Shieldhall household recycling centre is where council workers deal with the things that the everyday folk leave behind.

Their job is to be making good use of the things that they find.

And there is a lot to be found in the mountain of what Glasgow throws away.

A steady stream of cars and vans comes through the gates throughout day, depositing off all sorts of goods from furniture to office equipment, and basic household items.

READ MORE: Spotlight on recycling: Journey of a Glasgow blue bin

Uplifts from the council, from housing associations and private contractors as well as people dropping off items themselves in cars.

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There are bays for different types categories to extract as much recyclable material as possible.

As well as the big bays with large items of furniture and mattresses, there is a lot of mattresses, there is a shipping container is filled with televisions and computer monitors. There is a general pile with golf clubs, laptops, amplifiers, and yes, even a kitchen sink.

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It is like an alfresco junk shop.

The trick is to get as much material recycled as possible. Around 65% of what come in through the bulk uplifts and house clearances is recyclable.

It is not a free for all, there is a strict process of what goes where.

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Adam Clarke, Glasgow City Council recycling assistant group manager, said: “There is more enforcement of what’s coming in to make sure people are directed to the right stream.

“It is continuous all day with materials coming in and going out.”

When it leaves the household recycling centre, or the dump or tip as people know it, the bulk items are taken to the council’s appointed processing supplier where recyclable material is extracted from the bulk waste.

This process specifically targets the capture of metals, wood, plastics, aggregates and cardboard for recycling.

From the items sent to the processor wood, cardboard, ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, mixed plastics, paper and inerts are all recovered and diverted back into the manufacturing or construction industries.

What’s left at the end of the process are “thermally treated” as part of an energy recovery process to generate renewable energy.

What cannot be recycled to recovered for energy is sent to landfill. The objective is got reduce this to a little as possible and get as much money for the parts that have value.

At Sheildhall, the amount of goods thrown out from homes across Glasgow becomes apparent.

Looking at the piles of discarded items it is obvious so much could be re-used. Some of it looks good enough to be donated to charity shops, reconditioned or sold.

Glasgow began charging for bulk uplifts in July.

It wanted to encourage increase the reuse, repair or recycling of bulk items rather then send it to throw stuff away if it was in reasonable condition.

It now costs £35 for up to 10 standard items and £35 for one large electrical item.

The figures for the council bulk uplift also show the volume of discarded goods and impact of the modern throwaway culture.

Before the charging came in the council was dealing with around 100,000 bulk uplifts a year costing £4million a year and using 12 refuse vehicles.

The council says, since charging was implemented, there has been an 84% reduction in weekly demand for bulk uplifts.

It also states: “It is important to note that there has been no noticeable impact on fly-tipping reports as a consequence.”

However not everyone has to pay the charge. Many housing associations are offering free bulk uplifts to many of their tenants.

More than 50 housing associations have used the councils recycling centres to dispose of bulk items picked up from tenants.

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They are also asking people to think of alternatives for their unwanted items.

A spokesperson for GHA said: “We encourage our customers to re-use and recycle as much as possible.

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“Customers with unwanted household items can donate to our Home Comforts service, which provides free upcycled furniture for customers in need – and avoids items going to landfill too.

“GHA provides a free bulk uplift service in our communities.

“For items people aren’t able to take to recycling centres, we ask those in tenements to leave them in the backcourt the night before our designated pick-up day, and those in main door properties to give us a call to arrange pick-up. During the pandemic, our teams removed around 160 tonnes of bulk waste every week.

“This helps us create clean and safe neighbourhoods our customers are proud to live in.”

If it is put out for uplift, it all comes into the same place.

Housing Associations and the commercial operators who clear ‘junk’ are all filtered through the site at Shieldhall.

When it leaves Shieldhall, bulk waste is sent to Levenseat, a recycling processor in West Lothian.

They break down the goods into what is recyclable and what is not.

Items like a mattress goes into a shredder which separates the steel inside form the fabric and stuffing.

The metals are recovered and processed for recycling back into steel products and the stuffing which cant be recycled is thermo treated in the energy from waste plant and turned into fuel.

The sites gets a lot of items like sofas, garden furniture and large plastic children’s toys. They all go through a sorting line where magnets and currents pick out the aluminium and steel. At the end of the process a manual quality control team pick out by hand any contaminates the affect the quality.

The good quality plastic gets recycled by being chipped and sold to the market to be manufactured into new plastic products.

The steel and aluminium back into cans. Wood into new recycled wood panels.

Instead of sending items to the dump there are alternative futures for that unwanted sofa or toys the children have grown out of.

Zero Waste Scotland has a reuse tool which identifies alternatives to throwing away through the bulk uplift including charity shops, upcycling and recycling.

In Glasgow as well as big charity shops like Emmaus and British Heart Foundation in the west, taking furniture, it includes Bike for Good in the west and south which accepts donated bikes to be refurbished and sold and Merry go Round a charity in the south side which specializes in goods for babies and small children.

More details of alternatives at

This piece is part of our Spotlight series. The investigative reports aim to shine a light on the biggest stories affecting the city.

This week we look at your waste and what happens to it.

Going forward, Spotlight will become an important part of what we do at the Glasgow Times and will be part of our investigative approach to tackling the biggest stories in the city.

If you have any issue you want us to investigate, e-mail