What happens to your waste

We are responsible for:

  • providing recycling centres for residents to recycle a variety of items and dispose of bulky waste
  • treating non-recycled 'black bag rubbish' collected by your district council
  • treating food and garden waste collected by district councils
  • delivering waste and environmental education to schools across Cambridgeshire, including through the council's Education Centre
  • working with other councils in Cambridgeshire, local businesses, charities and community groups to run waste and environmental campaigns

We have a 28-year Private Finance Initiative contract with Thalia that started in 2008 that includes:

  • Treatment and disposal of black sack/residual waste
  • composting of garden and food waste collected by the districts
  • operation of two transfer stations at Alconbury and March
  • management of the 9 Household Recycling Centres

Black bag / residual waste

Cambridgeshire's 'black bag' household waste is taken to the Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facility at Waterbeach where material is mechanically sorted to recover some metal items for recycling before the remaining material is composted. Recovered metal items are badly contaminated so please recycle as much as possible through your kerbside collections and via the Household Recycling Centres. This will allow the best recovery rate for the recycled materials and maintain their quality.

Composting material before sending it to landfill has the following advantages:

  • Biodegradable material breaks down in controlled conditions, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared with sending the waste straight to landfill.

The process reduces the amount sent to landfill by about one-third, this:

  • Saves money as landfill is increasingly expensive, and
  • Means that remaining landfill space will last longer.

When the MBT facility at Waterbeach is unavailable due to, breakdowns, maintenance or improvement works it is necessary to send “black bag” waste direct to landfill or use alternative disposal routes that may vary depending on availability at the time.

Kitchen and garden waste

This is taken to Waterbeach Waste Management Park for composting. The waste is shredded and put into enclosed containers where the composting process starts. It must reach a temperature of over 60°C to kill off disease-causing organisms.

After two weeks it is moved to open air piles and continues to compost for a further 4-6 weeks. It is then screened to remove large items and is ready for use. The In Vessel Composting (IVC) facility at Waterbeach produces a PAS 100 quality compost that is sold, as well as a soil improver that is used by local farmers and householders.

Watch a video of the composting process on the RECAP website.

When the IVC facility at Waterbeach is unavailable due to breakdowns, maintenance or improvement works material will be diverted to alternative composting facilities wherever possible.

Soil improver

Soil improver is the material produced when kitchen and garden waste is composted and is a useful additive to help improve soil quality. Did you know you can collect some for free at our Waterbeach, Alconbury and March sites. Simply come along with a spade and a bag and you can help yourself.

  • Waterbeach Waste Management Park, Ely Road, Waterbeach, CB25 9PG - open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm and weekends from 8am to 1pm
  • Alconbury Waste Transfer Station, Stangate Business Park, Alconbury Hill, PE28 4JH - open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm
  • March Waste Transfer Station, Melbourne Avenue, Hundred Road, March, PE15 0EN - open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm

It can also be purchased for £3.50 a bag at Household Recycling Centres.

Recyclable waste

In Cambridgeshire material from blue bin recycling collections is managed by the district and city councils that collect it. Material is taken to a Materials Recovery Facility at Waterbeach where it is separated into different material types before being sent for recycling.

Watch a video of the separation process on the RECAP website.

Recyclable materials from Household Recycling Centres are collected separately, so are sent directly to a variety of outlets for recycling.

Most of Cambridgeshire’s recyclable material is recycled in the UK. Visit What happens to waste in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - RECAP website to find out more.