Have you ever wondered what happens to your recycling once it’s been collected by your council? My Recycling Wales allows you to browse Welsh local authorities and see what happens to your recycling across the UK, and even around the world.

My Recycling Wales is funded by Welsh Government and sustainability experts WRAP Cymru to provide you with information on what happens to your recycling. The site shows how much recycling your local authority collects each year and its reported fate.

How is the data compiled?

The data used on this site comes from WasteDataFlow, an online reporting system for collating each UK local authority’s municipal waste data. The data provided by Welsh local authorities is validated by Natural Resources Wales.

Question 100 of WasteDataFlow requires local authorities to report as much information as they can reasonably acquire about what happens to the materials sent for recycling. Natural Resources Wales assists Welsh local authorities to continually improve the accuracy of their reported end destinations.

Overview of different destination classification types

Each reported destination has been classified by type. The classifications are as follows:

  • MRF: A Materials Recovery Facility sorts and prepares recyclable materials for onward sale to market or to manufacturers.  Any unrecyclable or non-target materials are sent for further treatment or disposal.  There are generally two kinds of MRF: Clean and Residual.
    • Clean MRFs sort commingled recyclable materials into separate materials to be prepared for onward transfer.
    • Residual MRFs separate recyclable materials from mixed and residual waste.  Recovered recyclable materials are sent for onward transfer.
  • Merchant: Merchants for recyclable waste help buyers and manufacturers from around the world to source recycled and recyclable material to use as inputs in their production process, and help sellers to find buyers for their materials.  Merchants act as a facilitator for trade in recyclable materials between different markets.
  • Reprocessor: Reprocessors take sorted recyclable materials and re-manufacture them into new products.  Some reprocessors have MRFs on site, but this is not always the case, and so recyclable inputs must often be purchased from a supplier.


Frequently asked questions

How far can I track my recycling?

My Recycling Wales includes as much information as possible. In some cases this means that recycling can be tracked as far as the reprocessor, in others as far as an exporter or merchant. We include as much information as possible, but sometimes the data simply isn’t available.

What does ‘unknown’ mean?

Unknown means that we don’t have enough information to establish the end destination.  All information we have is included, and local authorities are required to provide as much information as they can.

Why is my local authority exporting recycling?

Recyclable material is a resource and there may be demand for that resource around the world.  Local authorities, brokers or waste treatment facilities may export recyclable waste materials to meet that demand and fetch the best price for their materials as long as they meet the required quality standards and comply with the relevant legislation.  WRAP’s research identifies that there are CO2eq savings to be made from recycling materials rather than sending them to landfill and using virgin material – even if those materials still have to be transported overseas. In many cases, materials are sent to countries from which the UK also imports products.  Whilst our research suggests that exporting is an environmentally sustainable option, the exact nature of the benefit is dependent on what the recycled material is used for (i.e. what it replaces).  This is more important than the transport emissions.  The research does not make any assessment of the relative benefits of recycling solely to domestic markets rather than in other countries.

How do I find out what I can recycle in my area?

Visit www.walesrecycles.org.uk/local-recycling to find out what you can recycle in your area.

I thought my recycling was sent abroad; why do you say it stays in Wales?

My Recycling Wales includes all the available information. Sometimes local authorities will sell recycling to a company in Wales, which then exports it. In some cases the information about what happens once it’s been sold within Wales is not available.  In these cases the last known destination, i.e. Wales, is noted. Where information is available to show recycling is exported this is included, with the ultimate destination marked as ‘unknown’ when the country isn’t known.

Why does the chart show recycling going to China when China has a ban on importing recycling?

Most of the data currently covered on My Recycling Wales was reported before the ban came into effect.

What’s the difference between the linear and logarithmic charts? Why are they so different?

The charts use the same data, but they represent it in different ways. The scale on the linear chart goes up in equal intervals (for example 10, 20, 30, 40 etc.), whereas the scale on the logarithmic chart does not (for example 10, 100, 1,000). The linear chart is useful for comparing two or more results, however because the differences between the largest and smallest result can be significant, it means the lowest results are too small to be seen; the logarithmic chart makes it easier to see all results.

How often is the site updated?

My Recycling Wales is updated every year.

I have another question, who should I contact?

To find out what you can recycle where you live, visit www.walesrecycles.org.uk/local-recycling, or for any other questions about recycling in your area contact your local authority. If you are a journalist, please visit WRAP’s Media Centre.