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 stipulates that UK markets should be given preference where possible. Over 97% of the recyclable plastic that Greater Cambridge Shared Waste service collects is sent to UK reprocessors for recycling. The remaining material which is exported is fully tracked in accordance with strict guidance from 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, and is also available to householders to collect 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.

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 so far (April 2021 to September 2021) we have collected:

  • 26,384 tonnes of general waste (black bins) from 126,840 households – an average of 208kg per household.
  • 11,906 tonnes of recycling (blue bins) from 126,840 households – an average of 94kg per household.
  • 18,772 tonnes of garden and food waste (green bins) from 111,278 households – an average of 169kg 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 26384
Recycling 24251 24078 26369 11906
Garden and food waste 28926 28175 28789 18772

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%  
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%  
Quarter 4 (January to March) 45.77% 45.36% 47.69%  

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%  
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%  
Quarter 3 (October to December) 99.87% 99.85% 99.78%  
Quarter 4 (January to March) 99.85% 99.86% 99.80%  


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