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What happens to your waste

Protecting the environment is important to us and we see what you throw away as a resource. What you put in each of your bins goes on to become something else: from brand new products to energy.

The green recycling bin

Your recycling is taken to our local transfer station where it is tipped out and scanned by a small team for non-recyclable items that shouldn’t be there, such as black bags, food waste, nappies and textiles. Our bin crews empty up to 11,800 recycling bins every day so there is too much recycling for our team to completely clear of non-recyclable items. This is why it is important to make sure you don’t contaminate your green bin with non-recyclable items.

From the transfer station, recycling is driven to a Material Recovery Facility in Edmonton, North London. When it arrives, the recycling is scanned for levels of contamination (non-recyclable items). If the recycling is too contaminated the facility will reject it, and the whole lorry load of recycling will be wasted.

If the recycling is clean and made up of the correct items, it is loaded onto a system which separates the different materials. These are then processed and sold on to companies both in the UK and overseas to be made into new items.

Oxfordshire County Council created this video to show how recycling collections happen across the county.

The dark green food waste bin

Your food waste is taken to an Anaerobic Digestion facility in Wallingford.

Food waste from our districts is turned into energy to power up to 4,800 homes*

When the food waste arrives at the facility all bin liners are removed and sent to incineration. The food waste is then mixed with water and pumped into large sealed tanks. These tanks are heated to 37 degrees Celsius and stirred for around 85 days to break down the food waste. During this time little or no oxygen is added to the tanks. As the food waste breaks down, it releases gases which are captured and converted into energy. At the end of the process the remaining food waste is sold to local farmers as a very nutrient-rich fertiliser.

Please don’t put any food packaging (including compostable packaging) into the caddy unless it’s being used as a liner. Biodegradable and compostable products require oxygen to break down so they would not work in our process. Compostable and biodegradable packaging contaminates the fertiliser and it wouldn’t be safe to use.

The facility have created a video showing what happens to your food waste.

Tours of Wallingford anaerobic digester

We have a limited number of tours in 2023 of the food waste facility in Wallingford. Below are the dates for 2023. For more information and how to book, please email

  • Wednesday 7 June
  • Thursday 14 September
  • Thursday 16 November

The black general waste bin

All of the household items that cannot be recycled or put into the food waste bin go into your black bin and are then sent to an Energy Recovery Facility in Ardley. They are not sent to landfill.

The general waste is burned and the heat that is produced is captured and converted into enough electricity to power over 60,000 homes across Oxfordshire**

At the end of the burning process, any metals that are left are sent to be recycled and the ash is used in the construction industry. The ash is effective in road construction, so you could be driving on old rubbish!

By choosing Energy Recovery to dispose of our general waste, we have diverted 95 per cent of your rubbish from landfill.

For more information on what happens to black bin rubbish watch this video that the facility have created.

Tours of Ardley energy recovery facility

We organise tours of the Ardley energy recovery facility every month. Below are the dates for 2023. For more information or to book onto a tour, please email with your name, telephone number and an emergency contact.

  • Friday 21 April
  • Monday 15 May
  • Tuesday 22 August
  • Thursday 14 September
  • Wednesday 18 October
  • Thursday 16 November
  • Tuesday 12 December

The brown garden waste bin

Your garden waste is taken to a facility in Wallingford where it is composted. The garden waste is loaded onto large outdoor heaps called Open Windrows and takes eight to ten weeks to break down.

The compost made from your garden waste is sold to local farmers to be spread on farmland.

Please don’t put any packaging or sacks in your garden waste bin, even if they are compostable. As the compost heaps are outside and packaging or sacks present a high risk of littering onto neighbouring farmland. There is no way for our bin crews to know if packaging in a brown bin is compostable or not when they are emptying the bins.

Textiles, small electricals and batteries

Textiles are taken back to the Biffa depot where they’re put into Salvation Army clothes banks. The Salvation Army sort the contents on reusability. Those items which are reusable will be sold in their charity shops. Textiles which aren’t fit for reuse are shredded up into rags, stuffing etc. If you have good quality clothing and textiles, consider giving it to local charity shops as the items we collect at kerbside don’t necessarily stay within our districts. We’d rather have the poor quality items.

Small electrical items (also known as WEEE) are sent to a specialist electricals recycler. At their site, the items are loaded onto a conveyor belt and the items are broken down so that individual parts can be recycled and reused.

Batteries also go to a separate contractor who takes them apart for the semi-precious metals within, which are recycled and reused.

*on an ongoing basis (if the facility is running at full capacity)

**This number is set to increase even more as homes become more energy efficient.

Contact us - Waste and recycling

01235 422406
(Text phone users add 18001 before dialing)

The Waste Team
Abbey House
Abbey Close
OX14 3JE