Reduce, reuse, recycle – this is a phrase we’re all taught from a young age, but what does it really mean? How does recycling work and what are the positive effects on our planet? For many of us, the recycling journey ends when we separate and bin our waste, but this is only the beginning of the process. Here, we discuss exactly what happens to your recycling after it’s been disposed of and some of the amazing ways recycled goods are reused.
Firstly, you separate the waste for weekly collection
Let’s start at the beginning. Once you’ve used something and have washed it, it’s time to put it in the correct recycling bin. The recycling bins you have at home will depend on your local council, but typically you’ll have one for paper and cardboard waste, metal and glass waste, and food waste. Make sure you separate your waste correctly to ensure it doesn’t become mixed with other waste types during your rubbish collection.
Then, the waste is collected and sent to a recycling centre
Once a week, your local council will collect your household waste. Anything from your wheeled bin will be taken to landfill, and anything from your recycling boxes will be taken to be recycled. But where does it go, and what happens to it?
Once your recyclable waste has been collected by your local council, it is taken to your local Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where it is either manually or mechanically separated by material. At the MRF, any non-recyclable material that has been mixed with the recyclable waste accidentally is then removed and either sent to landfill or incinerated.
The waste is separated and processed by material
Following the separation of the waste, it is then processed at the MRF ready to be sent onwards. Typically, plastic, cardboard, metal and other materials are compressed into bales to make them smaller and much easier to transport from the recovery facility to the next destination. Some materials, such as glass, are crushed and melted at high heat, ready to be moulded into new shapes and used again.
Before they can be sent onto the next destination, the materials also need to be cleaned. Any leftover food or other substances inside tins, cans, jars and boxes are washed out and all labels and stickers are removed. To help the recycling facilities with this process, home and business owners are asked to wash their containers before putting them in the bin.
One exception to this process is organic matter, such as food waste. When food waste is collected, it is processed through an anaerobic digester which starves the organic matter of oxygen and breaks down any microorganisms present. Doing this produces biogas, which is a renewable form of energy used in place of fossil fuels for heat, fuel and electricity.
Following this, the recovered materials are sent to manufacturers to reuse
Then, after the recyclable waste has been separated by material, high-quality products are recovered and forwarded onto manufacturers to use in the production of their own goods. For instance, recycled cardboard is used in the production of takeaway coffee cups, recycled aluminium is used to produce drinks cans and recycled plastic is used for the production of carrier bags.
These are just a few examples, but over the years more and more companies have found innovative ways to utilise recycled materials. For instance, recycled plastic has been used in the manufacture of clothing, footwear, carpets, sleeping bags and more.
In some circumstances, recycled waste is shipped abroad
Although the majority of the paper, cardboard, metal and glass waste generated in the UK is recycled here, approximately two-thirds of the plastic waste generated in the UK is sent abroad. Initially, this gave countries in South East Asia the opportunity to profit from the rapid growth in plastic waste generated in the UK, America and so on.
However, it’s an unfortunate truth that much of the plastic shipped overseas is not of a high enough quality to be recycled and reused by the countries receiving it. Additionally, some waste is illegally mislabelled before being shipped abroad; for instance, large quantities of plastic are often labelled as paper, which is cheaper and easier to process and recycle.
As a result, countries like China and Malaysia have simply become overrun with waste that they no longer have the facilities to process and recycle. The large quantities of waste being shipped abroad have put undue pressure on their recycling facilities, which has led to an increase in waste being dumped in rivers, oceans and landfill, with some illegal recycling factories even burning the waste in secret.
For this reason, many countries have refused to accept the waste being shipped overseas from the UK. In 2017, China announced it would be banning foreign waste imports and in early 2020, Malaysia took a stance by shipping over 40 shipping containers of illegal plastic waste back to the UK.
As a result, pressure has been put upon the UK to increase its own recycling efforts instead of exporting waste – but what can households and businesses do to help?
What can households and businesses do to help?
First things first, we can all take steps to reduce the volumes of waste we produce in the UK. Everyone has a responsibility to do this, and luckily there are many simple ways to do so! For instance:
- Offices and other commercial environments can reduce their paper and cardboard waste by going paperless. By digitalising as many processes as possible, you can minimise the volumes of paper and cardboard sent to your local recycling centre.
- If you run a construction company, you can reduce the volumes of waste you create by opting for sustainable building materials, making sure you don’t order too many materials and train your staff on environmental practices.
- All households can reduce their plastic waste by purchasing reusable water containers, food storage boxes, carrier bags and much more. As individuals, we can all do our bit to minimise plastic waste by purchasing from companies with recyclable packaging and thinking twice before buying single-use products.
These are just a couple of ideas for individuals and businesses to take on board, but of course there are many more. We all have a responsibility to do our bit for the planet, so it’s important to put measures in place to reduce, reuse and recycle at home and at work.
How can businesses manage waste recycling?
The recycling process we’ve described above relates to household waste, but how can businesses get involved? To make sure the waste generated by your employees and business practices is disposed of responsibly in the UK, instead of being dumped in landfill or shipped overseas, you first need to find a reliable waste transfer station and recycling centre in your local area.
How do licensed recycling centres operate? First, they collect your commercial waste before putting it through a similar procedure to the one we described above. Once your waste has been collected and taken to the recycling centre, it is then separated and processed ready to be reused by manufacturers. Typically, recycling centres will accept timber, plastic, cardboard, metal, green waste and more, but some will specialise in hazardous and clinical waste too.
With a commitment to environmental practices and social responsibility, dedicated waste transfer stations and recycling centres go above and beyond to recycle as much of the waste that passes through the plant. At Batesy Skip Hire, we’re proud to recycle 95% of the waste we manage on our site in Belfast, making us the go-to recycling centre for customers in the local area.
Batesy Skip Hire: Look no further for a trusted transfer station and waste management company in Belfast
Whether you’re searching for a reliable waste transfer station, skip hire services or good-quality top soil, you needn’t look further than Batesy Skip Hire. Since 1997, we’ve helped customers in the local area increase their environmental efforts with our eco-friendly practices and reasonably priced services. We’re proud to work with customers in Lisburn, Ballyclare, Antrim, Bangor and beyond, providing a top-quality service every time.
For more information about our recycling centre or skip hire services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Batesy Skip Hire team today. We’re always happy to help.