What happens to my recycling?

What happens to the mixed recycling we collect from your blue-lidded bin?

Once collected from your blue-lidded bin your recycling (such as paper, cardboard, plastics, cans, drink cartons and glass) is initially stored at Cupid Green Depot before being transported 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.

Watch this video to see an example of how a MRF operates:

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.

Learn more about the  Mixed recycling loop (PDF 401KB).

Frequently asked questions

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  • Why don’t we recycle it all in this country?

    A large proportion of recycling, such as newspapers and magazines, steel and aluminium cans and plastics, 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.

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

    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.

    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 to just 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, leave it out of your recycling.

    Alternatively, find out more about what you can put in each bin or email recycle@dacorum.gov.uk.

  • Why do other boroughs and districts 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 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.

What happens to your food waste?

Once collected from your kerbside caddies, your food waste is initially stored at Cupid Green Depot. It is then transported to an Anaerobic Digestion facility in St Albans.

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.

Watch these videos to see what happens to your food waste:

What happens to your garden waste?

Once collected from your green-lidded bin, your garden waste is initially stored at Cupid Green Depot. Once there is a large enough volume of garden waste, it is then transported to a windrow facility in Enfield, Middlesex. The resulting product is then sold on to the farming community as soil improver.

Watch this video to see what happens to your garden waste:

Anyone who opts in to our Garden Waste Subscription Service is offered a 240-litre green-lidded bin. From February 2023, green-lidded bins will only be collected if you have purchased a subscription and have received a subscription sticker. Registrations for the 2023 garden waste season will open in January 2023.

Excess garden waste can be taken to a Recycling Centre or you can purchase an additional bin through the subscription service.

Another great option is home composting. To find out more, and view discounts on compost bins for Dacorum residents, visit our home composting page.

What happens to recycling that goes to the Recycling Centres?

Hertfordshire County Council provides Recycling Centres. Here, residents can deposit household waste free of charge. Find out more about how Recycling Centre waste is recycled

Watch this video to find out what happens to your small electrical appliances:

Page Last Updated: Thursday, 22 December 2022 at 12:31 PM