We’re all used to throwing rubbish away, sorting our recycling and taking wheelie bins out for collection day – but do you know what happens next? Your rubbish takes a pretty amazing journey once it’s collected: let’s show you where it goes.
What Happens to General Waste?
Let’s start with the gross stuff – nappies, vacuum cleaner contents, used tissues, food waste (which is better to recycle!) and greasy old pizza boxes. Welcome to the smelly world of general waste, which usually goes straight to landfill.
Landfills are very carefully managed sites. They have to be, because there are multiple dangers when dealing with waste. Crushing and compacting, leachate and decomposition, chemical washes and gas production – a lot happens at the dump.
When new waste is added, bacteria populations grow with new material to feed on. This is the first stage of transformation. The bacteria use up oxygen (produced further along in the process), eventually displacing it with carbon dioxide.
After the early phases of decomposition, acidic leachate starts to form. Leachate can be highly toxic and release harmful elements including hydrogen gas, which is explosively flammable. The gases produced can be collected and used as fuel, which is a common practice at well-managed landfills.
Containing leachate is a priority of all sanitary landfills, and some protective linings can be several metres thick to prevent it leaking into the ecosystem.
In the late stages of decomposition, methane and carbon dioxide dominate – but the pH level neutralises before the system stabilises, producing nothing more than oxygen: and the process starts again!
Landfills have a working lifetime of about 50 years. After that, they’re sealed off for the last time, becoming an (almost) permanent feature of the planet. Over millions of years to come, they’ll enter the rock cycle – but long before that happens, they’ll need to be carefully contained and managed.
Landfill is harmful to the environment. Even with the best management in place, decomposition creates harmful materials. We work to reduce landfill at every opportunity, by running at a 95% recycling rate.
This is what we do best – and right now, the world needs recycling more than ever.
When you fill a skip with recyclable domestic waste, it goes for processing. It gets split into plastic, metal, card and much more, depending on what we’ve collected. We can process old carpet, car tyres and electrical appliances.
At our specialist processing plant, we use a number of techniques to separate waste – watch the video to see how it’s done.
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Hazardous, Commercial and Complex Waste
Commercial waste and hazardous waste are complex waste management disciplines. Hazardous waste includes asbestos, which requires extreme care when handling as it can be deadly. We work hard to identify asbestos, and we meticulously plan removal to ensure complete safety. Commercial waste management is usually far less dangerous – but it requires just as much diligence to manage safely, legally and in an environmentally-friendly way.