Reducing Waste

It’s important to reduce our waste and keep materials in operation and productive use for as long as possible through recycling and upcycling. Here you will find tips, advice and guidance on everything recycling and waste reduction related.

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Information about what items can go in your recycle bin and what can't.

Yes please 

No thanks 

Clean paper and card (except shredded paper and paper towels) 

Shredded paper (put in general waste bin), tissues or paper towels 

Junk mail, newspapers, magazines, catalogues and directories 

Tin foil or foil trays 

Cardboard (please flatten) 

Food waste 

Clean food tins and drink cans (please rinse) 

Tetrapacks (juice and milk cartons)* 

Empty aerosol cans 


Plastic bottles, including drinks, shampoo and detergent bottles (please ensure they are washed and squashed but you can now leave the tops on)  

Plastics which aren’t bottles e.g. bags, carrier bags, cling film, plant pots, yoghurt pots, food trays, margarine cartons, bubble wrap 

ANY plastic bottles with or without lids can be put in the recycling bin.  Residents have no need to check the numbers in the triangles because we take all plastic bottles - even 2 Litre milk bottles. 

Clothing, shoes and textiles 

Disposable nappies 

Very heavy or electrical items, e.g. television – check our bulky waste service 

*Please remember 
You can take your glass and paper-based liquid food and drink cartons (Tetra Paks) to our household waste recovery centres and local recycling points

What materials can go in Northumberland recycling bins? 

The materials which we currently recycle through the kerbside bins are: 

  • Paper, card and cardboard 
  • Food and drink cans 
  • Aerosols  
  • Plastic bottles with or without lids.  

If it is not on this list, it should not go in the recycling bin. So, if in doubt leave it out. 

Why do you ask for items to be put loose in the recycling bin rather than in bags? 

Refuse collection staff need to be able to see that the correct materials have been placed in the recycling bin before it is emptied. They cannot do this if materials have been bagged up. Also, sorting of the materials is carried out by a mixture of manual and mechanical means. These are both more efficiently carried out when the materials are presented loose on the conveyor belts. 

What grades of paper and card are acceptable? 

All grades of paper and card can be recycled. Heavy brown cardboard boxes or sheets should be ripped up simply to avoid them becoming jammed in your bin on collection day. Most wrapping paper is acceptable providing it passes the ‘scrunch’ test. For example, when scrunched in your hand it should remain in a ball. Wrapping paper that is decorated with glitter/sequins etc cannot be recycled as these contaminate the paper recycling process. It should be placed in the general household rubbish bin. 

How do I carry out the wrapping paper scrunch test? 

You can check whether your wrapping paper is actually paper - and therefore recyclable - or whether it is plastic and/or foil based. 

  • Squash the paper into a small ball in your hand. 
  • Open your hand. 
  • If it keeps its ball shape, then it can be recycled as paper. 
  • If it bounces back outwards, then it has a high content of foil or plastic so it should be put in your general rubbish bin. 

Your general household rubbish is sent to our Energy from Waste facility and burned to make electricity. (See note later about Energy from Waste). 

Why not shredded paper? 

Paper mills prefer recyclable paper that does not contain shredded paper. This is because the action of shredding shortens the cellulose fibres and results in the need to add a higher proportion of virgin pulp to it to make a new paper product, resulting in a higher cost. 

Our sorting plant uses a trommel (a large rotating sieve), to separate out the different materials by their size. This means that small items, such as shredded paper, are removed as contamination and disposed of as waste at the start of the sorting process. Any shredded paper that manages to pass across the trommel then tends to drop between conveyor belts creating a fire hazard within the facility. 

We advise you to only shred the confidential part of a document and to recycle the rest. 

What should Ido with my shredded paper? 
Keep shredding to a minimum by only shredding the confidential parts of your documents. You can put the shredded pieces in your home composter by mixing it with the garden waste (grass cuttings etc) to get a better carbon: nitrogen mix and improve compost. 

Printed paper and newspapers should NOT be used for pet bedding as the ink on it may be harmful. 

Why food and drink cans and not other metals? 

Our sorting plant at West Sleekburn is designed to take food and drink cans and aerosols. Other metals should be recycled via the Household Waste Recovery Centres, where there is a metal skip. Pots and pans, knives and other metal objects can cause damage to the sorting equipment and some items pose a safety risk to our operatives.  

Our sorting facility uses state of the art equipment to separate ferrous metals from non-ferrous metals. This means we can split out the aluminium cans/aerosols from the steel ones. These are high value materials with stable end markets that can be recycled repeatedly into new products. 

Do I need to rinse my cans before recycling them? 

Yes please. Emptying and rinsing cans avoids the risk of foodstuffs contaminating the paper in the recycling bins. Clean and dry cans also reduce the energy required by reprocessors when melting them down to create new products. 

Can aerosols be recycled safely? 

Yes, providing they are empty of gas and liquid. Otherwise, they should be put in the general rubbish bin. If they have a plastic top which comes off easily, please remove it and put it in the general rubbish bin. 

Can I put foil in the recycling bin? 

