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What Happens to Your Recycling Collections

waste recycling lorryOn recycle day your mixed recycling (Glass, tins, mixed plastics etc.) is taken directly to the rear of the freighter where it is lifted into the left pod.

Once the contents of your blue container have been collected (cans, glass, aerosols, cartons and mixed plastics ) it is taken to a bulking facility where the contents are tipped into a large container.  When these containers are full they are transported to a ‘MRF’ materials recovery facility just outside Kent, where it’s tipped into a large pile before sorting. 

The mix is loaded by a JCB onto a conveyor, where it first goes through a large meshed rotating drum, called a ‘trommel’ – like a giant washing machine drum.  The glass in the mix (compacted and broken up on collection) falls through the holes in the drum and is collected. 

It spills onto a conveyor where a magnet lifts all metal tins from the belt, a weak electrical charge (known as an eddy current) is sent through the remaining waste. Aluminium cans are momentarily charged to make them magnetic for an instant, which enables them to be removed. 

This leaves mixed plastics, cartons and any contaminants on the conveyor.  As the waste travels along the belt infra red light identifies the waste, it also knows its position on the belt. When the item reaches the appropriate skip it is blown off for bulking up. Even the bottle tops are recycled. A team of people remove any contaminants by hand and they are disposed of to landfill. 

The plastics are then taken onto a processing facility nearby where they are treated further.  They are put through a trommel, which spins them and shakes off the dirt.  A beam of light is shone through the bottles to determine whether they are HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate).   The bottles are further sorted manually and then ground into flakes.  The flakes are washed in hot water and then various flake sorters are used to remove coloured flakes and remaining contaminants.  The PET is treated further to remove the top layer of the bottle and the HDPE is melted, sieved and turned into plastic pellets.

  • The pellets are returned to the moulding machine to be turned back into plastic bottles closing the recycling loop.
  • Collected glass is sorted by colour and melted down into coloured glass.
  • Tins and Aluminium are taken to a foundry to be turned into blocks

You Tube Video created by Recycle Now


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