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What happens to my waste?

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1. Recycling

Once their vehicle is full, the collection crew delivers the recycling to out Materials Reclamation Facility (MRF) where our picking staff, assisted by automated systems technology, sort it into different materials.

After baling the different materials by type, we sell it to companies in the UK that prepare it for manufacturing into new products.

We seek circular solutions for our recycling wherever possible, and this often requires ‘going the extra mile’. Getting clear plastic bottles turned back into clear plastic bottles, for example, depends on our ability to produce bales of only clear PET, and this requires extremely high-quality sorting.

Well sorted material, capable of being recycled into quality products, also commands higher prices, generating a greater income for public services in Exeter.

The below information is subject to change.

Aluminium cans

We send aluminium cans to various destinations in the UK to be processed before they are made into new drinks cans.

Aluminium is the most valuable material you can place in your green bin, financially and environmentally. Aluminium recycling by Exeter’s residents brings in a significant income for public services and keeps tonnes of raw bauxite in the ground.

Steel cans

We send steel cans to a company in Wales, where they are processed before being made into car parts and new food cans among other products.

Try to keep the lid attached or pop it back in the can and crimp the can shut (if you’re able) – otherwise it might fall through machinery.

Clear plastic bottles

Clear plastic bottles are made of PET. We sort and bale these into a clear PET load that we sell to a company in Loughborough, who processes them and gets them turned into clear bottles and clear plastic trays.

Milk bottles (plastic)

Milk bottles are made from a valuable and versatile plastic called HDPE. We separate and bale them into pure loads, before selling them to the same Loughborough-based company for processing and turning back into milk bottles.

Coloured bottles

In the industry, these are known as ‘jazz’. They are not as valuable as clear PET or HDPE, because they can’t be recycled into such high-quality products, but they still need recycling properly. We bale these and send them to our buyer in Loughborough to be turned into composite plastic packaging and products.

Pots, tubs and trays

While not as valuable as other materials, these can still be turned into composite plastic products. Our Loughborough-based buyer processes them before getting them turned into things like traffic cone bases and plastic lumber.

Bags and films

Our buyer in Loughborough can get good quality plastic bags and films turned into sacks for use across our waste collection and sweeping services.

What do we mean by ‘good quality’? Anything that feels like a bag for life or a plastic bread bag. We can’t take ‘crinkly’ salad bags, pasta packets or anything that feels like clingfilm – nor any compostable plastic.

By putting your good quality plastic bags and films – including bubble wrap – in your green bin, you are entering it into a circular recycling solution and helping us to keep the costs of buying new bags down.


We sort paper well enough that it can be turned into quality newsprint – which is a very high grade of recycled paper. It stays within the UK.


Our cardboard currently goes to a company that supplies the Malaysian market, where there is a significant demand for cardboard packaging for electronic goods and other exported goods.

Cardboard that enters East Asian markets must be ‘export grade’ – an extremely high quality standard required for it to be turned into cardboard boxes again.

Glass bottles and jars

We send the glass bottles and jars we collect from bring banks around the city to a company in Wales, where they are crushed and sorted into colours by technology before being melted and turned into new bottles and jars.

When this content has been updated

Last updated 28 June 2024