• Millions of years ago, we did not have what is
now known as rubbish, as nature recycled
everything. When humans arrived, we began
to make more and more mess! The invention
of disposable items in the last 100+ years has
made the problem a lot worse. In addition, in
the last hundred we have seen an increase in
the manufacturing of disposable goods, which
has made the problem worse.
• According to the Environmental Protection
Agency, in 2009 Americans produced about
243 million tons of trash.
• That’s an average of about 4.3 pounds of
waste per person per day!
Where does rubbish go?
• Waste goes to landfill
sites – big holes in the
ground, which are
often disused quarries.
A landfill site is filled
up over time and then
covered over with soil
and grass when it is
• There are lots of problems with landfill:
- Rubbish in landfill sites is so tightly packed
together and is not exposed to oxygen in the air,
so it does not rot in the normal way. Instead,
when things rot in landfill, they give off a smelly
gas called methane. This can add to Global
– Chemicals and other liquid can leak from landfill
into nearby streams and rivers, if it’s not
contained properly with a protective membrane
at the bottom.
• - Landfills take up a lot of space. This means less
space for us (e.g. parks, houses) and for wildlife
(e.g. takes away habitat for animals). We only
live on a small island and are running out of
space to make new landfill sites.
• - Putting things in landfill is a waste of valuable
resources – a glass bottle will never break down
in landfill, but it can be recycled endlessly.
Making a new bottle takes up lots of energy and
• Recycling is one way to send less of our waste
to landfill, but there are two other important
things to do to as well... all together they are
called the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
• This is the most important – we need to make
less waste in the first place.
How? Buy less and use less...
• - Use less disposable things, so you won’t have
to throw so much away
• - Buy things with less packaging or recyclable
• Use things again or give them a new lease of
• - Reuse tubs and boxes for storing food,
instead of disposable plastic food bags
• - Give your old things to charity instead of
throwing them away
• - If you like making things, use your rubbish to
create something new
• Once you have reduced your waste and reused
what you can, then you can recycle! Recycling
means breaking down something old to turn it
into something new – often it’s made back into
the same thing e.g. old paper is made back into
paper or newspaper, but sometimes it’s made
into something different e.g. plastic bottles can
be made into a fleece jumper!
How are things recycled?
• Recycling is taken to a
• All your recycling goes
into a spinning drum
with holes and along
several conveyor belts.
materials – e.g plastic
bottles fall through
holes in the spinning
drum and magnets pick
up steel cans.
• A final hand-check
removes things the
recognize - non-
recyclables like clothing
and plastic packaging.
• At the end of the
conveyor belts, the
separated materials fall
into collection bays. The
materials are squashed
together into bales,
which are stored in
another section of the
MRF, ready for
• The bales are loaded
onto lorries and
use recycled materials
to make new products -
a new drink can be in
the shops just 6 weeks
after you recycled your
What happens to rubbish?
• rubbish is taken to a
Recovery Facility (Bio-
• The rubbish is dropped by
a crane into a giant
shredder and then put
onto a special ‘bio-drying’
floor, which lets air pass
through the rubbish,
making it rot faster. This
copies the natural process
that occurs when
biodegradable waste (like
food) rots in open air.
• The waste is dried for
14 days using natural
heat and microbes. This
evaporates most of the
moisture content. At
the end of the process,
the weight of the
rubbish is around 25%
• Pushing air through the
rubbish in Step 2 means
the rubbish decomposes
methane gas. The used air
passes through the roof
of the Bio-MRF (pictured).
The roof is covered in
removes any smell and
• The dried waste is
separated into different
useful materials. Glass and
metal can be recycled and
anything organic can be
composted. Most of what’s
left is ‘Solid Recovered Fuel’,
which is taken by
companies to use as fuel.
• The whole process results in
up to 80% of your rubbish
being saved from landfill!
Recycling facts and figures
• UK households produced 30.5 million tonnes
of waste in 2003/04, of which 17% was
collected for recycling (source: defra.gov.uk).
This figure is still quite low compared to some
of our neighbouring EU countries, some
recycling over 50% of their waste. There is still
a great deal of waste which could be recycled
that ends up in landfill sites which is harmful
to the environment.
• Recycling is an excellent way of saving energy
and conserving the environment. Did you
• 1 recycled tin can would save enough energy
to power a television for 3 hours.
• 1 recycled glass bottle would save enough
energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
• 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough
energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3
• 70% less energy is required to recycle paper
compared with making it from raw materials
Some Interesting Facts
• Up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin
could be recycled.
• The unreleased energy contained in the average
dustbin each year could power a television for 5,000
• The largest lake in the Britain could be filled with
rubbish from the UK in 8 months.
• On average, 16% of the money you spend on a product
pays for the packaging, which ultimately ends up as
• As much as 50% of waste in the average dustbin could
• Up to 80% of a vehicle can be recycled.
• 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it were made
• 24 million tonnes of aluminium is produced
annually, 51,000 tonnes of which ends up as
packaging in the UK.
• If all cans in the UK were recycled, we would
need 14 million fewer dustbins.
• £36,000,000 worth of aluminium is thrown
away each year.
• Aluminium cans can be recycled and ready to
use in just 6 weeks.
• Each UK family uses an average of 500 glass
bottles and jars annually.
• The largest glass furnace produces over 1
million glass bottles and jars per day.
• Glass is 100% recyclable and can be used
again and again.
• Glass that is thrown away and ends up in
landfills will never decompose.
• Recycled paper produces 73% less air
pollution than if it was made from raw
• 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard
are used annually in the UK.
• The average person in the UK gets through
38kg of newspapers per year.
• It takes 24 trees to make 1 ton of newspaper.
• 275,000 tonnes of plastic are used each year
in the UK, that’s about 15 million bottles per
• Most families throw away about 40kg of
plastic per year, which could otherwise be
• The use of plastic in Western Europe is
growing about 4% each year.
• Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.