Skip To Main Content

Cambridge City Council

What happens to your recycling and rubbish

We take the recycling and rubbish that we collect from your bins to the Thalia 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 2023 and March 2024 we collected:

  • 52,505 tonnes of general waste (black bins) from 129,560 households – an average of 405kg per household.
  • 22,498 tonnes of recycling (blue bins) from 129,560 households – an average of 174kg per household.
  • 30,005 tonnes of garden and food waste (green bins) from 113,742 households – an average of 264kg per household.
Weight of recycling and waste collected, in tonnes
Collection 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22 2022/23 2023/24
General waste 50,221 53,182 53,076 52,179 52,505
Recycling 24,078 26,369 23,523 22,848 22,498
Garden and food waste 28,175 28,789 30,623 26,166 30,005

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 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22 2022/23 2023/24
April to June (Q1) 55.1% 51.17% 53.56% 52.02% 54.08%
July to September (Q2) 53.28% 54.2% 54.17% 48.39% 52.52%
October to December (Q3) 49.08% 50.12% 50.25% 50.39% 48.03%
January to March (Q4) 45.36% 47.69% 46.1% 45.52% 44.08%
Yearly total 50.99% 50.91% 50.5% 48.92% 50%

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 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22 2022/23
Yearly total 99.82% 99.84% 99.72% 99.71%

For questions about a service we provide, please use our contact us form