Ever wondered what happens to your recycling after it has been collected? Where is it reprocessed and how can we be sure where it ends up?

Each fortnight before your collection day, most of us spend time diligently giving items a quick rinse before putting them in our recycling bin. We squash bottles, cans, and probably spend a moment or two second-guessing if yoghurt pots really can be recycled (they can – chuck them in!). Double check other items with your ultimate guide to recycling.

But do you ever wonder what happens to your recycling after it has been collected? And more importantly, where it ends up?

If you watched the BBC’s War On Plastic, you probably have asked yourself these questions. The image of mountains of plastic in illegal dumpsites in Malaysia and local families suffering health issues from the toxic effects is not what you want to envision when putting out the recycling.

Let’s take a look at what happens to your recycling in East Sussex.

The journey of your recycling

Watch this short animation to see what happens to your recycling:

Can’t view or prefer to read? Here’s what’s in the video and more:

We work with our contractor Viridor to manage recycling collected from your home.

Quality is important – please keep your items clean, dry and loose. Not sure if it can be recycled? If in doubt, please leave it out! Please especially ensure batteries are never placed inside your recycling or rubbish bins as these cause fires in our trucks and at our waste and recycling sites.

Viridor sort and process your recycling into high quality materials ready to be turned into new items. For example, plastic is chopped into small flakes and pellets, and cardboard and paper are sorted for pulping.

Once sorted, your recycling is then sent to be reprocessed so that it can be used again.

The good news is that most of our recycling stays in the UK. Where there isn’t the reprocessing capacity here, Viridor has to look abroad. For example, some of our cardboard goes to China and some of our paper goes to India.

While some of our paper and cardboard go on long journeys to be reprocessed, sending them to these places makes economic and operational sense since so much of our goods come from overseas.

In summary:

  • Most of our recycling stays in the UK (phew).
  • Some of our cardboard and paper goes abroad.

How do we make sure our recycling ends up where it should?

Viridor comply with shipping regulations and is able to ensure secure, stable contracts for our recycling.

Plus, the Environment Agency monitors these shipments of material to other countries, so we have a good system in place to trace our recycling.

However, most of our recycling stays in the UK, with glass, cans and almost all of our plastic being reprocessed here.

In summary:

  • Glass, cans and almost all plastic stays here.
  • The Environment Agency monitors any shipments of material.

A new life for your recycling

All of this means that your recycling can be made into new items. For example, cans can be made into new cans, pipes, train tracks and parts of cars.

Plastic can become new plastic bottles, clothes, carpets, and even the stuffing used for things like toys and sleeping bags.

Cardboard is turned into cereal boxes, paper towels and paper.

Paper is used to create cardboard, loo roll, newspapers and magazines while glass can be recycled into new glass bottles, jars and construction material.

These materials can be recycled many times.

What happens to items that can’t be recycled?

We currently recycle 43% of our waste. What we can’t recycle or compost is sent to the Newhaven Energy Recovery Facility where it is turned into green energy — enough to supply power to 25,000 homes!

We currently send just 2% of our waste to landfill. And we want to make it even less!

Is recycling the right thing to do?

The best thing for the environment is to reduce the amount that we buy and use in the first place. Check out our tips to reduce single use plastic at home for some easy ways to get started and where your nearest zero waste store is.

If you can’t reduce, you should look to reuse. Reuse glass jars for storage, shoe boxes and online packaging for gift boxes, and make old pillow cases into reusable tote bags. Donating and re-gifting items are also great ways to reuse.

Whatever you can’t reduce or reuse, you should recycle. However, we can’t recycle our way out over reliance on natural resources, but it does ensure that some of what we use can be used again and again

Check out your ultimate guide to recycling for a definitive list of what can and can’t be recycled in East Sussex.