The contents from your blue recycling bags, doorstep recycling box or communal recycling bin will be collected and taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Greenwich or Southwark.
The recycling trucks tip the recycling onto the floor of the MRF for a visual inspection for contamination, before it is loaded into the 'bag splicer' which splits the blue disposable recycling bags issued to residents. Unfortunately if food has soiled some recycling it may be sent for incineration.
A variety of machinery such as rotating drums, wind sifters, magnets and infra red sensors are used, followed by manual sorting, to separate out the various materials streams, including paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, glass bottles and jars, steel cans and aluminium cans. This machinery can be damaged by textiles placed in the recycling.
The separated materials are then baled, ready for distribution to recyclers such as glass and metal smelters and paper mills.
These recyclables include mixed paper and card, plastic bottles, glass bottles and jars, food tins and drinks cans.
They are traded on the open market, with a preference for facilities in the UK, to be recycled to make new products.
You can watch animations of how the separated materials are recycled:
The following table shows the typical end-markets of the materials collected in Westminster and products they can be made into. These may vary depending on demand and quality. The percentages are the approximate proportions of each material type of total household waste.
|Material||% by weight||Typical destination||Typical end-product|
|Paper||17%||UK, Korea||Newspaper, cardboard packaging|
|Cardboard||6%||UK, Indonesia||Cardboard boxes|
|Glass bottles and jars||7%||Yorkshire||New glass bottles and jars, road surfacing|
|Steel cans||2%||Leicester||Car parts, girders|
|Aluminium cans||2%||Cheshire||New drinks cans|
|Plastic bottles||6%||Dagenham, Ireland, China||New plastic bottles, piping, fleece|
|Plastic pots, tubs and trays||4%||Principally China||Non food-grade items eg carpet, toy casings|
Small domestic appliances are collected from the small appliances recycling bins and are taken to Sweeep Kuusakoski, Sittingbourne, Kent.
Fridges and large domestic appliances collected by the Bulky Waste Collection Service and are taken as separate loads to EMR, Willesden, London and treated separately due to the hazardous CFC gases contained in fridges.
Each load is registered and inspected, with its weight recorded, at the weighbridge. The fridges undergo degassification: each fridge is manually loaded, its gas can punctured, and the gas and oil is leaked out. The plastic vegetable trays are removed, the body is visually inspected, and then it is put into the shredder. The shredder is essentially 3 big chains in a revolving drum – all sealed to prevent CFC gases from escaping.
Large domestic appliances are tipped onto the floor for visual inspection for diggers to remove any stray fridges, non-ferrous items and hazardous items such as gas canisters. They are then input to the shredder.
Outputs from the shredder are dumped into 3 separate piles and processed further: