What happens to your recycling and dustbin rubbish

Find out what happens to your recycling and dustbin rubbish after we collect it.

Mixed paper, cardboard and cartons

These materials from blue boxes and wheeled recycling banks are initially delivered to the Council’s depot in Craneford Way, Twickenham. Bulk loads are then transported by Newport Recycling Ltd to paper mills within the European Union for reprocessing. The recovered paper fibres are then used instead of virgin wood pulp to make new paper products such as newspapers and magazines.

Mixed glass, cans, foil and plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays

The Council’s waste and recycling collection contractor Serco collects these materials from black boxes and wheeled recycling banks and they are delivered to the Council’s depot in Craneford Way, Twickenham. From here the materials are processed as follows:

  • Transporting bulk loads to a sorting plant near Mansfield in Derbyshire: this plant separates the glass, steel cans, aluminium cans/foil and plastics from each other as well as from any non-recyclable contaminants present (which are sent for incineration with energy recovery). 
  • Transporting plastics for further sorting at a plant in Leeds: this plant separates high Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, a type of polyester) bottles from PET pots, tubs and trays and any plastic films present. 
  • Marketing bulk loads of these sorted materials to primary processing companies: these companies prepare the sorted materials for recycling into end products e.g. turning bales of crushed steel drinks cans into ingots (large blocks of metal). Most of these companies are within the UK but some specialist processing is within the EU.
  • Resale of prepared and sorted materials to end markets: where the primary processing companies do not manufacture recycled products they sell the materials on to companies that do. All the end markets are within the EU with the exception of steel, some of which is sold and recycled internationally outside the EU. 
Where materials are recycled and their end usage
Material Recycling location  End usage
Aluminium Europe Ingots used to make cans, panels and other products
Glass UK, Netherlands New bottles and jars, aggregates, filtration and shot blasting media, artificial slate and brick production
HDPE flake Belgium, UK Injection moulding products including plastic packaging and containers and cable protection covers
Mixed plastic bottles Germany, Spain, Turkey Recycling bags and other plastic products
PET bottles UK New bottles
Pots, tubs and trays UK, UK/Europe Imitation wooden products e.g. garden furniture and other new plastic products
Steel cans Potentially worldwide Various products including cans, cars and radiatiors
Unrecyclable contents (contamination) UK/Europe Incineration with energy recovery

Food waste

Material from the green food waste boxes collected weekly from houses is initially delivered to the West London Waste Authority (WLWA) in Transport Way, Hounslow. WLWA then deliver bulk loads of food waste to Bio Collectors’ anaerobic digestion facilities located in Mitcham. This process produces biogas (mainly methane) which is fed into the National Gas Grid, so the energy produced from recycling food waste is provided straight to homes and businesses, helping reduce the UK's reliance on less sustainable energy sources. The biofertiliser is used on farm land to grow crops.

Garden waste

Material collected from households or delivered to Townmead Road Household Waste and Recycling Centre is initially delivered to the West London Waste Authority which has arrangements with a number of companies in England that compost the material in large windrows (long heaps). The finished compost is typically used as a soil improver in grounds maintenance projects.  

Textiles

Material from textile banks and free home collections around the borough are collected for recycling by the charity Traid for hand sorting within London. The best quality items are re-sold in Traid shops and the funds raised are committed to global projects to improve conditions and working practices within the textile industry.

Electrical items

Materials delivered for recycling in Twickenham, Teddington, Hampton, Hampton Hill, Whitton, Richmond, Ham, East Sheen and Castelnau Libraries, or collected for recycling as part of a bulky waste collection are initially delivered to Townmead Road. All electrical items are then collected by a contractor acting on behalf of manufacturers and retailers of electrical goods who must ensure that minimum levels of recycling are achieved. Valuable metals are recovered from this electrical waste for recycling into new metal and electrical products.

Dustbin rubbish

All waste collected in dustbins and refuse sacks is delivered to the West London Waste Authority in Transport Avenue, Hounslow. From there, bulk loads are delivered to one of two energy-from-waste incinerators located near Bristol and Slough. The energy released is utilised to generate electricity for the National Grid. Metals are recovered for recycling afterwards and most other ashes and aggregates produced are utilised in construction projects.

Nothing is sent to landfill.

Updated: 08 September 2020