What happens to your recycling?

We are often asked what happens to your recycling materials once we have collected them. We work with a number of contracted suppliers who process recycling materials for us. The recycling merchants require a separated, clean, high quality product. To achieve this we have a small Materials Reclamation Facility (MRF) at our Bowling Back Lane waste transfer station. The MRF is a combination of mechanical separation and manual sorting.

Once the bin wagon is full they offload the recyclable material and then continue on their collection rounds. The mixed recycling is then picked up in a large wheeled loading shovel and taken to a feed hopper which takes it at a controlled rate onto a mechanical conveyor, taking it into a large trommel.

The trommel is a large rotating drum with different sized screens or holes in it, (a bit like a tumble dryer), which screens out all the heavy items such as glass which falls out into a skip below. When the skip is full the glass is sent to a glass recycling re-processor.

The remaining material then enters the picking station via a conveyor. The picking station has a horizontal conveyor with pickers stood at either side who 'pick off' specific items such as cardboard, plastics and contaminates which are dropped via a chute to specific bays below. Aluminium cans are picked off mechanically by a non ferrous metal separator called an Eddy current and also fall into a bay below. What remains at the end of the picking station is mixed paper which is baled and loaded onto a wagon provided by the paper recycling merchant.

The items in the bays below the picking station are cardboard, plastics, steel, alloy cans and non-recyclable rubbish. The separated recycling is fed by the wheeled loading shovel into a baler, to create bales which are loaded onto an awaiting trailer provided by the recycling merchant. The steel tins/cans are loaded into a skip and transported to a scrap retail dealer. Any non-recyclable rubbish which has been separated out is then mixed in with the normal refuse collection waste. Did you know that only 8% of our general waste actually goes to landfill?

Our team on the picking line sometimes have to sort through dog poo, nappies and other dangerous or unpleasant non recyclable items - a job made worse by people not putting the correct items in their recycling bin. So please only put the correct items in your recycling bin, this will help to make it safer for our team of hand pickers. Thank you.

What happens to some of the materials we collect

Aerosol, aluminium and steel cans

All these kinds of cans are made from tinplated steel and aluminium. Both these metals are recyclable and are used by the steel industry. Much of the aluminium ever produced is still in use today.


Most cardboard is re-pulped and recycled back into cardboard.

Food and drink cartons

The majority of cartons are used to generate energy from waste, however some cartons are pulped and the aluminium foil and polythene are separated from the fibres. The fibre is recovered to make new paper products and the remaining mix of plastic and aluminium may  then be used in furniture.

Electrical appliances

Are collected and processed at a recycling plant in accordance with Environment Agency requirements. Where possible component parts will be removed and reused.


Is sorted, crushed, screened. The recycled glass is then supplied back to glass manufacturers to produce new glass bottles and jars. Mixed coloured glass can also be used for aggregate in the construction industry.

Garden waste

Garden waste is composted on an industrial scale and used as a soil improver on land reclamation projects.


Used paper is sent to a paper mill which processes the paper and turns it into recycled paper. This can be printed on to make your daily newspapers.


In general, plastic is either melted down directly and moulded into a new shape, or shredded into flakes then melted down before being processed into granulates. There is a wide range of products made from recycled plastic such as fleece jackets, fencing, garden furniture, water butts and compost bins.


Is screened, crushed and used as foundation for roads and buildings.


Clothes and textiles are hand sorted, graded, baled. Some are exported for re-use and others are shredded.

Textiles that cannot be reused are shredded before being reprocessed into new items. Industrial quality "blankets" which protect equipment whilst being transporting is one example of what recycled textiles may become.


Wood can be chipped to make MDF board or Chipboard to make new furniture.