Recycling – information & advice

Here you will find tips, advice and guidance on everything from what you can recycle to where to take your rubbish and how to reduce your food waste and Love Your Clothes.

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Do you know which items can go in your recycle bin? Please see below for more information:

What to put in your recycling bin. Text says - Recycle it Right for Northumberland.  Information in text below.
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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
Plain birthday/Christmas cards Birthday/Christmas cards containing glitter or other 'bling'
Paper gift wrap Plastic/foil gift wrap
Junk mail, newspapers, magazines, catalogues and directories Tin foil or foil trays
Cardboard (please flatten) Plastics which aren’t bottles e.g. bags, carrier bags, cling film, plant pots, yoghurt pots, food trays, margarine cartons, bubble wrap
Clean food tins and drink cans (please rinse) Tetra Paks (juice and milk cartons)* - you can take these to your local tip.
Empty aerosol cans Glass* - you can take glass to your local tip.
Plastic bottles, including drinks, shampoo and detergent bottles (please ensure they are washed and squashed but you can now leave the tops on)  Food waste
ANY plastic bottles with or without lids can be put in the recycling bin. Clothing, shoes and textiles
Disposable nappies
Very heavy or electrical items, e.g. television

*PLEASE NOTE: You can take your glass and wax cartons/Tetra Paks to your local household waste recovery centre (HWRC).

PLEASE NOTE: For items that cannot go in your bin such as beauty products, plastic bags and wrapping, click here to find the nearest location you can recycle these items.
Please see below for our frequently asked questions about plastic recycling:

What kinds of plastic should I recycle?

  • You can put plastic bottles of any colour in your recycling bin.
  • We don’t recycle plastic pots, tubs, or trays because they are more likely to contaminate other recyclable items such as paper and card, and they are a low-quality plastic.

Do I need to check for numbers on plastic bottles?

  • You don’t need to check for recycling numbers. If it’s plastic, and a bottle, please put it in your bin.
  • Milk bottles, soft drink bottles, water, detergent, shampoo, and even trigger bottles can all be recycled.

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 so could not be recycled. Manufacturers have now changed the minimum grade of plastic for the lids, so they are more easily recyclable.
  • For your information, the safety hazard of flattening bottled and lids flying off under pressure has been resolved with the introduction of a piercer in the sorting plant.

Do I need to rinse my plastic bottles before recycling them?

  • Plastic bottles should be empty and (preferably) clean to avoid the contamination of other recyclables such as paper or card.

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

  • Plastic bottles are made of HDPE or PET which is easily recyclable and in high demand for reprocessing in the UK and Europe.
  • We don’t recycle pots, tubs, and trays because they are made of a low-grade plastic that are often contaminated with food waste.
  • In Northumberland, plastics such as this should be placed in your general rubbish bin. This waste is then used as fuel for our Energy from Waste scheme, which generates 9.6MW of electricity to the National Grid every year.

A guide to recycling plastic in Northumberland

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your recycling, you can find out by visiting our West Sleekburn recycling plant, near Ashington.
It’s 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 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 16 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 forward your contact details and we can contact you to arrange a convenient time.
Call us on 0345 600 6400 to arrange a tour.
With regret, from Friday 25 September 2021 Northumberland County Council removed Tetra Pak collections at local recycling sites.

This is due to on-going issues with contamination. We would like to stress, the decision to remove the collection sites has been taken by the contractor who recycles the cartons, not Northumberland County Council.

Tetra Paks can be recycled at Household Waste Recovery Centres. Please click here to find your local centre.

Please note, cartons left at the bring sites after the containers have been removed will be viewed as fly-tipping and will not be recycled.
Please see below for our frequently asked questions about paper and card recycling:

Which grades of paper and card are acceptable?

  • All grades of paper and card can be recycled.
  • Heavy brown cardboard boxes or sheets should be flattened and ripped up to avoid any jamming on bin collection days.
  • Birthday/Christmas cards can only be recycled if they do not contain any glitter or bling.

Can I recycle wrapping paper?

  • Most wrapping paper is acceptable providing it passes the ‘scrunch’ test.
  • To carry out the scrunch test, squash the wrapping paper into a ball in your hand. If it keeps its ball-shape, then it can be recycled. If it bounces back, then it cannot be recycled.
  • If wrapping paper doesn’t pass the scrunch test, then it will have a high content of foil or plastic and will therefore contaminate any other recycling.
  • Any wrapping paper that can’t be recycled can be put in your general rubbish bin where it will be sent to our Energy from Waste facility.

Can I recycle shredded paper?

