Our policies and what happens to your recycling and waste


Ever wondered what happens to your waste and recycling?

Or not sure why you can put some things in your recycling bins and not others?

Watch the processes in RECAP's videos: See what happens to your recycling.

Blue bin - recycling

Blue bin lorries collect mixed recycling. When the blue bin lorries are full, they empty the mixed recycling at sorting plant, called a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), at Amey near Waterbeach.

Once at the MRF a variety of magnets, eddy currents (reverse magnets), size-sorting equipment and conveyor belts separate the different materials. The materials are then baled and sold to processors who melt, pulp or crush them to make new products.

Our contract with Amey specifies that UK markets should be given preference where possible. Between March 2020 and December 2021 over 85% of the recyclable materials that Greater Cambridge Shared Waste service collected were sent to UK re-processors for recycling. For plastics this figure was over 99%. The remaining material which is exported is fully tracked in accordance with strict guidance from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and this is recorded on the national Waste Data Flow website. Materials are only sent to sites which have a permit to recycle them legally. 

Non-recyclable items put into the bins incorrectly are removed during sorting and either sent to landfill at Waterbeach or used as fuel to run cement kilns in Lincolnshire.

Green bin - food and garden waste

The waste from your green bin is taken to Amey - here it goes through an intensive 'in-vessel' composting process. The resulting soil conditioner is sold for local agriculture.

Householders can also collect soil conditioner free of charge from the site.

Black bin - non-recyclable waste

Black bin waste is taken to Amey where it is passed through the Mechanical Biological Treatment plant (MBT). The MBT mechanically removes some items from the waste and then treats the rest in a huge composting hall. This breaks the waste down as much as possible, helping to reduce methane and carbon dioxide emissions it might release if it were simply land-filled.

Bin Hygiene 

Bins can get smelly in warm weather, attracting flies. In cold weather, the contents can freeze, which can mean we are unable to empty your bin.

Managing your waste carefully can prevent these problems.

  • Wrapping food waste and bagging all other waste will help keep your bins clean.
  • You can rinse your bins out with detergent, or use a bin-cleaning service.
  • If possible, store your wheeled bin out of direct sunlight, as the sun will warm up the bin, increase the smell and help attract flies.
  • Ensure that all bin lids are kept closed. If your bin is damaged or missing we can arrange a repair or replacement.

Frozen bins

Wetter items including food and garden waste can freeze to the inside of wheelie bins during cold spells. If this happens, they won’t empty properly when collectors tip the bin into refuse trucks. You can help by:

  • Wrap food waste in paper – newspaper will do, or you can buy paper liners.
  • Put a piece of cardboard at the bottom of the empty bin – do this in cold spells only, as normally cardboard should go in the blue bin.
  • Put your bin out at each collection even if it is only half full – this reduces the likelihood that you will be left with a full bin if it freezes.
  • Place a small stick under the lid to prevent the lid from fully closing and becoming frozen shut.
  • If possible, place your bin in the sun during the day or close to a wall.

If your bin has not been fully emptied because the contents are partially frozen and you need to dispose of extra rubbish or garden waste you can take it to the recycling centres in Milton or Thriplow. We are not able to return to empty frozen bins.

Recycling and waste statistics

Our shared waste service’s performance is measured using two indicators – recycling rate and percentage of bins collected on time.

Our household waste and recycling policies and procedures [PDF, 0.3MB] document contains details of our waste and recycling collection services, including how and when residents need to present their bins for emptying.

Weight of recycling and waste collected

In 2021-22 (1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022), we have collected:

  • 53,076 tonnes of general waste (black bins) from 126,840 households – an average of 418kg per household.
  • 23,523 tonnes of recycling (blue bins) from 126,840 households – an average of 185kg per household.
  • 30,623 tonnes of garden and food waste (green bins) from 111,278 households – an average of 275kg per household.
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Collection 2018 /19 (tonnes) 2019 /20 (tonnes) 2020/21 (tonnes) 2021/22 (tonnes so far)
General waste 50948 50221 53182 53076
Recycling 24251 24078 26369 23523
Garden and food waste 28926 28175 28789 30623

Recycling rate

The recycling rate is the percentage of blue and green bin recycling versus black bin.

Quarterly recycling performance

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Yearly total 51.07% 50.99% 50.91% 50.50%
Date 2018 / 2019 2019 / 2020 2020/ 2021 2021/22
Quarter 1 (April to June) 55.60% 55.10% 51.17% 53.56%
Quarter 2 (July to September) 51.50% 53.28% 54.20% 54.17%
Quarter 3 (October to December) 50.29% 49.08% 50.12% 50.25%
Quarter 4 (January to March) 45.77% 45.36% 47.69% 46.10%

Bins emptied on time

The table below shows the percentage of bins that were collected on their scheduled day.

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Yearly total 99.76% 99.82% 99.84% 99.72%
Date range 2018 / 2019 2019 / 2020 2020/ 2021 2021/2022
Quarter 1 (April to June) 99.73% 99.82% 99.88% 99.75%
Quarter 2 (July to September) 99.63% 99.76% 99.90% 99.79%
Quarter 3 (October to December) 99.87% 99.85% 99.78% 99.76%
Quarter 4 (January to March) 99.85% 99.86% 99.80% 99.57%


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