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What happens to your recycling?

We collect thousands of tonnes of recycling every year. The recycling, paper and garden waste goes to a processing plant called Hespin Wood just outside of Carlisle which is run by Cumbria Waste Management.

How does all the glass, cans and plastics get sorted?

We're often asked how all the glass, cans and plastics gets sorted. The material goes through a special sorting machine. The video below explains it best:

Ever wondered what happens to your recycling?

Once loaded onto the converyor

It goes through a sorting process, with glass removed first

Anything that cannot be recycling, like plastic film or bads, is removed.

This footage was taken when we used purple bags to collect the waste, which were not themselves recyclable...

...we no longer use them, meaning contamination rates have halved to just 4%

A magnet removes any steel tins and cans

And finally an eddy current divides the aluminium cans from the plastic.

Once separated it is baled...

...and sent to UK-based processors.

The same thing happens to your paper and card

...which can be recycled a number of times before it turns into this [photo of grey fibrous material]

...which can be used for animal bedding.

Your garden waste is collected into large mounds

...and it is crucial to get the right mix of twigs, grass and leaves

It is turned over once a week for eight weeks

Before it is brought inside, dried, bagged and sold.

Please help us by putting the right waste in the right bin

And not include anything that cannot be recycled.

As this helps the environment

And good quality recycling raises income to help pay for the services we provide.

Thank you for watching....

...and to Cumbria Waste Management for showing us round their plant at Hespin Wood near Carlisle.

Find out more at

What happens to the recycling after it is sorted?

Paper and card

We collect around 300 tonnes of paper and card every month. This is processed at the Hespin Wood plant with the right mix of card and paper determined by what it is to be recycled into (with the rise of online shopping we're seeing more and more cardboard, but we do want you paper too!).

Once it is baled together it goes to UPM at Shottom Mill in Deeside, North Wales , where it is largely reprocessed into newspaper print.

Did you know that paper and card can be recycled a number of times. However, after a while the strands get too small to recycle anymore and so the remaining pulp is dried and has been used for animal bedding.


We collect around 75 tonnes of plastics every month. 

The plastic waste goes to Biffa Polymer in Wigan. Once sorted and washed it is delivered to different end locations to be turned into new plastic-based products - such as food packaging, plastic pipes and even clothing.

Find out how the plant makes high quality and food-grade plastic pellets for recycling

Aluminium cans

We collect around 14 tonnes of aluminium cans a month and this is on the rise. Aluminium is great for recycling as it is light, crushes easily, and holds a good price.

All our aluminium cans goes to the Novelis recycling plant in Warrington.

This plant in Warrington recycles about 70 billion cans a year!

Steel cans

Steel cans are equally popular in the world of recycling, as they are light, crush easily and the end product is in demand. We collect about 25 tonnes per month.

Steel cans go to Sims Recycling in Derby . It is processed back into steel products.


We collect around 280 tonnes of glass a month. It eventually all goes to the Viridor plant in Motherwell.

The days of separating colours of glass are over. You can now put any-colour of glass products into the recycling bins.

Garden waste

All the garden waste is added to giant compost heaps which are turned every week. Within eight weeks, we have some fantastic compost which is sold in shops.

What happens to the glass, cans and plastics which goes into the general waste bin?

The good news is that any waste that goes into your general waste bin, less than 1% of all waste from household waste bins, goes to landfill.

The rest goes to a plant which processes all the waste and tries to take out the recyclable material - such as tins, glass and plastics. This can be recyled where possible, but it is very low-grade and won't be used for the high-quality products that cleaned and sorted recycling would go to. This also means that it does not make as much income for us, to be used to provide you with the services you expect. 

Much of the other waste from the general bins is dried and pelleted, and turned into fuel.

By washing and sorting your recycling you not only help save the environment, but also help pay for the services we provide to you. It's a win/win situation.


Council Strategy design

Cumberland Council

On 1 April 2023 local government in Cumbria changed, with Cumberland Council providing all your council services.  

Don't worry though, your bins will be emptied as normal, and you'll still be able to speak to the same team about any enquiries to do with things like council tax, benefits, planning or any other service.

Find out more about the changes.

Keep up to date by finding and following the new council on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. 

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