What happens to your recycling?


We sell the materials that we collect to recycling companies. We set any income we receive directly against service costs to keep collections as cost effective as possible. Here are a few examples of how your recycling is used after we have collected it:

 Food waste undergoes a process called anaerobic digestion. Microbes safely digest the food and destroy all harmful germs. A rich, clean compost is produced for use in agriculture.  Methane generated in the digestion process is harnessed to generate electricity. 

 Plastics are processed into new packaging and a multitude of other items. Did you know that a new fleece jacket can be made from just ten recycled plastic bottles?

 Paper is turned into new newsprint. It takes just six days to go from kerbside box back to news-stand. Cardboard is recycled into more cardboard boxes and packaging. But paper and cardboard fibres degrade each time they are recycled, so often new fibres from wood pulp will be added to get the quality right. Typically, recycled newspapers might contain about 70% recycled paper and 30% new fibres.
 Usually, glass bottles and jars are simply melted down and recycled into more bottles and jars. Doing this, rather than making them from new glass, reduces carbon emissions from manufacture by around 25%. Recycled glass can also be turned into pellets used as a subsurface in road-building.

 Steel and aluminium cans are easily recycled into a number of metal products - including new cans, of course. This needs only 5% of the energy that making brand new cans uses.

 Clean clothing, shoes, accessories and textiles may be re-used or re-sold. Lower quality items may be recycled into other products such as cloths and wadding.

 Garden waste and leaves are composted and used as soil-improver in major commercial projects or on large farms. The compost is not sold back to residents. Partly this is because of the contracts in place to provide compost to commercial projects, and partly it is because residential garden waste tends to be quite woody and so does not produce the right quality compost for use in domestic gardens.


Watch our recycling video, produced with the help of Epsom and Ewell residents.

End destinations of recycling charter

We think that where recycled waste ends up is truly fascinating. We hope you agree. And things are constantly changing. For example, a plant has been built near Bristol to explore the possibility of turning plastics, that you recycle in your black bin, into various types of fuel.

We have always been keen that residents should be able to know what happens to their recycling. It is one of the things that helps you know that recycling really is worthwhile.

Last year, the Resource Association encouraged all councils to sign up to its End Destinations of Recycling Charter. All of Surrey's councils agreed that this was a good idea and together we became among the first to sign in October 2013. All Surrey councils have published their details on the Surrey Waste Partnership's website. We were pleased to learn that the Resource Association held Surrey up as an example of best practice in this regard.

Of course, this is just a snapshot. Things regularly change as the recycling industry develops. Councils continually work with our partners in the recycling markets to ensure that waste is recycled with the best value for residents in mind.