Recycling Facilities in Cornwall

A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to go on a trip to see the Suez Materials Recycling Facility in Bodmin to see exactly what happens to our recycling in Cornwall. Here are our main takeaways from the day:

Cornwall’s recycling network consists of kerbside collection as well as 13 Household Recycling Centres, 5 Transfer Stations, 2 Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) and 1 incinerator (The Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre).

The 2 MRF sites sort all of Cornwall’s recycling materials, receiving up to 53 trucks a day.

At the MRF sites the different materials are separated (by hand), made into bails and then shipped to various private contractors for recycling located both in the UK and overseas, mainly in Europe.

Waste that can’t be recycled is sent to St Dennis where it is burnt in a special facility at the Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre. The heat that is produced is turned into energy and sold to the Cornish national grid. Having this facility means a lot of Cornwalls waste avoids landfill.

However, we need to recycle more, currently over ¾ of the rubbish produced in Cornwall does not make it to the recycling process. A report published by Cornwall Council a month ago highlighted Cornwall’s best and worst areas for recycling with the overall statistics showing that at best 41% of waste was being recycled and at worst just 14%, with there being potential for Cornish households to recycle around 60% of their waste - showing there is still some way to go.

Materials that can be recycled:

Plastic: We produce and use 20 times more plastic today than we did 50 years ago, with Cornwall currently throwing away 117 million plastic bottles every year. All types of plastic bottles are collected within kerbside recycling. Labels on plastic bottles do not need to be removed by the public as they come off in the washing process. The only plastic that can’t currently be recycled is black plastic due to it not being suitable for the current optical recycling process.

Paper & Cardboard: It takes approximately 17 trees to make one tonne of paper. Diverting paper and card from landfill reduces energy use and CO2. All clean, unsoiled paper & card can be recycled.

Glass: Every year Cornish households use 71 million glass jars and bottles. Recycling just one bottles saves enough energy to power a television set for up to an hour and a half.

Cans & Metals: If all the aluminium cans in the UK were recycled, there would be 12 million fewer dustbins every year. Don’t forget you can include metal bottle tops in your metal recycling.

Textiles: The amount of textiles thrown away each month weighs the same as 40,000 cars.

Tetrapak: Recycling of Tetrapak cartons is now available at 7 of the 13 household centres in Cornwall.

Garden waste: All garden waste received is turned into compost.

Top Tip when recycling: Its nice too wash your empty containers, the materials are sorted by hand in the MRF centres and they can smell quite a bit if not washed!


The recycling centre runs a fantastic, large scale operation that is very efficient in distributing recyclable materials. Recycling is super important for reducing our use of precious resources and for ensuring waste doesn’t end up in landfill sites where it will contribute to global warming. However, we still believe that avoiding waste (even recyclable waste) should be a number one priority. Recycling still comes with a carbon footprint and energy use and not all materials can be recycled indefinitely (various sources suggest plastics can be recycled anywhere from one to five times before it needs to be discarded). When tackling your own waste think of the 5 Rs - Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. Get organised with your recycling bags which should make it easier to get the right items recycled. Keep an eye on your recycling and rubbish bin - is there anything going in there that you can avoid?

The trip to the Suez Materials Recycling Facility was organised by the Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition, join their Facebook group to hear about upcoming trips.

To find out about the recycling facilities in your area check out this link here

Important Christmas collections here

Cornwall recycling league table here