Please do not put foil wrap or foil trays in your recycle bin. They are difficult to clean and can easily contaminate paper waste. Please put them (unwashed) in your general rubbish bin and they will be sent to the Energy from Waste plant. The energy recovery process creates a bottom ash from which the aluminium and steel can then be extracted for re-use. 


Can I put glass in my recycling bin? 

No thank you. Please recycle your glass bottles and jars by taking them to your local household waste recovery centre or bring site 

By keeping the glass out of the recycling bin, we can ensure that the paper is not contaminated with glass shards and that the clear glass is kept segregated from the coloured, therefore giving it the best chance to be re-melted into clear bottles and jars. 

The coloured glass (brown and green) can be used for re-melt or, depending upon the markets, can be recycled into a range of other products such as glass fibre insulation, or as an aggregate for use in the construction industry. 

Why does Northumberland not have glass collected at the kerbside using a separate container? 

Some neighbouring authorities collect glass at the kerbside using a caddy which sits within the top of the recycling bin. This method relies on the use of a dedicated fleet of split compartment vehicles as the glass is collected at the same time as the other recyclable materials. 

In Northumberland we currently operate a single fleet of refuse collection vehicles that can collect recyclable waste one week and the same vehicle and crew then collect residual waste for disposal the following week, with glass having to be taken by households to their nearest ‘bring’ recycling centre. This approach makes environmental and economic sense in a large rural county such as Northumberland but is less convenient for residents. 

As part of our drive to combat climate change and improve recycling rates in Northumberland, we are currently carrying out a glass recycling trial.  

4,800 homes in Northumberland have received a glass recycling bin to participate in the trial. The trial runs until March 2024, after which time we will consider options for a larger scale roll-out of the scheme. 

The trial is part of the Council’s ongoing monitoring and reviewing of its waste management services, with several options being considered for the future, including the option to add separate collection services for glass and food waste, and to expand the materials residents can place in their recycling bin in order to achieve an overall recycling rate in excess of 50%. 


Why does Northumberland not collect food waste at the kerbside for recycling? 

When developing the Northumberland Municipal Waste Strategy 2003 -2020, consideration was given to collecting food waste for recycling. However, at that time there was little public support for such a service, and it was also not considered to be affordable given the significant capital investment required in new receptacles, vehicles and waste processing facilities as well as the considerable on-going revenue costs of operating such a service. 

The focus of the Waste Strategy was therefore to promote waste avoidance/minimisation and improve the recycling, composting and energy recovery arrangements so that landfill disposal was the option of last resort. 

The Council continues to support food waste avoidance through the national ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign by the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) that encourages households to plan their meals, avoid over purchasing and to reuse any leftovers. 

Are there any plans to collect food waste in the future in Northumberland? 

The UK Government has mandated the collection of household food waste at the kerbside from 2025. The Council has been carrying out a food waste trial which began in November 2022. The 10-month trial will cover 4,200 properties and residents will be asked to place their food waste out for weekly collection. The food will be taken to a biogas plant where it will be turned into electricity and gas and produce a fertiliser by-product for use in agriculture. 

The findings from this trial will inform how we best manage food waste going forwards. Taking steps to minimise your food waste will have a significant impact on your carbon footprint, find resources to help with this at


Alongside your kerbside recycling bin, there are also many other ways you can recycle in the county.

Please use the links below to view maps/opening times of recycling centres: 

Please note the following changes at the Northumberland Household Waste Recovery Centres: 

If you have ever wondered what happens to your recycling, you can find out by visiting our West Sleekburn recycling plant, near Ashington. 

It is free and you will be able to see the entire process from beginning through to when it is ready for dispatch to re-processing plants. 

The organised tours are available for small groups and must be booked in advance. The tours take roughly two hours and run during working hours from Monday to Friday. The tour is specifically for people over the age of 14 and it is inadvisable for those with pacemakers to attend, due to the use of powerful magnets within the plant and other hazards. 

If you’re interested in coming on a tour, please email us at or call 0345 600 6400 to arrange a convenient time. 

Do you know what plastic items can go in your recycle bin?

Recycling plastic in Northumberland doesn't have to be complicated. Just ask yourself one simple question... is it a bottle? 

If it is plastic and it is bottle-shaped then put it in your recycle bin. 
Don't forget the bottle tops too - they can now be recycled - just leave them on the bottle. 

Plastic tubs, trays, pots, cartons, bags and toys should be re-used, gifted or put into your household rubbish bin. 

Your plastic recycling questions answered. 

What kinds of plastic should I put in the recycling bins? 

You can put plastic bottles - any colour - in your recycling bin. We do not recycle plastics pots, tubs or trays because there is less demand for reprocessing, and they are more likely to get trapped amongst other good recyclable items like the paper and card. 

What numbers should I look for on plastic bottles? 

There is no need to check for recycling numbers. If it is plastic and it is a bottle, put it in the recycling bin. Milk bottles, soft drink bottles, water, detergent, shampoo and even trigger bottles can all go in. 

Do I need to take the tops off plastic bottles? 

