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Cambridge City Council

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What happens to your recycling and rubbish

We take the recycling and rubbish that we collect from your bins to the Amey waste-management centre near Waterbeach.

We put it through a variety of systems and processes to make sure as little as possible gets wasted.

Recyclable items from your blue bins and recycling points

A variety of magnets, currents, size-sorting equipment and conveyor belts separate the different materials. They are then packed up and sold to reprocessors who melt, pulp or crush them to make new products.

Since the start of 2018, more than 95% of the material recycled at the Amey centre has been treated at reprocessing facilities in the UK. The sites that some material was exported to are all fully licensed and operate to strict environmental conditions. The exported materials, which included paper, card and PET plastic bottles, had been sorted and were high-quality materials.

Paper and cardboard are sorted into different grades and sent to mills to be pulped and made into new paper and card products.

Glass can be melted and used to make new bottles if it is unbroken when it reaches the Amey centre. The rest is crushed and used as aggregate in construction projects, or as filtrates in filter beds.

Cans are separated into aluminium and steel. Then they are melted by processors to form ingots, which are sold to manufacturers who can make anything from new drinks cans to aeroplanes.

Plastic bottles, pots, tubs, trays and bags are sorted to separate the different polymer types. They are then shredded and cleaned, then melted into pellets. These are sold to manufacturers to make new plastic packaging, garden furniture and even fleece jackets.

Drinks cartons are pulped and the paper parts are used to make strong cardboard cores for industrial applications like factory rolls of paper, plastic film or yarn.

Textiles from recycling points are sorted and reused, raising money for the charities that provide the bins. Most are reused in the UK, but some are sent to Africa or Poland.

Food and garden waste from your green bins

We put your garden and food waste through an intensive fast-composting process, and sell the resulting soil conditioner for local agriculture. You can collect some free of charge to use on your garden.

Non-recyclable rubbish from your black bins

We put your rubbish through a mechanical and biological treatment system.

The system extracts some items from the waste before breaking down the rest as much as possible, helping to reduce any methane and carbon dioxide emissions it might release. The result is taken to landfill.

Recycling and waste statistics

We measure the amount of household rubbish and recycling we collect by weight.

Weight of recycling and waste collected

Between April 2020 and March 2021 we collected:

  • 53,182 tonnes of general waste (black bins) from 125,030 households – an average of 425kg per household
  • 26,369 tonnes of recycling (blue bins) from 125,030 households – an average of 211kg per household.
  • 28,789 tonnes of garden and food waste (green bins) from 110,349 households – an average of 261kg per household.
Weight of recycling and waste collected, in tonnes
Collection 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
General waste 50,948 50,221 53,182
Recycling 24,251 24,078 26,369
Garden and food waste 28,926 28,175 28,789

Recycling rate

The recycling rate shows how much you put into your blue and green bins, as a percentage of the total weight of recycling and rubbish we empty from all bins.

Quarterly recycling performance
Date 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Q1 (April to June) 55.6% 55.1% 51.17%
Q2 (July to September) 51.5% 53.28% 54.2%
Q3 (October to December) 50.29% 49.08% 50.12%
Q4 (January to March) 45.77% 45.36% 47.69%
Yearly total 51.07% 50.99% 50.91%

Bins emptied on time

The table below shows the percentage of bins that we emptied on their scheduled day. As well as the recycling rate, we use this to measure the performance of our waste service.

Percentage of bins emptied on their scheduled day
Date range 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Q1 (April to June) 99.73% 99.82% 99.88%
Q2 (July to September) 99.63% 99.76% 99.9%
Q3 (October to December) 99.87% 99.85% 99.78%
Q4 (January to March) 99.85% 99.86% 99.8%
Yearly total 99.76% 99.82% 99.84%