Did you know your tin can could end up as an aeroplane? Find out what happens to your recycling after it leaves the MRF (Materials Recycling Facility), and what products it can ends up as.
Paper and card
The paper and thin card collected in Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham and Redbridge is sorted, graded and taken to a paper mill. Water is added to turn it into a soupy pulp, and non-recyclable items like staples, ribbons and so on are removed. The pulp is screened, cleaned and de-inked and can then be made into new paper. Around half of the paper and card collected is recycled in the UK and half in Europe, primarily Germany.
All the plastic bottles collected for recycling are sorted into different types and colours. It then may be shredded into flakes, which can be used to create fibres for the textile industry, used in the filling for sleeping bags and duvets, as loft insulation and even in fleeces, hats and business suits. Plastic not shredded is melted and moulded into new products such as bin liners and carrier bags, CD and DVD cases, and even garden furniture or a water butt to recycle your rainwater. The majority of plastic is recycled in the UK.
The cans are shredded and any coloured coating is removed. The shredded cans are then melted down, poured into casts and chilled. The metal is then rolled out, and made into new cans. It’s a quick process and within six weeks the can of beans you put in your recycling bag could be back on the shelf as a new can of beans. Recycled metal can also end up as part of a car, aeroplane or bike. Recycling aluminium cans creates zero waste, but for every tonne of new aluminium produced, four tonnes of waste is created. Most aluminium is recycled at European facilities, primarily in Germany.
Waste steel is melted down with iron ore and limestone. The molten metal is poured into moulds, cooled and then chopped into blocks ready to be used again for new cans, cars, buildings and so much more. Most of the steel is recycled in the UK.
Glass bottles and jars are first screened to remove anything which isn’t glass, before being crushed (and screened again) or melted. Most glass is remoulded to create new glass bottles and jars. Finely crushed glass is also used widely in the building industry for road surfaces and decorative finishes, as it has similar properties to sand. It can also be used for golf bunkers. The glass is recycled at UK facilities.
Textiles are checked by hand and separated by material type and quality. Any clothes which can be reused are exported to developing countries where they are sold or distributed. Textiles which are not suitable for reuse are shredded to make wiping rags, felt and packaging material. Woollen garments are often pulled to make new yarn. Similar to what your nan used to do, but on a more industrial scale.
Garden waste is composted and turned into soil improver, or you can help your own garden grow by composting your garden waste at home. The composting facilities are located in the UK.
Waste oil is refined and used in industry in the UK, and the cooking oil which is collected at Reuse and Recycling Centres is also recycled into the green fuel LF100 which powers electricity generators, giving back electricity to the National Grid. Double win.
Wood and timber
Wood and timber is shredded and made into chipboard and animal bedding in the UK, or if not suitable for recycling used as fuel for Biomass plants in Europe.
Did you know that all UK newspapers are made using recycled paper.