What happens to our rubbish once it leaves the doorstep?

Published: Wednesday 31st January 18

On average, each person in the UK throws away seven times their body weight (about 500kg) in rubbish every year. But what happens to that rubbish once it leaves our doorstep? We spent the day at the Western Riverside Waste Authority (WRWA) to find out.

Around 220 tonnes of recycling and 850 tonnes of black bag rubbish (excluding trade waste) from four boroughs (Wandsworth, Lambeth, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kennsington and Chelsea) is processed at the WRWA every day.

Black bag rubbish gets unloaded, compressed, and transported down the Thames to the Energy from Waste (EfW) Facility at Belvedere. Transporting rubbish by river rather than road saves over 100,000 lorry trips per year. Taking rubbish to the EfW also means that most black bag rubbish is converted into energy. The EfW exports 66 megawatts of electricity into the National Grid, enough to power over 100,000 homes.

Recycling on the other hand is sorted and separated into paper, plastics, glass, and cardboard and then bundled together into bales ready to be transported to places that buy materials to recycle and process into new items.

As well as sorting through hundreds of tonnes of recycling and rubbish each day, the WRWA work closely with local schools, such as Furzedown Primary school in Tooting, to educate young people about their impact on the environment. During their visit to the WRWA, year three students from Furzedown learnt about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling.

Liz Horsfield, education team leader at WRWA said:

“It’s important that our young people see first-hand the amount of rubbish we produce so that it has a real impact on them, and hopefully their behaviour. Educating students at local schools now will hopefully result in a more conscious consumer in the future.”

Wandsworth Council are committed to working closely with the WRWA in support of their school and community engagement programme. Reducing, reusing and recycling are three things we could all do more of, and will also help us to keep our streets clean.

If you are a parent of a teacher at a school in Wandsworth and would like to find out how your school can get involved, please visit the WRWA website, or contact Jessica.lewis@richmondandwandsworth.gov.uk.

How you can help keep Wandsworth clean:

Contact Jessica.lewis@richmondandwandsworth.gov.uk  to find out more about how you can help #KeepWandsworthClean

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Recent comments

I strongly agree that most of Wandsworth Town Hall should be free from flytipping and more recycling measures + more information visit Wandsworthi for more ideas/suggestions' to Jessica.lewis@richmondandwandsworth.gov.uk
Brigid Craig

6 February 2018

Since I bought a compost bin for my tiny garden (looks like and is the size of a metal dustbin) my black bag waste is now at one every two weeks. I try not to buy food in plastic trays. As an ardent litter picker at community events I find the tops of take-out coffee, drink cans and polystyrene fast food containers the most prolific. I conclude that eating in the street & on public transport should be banned as it is in Eastern countries like Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

3 February 2018

I think the disposal of our domestic waste is an important and interesting subject for us all to encourage us to dispose of it correctly. I would welcome more information on whether our waste being burnt at the EfW is really a useful addition to the national grid or just another method of disposing of it - a cost benefit analysis? But at least it may be better than landfill?
S bassnett

3 February 2018

Can we not start a plastics collection? We where I live already have bins for paper. I've started collecting all the plastic packaging from the supermarket I use - and taking it back - my kitchen bin now is not so full.

3 February 2018