The amount of waste that is being recycled in the UK, according to DEFRA* figures, is on the increase, whilst at the same time the amount being sent to landfill is reducing. Question now is do you know what happens to each material after the waste trucks have taken our recyclables away? What is the recycling process?
We will now review the recycling world and describe what happens next. We will look at how our old glass, plastic, aluminium and paper products are recycled.
Recycling – Glass
Glass is made of sand, soda ash and limestone, therefore, it is one of the easiest materials to recycle. Glass has continually been used and reused throughout history. There are historical accounts detailing the Egyptian civilisation using glass for jewellery, cups and other items.
Here’s how we do it in modern times:
- The glass is brought to the recycling centre;
- It is then sorted by colour at the centre;
- Transportation takes it to a processing facility where it is cleaned and crushed into what is called cullet;
- The cullet is brought to a manufacturing plant and mixed with more of its components – sand, soda ash and limestone;
- The mixture is heated in a furnace and turned into a liquid;
- Finally, the liquid is then poured into moulds and shaped into new products.
Plastic is man-made and consists of raw materials, including petroleum and crude oil; so there are some key differences to how it will be treated. Here’s how plastic is recycled:
- The used plastic arrives at the recycling centre;
- It is delivered to a specialist recycling plant where it is washed and thoroughly inspected;
- The recyclable plastic is washed again, then chopped into tiny flakes;
- Using a floatation tank, the flakes are separated;
- The plastic flakes are dried and then melted into a liquid;
- For even more cleaning, the liquid is fed through a screen and it comes out in long strands;
- These long strands are cooled and cut into pellets;
- From here the pellets then make their way to manufacturers who use them to make new products.
Aluminium can be recycled quicker and easier than most other materials. If you were to recycle a can today, it could be back on a shelf in about two months! Making an aluminium can from recycled aluminium actually, uses 96% less energy than it does making one for the first time. Here is how aluminium recycling takes place:
- You bring your aluminium cans to a recycling centre;
- They’re moved to a recycling plant, then they’re shredded and melted at an extremely high temperature;
- This now melted aluminium is now cooled and formed into large block called an ingot;
- Finally, the ingot is made into sheets and used distributed to manufacturers to make new products.
Paper is made of tiny fibres and these fibres become weaker over time. Paper cannot always be recycled, unlike our other featured materials.
Although most types of paper can be recycled, it should be pointed out that those with a glossy or waxy coating are often far too expensive to recycle.
When you recycle paper, it is advised that you try to separate newsprint, white paper and cardboard.
This is what the recycling process for paper looks like:
- The paper reaches the recycling centre;
- It is thoroughly sorted and transported to a pulping facility;
- At the pulping facility, the paper is soaked and heated in huge vats, becoming pulp. Chemicals in the liquid separate the ink from the paper;
- The pulp is screened and cleaned to remove glue, other debris and any remaining ink;
- The pulp is refined and beaten to make it ready to become paper again;
- The pulp is fed into a machine that spits out the pulp onto a flat moving screen where it forms sheets;
- Finally these sheets are rolled and dried and ready for their new life.
If you want to have a positive impact on the world in which we live, recycling is one of the best ways for you to do so. Recycling is important to both the natural environment and us. As the population increases, so will the amount of waste and it is important to recycle all we can to reduce the amount being sent to landfill.
Knowing how you can make an impact will help with this ongoing process.
Here at Eco Food Recycling, we specialise in Food Recycling, however we also cover all areas of recycling and waste management; we ensure that we are doing our part and helping others to do theirs along the way.
If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.