Waste Recycling Process

Waste Recycling Process

Recyclable materials are collected by a dedicated recycling truck and transferred to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Recyclable materials are sorted into different waste streams and transported to local or overseas recycling plants.

  1. Paper is sorted and sent to a recycling facility, which is then shredded and soaked in vats to produce pulp. Following screening and refinement processes, the pulp is used to produce sheets of paper. The sheets are rolled and dried to make paper again.

    Higher quality paper waste produces better quality recycled products. So high-grade white paper collected from offices can be converted into more high-grade white recycled paper. However, a combination of old newspapers, office paper, junk mail, and cardboard can normally be used only to make lower-grade paper products such as "newsprint". Waste paper documents are usually covered in ink, which must be removed before paper can be recycled. Using bleach to remove ink from paper can be environmentally harmful and produces toxic ink waste that must be disposed of somehow. So, although recycling paper has many benefits, it comes with environmental costs as well.
  2. Plastic is sent to a recycling facility and organised based on plastic type. Each type of plastic is crushed into smaller pieces and blended to form a combination of uniform homogeneous quality. The blended mixture is then melted and screened to produce plastic strands. This is known as extrusion. Following cooling, the plastic strands are cut into pellets for use as material for new products.

    Of all the different materials we dispose of, plastics cause by far the biggest problem. Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans each year and is ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish.

    Plastic drinks bottles are normally produced from a type of clear plastic called PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and can be processed into items such as textile insulation (for thermal jackets and sleeping bags). Milk bottles tend to be made from thicker, opaque plastic called HDPE (high-density polyethylene) and can be recycled into more durable products including flower pots and plastic pipes (Explain That Stuff, 2020).
  3. Glass is sent to a recycling facility and sorted based on colour. It is cleaned and crushed into cullets, which are then melted with the ingredients to make brand-new glass to form new glass products.
  4. Metals are sorted at recycling facilities into ferrous and non-ferrous, and then compacted. Following compaction, the metals are cut into smaller pieces and melted to produce new products.

    Normally, food cans are made from steel, which can be melted down and converted into new food cans. Drinks cans are generally thinner and lighter and produced from aluminum, which can also be recycled very easily. Mining aluminum is energy-intensive and environmentally harmful process. Waste aluminum cans therefore have a relatively high value and recycling them is extremely beneficial from an environmental viewpoint (Explain That Stuff, 2020).
  5. Non-recyclable waste can be used as a fuel source for the generation of electricity. This is typically the most sustainable way to dispose of general waste that cannot be recycled. More information on how non-recyclable waste can produce electricity can be found here.
  6. Food waste is treated, conditioned and shredded and converted into fertiliser for agricultural purposes all over Ireland.

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