What happens to my waste and recycling?

We ask you to separate your waste into different coloured bins; we even ask you to take your textiles to recycling banks located throughout the district. But then where does it all go?

Once collected from your recycling bin at the kerbside, your waste is initially taken to a Waste Transfer Station (WTS) in Great Dunmow, before being transported to a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Crayford, Kent. This uses the latest technology to separate different materials, such as the many different varieties of plastic packaging.

All materials are checked for quality upon tipping at the MRF and as much recyclable material as possible will be diverted away from landfill and into reuse. Recovered materials include mixed papers, cardboard, plastic bottles, steel/aluminium cans and metals.

What happens to your recycling

But have you ever wondered what then actually happens to your recycling?

Aluminium cans are sorted and checked before being melted down into aluminium rolls. The aluminium will be used for production of new beverage cans or even car parts.

Steel cans are also melted down for the production of new steel at various mills. Steel is 100% recyclable and is an energy efficient metal for the production for all types of cans; food, drinks, aerosols and pet food, as well as household and industrial products

Once collected, the mills sort, shred and pulp the material to produce new fibre products, such as new cardboard, greetings cards, tissues and magazines. The way these materials are collected and processed has become sophisticated, efficient and effective meaning far less carbon dioxide (CO2) is generated and less energy is used when making new paper from recycled stock than when using virgin pulp. 100% of the paper handled is successfully recycled.

Depending on resource demand, glass will either be separated and sold for re-melt for the production of new bottles and jars or the glass will be crushed to produce a sand. This resource may be used in concrete production,loft insulation or road building.

The household plastics collected are a combination of the following main polymers:

  • HDPE natural - clear or white high-density polyethylene
  • HDPE coloured - mixed colours of high-density polyethylene
  • PET clear - polyethylene terephthalate
  • PET coloured - mixed colours of polyethylene terephthalate
  • Pots tubs and trays - this is a combination of polypropylene, high impact polystyrene, polyethylene

At Crayford MRF, the sorting process removes the HDPE natural and PET clear. These high value polymers are then taken to another operational plant in Skelmersdale, where pellet (tiny disk-shaped granules) and flake (small flat shaped pieces) is made. The materials are sold to the bottle producers as recycled raw product to manufacture new bottles or other products such as thermal fleece cloths.

The remaining coloured HDPE and PET, along with the pots, tubs & trays are taken to a plant in Rochester. There all polymers are separated and sold to similar organisations to the Skelmersdale facility, that specialise in pellet and flake production for reuse of the resource into new consumer products.

Technology has evolved so fast that recycling processes for plastic bottles are as quick as producing bottles using virgin plastics, saving energy and reducing CO2 in the process. There are so many uses for high quality recycled plastic materials, ranging from new bottles and trays, to underground drainage products and even fibre filling for soft furnishings.

These items are separated from the paper stream from the comingled recyclate (a mix of everyday household materials sent to an MRF) and where market conditions allow, it is baled and sold to companies that can produce a combined polymer pellet. The combination is of both low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polypropylene (PP) as the bags and film are manufactured from these two polymers. This type of plastic can be used to make things like park benches, decking and playground equipment or more plastic bags.

Collected as a mix of metals these are sold for sorting into separate metals and alloys. Once sorted they are sent to the further process of remelt mills. Most types of metals can be recycled repeatedly and used for all transport vehicles,cans and construction.


Other types of waste

We also collect other types of waste that do not go to the MRF, but instead go to other facilities for recycling and reuse.

Food waste

We send food waste to an anaerobic digestion plant. Anaerobic digestion uses microorganisms to break down the food waste in an enclosed system that doesn't contain oxygen. This process produces a bio-gas, which is used to generate electricity. It also creates a nutrient-rich soil that farmers can use for their fields to help grow more food.

Garden waste

We send Garden waste on to a local industrial composting facility. Due to the enormous size of the operation, the grass and leaves decompose very quickly. They are then recycled into nutrient-rich compost, which is used on local farm land.