What happens to your recycling

Materials for recycling go to different reprocessors. Zero Waste Scotland has information on what happens to your recycling. You can use our recycling sorter to check which bin to use or where to take it

Find out more about what your recycling is made into.

Mixed recycling

Our mixed recycling bins collect clean

  • paper
  • card
  • cans and tins
  • plastic bottles
  • pots, tubs and trays.

These are sorted at Biffa’s sorting plant at Broxburn and sold to the different reprocessors.

Plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays are sold to their sister company Biffa Polymers who operate their own plastics recycling plants in Humberside, County Durham and North Yorkshire.

  • Aluminium cans are sold to Novelis who operate the UK’s only can recycling plant in Warrington.
  • Paper and card are sorted into different grades and sold to a range of recyclers and merchants such as UPM in Shotton, North Wales and SAICA in Manchester.
  • Steel cans are sold to a scrap merchant in Yorkshire.

The materials are then recycled and can be used to make new cans, plastic bottles and trays, paper and packaging, as well as other items such as fridges and car parts. Around 80% of the UK’s plastic milk bottles contain plastic which came from one of Biffa’s plastic recycling plants.

Anything which is contaminated and can’t be recycled is reprocessed into a fuel for use in power stations.

Food waste

Food waste goes to the Biogen plant at Millerhill and is made into renewable electricity and fertiliser.

Find out what happens to your food waste.

Garden waste

Garden waste is taken to Forth Resource Management where they shred garden waste in large piles, called open windrows, where it composts over time. The end product, a soil improver, can be bought by members of the public.


Glass is taken to Sibelco at Motherwell, where it is sorted and processed into high quality raw materials for the glass container and fibreglass markets.


Textiles are collected and sorted by Nathans to be re-used and recycled in developing nations in

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Eastern Europe.

Small electricals

Electrical items are shredded and metals and plastics are removed for recycling. Edinburgh's electricals are managed by the industry organisation REPIC


Household batteries are sorted and processed at Ecobat to recover the materials in each battery type.

Non recyclable waste

All waste that is collected from grey bins or black lidded communal bins is taken to our new energy recovery facility at Millerhill, where it is processed into electricity, instead of being landfilled. As the town of Shawfair is developed, the plant will be able to supply waste heat to buildings there, making even better use of the things we don't want.

Landfill sites are large holes in the ground. They are lined with a layer of clay or synthetic material to prevent pollutants from escaping. Sites are well managed to protect the environment but it is important to use our recycling services where possible to make the best use of precious materials. Landfill is now only used when the energy recovery plant is closed for maintenance, or for items which are too big for the plant to use. Less than 5% of our waste now goes to landfill.

Scotland's Zero Waste plan sets out the Scottish Government's vision for a zero waste society.