What happens to waste


The more we recycle in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the more we protect our environment, save resources and stop material ending up in landfill.

Not only that, the more we recycle, money is saved – money that can be used to provide other services and helps keep Cambridgeshire and Peterborough great places to live and work in.

On this page:

Recycling

Waste such as paper, plastic, metals, glass and card that go into your recycling bin get sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Waterbeach.

Find out what happens next by watching our video below:

Material Recycling Facility

Video Credits: Mugshot Media

Food and garden waste

Food and garden waste collected in Cambridgeshire is made into nutrient rich compost which is used by local farmers and gardeners. This compost is available to Cambridgeshire residents for free.

The process is similar to composting that you might do at home but takes place at much higher temperatures and in a controlled environment, meaning that it is completely safe for you to put all food including meat, fish or cooked food in your garden waste bin.

It is important to keep items such as plastic or bio-degradable bags out of your food and garden waste bin as it can mean that whole loads can be rejected or could cost lots of time and money to separate.

Watch the video below to see how the process works.

In Vessel Composting

Video Credits: Mugshot MediaIn 

Peterborough has a different system for processing their food waste. In Peterborough, only food waste collected is sent to an Anaerobic Digestion facility. This process produces a nutrient rich fertilizer for agricultural use and the biogas is used to generate renewable electricity. For a detailed description of what happens to the food waste, visit the Biogen website.

What happens to the recycling after it’s been sorted

Once the contents of your recycling bin have been separated at the MRF, they are sent on for further processing in the UK, where it is transformed into a new product that can be used to make different things, from clothes or garden benches, to new bottles, cans and newspapers.

Most of this material stays in the UK for manufacturing, although some is bought by manufacturers in other countries.

Where recycling goes

General waste

Any waste that can’t be recycled or composted goes into your general waste bin. In Cambridgeshire, all waste destined for landfill goes through a Mechanical Biological Treatment plant (MBT) to try and reduce its impact on the environment and cost to the tax payer as much as possible.

This process removes some materials that should have been recycled but weren’t, such as metal tins and cans. It’s important to note that this is not an alternative to recycling, as only some materials can be recovered at this stage and the quality is very low, meaning that it is still essential to recycle everything you can.

What’s left goes through a final waste reduction process in an enormous enclosed hall measuring 70 metres in width and 200 metres in length. Water is added to the waste and giant mechanical turning wheels keep the material aerated for a seven week process. This speeds up the decomposition of the waste, capturing greenhouse gases and reducing the volume that is sent to landfill by half, meaning that it is both better for the environment and saves public money as less landfill tax will be paid.

For a detailed description of the process visit the Amey website.

In Peterborough, the residual waste is processed at an Energy Recovery Facility which burns the waste at high temperatures and produces an inert ash for recycling. This reduces its weight by around 94% and the heat generated by the process is turned into renewable electricity.

For more information on the process visit https://viridor.co.uk/our-developments/peterborough-erf/.