What happens to your recycling?

Items from household waste recycling sites and kerbside collections are sent to different places for reprocessing. Some waste sites have a shop where reusable items are sold to the public. We also work with charitable organisations.

Household waste recycling site
Household waste recycling site

Cardboard and paper

Cardboard and paper are processed in the UK and abroad. Cardboard usually ends up as packaging materials. Paper is pulped, cleaned and made into new paper products.

Plastic bottles

Bottles are sorted into different grades at sites in the UK. The plastic is turned into a raw material to make food packaging.

Glass and lightbulbs

  • Glass bottles and jars end up at different UK plants and after sorting are used to make new bottles and jars.
  • Fluorescent tubes and low-energy lightbulbs go to Surrey where they are crushed and separated into glass, aluminium and phosphor powder. The glass and aluminium is used to make new products. Mercury is safely removed and the powder is re-used.

Metal and electricals

  • Metal is sorted locally, then processed and made into new products.
  • Aluminium cans are sent to Wales or Cheshire and melted down to produce new aluminium products such as cans. Steel cans are sent to various UK plants ending up as new cans or other steel products, such as white goods and bicycles.
  • Electricals including TVs, monitors and fridge/freezers are dismantled in Lewes. Cathode ray tubes and environmentally harmful gases are removed and the metals and plastics are recycled.

Textiles and shoes

Wearable items are sent to developing countries. Others become industrial rags or stuffing for cushions and mattresses. They are also used to strengthen recycled cardboard, and in the production of carpet underlay.

Green garden waste

  • Green waste is processed locally at Whitesmith in East Sussex and used to build tall rows of shredded waste called windrows. Natural micro-organisms break it down into compost which is screened, sieved and used as soil conditioner in the agricultural industry.
  • The soil conditioner is also available for residents to buy at all the household waste recycling sites in East Sussex.

Construction waste, wood, MDF and plasterboard

  • Hardcore, rubble and soil is used in the UK construction industry for example to construct site roads.
  • MDF is taken to plants abroad and used to provide district heating.
  • Timber and wood is taken to local plants and turned into woodchip suitable for boardmaking (such as MDF).
  • Plasterboard goes to Kent, where the gypsum and paper are separated. Gypsum is used as agricultural fertilizer and in the oil absorbency industry, or for new plasterboard. The paper is used for animal bedding.

Oil, batteries and tyres

  • Engine oil is cleaned and filtered, becoming reusable fuel oil.
  • Cooking oil is turned into biofuel in Norfolk.
  • Car batteries are sent to Derbyshire where the acid is removed and recycled. The lead is recycled into new car batteries.
  • Household batteries are sent abroad. The batteries are sorted and the material treated and used in various manufacturing industries.
  • Tyres go to Worthing. They are used for land engineering projects such as coastal protection schemes. Others are sent abroad to extract the oil or used as fuel in cement works.

What controls are in place to ensure the material is recycled?

We work with two extremely experienced waste management companies:

Veolia – who handle the black bag waste and green garden waste collected from householders across the County; the waste and recycling brought by residents to the household waste recycling sites; and the recycling collected from Brighton & Hove residents, and

Viridor – who handle the recycling collected from Eastbourne, Hastings, Lewes, Rother and Wealden residents.

We work closely with our contractors to ensure they both work to expected standards. We ensure that they comply with their legal duties such as their Duty of Care when handling, transporting and processing our waste. In addition, the Environment Agency (the waste regulator) also regulates waste management through a system of licences and monitoring.

All local authorities are required to report to the Environment Agency and Central Government what they do with their waste and recycling. This data is publically available through an online portal called WasteDataFlow, specifically ‘Question 100’ and is audited by the regulator.

With regards to plastic recycling, Veolia state that all plastic recycling is processed in the UK or Europe. Every end-destination is visited, audited and accredited to ensure the materials residents recycle are actually recycled.

Viridor state that the resource market remains a global market, governed by the principles of supply and demand and where any material is sent abroad, Viridor only works with Environment Agency accredited and licensed facilities. Materials are sold as an “end-of-waste product”, which means they are reprocessed in the UK to produce a plastic pellet or flake and reused in manufacturing as a recyclable material. Viridor has a robust system of traceability with regard to its supply chain and receives accreditation from the companies it works with, demonstrating reprocessing has taken place.

Videos showing what happens to some household waste from East Sussex

This video shows how Veolia our contractors deal with waste and recycling in East Sussex and Brighton & Hove. The film explores the range of recycling and recovery facilities in the County which are used to process the waste.