What happens to plastics collected in Cheltenham

Which plastics can you recycle in Cheltenham?

Residents can put all different colours of plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays in their kerbside recycling box. Try to avoid buying products in black plastic because this isn't always recyclable. Remember to check your bathroom bins for shampoo bottles and other plastic items.

Some examples are pictured below. In 2020/21 Cheltenham Borough Council collected approximately 1,762 tonnes of plastic.

Example of plastics that can be recycled: Bottles, pots, tubs and trays.

What happens to it after collection?Recycling vehicles at depot

Plastics in Cheltenham are collected from your kerbside recycling boxes, the household recycling centre located at the Swindon Road depot and also at various bring sites across the town by our partner Ubico.

Ubico take the plastics to our recycling transfer station based at the Swindon Road depot as seen in the image with recycling vehicles. The plastics are sorted on a conveyor belt where a magnet picks up any items of metal that may be mixed in the plastic. Any other items such as card and paper are hand picked as it passes through. It then moves along another belt which begins the process of turning the pile of plastics into bales that are approximately 1 metre cubed and can weigh anything from 150kg to 300kg. 

Next destination

Once baled at the Swindon Road depot the bales are loaded onto an articulated vehicle to transport the material in bulk to a recycling company ready for processing. 

The recycling company sort the plastic using numerous conveyor belts and sensors to separate into specific grades of plastic. This process is repeated two or three times to make sure that the grades are fully sorted before being placed into big cages ready to be heated into pellets or shredded into flake.

Below we have some images taken from one of the sites showing the bales from Cheltenham and what they look like after the process has been completed.

Plastic bales  Processed plastics

Final destination

Once the pellets and flake are ready they are then sent to manufacturers to begin the process of turning the recycled plastic into new items some of which are mentioned in the table below.

Original product Grade of plastic Potential future product

Water bottles/Food trays  

Natural PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) Water bottles/Food trays 
Butter/chocolate and sweet boxes containers etc. PP trays (polypropylene) Plant pots/other non-food grade applications 
Black mixed trays (used for things like TV dinners) Please note black polystyrene trays are not accepted Black PET/PP/PS trays RDF (Refuse-derived fuel that can be burned to create electricity for the national grid) or SRF (Solid recovered fuel is used in pellets and logs for use in things like kilns as a slow burning fuel source)
Plastic milk bottles  Natural HDPE (high-density polyethylene resin) Milk bottles
Detergent bottles Jazz HDPE (high-density polyethylene resin) Water pipe 
Fizzy drinks bottles Jazz PET  (Polyethylene Terephthalate) Horticultural trays

We do everything we can to check that none of Cheltenham's plastics end up in plastic mountains in other countries

At present our plastics go to Jayplas, Biffa Waste Services, Pro Environmental and Roydon, where it is processed into flake for the UK and Europe. 

Cheltenham Borough Council supports the reduction in the use of plastics, particularly single use plastics, and would encourage all residents to actively find alternatives to plastics where possible and practical.

As well as kerbside collections we also collect recycling at events such as the literature festival

Recycling at events is dealt in the same way, as if collected at the kerbside in Cheltenham.