No, you can leave tops, caps and triggers on plastic bottles. In the past they were made from a lower grade plastic and were not recycled. Manufacturers have now changed the grade of plastic for the lids so that it matches the bottle. Also, the safety hazard of flattening bottles and lids flying off under pressure has been addressed by the introduction of a piercer in the sorting plant. 

Do I need to rinse my plastic bottles before recycling? 

Plastic bottles should be empty and preferably clean before recycling to avoid contaminating paper or card. 

Why do other local authorities recycle pots, tubs and trays and Northumberland chooses not to? Who is right? 

We only recycle plastic bottles in the kerbside household waste recycling service. Plastic bottles are made of HDPE or PET which is easily recyclable and in high demand for reprocessing in the UK and Europe. We do not recycle low-grade plastic packaging such as plastic films, pots, tubs and trays.  

This type of waste was recently featured in the BBC 'War on Plastic' programme. These items are made of a wide range of polymers, are often contaminated with food waste and have a low value and limited end markets, particularly since China imposed import restrictions on these materials in 2018. 

In Northumberland those other plastic items should be placed in your general rubbish bin. This waste is then used as fuel at our Energy from Waste facility which generates 9.6MW of electricity per annum to the National Grid. 


Help in understanding what can and cannot be recycled and top tips for reducing waste and reusing things.

Recycling is a great way to help the environment, but it is much better to reduce the amount of waste you produce. It’s really easy, and we have a few top tips to help you along the way.

Tips about cloth/real nappies: 

  • Northumberland County Council no longer has any incentives for cloth nappies and wipes. However, there are sometimes starter packs and financial help schemes for new parents via private companies. (Please see link below). 
  • Here are some specific tips learnt from Northumberland Mums from past real nappy projects- 
  • It is worth buying trials and starter packs or hiring small quantities until you decided which style of nappy fits the size and shape of your baby. Leaking can be a bit of an issue for some styles if you have 'thinner legged babies'. 
  • Some hospitals use cloth nappies too, which was a reassurance that there is nothing wrong with buying second hand real nappies and giving them as hot a wash as they can stand before use to sterilise them. There are bargains to be had. Sometimes the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) have tabletop sales where nappies are in abundance. And there are some amazing bargains on Ebay. 
  • The Nappy Lady 
  • Fill your pants 
  • If you have any more tips you’d like to share, please let us know
  • Recycling facts 
  • Materials from your household recycling bin are sorted in Northumberland. 
  • Most of the general waste from household bins goes to an energy-from-waste plant in Teesside and not to landfill. 
  • 25 plastic bottles can be recycled to make one new fleece jacket. 
  • Recycling one glass bottle or jar saves enough energy to run a game console for five hours. 
  • Recycling a single glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt lightbulb for almost an hour. 

See the following websites for further advice and tips: 

  • Materials from your household recycling bin are sorted in Northumberland.
  • The majority of general waste from household bins goes to an energy-from-waste plant in Teesside and not to landfill.
  • 25 plastic bottles can be recycled to make one new fleece jacket.
  • Recycling one glass bottle or jar saves enough energy to run a game console for five hours.
  • Recycling a single glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt lightbulb for almost an hour.
Also, take a look at the following websites for further advice and tips:
Information on community waste and recycling organisations.

Reusable goods and furniture 

You can donate furniture and electrical items to local schemes or charities. 
Check which organisations are looking for donations of certain items. 

CT Furniture 

Salvation Army Harvestfield Furniture Project 

  • Units 2 & 3, Windmill Way East, Ramparts Business Park, Berwick upon Tweed TD15 1UP (a few units along from the council household waste recovery centre) 
  • Tel: 01289 332875 
  • Open 9-4 Every day except Sunday 

St Oswald’s Hospice North East 

  • St Oswald’s operates a collection service for good quality furniture or electrical goods that you would like to donate for resale in their charity shops. 
  • Or call 0191 246 8123 email for more details and to arrange a collection. 

British Heart Foundation 

The British Heart Foundation can also collect donations of good quality clothing, accessories, shoes, books, CDs, DVDs and bric-a-brac at the same time, if you’re having a clear out 

Hexham Furniture Project 

Please phone 01434 607509 to find out more about the items that can be collected or dropped off at the centre. (Items must comply with Fire Safety Regs 1988) 


  • WATBike and Recyke y’bike are community projects which accept donated bikes. 
  • Trained mechanics and volunteers fix them up to sell to the public to raise funds for running the projects. 
  • Some bikes are sent to projects in Africa to support schools and community health programmes. 

Find out if there is a collection point close to you at: 

Swap shops 
The following are national swap shop websites that provide household furniture, garden goods etc: 

The following national organisations may offer to collect unwanted items or give advice on how to reuse and recycle: 

Northumberland County Council supports several national recycling events. More information can be found in the links below: 

Useful links 

Here we provide help with keeping your event environmentally-friendly.

If you are organising an event, it is worth thinking in advance about how the waste generated will be managed and recycled. If it is a large-scale event, please contact us to discuss arrangements that could be made to help. 

You can order recycling containers for your event that divide recyclable and general waste items in clearly marked ways. For a quote or to find out more contact us. You could also consider a litter picking event, depending on event scale, afterwards. For more information on organising a community litter pick up please click here. 

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