Your recycling and what happens to it


Have you ever wondered what happens to your recycling once it’s been collected by your council? My Recycling NI allows you to browse our local councils and see what happens to your recycling.

My Recycling NI is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and sustainability experts WRAP to provide you with information on what happens to your recycling. The site shows how much recycling your local authority collects each year and its reported fate.

How is the data compiled?

The data used on this site comes from WasteDataFlow, an online reporting system for collating each UK local authority’s municipal waste data. The data provided by N. Ireland's local councils is validated by DAERA.

Question 19 and 19a of WasteDataFlow require local councils to report what happens to the materials sent for recycling.

Overview of different destination classification types

Each reported destination has been classified by type. The classifications are as follows:

  • MRF: A Materials Recovery Facility sorts and prepares recyclable materials for onward sale to market or to manufacturers.  Any unrecyclable or non-target materials are sent for further treatment or disposal. There are generally two kinds of MRF: Clean and Residual.
    • Clean MRFs sort commingled recyclable materials into separate materials to be prepared for onward transfer.
    • Residual MRFs separate recyclable materials from mixed and residual waste. Recovered recyclable materials are sent for onward transfer.
  • Merchant: Merchants for recyclable waste help buyers and manufacturers from around the world to source recycled and recyclable material to use as inputs in their production process, and help sellers to find buyers for their materials. Merchants act as a facilitator for trade in recyclable materials between different markets.
  • Reprocessor: Reprocessors take sorted recyclable materials and re-manufacture them into new products.  Some reprocessors have MRFs on site, but this is not always the case, and so recyclable inputs must often be purchased from a supplier.

Frequently asked questions

How far can I track my recycling?

My Recycling NI includes as much information as is available from local councils and their partners. In some cases, this means that recycling can be tracked as far as the reprocessor, in others as far as an exporter or merchant. We include as much information as possible, but sometimes the data simply isn’t available.

What does ‘unknown’ mean?

Unknown means that we don’t have enough information to establish the end destination. All information we do have is included, and local authorities are required to provide as much information as they can.

Why is my local council exporting recycling?

Recyclable material is a resource and there may be demand for that resource around the world. Local councils, brokers or waste treatment facilities may export recyclable waste materials to meet that demand and fetch the best price for their materials as long as they meet the required quality standards and comply with the relevant legislation. WRAP’s research identifies that there are CO2 equivalent savings to be made from recycling materials rather than sending them to landfill and using virgin material – even if those materials still have to be transported overseas. In many cases, materials are sent to countries from which the UK also imports products.  While our research suggests that exporting is an environmentally sustainable option, the exact nature of the benefit is dependent on what the recycled material is used for (i.e. what it replaces). This is more important than the transport emissions. The research does not make any assessment of the relative benefits of recycling solely to domestic markets rather than in other countries.

How do I find out what I can recycle in my area?

Visit your local authority website to find out what you can recycle in your area.

I thought my recycling was sent abroad - why do you say it stays in Northern Ireland?

My Recycling NI includes all the available information. Sometimes local councils will sell recycling to a local company, which then exports it. In some cases, the information about what happens once it’s been sold within N Ireland is not available. In these cases, the first destination is noted. Where information is available to show recycling is exported this is included, with the ultimate destination marked as ‘unknown’ when the country isn’t known.

What’s the difference between the linear and logarithmic charts? Why are they so different?

The charts use the same data, but they represent it in different ways. The scale on linear chart goes up in equal intervals (for example 10, 20, 30, 40 etc.), whereas the scale on the logarithmic chart does not (for example 10, 100, 1,000). The linear chart is useful for comparing two or more results, however because the differences between the largest and smallest result can be significant, it means the lowest results are too small to be seen; the logarithmic chart makes it easier to see all results.

How often is the site updated?


I have another question, who should I contact?

Use the contact form on this website and we will be in touch in due course.