With the war on plastic a hot topic across not only Cambridgeshire, but the entire country if not worldwide, there's a lot more we can be doing to make an impact on our environment.

From making sure we are putting things into the correct bins or even reducing the amount of plastic we use in the first place, these small changes can make a huge difference.

But which items go in what bin? And what are the things that we think can be recycled but actually can't? Can you honestly say you are completely clued up?

The Waterbeach Waste Management Park, operated by Amey, is responsible for sorting, recycling and disposing of the waste of the entire county. It currently handles around 400,000 tonnes of rubbish each year, and of that, the site can deal with around 100,000 tonnes of recycling per year.

But what really happens to your recycling once it has been collected?

Francesca Hawes, operations manager at the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), took us on a tour of the site to find out exactly what happens to your waste and what can and cannot go in your blue bins.

Where does my recycling go?

Once collected, the contents of your blue bin are taken back and unloaded at Waterbeach.

By the end of the week, the MRF's holding area can reach 900 tonnes of waste but with this site being a 24-hour operation, the weekend is spent clearing it back to empty and ready to start all over again come Monday.

It is then transferred to a giant bag opener which frees the recycling and loads it onto a conveyor ready for sorting.

As well as all of the mechanical sorting, staff work along the conveyor to check for items that shouldn't be there. Large plastic films and anything that could get caught in the machines are removed by eagle-eyed staff as are unwanted items such as metal objects.

While we were there, we spotted some carpet, a motorbike helmet and a large cuddly toy.

Francesca said: "There's always a cuddly toy."

What happens next?

The facility is a maze of conveyor belts with the mixed recycling then transported to a range of clever machines that separate by material.

One extracts the glass and cardboard, another uses magnets to catch the cans. Optical sorters can separate the plastics from the paper.

Another machine uses infrared technology to tell the different kinds of plastics apart. It can separate milk containers, clear plastics bottles and coloured plastic bottles.

The Materials Recycling Facility is a maze of conveyor belts (Image: Edward Starr Photographer)

As with the rest of the process, there are a number of staff working along conveyors to spot any items which the machines might have missed.

Once sorted and the non-recyclable items discarded, your recycling is then compressed into bales, ready to be sent to reprocessors to be turned back into new products.

What does my recycling get turned into?

Once sorted, recycling is compressed into bales (Image: Edward Starr Photographer)

What you recycle could be turned into the same thing as it was before or something completely unrecognisable to its former self.

Francesca said: "The purer the recycling, the easier it is to turn it back into what it originally was."

As well as new plastic bottles, your drinks bottles can be recycled into football shirts or fleeces.

But most of the plastic bottles collected from Cambridgeshire residents are turned back into new plastic packaging right here in Cambridgeshire by local company, Charpak.

Cans are washed, flaked, stripped of colour and then melted down and ready to be made into anything that requires aluminum. Your can could end up as a part for a car or even an aeroplane.

Have staff found any unusual items?

We were surprised to hear about some of the unusual items founds by staff, and some that are just plain dangerous.

Francesca and her colleagues have previously found a bowling ball, hand guns, sea flares, fireworks, gas bottles and a ship anchor.

In fact, one shocking incident saw a sea flare go off in the hands of a member of staff with them lucky not to be injured.

The outcome could have been very different and demonstrates the importance of throwing out waste in the right way.

Clearly very passionate about recycling, Francesca said: "It's the one thing that we can all do to make an impact, it's not that hard."

What happens to the waste from my green bin?

Did you know that you can pick up free soil conditioner from Waterbeach Waste Management Park?

Your garden and kitchen waste is composted to create a soil conditioner which members of the public can turn up and take for free. Simply bring a shovel and help yourself.

More than 10,000 tonnes a year is given away to local residents, especially popular with local farmers. The soil is used to help grow more crops.

Amey in the community

Located at the facility and run in partnership with Cambridgeshire Council Council by qualified teachers, the on-site education centre teaches school children about waste with fun and interactive sessions.

Tim Marks, planning manager at Waterbeach, said: "Education is the most valuable part of everything we do, to prevent contamination."

As well as education, Amey works to give back to the local area through The Amey Community Fund.

So far it has given more than £5.5 million to projects across Cambridgeshire including village hall restorations and new play areas.

How can I find out more?

If you'd like to find out more about the work that Amey does in Cambridgeshire or for more advice on what you should or shouldn't be recycling, visit the website or get in touch.

The team can also visit schools, community groups and organisations to give talks and presentations about recycling, reuse and waste topics - all completely free of charge.

Where: Amey Waterbeach Waste Management Park, Ely Road, Cambridge, CB25 9PQ

Email: wasteeducation@amey.co.uk

Call: 01223 815490