FAQs about recycling now


  • Kerbside recycling changed slightly in 2019
  • Council has committed to a 4th bin for glass and a Food Organics and Garden Organics collection (FOGO).

Find out more about recycling now in the list below. If you can't find the answer to your question in the list, please contact us directly at info@surfcoast.vic.gov.au or on (03) 5261 0600.

What can I put into my kerbside recycling (yellow lid) bin?

What’s in:

  • PLASTICS: Empty rigid plastic bottles and containers labelled 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 only. Please remove plastic lids and place them in your general waste bin (or donate them to a service that can put them to use)
  • PAPER AND CARDBOARD: Clean paper and cardboard
  • METALS: Empty steel food cans, aluminium cans, metal lids and foil
  • GLASS: Empty bottles and jars from drinks, foods and beauty products – lids placed in the recycling bin separately

What’s out:

  • Coated cardboard cartons used to package liquids such as milk or juice and foods like yogurts and ice-cream
  • Bagged recyclables – everything must go into the recycling bin loose
  • Soft plastic packaging such shopping bags, bread bags, frozen food bags
  • Small plastic lids, and any plastic containers not marked 1-5
  • Polystyrene packaging
  • Plastic toys
  • Metal pots and pans
  • Clothing and footwear

Why can’t coated cardboard cartons be recycled?

Cardboard packaging that’s designed to hold liquid is a composite material –made up of a waterproof coating bonded to cardboard. No facilities in Australia can recycle these items, which include milk cartons, UHT cartons, tetrapaks, some ice-cream, yogurt and cream containers, etc. These must go into your landfill bin.

Do I keep putting glass into my recycling bin? I thought Council was introducing separate bins for glass.

Yes, keep putting glass into your recycling bin with other materials until you receive your new kerbside bin (with a purple lid) for glass. The new collections will start in 2021. See more on the new Kerbside 2021 service.

Cleanaway is able to accept glass in co-mingled collections and they will manage any contamination related to broken glass.

Making the change to separate glass out of kerbside bins in the shire has these benefits:

  • All co-mingled recyclable materials collected in the shire will be free from glass contamination.
  • Council can make choices about how the glass is reused or recycled, so there will be more transparency and control in managing this stream.
  • Glass is very wearing on sorting equipment at Materials Recovery Facilities (where recycling is sorted), and while most still accept glass in co-mingled recycling collections, some do not.
  • By taking glass out, we will have more options for processing our co-mingled recycling collection if there is an interruption or issues to sorting in future – meaning our kerbside recycling service will be more resilient to impacts like those experienced with SKM Recycling last year.

Where does the recycling go after it’s collected?

After kerbside collection, our co-mingled (mixed) recycling is taken to Cleanaway’s Geelong facility, and from there it is bulk-hauled to their Coolaroo or Laverton Materials Recovery Facility where the paper, cardboard, metals, glass and plastics are sorted into their separate streams.

Cleanaway provides monthly reports to the councils on where the materials are then sent or sold. Currently this will involve a mix of Australian and international markets. China’s National Sword Policy, introduced in January 2018, changed what was accepted by China. Materials now require a higher degree of sorting, but if the new standard is met, markets still exist in China and other countries. 

As part of the agreement with Cleanaway, all parties have committed to developing innovative local uses for recyclables collected, with an aim to expand the circular economy within the region. Cleanaway has agreed to work with the councils to identify local secondary markets to maximise the sustainable re-use of recyclables, with an initial focus on the re-use of glass. 

In 2021, Surf Coast Shire Council is introducing a fourth bin to all households that receive Council’s kerbside collection service, for separating out glass. Removing glass from the co-mingled recycling collection provides Council with the opportunity to utilise more local and transparent markets for Surf Coast Shire’s glass collection

Wasn’t Cleanaway already taking our recycling?

For over ten years, Cleanaway has been contracted by Council to send trucks to collect kerbside recycling, landfill and green waste bins and deliver the contents to the sorting facilities, which had in recent years been operated by SKM Recycling.

After SKM Recycling closed and went into receivership last year, Cleanaway purchased its assets, enabling them to now sort the mixed recyclables they have collected from kerbside bins.

