East London Waste Authority
East London Waste Authority

What happens next?

plastic recycling

You’ve washed out your jars and flattened your cardboard. It’s in the recycling bin and the bin crew are coming to pick it up. So what happens next?

We don’t often think about where our recycling goes or what becomes of it and you might be surprised what some of it gets turned into.

This week is Recycle Week (Monday 25th September – Sunday 1st) and the focus this year is ‘what goes around comes around’. We know our recycling gets recycling into something but do you know exactly what it gets recycled into?

Let’s start with the easy ones.

Paper becomes paper again. That’s a nice simple one. And it’s great as every time you recycle paper, you’re reducing the need for more trees to be cut down. So make sure you buy recycled paper and packaging to keep that circle continuing.

Equally, glass becomes glass. But not just glass. It also gets used to make road surfaces too.

Aluminium cans can be recycled into new cans and be back on the shelf with baked beans in within six weeks. Or they could be turned into aeroplane, car and bike parts.

Now for the more complicated one. Plastic.

Plastic is a tricky material because there are just so many different types. Milk bottles are made from different plastics to food trays and toys are made from different plastics to water bottles. Separating them out can be expensive and difficult.┬áSo, often our plastic recycling gets turned into fabric. Yep, that’s right, your plastic bottle will become a football shirt, a suit, a warm fleece or a hat. It might become the filling for a duvet or a sleeping bag. It might even insulate your loft.

The other option for plastic is for it to be made into bin liners and carrier bags, CD and DVD cases or garden furniture and children’s playground equipment.

While all this plastic recycling is great, the products that recycled plastic becomes cannot be recycled again. This means that we will always need to be creating more, new plastic for water bottles and food containers. And to make plastic we need to mine for oil and for that we need a lot of electricity to get it and turn it into plastic. So keep on recycling (because it really does make a huge difference) but don’t forget to reduce the amount of stuff you buy and use in the first place. Remember, it’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for a reason.

Want more information about what your recycling gets turned into and how? Click here.

Want to find out what you can recycle in your area? Click here.


Click on your Borough to discover your nearest Recycling Centre

Barking & Dagenham