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What happens to your recycling?

Here you can find out what happens to your recycling.

Statement issued on behalf of SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK:

“Ninety-five per cent of the plastics we handle today are traded with licensed sorters or re-processors in the United Kingdom. The remaining five per cent is traded directly with re-processors or other SUEZ Group business units within the European Union.

The market for recycled fibres (paper and card for example) is a global one and Asia still represents a significant proportion of this market. All recycled fibres that SUEZ processes and sells to paper mills are to European Standard EN643. They are bought by mills as a valued commodity. We follow the MRF Code of Practice and keep photo records of the material we produce as evidence of its quality, prior to export. Our sites and production processes are also open to inspection by the Environment Agency and other regulatory authorities.

We are confident that the recycled material our clients entrust us with is of a high quality when sold. Also, that in the end it is put to its intended use and helps to protect the environment, not harm it.”
- SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK

Find out what happens to your...


Alkaline batteries can now be recharged increasing their product life.

Most batteries particularly lead-zinc can be completely recycled to make new batteries. The marketable products extracted from batteries during the recycling process include:

  • Nickel, which is used to make stainless steel.
  • Cadmium, which is used in new batteries.
  • Plastics, which can be used in furniture.
  • small amounts of gold and copper.


Books placed in book banks are sorted and classified.

If they are suitable for sale, they can be placed into a shop.

If they are unsuitable for sale, they can be:

  • Sold to recycling companies.
  • Sent overseas for emergency aid.
  • Given to other charities with special needs.

Bricks and rubble

Bricks and rubble collected at Calderdale’s HWRC’s are sent for crushing and screening into different sized materials which can be used for a variety of purposes including road making and general fill material.


There are two types of cans, tin-coated steel cans and aluminium cans.

When recycling tin cans, the tin and steel are separated. The tin coating is removed with a caustic de-tinning solution, which is then extracted from the solution by electrolysis. The steel that remains is rinsed, baled and sold to a steel mill. The recycled tin is used by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, while the steel is remanufactured into cars, cans and steel structures.

Aluminium cans are ground or shredded into small chips before being melted and cast into moulds. The moulds are sent to manufacturing plants where they are moulded or rolled into sheets that can be shaped into various products including car bodies and drinks cans.

Clothes and shoes

Re-usable clothes, shoes and household linens, collected in recycling banks and during kerbside collections, are sorted by the organisation collecting them.

Those suitable for re-use usually find their way into charity shops.

Some are sold on to people in developing countries. This provides employment through refurbishment and retail activities. It also provides affordable clothing and household goods for local people to buy.

Lower quality cotton and towelling are recycled as wipes in this country, to maximise the use of material collected.

Other innovative uses for used textiles include, using them to make animal rugs.

It is important that all textiles are kept clean and dry otherwise they cannot be re-used:

  • make sure you put them out in a plastic bag to keep them dry; and
  • tie your old shoes in pairs, so that they can be re-used. (In the UK, 2 million pairs of shoes are discarded every week).

Food waste

This is taken to a special plant to be processed.

  • This produces green energy to feed back into the National Grid.
  • Also, there is a small amount of compost that can be used for gardening or to help with the restoration of landfill sites.

Fridges and freezers

These are usually remanufactured for re-use or dismantled and recycled.

If recycled, they will be broken down for the materials, which can then be used effectively.


The conventional glass recycling process involves transporting the glass bottles and jars to reprocessing plants where they are washed and impurities are removed. Magnets, screens and vacuum systems remove metals, labels, bits of plastic and caps. The glass is then crushed up into cullet. Each colour is melted in a separate furnace before being moulded into new glass or used for various other purposes including fibreglass insulation.

Recycled glass can also be used in road construction. For example, as an aggregate for backfill and drainage trench fill or as road base material.

Other uses include cultured marble and coloured aquarium, ash tray or potting sand. Also, decorative landscaping, such as crystal paving and golf course sand.

Glass can be recycled over and over again. To recycle it means less energy and resources are used to heat furnaces.


In some cases scrap metal is shredded and sent to a steel mill. There it can be used to make goods, such as vehicles or construction materials.

Other uses include decorative purposes in items such as furniture.

Mobile phones

Phones may be resold to raise funds for charities. They can also be refurbished and sold in other parts of the world, including developing countries.

Mobile phones contain toxic elements like Mercury, Cadmium, Lead, Gallium Arsenide and other landfill hazards.

  • Re-use transforms a potentially toxic discard into a valuable commodity.
  • Phones that cannot be re-used can be recycled for their metals and plastics.


Waste oil collected at recycling banks can be regenerated to produce oil which can be used again. Waste oil can be regenerated through laundering, reclamation or re-refining.

Laundering involves heating, filtration, de-watering and the addition of new additives to the oil before it can be re-used.

Reclaimed oil can be used for a further purpose, normally after removing impurities. For example, as a mould release in foundries.

Re-refining oil involves blending waste oil with base stock oil.

Paper and card

These are made from cellulose fibre, which often comes from pulped wood.

Also a number of other materials, such as cotton, grass or waste paper can be used to make it.

The waste paper and cardboard collected is taken to a paper mill. There it is pulped, processed and converted to recycled paper and other cardboard products.


Plastic bottles are sorted into their different types. It is then moulded into new plastic products.

Rigid plastics are segregated and diverted to Van Werven. They recycle the plastic at their processing facility in Holland. Once processed and granulated the plastic is used in the manufacture of plastic pipes.

Plastic Film is processed into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) to enhance the calorific value of this product. The RDF is burnt in Energy from Waste facilities, such as Ferrybridge as a replacement of fossil fuels.

More recently plastic bottles and film are also processed into RDF and Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF). These are used as a fuel for powering cement kilns as a replacement to fossil fuels. Due to contamination and poor quality of the plastics we get, much of it is recovered via RDF and SRF.

For information regarding plastic recycling in Calderdale and where your plastics go, see:


Solid wood (not chipboard or MDF) collected at Calderdale’s HWRC’s are sent for processing into woodchip and chipboard to be re-used in the timber industry instead of virgin wood.

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