Recycling information

Plastic constitutes one of the most widely used materials in the UK and, as such, is one of the biggest contributors to the country’s waste. Around 275,000 tonnes of plastic is used every year in the UK, including 7.7 billion single-use plastic bottles. Much of this plastic ends up on our streets or in our rivers.

Since plastic is non-biodegradable, it is important to recycle it properly to prevent it ending up in the environment. However, only about one third of household plastic packaging is currently recycled, with most households throwing away at least 40kg of plastic every year.

Recycling plastic can be tricky, as all the plastics collected for recycling need to be sorted into different groups depending on which polymers they contain. If polymers are mixed together when the plastic is shredded and melted during the recycling process, they will weaken the recycled product.

Furthermore, there is often confusion about which types of plastic can be recycled. You should always check the label on the product packaging or your local authority’s website to find out.

You can learn more about how to recycle plastic bottles and plastic tubs and trays on the Wales Recycles website.

Plastic icon

Recycling benefit

Amount recycled 53,194t
CO2 avoided 28,725t
Estimated disposal saving £6,010,915

Recycling process

  1. Collection: Plastics are collected at kerbside or recycling centres and taken for onward processing at a plastics recycling plant.

  2. Washing: The plastics are washed thoroughly to remove contaminants, such as labels or adhesives.

  3. Sorting: Plastics are sorted according to polymer. This is essential for the formation of a repurposed composition as if the polymers mix then they will separate and cause structural weaknesses. Plastic lids, films and carrier bags require extra processing as they are usually highly contaminated.

  4. Shredding: The washed plastic is then shredded to make it easier to process.

  5. Melting: The shredded plastic is then melted into pellets. These can be used to make any item from plastic.

Where does Wales’ Plastic recycling go?

Top 12 countries (selected materials)

Where does Wales’ Plastic recycling go?

Top 12 countries (selected materials)

Top 10 UK recycling destinations

Top world recycling destinations