What happens to my recycling?

What happens to your recycling

Once collected from your blue-lidded bin your recycling (such as paper, cardboard, plastics, cans, drink cartons and glass) is taken to Pearce Group in St Albans, where it is sorted in a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). Recyclables are separated by type using a variety of methods, including magnets, air jets and large rotating drums and then bulked ready for reprocessing.

Following this, the materials are then sold on by Pearce. The specific material, quality and wider market conditions at the time dictate where the material is sold on to. Pearce will do its best to find a UK market for all materials. However, sometimes there is no viable option to have the material reprocessed in the UK.

Why don't we recycle it all in this country?

A large proportion of recycling, such as separately collected newspapers and magazines, steel and aluminium cans and textiles, are sent to reprocessors here in the UK. Similarly, all of the organic materials collected in Hertfordshire, such as garden waste and food waste, are also processed at recycling plants in the UK, including at a number of facilities in Hertfordshire.

Although best efforts are made to find a UK market, sometimes the demand for a material just does not exist in the UK. In addition, current UK markets do not have sufficient capacity to be able to absorb all of the dry recyclables the nation collects.

This means it is necessary to allow our private sector partners, subject to regulatory compliance, the freedom to trade dry recyclables on the international market in order to achieve the best income streams and / or lowest costs for tax payers.

More detail about the end destinations for all of Hertfordshire’s recycling, garden waste, food waste and residual waste can be found in the latest Hertfordshire Waste Partnership annual report.

Is sending our recycling abroad still the more environmentally friendly choice?

Recycling is the most environmentally friendly way of getting rid of your recyclables as it avoids the need to use primary products to make new materials and avoids emissions from disposal. Typically, transporting recycling only accounts for a small percentage of the overall life cycle emissions.

Unfortunately, there isn’t the capacity in the UK to reprocess all of our recyclables without sending some of it abroad. There is demand for these materials on the international market and sending material abroad for recycling ensures this demand is met.

Rigorous processes and procedures are in place for the handling and loading of materials for export, if a suitable facility is not available in the UK. All exports must be in compliance with the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations set out by the Government. This process is audited by HMRC and the Environment Agency.

What regulations are in place and how do we know our recycling isn't being dumped abroad?

Pearce Group ensures that all materials are sent to a licensed facility abroad. It also ensures any facility is permitted to accept and appropriately manage the particular material in question. It deals with only reputable brokers that have been approved by government bodies.

In instances where large volumes of recycling is involved, the broker visits the facility and carries out a full audit. The findings, including the plant processes from start to finish, are presented back to Pearce Group.

How much does it cost to recycle? Is it cheaper just to dispose of everything?

Disposal of non-recyclable waste is more expensive than recycling our waste. Fluctuating markets determine whether we receive an income for our recyclables or pay to recycle them. When an income is received it helps to offset a proportion of the cost of running the collection services.

Where does my general waste go once you collect it?

Non-recyclable waste collected in Hertfordshire is delivered either directly to landfill sites or taken to a waste transfer station near Watford. From there, residual waste is largely directed to a number of energy from waste (EFW) facilities in neighbouring counties and London. The use of such facilities allows both energy to be recovered from residual waste, which contributes towards the UK’s power needs and minimises the use of landfill.

I'm not sure whether I can recycle something who can I ask for help?

Recycling collected at the kerbside is generally household packaging materials, including plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays, paper, cardboard, glass bottles and jars, tins and cans and foil. If you’re unsure if something can be recycled check our which bin page or recycling A-Z and if you're still not sure then please leave it out of your recycling.

Why do other councils recycle differently to me?

Local district and borough councils can determine their own recycling collection schemes and what they collect. Considerations for collection schemes may include the make-up and layout of properties and the extent of the collection area. The recyclables collected will usually be determined by contracts in place for reprocessing.

It should be noted, however, that through the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership (HWP), there are a number of shared contracts currently in place for the reprocessing of recyclables.

What happens to your food waste?

One week the food waste collected from your brown food bin is taken to an Anaerobic Digestion facility, the following week it is taken (together with garden waste) to an In-Vessel Composting facility, both facilities are in St Albans.  Both are good forms of recycling food waste.

Anaerobic Digestion - Once there, the food waste is heated with recycled heat from the gas engines to 70 degrees centigrade for one hour. It is then pumped into a digestion tank, which is like a giant stomach, for around 85 days. Good bacteria eat the food to extract as much energy as possible. The energy produced is put towards the National Grid, and what is left is used as a liquid fertiliser on farmland.

What happens to your garden waste?

Once collected from your green bin your garden waste is taken to an IVC facility in St Albans. The resulting product is then sold on to the farming community as soil improver.

However, through the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership (HWP), there are a number of shared contracts currently in place for the reprocessing of recyclables.

What else can I do to help the environment besides recycling?

There are many ways that you can help the environment. WasteAware has run a number of campaigns to provide ideas on:

For more information, visit the WasteAware website.

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