Most of the materials collected at our recycling centres are recycled or reused.
Recycling materials has a better environmental impact and costs less money than disposing of it with the rest of our leftover rubbish. There are some recyclable materials, like metals, that have some value and selling these materials helps lower the cost of running our recycling centre service.
However, it actually costs money to recycle a lot of the material we receive at our recycling centres – but this is still a lot less than the cost of disposing of it with the rest of the leftover rubbish.
What happens to the waste we don't recycle?
After all our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle there is still over 200,000 tonnes of waste generated by households in Norfolk that is not recycled. That’s over half a tonne for every Norfolk household in one year. Although we need to reduce the amount of leftover, or “residual", waste we’re generating, we still need to deal with the residual waste we do create in ways that are environmentally friendly and good value for money.
For many years this waste was buried in landfill sites but now it is largely used to generate energy. Much of it is sent to three different facilities that process it into a fuel that is then exported to combined heat and power facilities in Europe. The fuel is burnt to generate electricity and heat. Exporting waste to Europe to facilities that recover both heat and electricity from the combustion process has a better carbon footprint than burying waste in a landfill in Norfolk.
Some waste is also sent to an energy from waste facility in Great Blakenham in Suffolk. The waste is burnt to produce energy while scrap metals and ash generated from the process are recycled.
Car batteries are collected by Glazewing in West Dereham, and are turned into lead and plastic chip and sent to UK markets via Derbyshire. Polypropylene is recovered for a variety of uses and gypsum (from the acid) has uses in the agricultural industry. Sulphuric acid, plastic, lead oxides and sulphates can be recovered from lead acid batteries
Household batteries are collected by Wiser in Thetford, and sent to a UK-based battery recycler. The recovered materials vary but are refined and sent onto specialised manufactures. Recovered nickel and steel is used in the steel industry. Cadmium and cobalt are reused in battery manufacturing. Recovered silver is used in the photographic and electronics industry. Mercury is reused in the lighting industry.
Bric-a-brac and furniture
Some bric-a-brac is collected by designated bric-a-brac collectors and taken to local auction houses and sold. There are reuse shops at some of our recycling centres where members of the public can buy items.
We send cardboard and paper to the NEWS material recycling facility (MRF) in Costessey, where it is bulked and baled for export abroad. The MRF is provided with legal and fully transparent documentation about all products going abroad, ensuring they are recycled.
Cooking oil is recycled, without the use of additives, to produce biofuel (LF100) and biodiesel by Living Fuels in Hockwold. This is used exclusively within UK renewable facilities to generate heat and electricity for business and domestic properties.
Electrical items (WEEE)
Small domestic appliances are collected by Wiser. Vacuum cleaners, coffee and sewing machines are assessed before being resold directly through charity and social enterprise partners in the UK. Remaining items including radios, kettles, irons, drills and clocks are dismantled into component parts of mainly plastics and metals. These light items are shredded at a Cambridgeshire facility. Recovered plastics and metals are sent to a UK reprocessor. Small domestic appliances are collected by Wiser, Environcom and EMR.
Large domestic appliances such as washing machines and tumble dryers are collected by Glazewing, Sackers, Envirocom, EMR and Wiser. Metals and plastics are sold abroad in Europe with some ferrous metals also sold to India and Africa.
Engine oil collected at our recycling centres is sent to a new plant in Denmark which is refined into a base oil for a variety of uses.
Fridges and freezers
They are collected by Wiser and Envirocom, and are then sent for resale through charity and social enterprise partners in the UK. If they are unsuitable for reuse, the components are recycled via specialist recycling plants. Metals and plastics are sent to reprocessors across the UK and Europe. Gases are recycled or incinerated. Insulations foam is used within the construction industry.
Garden and green waste
Green waste is composted to PAS100 standard at various sites in Norfolk (Greencomp, Greenworld, Marsham, ORM and TMA Bark Supplies) and is mainly sold as soil improver to the local horticulture and agriculture industry in the UK. A small amount is bagged and sold at the recycling centres.
Gas bottles (empty)
Empty gas cylinders are collected and returned to the companies who own them. The bottles can then be refilled again. Gas bottles are sent to Glazewing, Cylinder Care, and Flogas Ltd. Cylinders which are damaged beyond repair are recycled via European Metal Recyclers, Norwich.
Bottles and jars are reprocessed and turned into either glass bottles, or in the case of the mixed glass and contaminated loads, into road aggregates. Glass bottles are collected by Berryman and Indigo Waste for reprocessing.
Flat glass is collected by Glazewing and then reprocessed into aggregate, for use primarily in Norfolk.
Hardcore (brick) and rubble
Taken to various reprocessors across Norfolk: Carl Bird Ltd, Gambles Plant Ltd, Frimstone, Folkes Plant and Aggregates, Glazewing and Middleton Aggregates.
Rubble is screened, crushed and graded then sold within the UK for various uses, including road repair and construction as well as DIY uses.
Light bulbs and fluorescent tubes
Light bulbs and fluorescent tubes are collected by Wiser and Recyclite. Component materials are glass, metal and phosphor. These are separated and recovered, with glass further crushed and used in block making and pipe bedding. Metals are sent to UK based reprocessors. Phosphor powder is exported to Europe for the recovery of mercury and rare earth materials.
Ferrous and non-ferrous metal is collected by Glazewing and EMR sent to UK and European markets, with some ferrous metals also sold to India and Africa.
Mobile phones are collected and sorted by Wiser (Thetford, Norfolk). They are sent to a UK Reuse and Recycling Centre and reused wherever possible. Otherwise, components are recycled.
Collected by Glazewings and Mid-UK. The paper is processed and supplied to various power stations and cement works. The gypsum powder is reused in plasterboard and cement or sold to cement factories in the UK (Cemex and Siniat).
We stopped collecting plastics for recycling at our centres in 2017 because we have not been able to find a market for them. You can put certain types of plastic in your kerbside recycling bin, which is collected by your local district council. Visit Recycle for Norfolk for more information.
Printer cartridges are collected by Wiser. They are checked and sorted into reusable and recyclable items. Any that can’t be refilled are recycled.
Televisions and monitors
Items are sorted into items suitable for reuse and items suitable for recycling only. Reusable goods are tested and sold whilst the recyclable goods are dismantled and separated into various components.
Televisions and monitors are collected by two companies Wiser and Environcom (in Grantham) for reprocessing.
Textiles and clothes
Good quality items are sorted into different types of textiles. They are distributed for reuse to several countries including the UK. A small percentage of contaminated textiles are not able to be reused or recycled and are sent for disposal.
Ninety eight per cent of all textiles collected annually by our contractor is reused or recycled. The vast majority of recycled clothing (approx 90%) is exported to Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe with the remainder staying in the UK. Any of the items not fit for purpose as reusable clothing become industrial wiping products, flock rags or mixed felt material.
Tyres are sorted and cleaned before shredding. They are processed into new rubber products in the UK only. Tyres are sent to Glazewing and processed by Monckton Rubber (Sheffield).
Wood and timber
Wood and timber is transported to Greencomp in Wymondham where it is bulked for onwards reprocessing at Hadfields Ltd (Manchester). At the reprocessing site, the wood is cleaned through a sophisticated cleaning plant and then graded again. It is made into bedding and flooring for poultry, cattle, horses and bio-fuels. The main recipients are farms for the bedding and powers stations for the fuel.