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Cairns is at a tipping point when it comes to waste

Cairns needs to reduce the amount of waste that gets sent to landfill, to sustain our community, our environment, and our economy.

The Australian and Queensland Governments have committed to halving food waste and the amount of organic waste going to landfill by 2030, resulting in the need for local governments to look at how we are managing waste into the future.

In response, Cairns Regional Council has launched the Resource Recovery 2040 (RR2040) project to investigate options for how to best manage our waste. Driven by emerging technologies, our commitment to our unique environment, Queensland Government policy drivers including the Queensland Organics Strategy 2022-2032, ambitious recovery and diversion targets, and a costly new waste levy, RR2040 addresses three key priorities:

  • Recovering organic material from food and garden waste
  • Increasing recycling rates
  • Reducing waste to landfill

We are starting by looking at how we can better manage our household food and garden waste.

Household food and garden waste

Sixty percent of what gets put in household general waste bins in Cairns is food and garden waste. This organic material is a valuable resource that can be recovered from the waste stream during processing.

RR2040 is looking at organics recovery at two levels:

  1. Collecting household food and garden waste
  2. Processing organic material after collection
  • Collecting household food and garden waste

    This stage of the project will look at what kind of organics could be collected from households & how.

    We want to understand how you currently manage your household food & garden waste & how you would like it to be managed in the future.

    Please help us by completing the short survey on this page.

    Survey results will inform the next stage of the project, which looks in detail at options for collecting household food & garden waste. There will be extensive community engagement during this stage.

  • Processing organic material after collection

    This part of the project is looking at options for how Council can process household organic material once it has been collected.

    Council is considering the following options:

    • A new processing facility located either within the Cairns LGA or outside the Cairns LGA
    • The type of processing technology

    The RR2040 Stage 2A Report, available on this page, provides detail on these options. Send your feedback on the options to and help Council decide the preferred approach.

More information

The Queensland Government has developed the Queensland Organics Strategy 2022-2032 to improve the management of domestic and commercial food waste, garden waste and timber. The Strategy will help meet national commitments to contribute to halving food waste and the amount of organic waste going into landfill by 2030.

This Strategy, in conjunction with the Queensland Organics Action Plan 2022 - 2032, supports the enhanced diversion of organics and investigation into the feasibility of options for banning organics from landfill.

In Cairns, the contents from household general waste bins (red and green-lid bins) is collected and delivered to the Advanced Resource Recovery Facility (ARRF). The ARRF separates the waste into organics, which are converted to fertiliser, recyclables and non-reclaimable components. Council's contract for the ARRF comes to end in 2026.

View this video to see how the ARRF works.

Contents from yellow-lid recycling bins are delivered to Council's state-of-the-art Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

View this video to learn about the MRF.

Council manages approximately 100,000 tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) per year.

More than half, 48,000 tonnes, comes from general waste bins, 12,000 tonnes comes from recycling bins and 40,000 tonnes is delivered directly to Transfer Stations.

Council audits show that red and green-lid general waste bins contain approximately:

  • 60% food and garden organics
  • 25% non-recoverable waste
  • 15% comingled recyclables

Find out how you can reduce your household waste at Council's 'Let's get it sorted' pages.

The Queensland Government's Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy sets the following mandatory targets for 2050:

  • 25% reduction in household waste
  • 90% waste recovered, diverted from landfill
  • 75% recycling rates across all waste types.

Queensland’s waste disposal levy commenced in 2019. Landfill operators, including Cairns Regional Council, pay the levy to the Queensland Government based on the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Contact Us

Have questions or want to learn more about a project, contact us below:

Phone 1300 69 22 47
In writing

PO Box 359 Cairns QLD 4870, Australia