Recycling benefit

Amount recycled
CO2 avoided
Estimated disposal saving
Reported as exported

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 pots, tubs and trays on the Wales Recycles website.

Recycling process

Bottles, Pots, Tubs & Trays
Plastics are separated from other materials

Plastics are separated from other materials, if necessary

Plastic sorted by type and by colour

They’re sorted by plastic type and by colour – blue, green, natural and mixed

Cleaned, shredded, washed, melted and reformed into ‘pellets’

They’re cleaned, shredded, washed, melted and reformed into ‘pellets’

Pellets are used to create new items

These pellets are used to create new items, including:

Pellets are used to create new items like clothes, toys, picnic benches, bottles, tubs and trays
  • clothes
  • toys
  • picnic benches
  • bottles
  • pots
  • tubs
  • trays
  • ... and more
Recycling process - Plastic

Where does plastic recycling go?

Top countries (selected materials) - 2022/23

Top UK recycling destinations

Country Tonnes
England 36,500t
Wales 2,842t
Northern Ireland 326t
Scotland 168t
Company Country Tonnes
Jayplas England 15,704t
Van Werven UK Ltd England 3,820t
Monoworld Recycling Ltd England 3,683t
Biffa Polymers Ltd England 2,964t
Biffa Waste Services Limited England 2,580t
Clean Tech Ltd England 1,399t
unspecified England 1,280t
AWD Group Wales 974t
Imerplast (previously Regain Polymers Ltd) England 629t
Axion Polymers Ltd England 624t
Roydon Group Plc England 597t
Viridor Polymer Recycling Ltd England 575t

Top world recycling destinations

Company Country Tonnes
Baudelet Environnement France 2,351t
Trans Sabater SA Spain 812t
Kras Recycling Netherlands 538t
unspecified Netherlands 316t
unspecified unspecified 310t
4R Fo(u)r Recycling GmbH Germany 304t
Bas Van Den Ende Recyceling BV Netherlands 265t
Van Wervan Ireland 201t
Vanheede Environmental Logistics Belgium 171t
Wellman Recycling France 138t
Peute Recycling Netherlands 113t
Zimmermann Recycling and Transporte GmbH Germany 104t