How your recycling is processed after collection.
Recycling collection services vary across the country. The factors that influence these services include whether the area is urban or rural, the different types of housing and the facilities available to process your recycling.
Broadly there are three scheme types:
- 'Kerbside sort' schemes where recyclables are sorted into their respective materials on the lorry at the kerbside;
- 'Two-stream' where paper and card is collected in one compartment and the containers (cans, plastic bottles and glass bottles and jars) are collected in another compartment; and
- 'Co-mingled' collections where all your recyclables are put into one compartment on the lorry before being taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and sorted.
How is it recycled?
After the materials have been collected and sorted, they are sent for re-processing.
More information on how mixed recycling is sorted can be found in the materials recovery facility (MRF) video.
Once collected and sorted, recycled materials become valuable commodities in the worldwide market. There are many recycling factories here, reprocessing million of tonnes of material every year. For example:
- all of the newsprint used in the UK contains around 78% of recycled paper;
- all of the organic (garden and kitchen) waste we collect is recycled here, usually quite close to where it is collected; and
- we currently recycle 6 billion plastic bottles – that's the same as each person in Britain recycling 99 bottles a year!
You can check the recycling locator to see what can be collected in your area.
Whilst recycled materials are valuable commodities in the worldwide market and are financially important; recycling is good for the environment too. It makes best use of our limited natural resources. Recycling is a real success story and we should be proud of what we have achieved as a nation – but there is still much more we can do
In 2008-09 over 27 million tonnes of household waste was collected by local authorities. Of this:
- 50% of this waste was sent to landfill;
- 37% was recycled or composted; and
- 12% was incinerated for energy recovery.
The amount of household waste we recycled in 2008 reached an impressive 8.7 million tonnes. That alone saved the same amount of CO2 that nearly a million return flights from London to Sydney would produce.
Problems and issues
The biggest problem is when incorrect items are put in the recycling container.
These items have to be removed; otherwise the quality of the recycling would be reduced - affecting the markets into which it can be sold.
The main issue faced by the paper re-processors is the lack of high quality material available. For many people, paper is often collected from your home with other recyclable items. Although these materials are later separated at a Materials Recovery Facility, the other items can sometimes affect the quality of the paper.
The materials collected for recycling vary from area to area; so although an item of packaging may state that it is recyclable, only put out for collection if your council has confirmed that they can accept it. To find out what you can recycle at home check the recycling locator.