What happens to my rubbish and recycling?

Watch the video to see what happens to the recycling in your clear sack.


What happens to my recycling?
What happens to my rubbish?
Tour the MK waste and recycling factories

What happens to my recycling?

Aerial photo of the MRF
MK Recycling Factory

Recycling from MK residents' clear recycling sacks is taken by our collection vehicles to the Materials Recovery Facility, also known as the Recycling Factory, in Old Wolverton.

Built in 1993, it was the UK's first purpose-built recycling factory and is owned by MK Council. This state-of-the-art sorting facility uses a range of technologies to sort and separate the paper, cans and plastics, which are then baled ready for transportation to be made into new recycled products (PDF, 334KB). We even recycle the clear sack. Watch our factory video 

Photo of a one-pass lorry at the recycling factory
A one-pass lorry at the recycling factory
  • Paper is recycled into more newspaper, toilet rolls, tissues & egg boxes. Paper can be recycled 5 or 6 times before the fibres become too weak to be recycled. Its last life will be as a tissue.
  • Steel and aluminium cans are sent to furnaces where they are melted down and recycled to create more cans. They are back on the supermarket shelf with new food or fizz inside in about 6 weeks.
  • Plastic is first flaked, then washed, dried and melted. Plastic bottles can be recycled into more bottles, traffic cones, wheeled bins, guttering and even the fluff in duvets. Plastic food tubs, yoghurt pots, etc. can be recycled into a plastic board to be turned into products such as picnic tables or pig sties.
  • All glass bottles and jars collected from blue boxes are sent to furnaces where they are melted down. The molten glass can then be re-moulded into new bottles and jars. When different colour glass is melted together it all turns green as this is the dominant colour.
  • All batteries collected in yellow bags are sent to furnaces to be melted down. The metals and acid are extracted to be made into new recycled products, including new batteries.
  • Food and garden waste is sent to an In-vessel composting facility to create a low grade soil conditioner for agriculture.

Return to the top

What happens to my rubbish?

Photo of waste being processed at the Waste Recovery Plant
MK Waste Recovery Park

Many people still think that MK rubbish goes to landfill, but the MK Waste Recovery Park has been processing the rubbish from our residents' black bin bags for several years now. It is situated in Old Wolverton, just across the road from the Recycling Factory. How it works:

  1. Initially the MKWRP factory machinery locates and retrieves items, such as plastic bottles and tin cans that should have been placed in the clear recycling sack, but have been placed in the black bin bag in error.
  2. Then it locates any food and garden waste, which should have gone in the green wheeled bin, which is then composted to create a low-grade compost-like output.
  3. The remaining non-recyclable items then go to the advanced thermal treatment plant where it is ‘cooked’, creating a gas which is in turn combusted to create steam. This then drives a turbine which creates electricity that powers the factory and the excess is fed into the National Grid. 

You can see the process from start to finish here (PDF, 4.9MB)

Return to the top

Tour our factories

All tours of the MK Recycling Factory and MK Waste Recovery Park are currently suspended due to the Coronavirus

To register your interest in visiting our factories when tours resume please email wasteeducation@milton-keynes.gov.uk. Please note: we only provide tours for MK residents, MK schools and MK community groups.

Access free on-line resources, including PowerPoint with notes, factory video, activity sheets, craft ideas, games and more.

Return to the top

Last Updated: 15 April 2021