Reground – who calls herself a proud “binfluencer”.

Waste-free shopping at Queen Victoria Market

Bring your reusable containers and bags to Queen Victoria Market to check off your whole shopping list, including meat, fish, cheese, antipasti, wine, olive oil, grains, fruit, vegies and even shampoo.

Queen Victoria Market offers waste-free alternatives to almost every packaged grocery item, alongside hearty servings of cost savings and community connection. You can learn more in our waste-free market shopping guide.

A women with a vintage shopping trolley
Bettina de Chateauborg shops waste free at Queen Victoria Market, and you can too

“Bring along plastic containers for meat, fish, cheese and butter. Bring jars for dips and antipasti. And bring cloth bags, or reused plastic bags, for your fruit and veg,” said waste-free shopping expert Bettina de Chateauborg. 

“All the traders are very comfortable weighing and using your reusable containers. Just make sure the containers are really clean so they’re pleasant for the traders to handle.”

For more information, visit Waste and recycling.

Share this story

You may also like
Guide to waste-free shopping at Queen Victoria Market

Guide to waste-free shopping at Queen Victoria Market

Bring your reusable containers and bags to Queen Victoria Market to check off your whole shopping list, including meat, fish, cheese, antipasti, wine, olive oil, grains, fruit, vegies and even shampoo.  More and more Melburnians are changing the way they do their...

RCYCL is a perfect fit for the planet

RCYCL is a perfect fit for the planet

As fashion designers and doyens frock up and flock to the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival, one Melbourne business is enabling us to change the way we use, reuse and recycle clothing. What do you do with last season’s taffeta double-bow midi dress...

A wild life: park rangers rescue roos and reptiles

A wild life: park rangers rescue roos and reptiles

A roo on the hop in Carlton. A blue-tongue lizard basking in a laneway. Ducklings in distress. Our park rangers have seen it all and know just what to do. So – before you step in – give the experts a call. Our park rangers do important work – helping visitors, keeping...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the City of Melbourne by subscribing to the Melbourne newsletter.

You have successfully subscribed!