Chelmsford City Council

What happens to your recycling

After we have collected your recycling from the kerbside, that is just the start of the journey. We process some of your recycling at Freighter House, our recycling and waste depot, using our Material Sorting Facility (MSF). This uses the latest technology to separate different materials, such as the many different varieties of plastic packaging.  

We then pass it on to an accredited merchant or a reprocessing factory where the material will be reused, or recycled into a new product.


Cans

We use our MSF to sort the steel from the aluminium using a magnet. 

We then bale up the separate metals into large cubes and sell them to a merchant, who in turn sells the cubes to a foundry. 

The foundry melts down the cubes into metal ingots so that manufacturers can turn them into more cans, cars or even aeroplanes.


Food waste

We send food waste to an anaerobic digestion plant. Anaerobic Digestion uses microorganisms to break down the food waste in an enclosed system that doesn’t contain oxygen. 

This process produces a bio-gas, which is used to generate electricity. It also creates a nutrient-rich soil that farmers can use for their fields to help grow more food.


Garden waste

We send garden waste on to a local industrial composting facility. Due to the enormous size of the operation, the grass and leaves decompose very quickly. They are then recycled into nutrient-rich compost, which is used on local farm land. 


Glass

We send glass to a reprocessing factory. They load mixed glass into a machine that uses magnets to attract any metals mixed in and suction to remove any plastics. They then send the remaining glass through a picking station, where workers manually remove any further contaminants.

The clean glass is then crushed and sorted it into colours to produce ‘cullet’. Glass manufacturers can use cullet to make more glass items, such as bottles and jars. The construction industry can also use it as an aggregate in concrete or as loft insulation.


Paper and cardboard

We collect paper and cardboard separately from houses because the materials are made up of different quality fibres. This means that they are recycled into different products. 

Once collected, we sell the paper and cardboard to an accredited merchant, who sells it on to a paper mill. The paper mill turns paper and card into pulp before creating new paper or cardboard sheets. 

Cardboard is generally recycled back into cardboard packaging or plasterboard. Paper is recycled into new magazines, newspapers and office paper.  


Plastics

Once collected, we sort plastics using our MSF. Plastic bottles are generally made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). A re-processing factory cleans and grades the plastic and then turn it into flakes or pellets. They then send the plastic onto a manufacturer, who turns it into more plastic bottles and food packaging.

Other types of plastics are sorted for onward transfer to a variety of different re-processors, and recycled into similar products. ‘Energy from waste’ companies will take any plastic that can’t be recycled into new packaging and turn it into electricity.


Clean clothes and paired shoes

We pass our collected clean clothing and paired shoes to an accredited merchant who checks all items by hand. Most items are of good quality and will be sent to developing countries so that someone can wear them again. 

Items of poor quality can still be used, normally as filler or insulation.


Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

We send WEEE to a reprocessing factory where they separate hazardous and non-hazardous equipment from each other. The factory uses special processes to break down and recycle the hazardous equipment such as fridges and freezers. Non-hazardous equipment such as TVs and CD players are smashed into their raw materials. Their plastics, metals and glass are then sent on to be recycled into new products. 

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