Merton Council has taken a group of residents to a materials sorting centre - known as a materials recycling facility (MRF).
The facility, located in Crayford (Kent), is owned by Viridor, the company which the council contracts to recycle all the paper, card, cans, glass and plastic bottles it collects from households and businesses in Merton as well as the recyclable items which residents take to the 25 neighbourhood recycling banks across the borough.
Merton recycles and composts over 28,000 tonnes of waste in a year with 16,000 tonnes of dry recyclables going to Viridor's Crayford site annually. Old newspapers, cans and bottles, amongst other things, are cleaned and sorted in Crayford, and shipped to specialist companies to give these items a new lease of life.
Merton is part of the South London Waste Partnership and shares its recyclable waste contract with the three other partnership boroughs Croydon, Kingston and Sutton serving a population of nearly 900,000. The boroughs are working together to provide improved and more cost-effective waste management services to their residents.
Merton Council cabinet member for environmental sustainability and regeneration Councillor Andrew Judge said: "We all see our rubbish and recycling collected from our homes by the teams of council collection crews, but after our empty bottles, cartons and magazines are out of our sight we often don't think about where they go after that and what happens to them. It's amazing what things can be turned into. Paper and cans can be reused again and glass bottles can end up being part of our road surfacing.
"Most residents are making a great effort to recycle as much as they can and we are heading for our best ever 36% recycling rate this year. The more we recycle, the less we have to send to landfill. That means we can spend more on environmental initiatives which will benefit our residents rather than see money wasted on landfill tax - good news for the environment and for our finances."
Victor Perez-Mares, Viridor's communications manager, welcomed visitors to the plant. He said: "This is a great opportunity for residents to learn more about how we separate their mixed recyclables. It's very important that residents see for themselves how the process works so that they're reassured all their efforts to keep resources out of landfill are very worthwhile."