The endomembrane system of eukaryotic cells uses membrane-enclosed carriers to move diverse macromolecules among different membrane-bound compartments, a requirement for cells to secrete and take up molecules from their environment. Two recycling pathways-biosynthetic and endocytic, each with specific lipid components-make up this system, with the Golgi apparatus mediating transport between the two. Here, we integrate lipid-based mechanisms into the description of this system. A partitioning model of the Golgi apparatus is discussed as a working hypothesis to explain how membrane lipids and proteins that are segregated based on lateral lipid partitioning support the unique composition of the biosynthetic and endocytic recycling pathways in the face of constant trafficking of molecular constituents. We further discuss how computational modeling can allow for interpretation of experimental findings and provide mechanistic insight into these important cellular pathways.