  • No. At sorting plants, we use a trommel (a large rotating sieve) to sort different materials by size.
  • Small items, such as shredded paper, are removed as contamination and disposed of as waste.
  • Any shredded paper that manages to pass across the trommel can often drop between conveyor belts and create a fire hazard.
  • We recommend that you shred only the confidential parts of any documents and recycle the rest.
  • Any shredded paper that can’t be recycled can be put in your general rubbish bin where it will be sent to our Energy from Waste facility. Alternatively, it can be composted.
PLEASE NOTE: Printed paper and newspapers should not be used for pet bedding as they may contain traces of certain inks which could be harmful to animals.
Please see below for our frequently asked questions about metal recycling:

Which metals can I recycle?

  • Our sorting plants are designed to take food cans/tins, drink cans, and aerosols.
  • Any other metals should be recycled at your local household waste recovery centre (HWRC), where there is a metal skip. 
  • Metals in pots, pans, and knives for example are heavy and dangerous. They pose a safety risk to both our sorting equipment and our operatives.
  • Please don’t recycle foil wrap or foil trays as they may contain foodstuffs which could contaminate other recyclable materials. Please put them in your general rubbish bin where it will be sent to our Energy from Waste facility.

Do I need to rinse my cans before recycling them?

  • Yes, please ensure that your cans are clean and empty before recycling them. 
  • Clean and dry metals reduce the energy required by reprocessors during the recycling process.

Can aerosols be recycled safely?

  • Yes, providing they are empty of gas and liquid.
  • If they still have anything inside, please put them 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.
Please see below for our frequently asked questions about glass recycling:

Can I put glass in my recycling bin?

  • No thank you. Please recycle your glass bottles and jars at your local household waste recovery centre (HWRC), or your local collection point.
  • We don’t allow glass to be put in recycling bins because:
    • Glass shards can contaminate paper, and therefore make paper more difficult to recycle.
    • Coloured glass is best kept separate from clear, to ensure that clear glass can be made into new clear bottles and jars, whereas the coloured glass is used for aggregate.

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

  • Yes, some neighbouring authorities do have a separate glass-collection caddy that sits on top of, or inside of, recycling bins. However, this relies on that authority having vehicles with multiple compartments inside.
  • In Northumberland, we only operate a single fleet of refuse collection vehicles. This means that the same vehicle that collects recyclable waste one week, will then collect residual waste the next week.
  • This approach makes economic and environmental sense; however, it is less convenient for residents.

Current glass recycling trial in Northumberland

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%. 
Please see below for our frequently asked questions about recycling food waste:

How to reduce your food waste

Love Food, Hate Waste is a campaign by the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) that is passionate about taking action against food waste.
Their website is filled with tasty recipes you can make from leftovers, as well as tips on how to organise your fridge to get the most out of your shopping at a time where you should be going to supermarkets as little as possible. Click here to visit their website
Please click on the links below for your handy tips and delicious recipes from Love Food, Hate Waste. Enjoy your time in the kitchen, and reduce food waste at the same time:

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

  • Consideration has been given in the past to collect food waste for recycling.
  • Taking into consideration the cost of new receptacles, vehicles, and new waste processing facilities as well as operational costs, this has not been seen as a priority to date.
  • The main focus of the Northumberland Waste Strategy has always been to promote waste avoidance and minimisation, therefore improving recycling, composting, and energy recovery schemes to ensure that landfill disposal was a last resort.
  • The county council continues to support food waste avoidance through the national Love Food, Hate Waste campaign by the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP).


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

  • A food waste collection trial is starting 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.
Information on safely recycling batteries and vape tubes.

Please do not place batteries and vapes/ e-cigarettes into your household general or recycling bins.  They are highly dangerous if disposed of this way and can cause fires.  
Please take dead batteries and vapes to the shop you bought them from, or place in the dedicated containers at your nearest Household Waste Recovery Centre (tip).
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:

Please click on the links below for advice on reducing waste:
  • The majority of general rubbish does not go to landfill. In fact, it goes to our Energy from Waste facility.
  • 25 plastic bottles can be recycled to make one new fleece jacket.
  • Recycling just one glass jar can save enough energy to run a game console for five hours.
  • Recycling a single glass bottle saves enough energy to power a light bulb for an hour.
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. Please visit the St Oswald’s Hospice website
  • Or call 0191 246 8123 for more details and to arrange a collection.
British Heart Foundation
  • Book a free furniture and electrical collection by visiting the British Heart Foundation webpage. Someone from the BHF will give you a call to confirm your booking and check that they can accept your items.
  • 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-
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 support a number of national recycling events. Save these dates in your diary and look out for more information through the links below.
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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