What happens to your rubbish? What happens to your recycling?

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This article, What happens to your rubbish?, was last updated on 03 August 2009 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Home & garden articles.

What happens to rubbish graph

f you recycle a plastic bottle

1.  Recycle

A third of plastic bottles are recycled.

2. Collection

Recycling costs local authorities £60 to £130 per tonne to collect.

3. Separation

Plastic bottles are separated from other materials (£25 per tonne at a materials recovery facility). Unsuitable items are sent to landfill.

4. Sale

Bottles are squashed, baled into cubes and sold to reprocessing plants (councils sell them for £70 to £280 per tonne depending on the plastic).

5. Reprocessing

Bottles are sorted into different plastics, chopped into flakes, washed and decontaminated.

6. Product manufacture

Recycled plastics might be used to make: new plastic bottles, garden furniture, fleece jumpers, bin bags and wheelie bins.

If you don’t recycle a plastic bottle

1. Don't recycle

Two thirds of plastic bottles are sent to landfill.

2. Landfill

It costs an average of £53 per tonne to put rubbish in landfill.

3. Decomposition

A plastic bottle takes around 450 years to decompose.