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The Journey of Recycling

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Ever wondered what happens after your recycling bins are collected or you drop something off at the recycling centre? No, me either, but I thought it was about time that I learnt exactly what happened to all of my recycling waste.

What do we recycle?

UK households produced 30.5 million tonnes of waste in 2003/04, of which 17% was collected for recycling (source: Although this initially may seem high, this figure is in fact still very low when you compare to some of our neighbouring EU countries, some recycling over 50% of their waste. This means that there is still a mass amount of waste which could be recycled that ends up in landfill sites. Take a look at some of the items that we in the UK recycle:


  • All of the UK newspapers manufactured here are now made from 100% recycled paper – wow!
  • Over 80% of the glass collected for recycling is used in the UK, the majority of it to make new glass bottles and jars.


Should we export any recyclable material?

This is one debate that has raged over the years, with countries such as China prepared to pay very high prices for recyclables such as waste plastic; mainly because they do not have readily available it would mean that we are bringing in a larger revenue to recycling in the UK. However many argue that even though exporting our recyclables means a bigger recycling loop and more revenue, although because we have to transport the materials in order to recycle them we are still destroying the environment – meaning that we are no better off than if we just recycled the waste in the UK to begin with!


Glass is an important material when it comes to recycling because it is one of the few substances which can benefit from ‘closed loop recycling’. When recycled, glass returns to the same composition and structure as when it was first manufactured. This means that the glass can be recycled over and over and still retain the same high quality – it is one of the only material in the world that can do this! From glass windows, to bottles to even engraved glass awards – they can all be melted down and rebuilt into more glass bottles, jars and awards!

Firstly the glass must go through a process of cleaning and sorting, this is where a laser sorter then separates all the different types and colours of glass. Once the loads have been separated, any loads that are pure enough (approx. 90% of loads) go across a conveyor into the glass smelters next door to be made into new glass product. This leaves on approx. 10% of loads that have not achieved the pure enough level of glass and are then used for aggregate in the construction industry – so they are still recycled!

Recycling metal

Metals are slightly different, they need to be taken away by our local processors who will separate the different types of metals and sell them to be made into new recycled metal products. Some items which are not all metal, but have a high metal content, can also go in the metal container.


What happens to paper?

I recycle so much paper a year, not only from my printer and pages but at work too – but what happens to it? The UK use paper every day and did you know that as a nation we use over 12.5 million tonnes each year?


Did you know? (Because I didn’t!)

  • It takes as little as 7 days for a recycled newspaper to come back as a newspaper again?
  • 67% of the paper and cardboard used in the UK is recovered for recycling?
  • 11 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions were avoided by recycling paper and board in 2008, the equivalent of taking around 3½ million cars off the road!

It is so important to continue the journey of recycling even after you’ve taken your bin out, if your are looking to source paper or a local printer try searching to ‘eco-friendly’ printers Cambridge, or even ‘green’ or ‘recycling’ – it is crucial that we keep that circle of recycling going.

Recycling metals not only saves natural resources and avoids the destruction associated with mining, but it also saves a vast amount of energy in comparison to using raw material. It is so important that we continue to recycle to not only save our resources but to help the planet too – after all we only have one, so we must look after it!



What Are The Cleanest Cities In The World?

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Those who saw the 2013 Matt Damon sci-fi film Elysium will know that it painted a grim picture of the future. The poor people of earth are forced to live in violent, horribly polluted cities where they build homes amongst decaying buildings and massive piles of garbage, while the rich and elite have all moved to a massive orbiting space station with an artificial atmosphere that allows them to live in beautiful homes, surrounded by pristine fields and lush greenery. The utopia of the Elysium space station makes it look like somewhere that most people would want to live, but since it’s a movie, its beauty is largely computer generated. There are many cities in the world that seem determined to make sure that they don’t become polluted wastelands, and so are doing amazing things in order to be clean and green, both now, and for generations to come. So what are these beautiful cities- which cities in the world are the cleanest?

Wellington, capital city of New Zealand - Shutterstock

The capital city of New Zealand experienced an influx of visitors who decided to tour the country after The Lord of the Rings films became immensely popular; after all, New Zealand is Middle Earth! Wellington is hardly a huge city, with a population of just over 395,000 people. The central city’s potential for growth is limited due to the fact that it’s nestled between the ocean and beautiful steep hills, and the wind that blows in over the water ensures that the air in the city is always crisp and fresh, even when you’re downtown. The wind can be slightly annoying on some days, and the city’s nickname is in fact Windy Wellington.

What Are The Cleanest Cities In The World?

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

The island city-state boasts some of the cleanest streets in the world, although this is largely due to an approach that some might find a bit extreme, like hefty fines being given to anyone caught littering, and the fact that chewing gum has been banned there since 2004. So in Singapore, there’s no chance of having a dirty sticky mess on the bottom of your shoe, since the only possible gum on offer is of the nicotine variety, and it requires a doctors prescription. There don’t seem to be any illegal underground gum clubs in the city, so it seems that citizens and visitors have simply learned to live without it.

What Are The Cleanest Cities In The World?

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

While the city is well known for its vice quarter, and its lenient marijuana laws, the city is also home to some of the fittest, cleanest lungs in the world. Amsterdam is a cycling paradise, and in the central city there are more bikes than cars. Not only is this healthy, but it’s also logical- it’s far easier to navigate the narrow cobbled streets on the back of a bike than it is by car. Visitors need to be mindful of all the bikes on the roads and listen out for the bells that cyclists will ring to tell pedestrians to get out of the way. The city might be healthy, but it won’t be for you, if you’re hit by a bike and end up falling into a canal.

What Are The Cleanest Cities In The World?

Zurich, Switzerland

The Swiss city looks like an illustration for a box of really expensive chocolates, and the city itself is full of sweet treasures. Well known as a banking city, Zurich is surrounded by amazing wilderness and has a film festival that is quickly growing in influence and popularity. Like many cities in Switzerland and nearby Austria, the Alps that dominate the skyline ensure that the air is fresh and invigorating, and the citizens of Zurich seem to truly take pride in their city, making sure that it stays clean and pristine.

What Are The Cleanest Cities In The World?Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki has a straightforward approach to keeping its air clean, in that they have a huge number of parks and green areas, all filled with plants and trees soaking up those nasty pollutants; and in fact, more than one third of the city is parkland. The city authorities have even introduced a fee for bringing a car into the central city, meaning that many residents opt for public transport or using a bike.

With all the smoke and smog that can be found in large cities, it’s a wonder that these large cities are able to keep everything as clean as they do. It may seem impossible, but you can keep your area just as clean with services from businesses such as the American Clean & Seal Roof Cleaning, bike to work, and throw away litter.