How we manage your waste

Find out what happens to your waste after we have collected it.

Northumberland County Council is committed to recycling as much waste as possible. Our aim is to make sure your waste isn’t wasted.

  • After collection, we take your recycling to a waste transfer station where it’s loaded into larger lorries. These mixed materials are taken to the sorting plant at West Sleekburn, Ashington.
  • The staff will then remove any items that contaminate the recycling such as; crisp packets, nappies, food waste and electrical items.
  • The remaining waste is separated into different categories using huge magnets and electrical currents.
  • The sorted materials are squashed into separate bails. They are then taken to different factories to be made into new products we can use again, e.g. fleece jumpers and picnic benches from plastic bottles, kitchen rolls from paper, and washing machines and new cans from recycled cans and aerosols.
  • Watch the video below to see how materials are sorted at the West Sleekburn recycling plant in Northumberland, or visit the site and see for yourself.
If we can’t recycle or compost your waste, often we can use it to generate energy and heat, as well as to collect leftover materials for recycling. Every year, we divert 90,000 tonnes of non-recycled household waste from landfills to SITA’s energy-from-waste (EfW) process site in Teesside.

Recovering energy from household waste means we use less fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil. This not only preserves these resources, it also means we produce fewer emissions of greenhouse gases.

The energy-from-waste (EfW) process allows waste to be diverted from landfills where decomposing here would have created methane – a greenhouse gas.

Emissions must continuously be monitored in order to comply with the demands of the European Waste Incineration Directive. Using the EfW process, the cleaning system filters out particles which will be disposed of at a licensed, special waste disposal facility.

The EfW process recovers energy in the form of electrical power and heat. Northumberland’s waste alone produces enough electricity to light and heat nearly 4,500 homes a year.

Through this process we are also able to recover valuable recyclable by-products, which might otherwise be landfilled e.g. metals are recovered and inert bottom ash is used in construction as a secondary aggregate.
Published in 2003, this strategy was the first important step to change the way in which we dealt with our waste.

  • It highlights the changes required to manage our waste in a more sustainable way and to ensure the European and UK Government targets are met.
  • These changes were agreed upon by the six former district councils, the former county council and the Environment Agency. This framework for decision-making will be in place until 2020.
  • It has been recognised that a range of options need to be used, including waste minimisation, recycling, composting, energy recovery and the limited use of landfill disposal.
  • The aims set out can’t be achieved without the participation of residents, particularly because of the importance of recovering energy from residual waste.
  • Several factors have contributed to the minimisation of waste, such as excluding commercial waste from household waste recovery centres through a permit scheme, promoting real nappies and advertising the mail preference service.
  • Kerbside collections of comingled materials were expanded and the collection of garden waste at the kerbside was introduced. 
In 2006, Northumberland County Council signed a contract with SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK Ltd (previously SITA UK Ltd) for a 28-year waste private finance initiative (PFI).

With the support of government funding, we were able to overhaul the waste management infrastructure to ensure that:
  • at least 45% of waste in the county will be recycled
  • 47% will be used to generate electricity
  • only 8% will be disposed of in landfill sites
In order to meet these ambitious targets, £90m investment was reserved to:
  • improve existing household waste recovery centres and to develop new sites such as a brand new facility at North Seaton, Ashington
  • develop a new materials recycling facility on land at West Sleekburn Industrial Estate
  • construct a new waste transfer station at the West Sleekburn site, enabling residual waste that can’t be recycled or composted to be bulked up and delivered to an EfW facility located in Teesside. The extension alone will produce about 10Mw of electricity, enough power to supply the energy needs for about 12,000 homes.
The performance figures from 2011/12 show more than 42% of household waste has been recycled, composted or reused, and 98% of municipal waste has been diverted from landfill sites. 77% of waste delivered to the household waste recovery centres has also been recovered. We are on track to achieve our targets, making Northumberland one of the top performing authorities in the country.