Where does it all go?
Mixed household recycling
From your blue recycling bags, doorstep recycling box or communal recycling bin
After collection your recycling is taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Greenwich, Wandsworth or Southwark.
The recycling trucks tip the recycling onto the floor of the MRF for a visual inspection for contamination, before it is loaded into the 'bag splicer' which splits the blue disposable recycling bags issued to residents.
A variety of machinery such as rotating drums, wind sifters, magnets and infra red sensors are used, followed by manual sorting, to separate out the various materials streams; paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, glass bottles & jars, steel cans and aluminium cans.
The separated materials are then baled, ready for distribution to recyclers such as glass and metal smelters and paper mills.
- Watch the Westminster Recycling video
- Take a virtual tour of the Greenwich MRF
- Watch an animation of this process
Book a free visit to the MRF by getting in touch.
Separated household recyclables
Mixed paper & card, plastic bottles, glass bottles & jars, food tins & drinks cans
These materials are traded on the open market, with preference for facilities in the UK, to be recycled to make new products.
Watch animations of how the separated materials are recycled:
The following table shows the typical end-markets of the materials collected in Westminster and products they can be made into. These may vary depending on demand and quality. The percentages are the approximate proportions of each material type of total household waste, Municipal Waste Composition: A Review of Municipal Waste Component Analyses, DEFRA, 2009.
|Material||% by weight||Typical destination||Typical end-product|
|Paper||17%||UK, Korea||Newspaper, cardboard packaging|
|Cardboard||6%||UK, Indonesia||Cardboard boxes|
|Glass bottles & jars||7%||Yorkshire||New glass bottles & jars, road surfacing|
|Steel cans||2%||Leicester||Car parts, girders|
|Aluminium cans||2%||Cheshire||New drinks cans|
|Plastic bottles||6%||Dagenham, Ireland, China||New plastic bottles, piping, fleece|
|Plastic pots, tubs & trays||4%||Principally China||Non food-grade items eg carpet, toy casings.|
Small domestic appliances collected from the small appliances recycling bins
Small appliances are taken to SWEEEP, Sittingbourne, Kent.
Watch a video of how small electrical appliances are recycled at SWEEEP.
How do I recycle small appliances?
Fridges and large domestic appliances collected by the Bulky Waste Collection Service
Fridges and large appliances are taken as separate loads to EMR, Willesden, London and treated separately due to the hazardous CFC gases contained in fridges.
Each load is registered and inspected, with its weight recorded, at the weighbridge.
The fridges undergo degassification: each fridge is manually loaded, its gas can punctured, and the gas and oil is leaked out. The plastic vegetable trays are removed, the body is visually inspected, and then it is put into the shredder. The shredder is essentially three big chains in a revolving drum – all sealed to prevent CFC gases from escaping.
Large domestic appliances are tipped onto the floor for visual inspection for diggers to remove any stray fridges, non-ferrous items and hazardous items eg gas canisters. They are then input to the shredder.
Outputs from the shredder are dumped into three separate piles and processed further:
- Ferrous scrap is transported by train (on-site) to Liverpool for bulking and shipping. High surface area of pieces gives slightly higher return than normal scrap as it can be used to quench the temperature in smelting furnaces. The main export destinations are Spain, Turkey and the USA, with some exports further afield to India and Malaysia.
- Non-ferrous scrap is further processed off-site to separate the different metals, with important export markets being Europe, India, China and Korea.
- Dust/plastic (also called "fines") is currently sent to landfill. EMR is currently investing in incinerators; to be completed by 2013.
- CFC gases from fridges are contained and disposed of by incineration.
How do I request a Bulky waste collection?
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