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Guildford Borough Council : What Happens With My Recycling?

Guildford Borough Council : What Happens With My Recycling?

We now recycle 58.8% of our rubbish, putting us 19th out of 341 boroughs and districts in England. More than 82% of the total waste collected across Surrey is recycled in the UK. A large proportion of what is not recycled in the UK goes to destinations in Europe for use in the production of new products. 

Lead Councillor for Environment, Cllr James Steel, said: “Brexit, the international shipping container shortage, and the Coronavirus pandemic have all had an impact on our recycling and what happens with it. But we are pleased that we are still recycling the majority of the waste we collect. 

“Recycling is brilliant and it’s great that together we are recycling more than we are sending to landfill. There is a huge process from collecting your recycling to it becoming something new, with many people involved in making it happen. 

“We also need to find ways of generating less waste – from making better use of food waste collection and composting, to buying less and making sure we choose reusable alternatives for drinks. 

Our dry recycling is sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) run by Biffa, where it’s sorted into different categories. Depending on the type of recycling, they are then taken to one of a number of specialist re-processors, 55% of the recycling is processed in the UK. The materials are all bought by companies that need them for their material production, which contributes to the cost of sorting the recycling.  

Watch a video about the sorting process.  

So what happens to different waste? 

  • Our glass waste is recycled to become more glass bottles and jars, or are ground up to be used in road surfaces. The glass is taken to Biffa’s MRF where it is sorted by colour, crushed into small pieces and melted at 1,500 degrees Celsius. Items such as glass ovenware, tumblers, windows and mirrors melt at different temperatures and so are recycled differently. Please do not put these in your recycling bin. 
  • Our paper and cardboard waste is recycled to make new newspapers, cardboard boxes, toilet rolls and tissue paper. The paper is taken to Biffa’s MRF where it is sorted and turned into pulp with water and chemicals to separate the fibres. The pulp is sprayed onto mesh to form sheets, which are flattened and passed through heated rollers. 
  • Our plastic waste is recycled to make everything from picnic benches and football shirts to children’s toys. The plastic is sorted at Biffa’s MRF and then taken to a reprocessing facility to be cleaned and sorted by colour and type. The plastic is either melted down and moulded into a new shape or shredded into flakes before being melted and processed into granulates to be used again.  
  • Our steel and aluminium tins and cans are recycled into new tins and cans again and again. Steel can also be used to make bikes, cars, bridges and paperclips. The tins and cans are taken to Biffa’s MRF where they are sorted and separated by magnets and eddy currents. Aluminium is taken to a reprocessing facility, shredded and melted. The molten metal is poured into moulds, cooled and rolled into thin sheets. The steel is melted in a furnace with iron. The molten metal is poured into slabs, and then rolled into coils. 
  • Our garden waste is turned into compost or soil conditioner and 100% of it is processed in the UK. The garden waste is sent to an open air composting site in Chertsey.  
  • Our food waste is turned into bio-fertiliser and biogas, which is used to generate electricity, heat and transport fuel. The waste is sent to a range of sites in the south of England and, through anaerobic digestion, micro-organisms break down the food waste to produce the biogas. The leftover material creates the bio-fertiliser. 
  • Our textiles are sorted into reusable and recyclable grades. The reusable material is sold on for reuse both in the UK and further afield. The textiles that can’t be worn again are made into commercial rags or shredded to be used as material, insulation and carpet underlay. 
  • Our electrical items and batteries make all sorts of new things, such as jewellery, musical instruments, railings, lampposts and shipbuilding materials. The items are dismantled and recycled at specialist plants in the UK. 
  • Our street cleaning materials are separated out into what can and can’t be recycled or composted. Plastics and metals are removed and sent to be recycled, while the leaves and other organic matter we collect are composted in the UK. 

Not everything can be recycled, even some plastics and paper that have food waste on them. Putting items that cannot be recycled in your recycling bin can spoil the good quality recyclable items and mean that they also cannot be recycled. Check if an item is recyclable on our website or use the Surrey Recycles app.