What happens to your waste?

Ever wondered what happens to your rubbish after your recycling bins are collected or you drop something off at the recycling centre?

Waste and recycling collected from your doorstep or taken to one of our recycling centres is either recycled, made into compost or can even be turned into electricity.

How are we doing in Lancashire?

In the last year, Lancashire has seen a drop in its recycling and composting rate from 45.6% in 2016/17 to 42.1% in 2017/18.

  • The UK has a national recycling target of 50% to meet by 2020, set by the European Union.

In 2016/17 district councils and recycling centres collected:

  • 391,923 tonnes of residual waste (black bag waste)
  • 93,101 tonnes of garden waste
  • 156,773 tonnes of recyclables

Check out our top tips for recycling

How is your waste and recycling sorted?

Your district council collects the waste and recycling from your home and takes it to a waste transfer station. The county council then transports it for further processing.

  • Black bin bag waste - Anything you don't separate for recycling will either end up in Whinney Hill Landfill Site at Accrington or might be recovered to make Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) which is sent for use in industrial furnaces. In 2017/18, about 20% of all our black bin bag waste was made into RDF.

  • Garden waste - is transferred to third party processors, where it is composted.
  • Recycling - Your recycling is transported to processing plants known as Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), to be sorted and separated into different types of materials by hand or machine (or both) before being sent to manufacturers who make it into new products.
    • Glass bottles and jars - Glass is separated into two different types based on fraction size and makes up the largest material (by weight) processed in our MRF.
    • Paper and card - Most of the paper and card collected is sent directly to a paper mill in Manchester.
    • Plastic bottles - A laser identifies different types of plastic and a jet of air is then used to push the different types into separate containers which are then baled by material type.
    • Metals - Magnets and eddy current separator's are used to extract and separate steel cans and aluminium tins for recycling.

Find your bin collection day

What happens to the recycled materials?

The sorted and baled materials for recycling are sold to around 25 different companies who carry out further processing, so that it can be sold to manufacturers of new products.

How are we doing in Lancashire?

  • Around 115,000 tonnes a year of your general rubbish is turned into fuel which makes electricity and is used to fire cement kilns.
  • At Thornton Waste Recovery Park we separate the organic waste in your general rubbish and compost it to reduce how much we landfill by around 16,000 tonnes a year.
  • We maximise the amount of waste we can divert from landfill through processes like the above but we only have limited options for this so a lot of your general rubbish is still sadly landfilled.
  • Your garden waste is turned into compost.
  • Your glass is generally turned back into glass products but is also used in filtration products and sand blasting.
  • Your cans are separated into ferrous and non-ferrous and recycled into different metal products.
  • Your plastic bottles are separated by type (i.e. HDPE/PET) and by colour (i.e. clear or coloured). We use a number of different processors but generally the plastic is washed, flaked and then recycled into some form of product; including bottles, banding, packaging, non-woven fibres and mouldings.
  • Your paper and card is recycled back into paper and card at a huge paper mill near Manchester.

Local recycling schemes

HM Prison Wymott - Recycling wood

We receive over 22,000 tonnes of wood across our recycling centres in an average year. It is usually low quality including off-cuts, wood based panels, treated or painted wood.

Recently, we have been collecting 'clean' wood at our Preston recycling centre. It is then used to provide training to prisoners in the wood workshop at HM Prison Wymott. They have been creating a range of wooden garden furniture, planters and hanging baskets. 

Active Lancashire - Reusing bicycles

In 2017 we began a pilot project, working with a charity called Active Lancashire, who repair and renew old bicycles via their network of community workshops.

Our recycling centre staff put aside bicycles that could be reused, for Active Lancashire to collect. They are then restored by volunteers who benefit by gaining confidence and skills, and they get to keep the bike they have been working on.

Find out more about Active Lancashire and activities you can get involved in.

Making street kerbs from recycled plastic

Every year we handle up to 10,000 tonnes of low value 'hard' plastic such as that used to make garden and office furniture. It's hard to find companies prepared to take this material, so most of it currently goes to landfill.

We're in the early stages of trialling a possible use for this hard plastic in making kerbstones. If successful, it could be used to make other types of street furniture in the future, so more hard plastic could be diverted from landfill.