What happens to your recycling?

Here we let you know what happens to:

Paper and card?

Paper and card are made from cellulose fibre, which often comes from pulped wood, but a number of other materials such as cotton, grass, or waste paper can also be used to make paper and cardboard.

Waste paper and cardboard collected for recycling is taken to a paper mill where it is pulped, processed and converted into recycled paper and other cardboard products.


The conventional glass recycling process involves transporting the glass bottles and jars to reprocessing plants where they are washed and impurities are removed. Magnets, screens and vacuum systems remove metals, labels, bits of plastic and caps. The glass is then crushed up into cullet. Each colour is melted in a separate furnace before being moulded into new glass or used for various other purposes including fibreglass insulation.

Recycled glass can also be used in road construction, for example as an aggregate for backfill and drainage trench fill or as road base material.

Other applications for recycled glass include cultured marble and coloured aquarium, ash tray or potting sand as well as decorative landscaping applications such as crystal paving and golf course sand.

Glass can be recycled over and over again. Recycling glass means less energy and resources are used in heating the furnaces.


There are two types of cans, tin-coated steel cans and aluminium cans.

When recycling tin cans, the tin and steel are separated. The tin coating is removed with a caustic de-tinning solution, which is then extracted from the solution by electrolysis. The remaining steel is rinsed, baled, and sold to a steel mill. The recycled tin is used by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, while the steel is remanufactured into cars, cans and steel structures.

Aluminium cans are ground or shredded into small chips before being melted and cast into moulds. The moulds are sent to manufacturing plants where they are moulded or rolled into sheets that can be shaped into various products including car bodies and drinks cans

Clothes and shoes?

Re-usable clothes, shoes and household linens, collected in recycling banks and during kerbside collections, are sorted by the organisation collecting them.

Those suitable for re-use usually find their way into charity shops.

Some are sold on to people in developing countries. This provides employment through refurbishment and retail activities. It also provides affordable clothing and household goods for local people to buy.

Lower quality cotton and towelling are recycled as wipes in this country, to maximise the use of material collected.

Other innovative uses for used textiles include, using them to make animal rugs.

It is important that all textiles are kept clean and dry otherwise they cannot be re-used:

  • make sure you put them out in a plastic bag to keep them dry; and
  • tie your old shoes in pairs, so that they can be re-used. (In the UK, 2 million pairs of shoes are discarded every week).


Alkaline batteries can now be recharged increasing their product life.

Most batteries particularly lead-zinc can be completely recycled to make new batteries. The marketable products extracted from batteries during the recycling process include:

  • nickel, which is used in the production of stainless steel;
  • cadmium, which is a component used in new batteries;
  • plastics, which can be used in furniture: and
  • small amounts of gold and copper.


Books placed in book banks are sorted and classified.

If they are suitable for sale, they can be placed into a shop.

If they are unsuitable for sale, they can be:

  • sold to recycling companies;
  • sent overseas for emergency aid; or
  • given to other charities with special needs.


Fridges and freezers?

Fridges and freezers that are taken to recycling sites are usually either remanufactured for re-use or dismantled and recycled.

If they are dismantled and recycled, they will be broken down so the constituent materials can be recycled effectively.

What happens to metal?

In some cases scrap metal is shredded and sent to a steel mill where it can be reprocessed and used in the manufacture of goods such as vehicles or construction materials. Other uses include decorative purposes in items such as furniture.

What happens to mobile phones?

Phones may be resold to raise funds for charities. They can also be refurbished and sold in other parts of the world, including developing countries.

Mobile phones contain toxic elements like Mercury, Cadmium, Lead, Gallium Arsenide and other landfill hazards. Re-use transforms a potentially toxic discard into a valuable commodity. Phones that cannot be re-used can be recycled for their metals and plastics.

What happens to oil?

Waste oil collected at recycling banks can be regenerated to produce oil which can be used again. Waste oil can be regenerated through laundering, reclamation or re-refining.

Laundering involves heating, filtration, de-watering and the addition of new additives to the oil before it can be re-used.

Reclaimed oil can be used for a further purpose, normally after removing impurities. For example, as a mould release in foundries.

Re-refining oil involves blending waste oil with base stock oil.

What happens to bricks and rubble?

Bricks and rubble collected at Calderdale’s HWRC’s are sent for crushing and screening into different sized materials which can be used for a variety of purposes including road making and general fill material.

What happens to timber?

Solid wood (not chipboard or MDF) collected at Calderdale’s HWRC’s are sent for processing into woodchip and chipboard to be re-used in the timber industry instead of virgin wood.

What happens to plastic bottles?

Plastic bottles are sorted into their different types by the reprocessor who then sells or uses the plastic to mould into new plastic products.

What happens to food waste?

Food waste is taken to a special processing plant where it is treated in an enclosed vessel. The process produces green energy to feed back into the National Grid and a small amount of compost which can be used for horticultural purposes and to help with the restoration of landfill sites.

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