Somerset Recycling Tracker

Somerset’s big success: where does all your recycling go?

Impressive progress and more to come is the message from a new Somerset Waste Partnership report.

The Somerset Recycling Tracker report shows what happens to the thousands of tonnes of recycling that residents add to kerbside collections or drop-off at recycle sites. It tracks every tonne to the location and company of first use, whether in Somerset, elsewhere in the UK or anywhere overseas.

The excellent figures in the latest report, for financial year 2020-21, are down to the enthusiasm for recycling shown by Somerset residents, and the impressive efforts of our new collections contractor SUEZ and our recycling site operator Viridor.

Tracking all recycling shows that the companies are legitimate and that no recycling is dumped, burned or ends up in the sea. It also highlights the kinds of products and packaging that Somerset’s recycling becomes, from new plastic bottles to newsprint and compost.

Somerset Waste Partnership and its contractors have a commitment that all materials collected for recycling will stay in the UK, if there is reprocessing capacity and demand here. Due to that, a stand-out figure is the 97.8% of Somerset’s recycling reprocessed first in the UK, up from the already-impressive 90% of the previous year. More than 50% of Somerset’s recycling stays in the county itself. Most of the 2.2% exported was card and paper going back to firms in Europe and Asia to make yet more cardboard boxes for imports of white goods and electronics.

Another big positive is Somerset’s performance on plastics. The 4,359 tonnes collected – compared to 3,266 tonnes in 2019-20 – reflects the early success of the new expanded Recycle More kerbside collections that are rolling out in phases across Somerset. They add plastic pots, tubs and trays, cartons, household batteries and small electrical items to weekly recycling. The far emptier rubbish bins are collected every three weeks. A remarkable 99.4% of plastics were reprocessed first in the UK, going to Northamptonshire, Cleveland, Manchester, County Durham and Kent. Just 0.6% were exported to Lithuania, Poland and Spain and Italy, where they become new bottles and other packaging.

In 2008, Somerset was the first UK authority to publish its pioneering annual recycling tracker, offering transparency and trust in its management of waste. Others have since followed that lead.

Somerset’s 52.4% recycling rate puts it in the top fifth of authorities for recycling, with 60% or more within reach. And it also makes Somerset one of the very best areas for carbon saving, at 123,036 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Somerset’s success demonstrates the value of double sorting – by you and your collection crew or recycling site staff. This ensures that we have the kind of high-quality, low-contamination materials that the market demands.

Of the 137,146 tonnes recycled or reused – bottles to cans, cardboard to cartons, wood to metals, and electrical items to clothes – the largest single material is the 39,432 tonnes of garden waste composted in Somerset and turned into the Revive soil improver. Another hefty load is the 22,542 tonnes of food waste. This is transformed by the Somerset anaerobic digestion plant at Walpole near Bridgwater into electricity for homes and businesses and farm compost to help grow more food.

Heaviest of the “dry” materials is paper and card at 24,731 tonnes, which goes to make newsprint and cardboard in Dorset, Kent, Norfolk and Wales, while some also goes to France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam. The 19,721 tonnes of glass bottles and jars go to Sheffield and Wales, while 7,868 tonnes of metals – mainly steel and aluminium cans – are recycled into anything from new cans to car parts via companies from Devon to Doncaster. And 3,787 tonnes of electrical items – your old fridge or TV – and household batteries head for Merseyside, Wales and the West Midlands to recycle metals and chemicals.

Recycling progress is matched for rubbish. Somerset has switched from landfilling all rubbish in the county to sending all kerbside rubbish and all suitable recycle site rubbish (more than half) to an energy-from-waste plant in Avonmouth. The 2020-21 Recycling Tracker shows 90,342 tonnes went to energy-from-waste and just 29,027 tonnes to landfill, figures likely to fall as Recycle More boosts recycling.

Most people in Somerset are recycling. Are you?


View or download the most recent edition:

SWP Recycling Tracker report 2020-21

View or download earlier editions (NB: two editions were entitled Beyond the Kerb; Recycling to Resources, and before that the report was known as the End Use Register):

SWP Beyond the Kerb Recycling to Resources 2019-20



SWP-Recycling-End-Use Register-2016-2017

SWP-Recycling-End-Use Register-2015-2016

SWP-Recycling-End-Use Register-2014-2015

SWP-Recycling-End-Use Register-2013-2014

SWP-Recycling-End-Use Register-2012-2013

Paper Sent to paper mills in the UK and overseas to be recycled into newsprint and other paper and board products.
Cardboard Sent to board mills in the UK and overseas to be recycled into new cardboard.
Mixed container glass Sent to reprocessing facilities in the UK to be turned into mineral wool and new glass bottles and jars.
Cans and foil Sent to reprocessing facilities in the UK to be sorted into steel and aluminium.  Steel cans are made into new steel products and aluminium cans are recycled into more cans and other aluminium products.
Food waste Sent to an anaerobic digestion facility near Bridgwater to produce a biofertiliser used on agricultural land and biogas used to generate electricity.
Garden waste Composted in Somerset by Viridor and local farmers.  Used on site or sold as Revive Compost at recycling centres.
Textiles Sent for reuse in the developing world or shredded into cotton felt/wadding/mops and industrial wiping cloths.
Shoes Sent to developing nations to be refurbished and reused.
Plastic bottles Sent to reprocessors in the UK and overseas to be recycled into various plastic items such as films, pipes, compost bins and fleece jackets.
Beverage cartons Sent to reprocessor in the UK to be separated into paper for cardboard products, plastic to generate energy, and aluminium to be used for aluminium products.
Fridges and Freezers Broken down into separate components for reuse in manufacturing, and CFCs extracted for safe disposal.
Electrical Broken down into separate components, baled and recycled.
Bric a Brac Sent to various local outlets via collection agents at each recycling site.
Household batteries Separated into different fractions (i.e. metal and plastic) for reuse in manufacturing.
Automotive batteries Separated into different fractions (i.e. metal and plastic) for reuse in manufacturing.
Cooking oil Turned into biofuel to generate electricity and heat.
Engine oil Oils are recovered and blended for use as an alternative fuel.
Paint (water-based) Recycled into new paint products.
Scrap metal Sent to various reprocessors who break it down into separate components, bale and recycle it.
Wood (Clean and Low grade timber) Some of the wood is chipped and made into a range of proucts including animal bedding, equestrian surfaces.  Some is incinerated to produce energy and heat.
Plasterboard Separated into gypsum which is reprocessed into new plasterboard, and paper which is recycled into a variety of new paper materials.