Along with the City of Greater Geelong, Golden Plains Shire Council and Borough of Queenscliffe, in December 2019 Surf Coast Shire Council entered an 18 month agreement with Cleanaway to process our recycling collection. 

What happened when recycling stopped in 2019?

With the closure of SKM Recycling in late July 2019, local councils had no option but to send the contents of kerbside recycling bins to landfill as a last resort. Read all the recycling updates

Surf Coast Shire Council (along with City of Greater Geelong, Golden Plains Shire Council and Borough of Queenscliffe) signed an agreement with Cleanaway to take over processing the region’s kerbside collected recyclable materials commencing December 16 2019. This includes paper, glass, metals and plastics.

Why did it take so long to fix the problem?

Council’s previous recycling contractor, SKM Recycling, held contracts with many other councils, so when the company went into receivership in July 2019, over half of Victoria’s recycling collection was affected. SKM ran Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) that sorted co-mingled recycling into separate streams of plastics, paper/cardboard, metals and glass for on-sale.

With SKM’s closure, Surf Coast Shire and many other councils were unable to sort or store the mixed recyclables, for reasons including EPA and other regulations, lack of capacity and/or large distances to other MRFs, and changes to global markets for recyclable materials.

Cleanaway purchased SKM’s Materials Recovery Facilities, and started sorting co-mingled recyclables in December 2019.

Besides contract negotiations, what has Council been doing to solve the recycling crisis?

Council has been working on and contributing to the following:

  • Regular meetings with other councils in the G21 region and more broadly, to identify solutions
  • Setting up collection points at our transfer stations to accept sorted glass, paper/cardboard and metals for recycling through other contractors
  • Researching and planning for changes to the kerbside bin system in 2021, including a shire-wide Food Organics and Garden Organics collection, and separate bin for glass
  • Regional Recycling Action Plan – Barwon South West region
  • Parliamentary Inquiry into Waste and Recycling
  • Infrastructure Victoria’s Recycling and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Evidence Base Report
  • Victoria’s Circular Economy Policy
  • Australia’s Product Stewardship Act 2011 review
  • Advocacy for a Victorian Container Deposit Scheme

Can I still take sorted materials to a transfer station for recycling?

Yes, you can continue to take household quantities of sorted glass, metals and paper/cardboard to our transfer stations in Anglesea, Winchelsea or Lorne for recycling free of charge.

How will Council let people know what can and can’t be recycled?

Download the Recycling has changed(PDF, 2MB) and Tips for managing your household waste in the summer season(PDF, 317KB) flyers.

You’ll hear more about recycling, and what can and can’t go into your kerbside recycling bin through:

  • Council’s Facebook page and Twitter feed
  • Council’s website (Waste and Recycling pages)
  • Local newspapers including Surf Coast Times, Winchelsea Star, Geelong Advertiser and community newsletters
  • Your waste collection calendar

Why hasn’t Council sent recycling information to every household?

It’s very expensive (up to $40k) to send mail to every ratepayer and residential address in the shire, and it’s difficult to turn it around quickly (the process includes writing the material; printing, assembling and addressing it; delivering it to Australia Post; and having it arrive in your letterbox).

Fortunately up to date information is just a click away on our website and we’d appreciate if you can help ensure other members of the community are aware of where they can find it. We will also continue to notify people through social media, newspapers, and community groups.

What is Council doing to support a Container Deposit Scheme for Victoria?

In 2009 Council resolved to support the introduction of a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) in Victoria and has been advocating for this change since then. Council has taken the opportunity to make its own submissions, and to support those made by the Municipal Association of Victoria and Barwon South West Waste and Resource Recovery Group on the following topics:

  • Victoria’s Recycling and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Evidence Base Report (December 2019)
  • A circular economy for Victoria (August 2019)
  • Parliamentary Inquiry into Recycling and Waste Management (May 2019)
  • Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (June 2018)
  • Inquiry into Environment Protection Amendment (Beverage Container Deposit and Recovery Scheme) Bill 2011 (October 2011)