Recycling frequently asked questions

Do you have a question about our recycling service? See if it has already been answered. If your question isn’t answered here, please contact the Cleaner Greener Hotline by calling 020 8753 1100 or emailing

Q. Should plastic windows be removed from envelopes?

A. There is no need to remove the windows from envelopes before putting them in the Smart Sack or the Smart Bank. Plastic windows are not normally a problem for paper mills as the window can usually be easily screened out during the manufacturing process.

Q. How do I get hold of Smart Sacks?

A. We will deliver Smart Sacks to all street level properties four times a year. If you run out between deliveries, please visit the page linked below to find out how to get more sacks. If you live on an estate or a large block of flats you will have a Smart Bank and reusable bag for your recycling so you will not be delivered Smart Sacks. Residents living on estates and in large blocks of flats have a Smart Bank for their recycling instead of Smart Sacks. You should have been given a reusable bag which can be used to store recycling in the flat and take it to the Smart Bank in.

Order or collect extra Smart Sacks

Recycling collections at blocks of flats

Q. I’ve just moved to H&F and live in a flat, how can I get a reusable recycling bag?

A. Reusable recycling bags can be collected from the following libraries and council offices.

To find your nearest reusable bag collection point see the recycling collections page.

Q. I’ve seen the collection crews putting recycling Smart Sacks and rubbish bags into the same rubbish lorry, will the contents of my Smart Sack be recycled?

A. We collect your recycling and rubbish on the same day, using a one pass collection vehicle. The vehicle has two compartments to keep the rubbish and recycling separate. The crew may occasionally put a recycling Smart Sack into the rubbish compartment because it has been contaminated by materials that can not be recycled. If the crew can identify which household the sack has come from they will post a contamination card through the letterbox to let the residents know what they can recycle.

Q. What happens to my recycling?

A. Your recycling is sorted at a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) which is a high tech series of machinery that mechanically sorts the recyclable materials based on their specific properties. The MRF is local to H&F being located at Smuggler’s Way in Wandsworth. Visit the Western Riverside Waste Authority website for more information about the MRF.

Recycled materials can be turned into a large variety of products, although they are not necessarily turned into the same product all the time. This is because market demand for recycled materials changes frequently.

Where possible, materials are recycled in the UK, but sometimes it is necessary to send them abroad, for example if the right recycling facilities aren’t available in this country. To minimise the impact of transportation, materials are often put into ships that have delivered products to the UK and would otherwise return to their home country empty. Visit the Western Riverside Waste Authority website for more information about what happens to different materials.

Q. How can I find out how to save money and reduce the amount of food I waste?

A. Visit Love Food Hate Waste for perfect portion sizes, leftover recipes and storage tips.

Q. How can I recycle large cardboard boxes that will not fit in the smart sacks?

A. We do take away large cardboard boxes for recycling but they need to be flattened and left in a neat bundle next to your Smart Sacks

Q. Why have I seen smart sacks for recycling being place on the waste side of the split-back collection vehicle?

A. There are two reasons why residents may witness the practice that appears to show recycling being put into the larger "waste side" of the vehicle:

1) Contamination - where an orange bag has the incorrect materials in, this is classed as "contamination." These materials (e.g. food, textiles, shredded paper) cause significant operational problems at the Materials Recycling Facility and cannot be accepted as recycling, therefore being deposited into the refuse side of the vehicle. To a passer by this may look like mixing recycling with refuse, but it is in fact the correct practice.

2) Switching sides - In most areas of the borough, the larger side of the vehicle is used for refuse, and the smaller side for recycling. There are certain areas of the borough however where the contractor will switch the sides, because recycling is so popular that the bags cannot be contained in the small side. Again, this may appear to be incorrect practice.

Q. What should I do if I find my clear sack has been left on collection day with a sticker attached?

A. If your clear sack has been left with a large green sticker attached (after you placed it out for collection) it means there are items within the sack that are ‘contaminants’, hence can’t be recycled. We ask for you to remove the items and dispose of them as waste, and place both sacks out the following week for your next collection.