Wise Up To Waste Logo
Wise Up to Waste Logo


Your frequently asked questions about recycling

Here are just a few of the questions most people have abut recycling - Why should you? What's in it for you? Surely it just all goes to the same place, doesn't it....? Click on the questions to find the answer you want.

Why should I recycle?

In north London we throw away almost a million tonnes of rubbish every year, that’s enough to fill eight football stadiums. Throwing away rubbish damages the environment; it wastes the energy and materials that are needed to make the products we all use. It can also cause pollution.

Waste disposal costs are projected to increase year on year, as is the amount of household waste we all produce. Reducing how much waste we produce and recycling more will reduce the amount of waste we have to dispose of and, therefore, reduce the cost to north London’s councils of treating this material.

Recycling is easy. Many residents in north London have already been provided with a doorstep recycling service. All boroughs have recycling banks on the street and most boroughs have a local re-use and recycling centre.

Recycling materials, rather than sending them for disposal, helps save valuable resources. It reduces the use of virgin materials and the amount of energy we use to make new products. Recycling materials helps keep the amount of waste sent to landfill down, which is better for the environment.

The increasing restrictions on sending waste to landfill sites makes it more important that we all recycle and compost as much of our waste as we can. We are also running out of space at landfill sites to bury waste. 

Why can’t some things be recycled?

It is not possible or cost effective to recycle every type of waste. Some waste is too contaminated or there may not be enough to make it economical to recycle. Instead, we’re looking at ways of dealing with that unrecyclable “residual” waste better, by using it as fuel to power homes and businesses. You can find out more about this at our Wise up to Waste web pages.

We would of course prefer everything to be recyclable, so we also communicate with manufacturers and importers and exporters of products to help them to use recyclable and reusable materials wherever possible, as well as reducing their waste.

There are some differences between councils so please contact your local council or click “what can I put in my bin” or find nearest” to see what can be recycled in your area.

What can I recycle?

There is a difference between what materials individual councils can collect and so not all materials can be recycled in every borough. However, if you check out the “What can I put in my bin?” page, you can find out exactly what can be recycled in your area.

Materials that can typically be recycled at household waste recycling centres include:

-          Glass bottles and jars

-          Paper including newspaper, junk mail and magazines

-          Cardboard

-          Yellow pages

-          Books

-          CDs and DVDs

-          Plastic bottles

-          Food and drink cans

-          Aluminium foil

-          Aerosols

-          Car and household batteries

-          Mobile phones

-          Computers

-          Domestic appliances

-          Furniture

-          Metal

-          Engine oil

-          Food and garden waste

-          Wood

-          Clothing, textiles and shoes

-          Soil and rubble 

My recycling/rubbish hasn’t been collected – what should I do?

The North London Waste Authority does not collect waste or recycling. Our job is to dispose of the waste that your council collects. Please contact your local council using our contacts page

Do you pay reuse and recycling credits?

Reuse and recycling credits are paid to third parties that remove items from the municipal (household) waste stream for reuse or recycling that would otherwise have been sent for disposal at north London’s expense. Please go to the reuse and recycling credits page on the Wise up to Waste website for further information.

What happens to waste that can’t be recycled?

Currently, waste that cannot be recycled is either used as fuel to generate electricity at our energy-from-waste facility in Edmonton in north London, or is transported to a landfill site outside of London. 

Landfill isn't a long term option because:
- it produces methane which is a potent greenhouse gas so is not the best environmental option
- landfill sites are almost all outside London - which means that we have to pay to transport the waste further 
- taxation on landfilling also makes it very expensive

All these costs have to be paid for, ultimately through local council tax. 

So we are trying to keep landfilling to a minimum for both cost and environmental reasons. 

How is reducing and reusing different to recycling?

Waste reduction is about preventing waste before it is created and there are simple steps we can all take to reduce the amount of rubbish we produce. Our Wise up to Waste website has further advice and tips on reducing how much rubbish you produce. To find out more about what we are doing to reduce waste in north London please see the North London Waste Prevention Plan

Before we consider recycling an item we should look to see if we can reuse it. Many items can be reused – from carrier bags and clothes to books and furniture. Reusing an object uses far less energy than recycling it. See our reuse pages for more advice and tips.

What is recycling?

Recycling is the conversion of discarded waste materials into 'new' products. Recycling prevents waste of useful materials and reduces the consumption of virgin/raw materials. Through this process there is a reduction in energy usage, and in air and water pollution. Less material is disposed of through facilities, including landfill sites, which are becoming a scarce and expensive route for disposal.

How often is my recycling collected and what is my collection day?

Use our what can I put in my bin? locator and click on your council's logo to link through to your local council's recycling web pages, and find out when your recycling is collected. You can also contact your local council directly.

How do I know it gets recycled?

Both the Environment Agency and the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), who make arrangements for disposing of north London’s waste and managing north London’s recyclable waste, audit what happens to your recycling on a regular basis. The companies who sort and recycle the waste operate under strict environmental controls and evidence to demonstrate where all the materials are recycled must be available for inspection by the NLWA and Environment Agency at any time.

You can find out more in detail about what happens to your recycling on our "What happens to my recycling?" page

I live on a housing estate or in a high-rise flat / apartment block – how can I recycle?

Each borough council will have its own arrangements for recycling on housing estates or in high-rise flat / apartment blocks. This may include communal bins for recycling, or collection of recycling sacks instead of bins or boxes.

Please look at the "what can I put in my bin?" page for information on the scheme available in your area.

Alternatively, you can begin recycling right away by taking it to your nearest recycling bank.