Where does our recycling go?
In June last year we brought in a number of changes to our waste and recycling service. These were:
- Weekly food waste collections across the district
- A paid-for garden waste collection service
- A trial of unlimited recycling collection in a small area, alongside a reduced black bin collection every three weeks instead of fortnightly
Since these changes were implemented, we have seen a huge increase in recycling collected across the district, alongside an equivalent drop in the amount of household waste put into black bins. This is an excellent result for North Devon; it means we are heading in the right direction to achieve our aim of recycling 50 percent of household waste by 2020, and in the process reducing the amount of waste going into landfill. These improvements will keep our district beautiful, reduce our carbon footprint and ensure a brighter future for the next generation.
But have you ever wondered what happens to our recycling after it is collected from outside our homes by the recycling crew? Find out here…
Processing food waste
Food waste is taken from your kerbside to our recycling centre at Brynsworthy, where it is emptied into large skips. The food waste is then transferred to an in vessel composter (IVC). This system ensures that composting takes place in an enclosed environment, with accurate temperature control and monitoring. At present, garden waste is also taken to the same plant for processing, however the way we recycle our food waste is set to change.
How food waste compost is used
The in vessel composting process turns waste into quality compost, which can be used for a range of markets including horticulture, agriculture, sports facilities, landscaping and domestic gardening. It can also be transformed into aggregate, used to surface highways.
Future plans for recycling food waste
We are making plans to process our food waste at an anaerobic digestion plant in the near future. Anaerobic digestion is a series of biological processes during which biodegradable material (such as food waste) is broken down in the absence of oxygen. The product of this process can ultimately be used to generate electricity and heat, or can be processed into renewable natural gas and transportation fuels.
Paper and cardboard
The mixed paper and cardboard we leave in our green and brown recycling bags is bought by a company which is home to one of the largest newsprint paper machines in the world. Cardboard is given new life as recycled cardboard, while paper is sorted and checked before reprocessed and turned into newspaper. The company that purchases our paper supplies approximately 45,000 tons of newspapers per year and supplies many of the UK’s regional and national newspaper publishers. So the local paper that gets posted through your door every week could well contain material that has been in your home before!
Plastic collected from North Devon households is purchased by a company which sorts and processes it for packaging companies. This is then turned into the type of plastics you buy in the supermarkets; the boxes that your takeaway sandwiches are packaged in, for example. They also manufacture a diverse range of plastic bags such as the bags for life found in the supermarket. This process 'closes the loop' by taking our waste plastic material and returning it to a re-usable form.
The glass we dispose of into our recycling boxes are bought by a Yorkshire company that works closely with local authorities such as ours with the aim of keeping glass out of landfill. Instead, glass is given new life in the form of new bottles and jars, as well as construction materials, insulation and many other useful products.
Metals such as steel and aluminium cans are bought by recycling companies, and are processed and often turned into clean metal sheeting. This sheeting is then sold on to be re-made into new tins and cans, and so the process continues.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and batteries are bought by a company that takes them apart and sells the component parts.
Batteries contain valuable heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, zinc, lithium and manganese. These metals can be reused, and the toxic contents of batteries are extremely harmful to the environment if they’re thrown away with black waste and go to landfill.
Recycling batteries means that they can be used for constructive recycling, and avoids contributing towards land and water pollution.
Textiles are passed onto the Salvation Army, which exports more than 34,000 tonnes of textiles for reuse and recycling each year.
An estimated £140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to waste in landfill every year. Clothing made from natural materials like cotton, wool and leather will produce a range of greenhouse gases while biodegrading in landfill sites. For every tonne of textiles reused rather than sent into landfill, carbon dioxide emissions – a major cause of global warming – are reduced by 7 tonnes.