Every year, around 400 million tonnes of metal is recycled worldwide. It is an extremely versatile material which can be found almost anywhere, from coat hangers and batteries to electrical equipment and cookware. Metal is a resource which can be recycled infinitely back into high-quality new metal, creating a closed-loop solution.
Since the production of new metal from ore is very energy-intensive and releases large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), the recycling of metals helps conserve a considerable amount of energy and significantly reduces the pressure on the environment.
The (strip)mining of some of the ore used for making new metals can be extremely environmentally damaging. Using recycled metal to manufacture new products means existing metal ore reserves will last longer, saving sensitive ecosystems, like the Amazon rainforest, from being sacrificed for mining.
Where does your waste go in Westminster? View our interactive recycling locations map.
How is metal recycled in Westminster?
Recycling materials such as metals reduce 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Producing new metals from ore is an energy and resource intensive operation with much of the energy coming from fossil fuels like coal. The savings from recycling are considerable, for example, using scrap steel to manufacture new steel cuts down on air pollution by 86%, water usage by 40% and water pollution by 76%. Metals are very easy to recycle, and in Westminster, metals are not wasted even when they are thrown away as general waste.
While the statistics we mentioned above are promising, there is more we can do to improve our recycling habits. At Commercial Waste Services, we take extra care in how we recycle different metal items, from sending them to an energy or materials recovery facility to using local scrap metal recycling centres. The following is an overview that looks at how certain metal items are collected and recycled in Westminster.
Cans and tins
Metal tins and cans, but also empty aerosols and aluminium foil, can simply be placed into your mixed recycling bins. These materials are then sent for sorting and processing at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Southwark before being transported to recyclers to be turned into new products.
The MRF uses different technology to segregate the various materials in mixed recycling. Magnets are used to extract ferrous metal, which is recycled back into new steel for packaging or construction, while eddy currents extract non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium. This is then recycled back into rolls of sheeting to make cans.
We also recycle cans and any other metals that have been disposed of as general waste. We automatically capture them at the energy recovery facility (ERF). In fact, last year this is how we recovered around 5,000 tonnes of metals for recycling.
Coat and wire hangers
Wire hangers should never be put into mixed recycling as these can jam the sorting machinery and conveyor belts at the Materials Recovery Facility. All types of hangers (including polystyrene, polypropylene and wood hangers) must be disposed of as general waste. This means they will go to our energy recovery facility (SELCHP) where any metal parts will be extracted for recycling following the combustion process. This way, all coat hangers that you throw away are recycled.
If your cookware – such as pots and pans – aren’t in good enough condition to be donated to charity or second-hand shops, these should simply be disposed of as general waste. This way we can capture them for recycling.
They should not be placed in your recycling bin or bag since they will cause damage at the MRF. The metal used for making pans is also usually made up of a mix of materials and is often covered with a (Teflon) non-stick layer. By disposing of your cookware as general waste, it will go through the energy recovery facility’s combustion process, meaning it will be cleaned of all contaminants and any metal parts will be magnetically recovered for recycling.
Keys and padlocks
Keys and padlocks should not be placed in your recycling bin or bag as the machines used to sort mixed recycling cannot extract them properly. These items must be disposed of as general waste, where any remaining metals are extracted for recycling at the energy recovery facility.
Before throwing away used ring binders, consider reusing or donating them to a charity, community group or local school. Damaged cardboard ring binders can be recycled, but before you dispose of these in your paper and cardboard bin, you will need to remove the metal rings from your binders. The metal rings go in your general waste bin so they are extracted for recycling at the energy recovery facility. The metal rings can damage the pulping machinery at the paper recycling mill. Plastic ring binders are different and cannot be recycled. These must also be placed in your general waste bin.
Large metal items such as cabinets, desks and shelving can be collected via our bulky waste service. Bulky waste is sorted after collection in our sorting facility in Southwark where any metals are extracted for recycling. This sorting process also captures wood, plastics, cardboard and glass for recycling. Whatever is left, which is called refuse-derived fuel, goes to our energy recovery facility where it helps generate low carbon electricity and heat for local homes.
Large electrical appliances
Large electrical equipment such as air conditioners, ovens, fridges, freezers, photocopiers and washing machines can be collected via our bulky waste service. These types of appliances are then sent to EMR Willesden, a local scrap metal recycling facility which processes more than 680,000 tonnes of metals a year. They segregate old, large appliances and scrap into over 100 grades of high-quality recyclable metals, which are then taken to steel furnaces and smelters for recycling.
Small electrical appliances
Small electrical appliances such as mobile phones, kettles, microwaves, lamps, TVs, coffee makers and fans can be taken to banks around Westminster free of charge. These items contain rare metals as well as hazardous materials so it is essential you handle them separately for specialist recycling. All electrical business products must be collected separately from general waste and mixed recycling so they can be reused or recycled. Place small electrical items in the special small appliance recycling bins that are placed around the city. Please note that small appliances must fit through the 40 cm chute. If they are larger, or if you cannot go to one of the drop-off points then please ask us to collect them from you instead.
All the small electrical items we collect are taken to Sittingbourne’s SWEEEP Kuusakoski, where they are recycled into valuable, raw materials which are sold to markets in the UK or abroad. The recycled appliances go back into manufacturing metals such as aluminium, copper, steel, gold, rare earth metals and iron.
Try and avoid using single-use batteries and opt for rechargeable ones instead. They will save you money and are also less environmentally damaging. Used batteries need to be recycled. You cannot throw them away in your general waste or mixed recycling bin since they are toxic and also can cause fires when they leak or are damaged. Westminster businesses can recycle small volumes of batteries at local libraries, the City of Westminster Housing estate offices and the mobile recycling centre. Selected schools also have battery collection containers which can be used by students and parents. In addition, high street retailers that sell batteries such as Boots, Tesco, Sainsbury, Ryness etc. also accept batteries for recycling in stores. Larger volumes of batteries can be collected via a specialist recycling collection. If your business frequently has batteries to dispose of, then ask us to help you with a special on-site battery bin. All batteries we collect are sent to Battery Back for processing.
Take a moment to download our recycling guide
Metal is a material with great closed-loop recycling potential that allows it to be used time and time again. It is a material that does not suffer from quality loss during recycling, unlike plastics and paper. We want to help you take the steps to recycle your metal items and become more environmentally sustainable as a business.
Our new recycling guide can help you find out how your business can recycle better. It has useful tips on how to organise your waste streams for recycling as well as how to handle recycling specialist items. With the guide, you can learn to implement your own waste management plan and choose collection services that provide your business with the best possible flexible solutions for all your waste management and recycling needs.