A Look at Recycling in the UK
Planet earth is home to around seven billion people, and, like compound interest, that number will rise and rise.
The majority of the resources of the planet have been used without thought that global demand will, inevitably outstrip supply, and this is the underlying cause of the rise in the demand and desire to recycle what we can.
The list of what we can recycle is growing as the technology evolves to enables the reuse of more and more materials.
Traditional landfill is fast becoming a last resort destination for waste, as awareness of the value of once used manufactured material is recognised, and the distaste of landfill increases.
The energy and material once used to manufacture some products, glass, steel or aluminium for instance, have already used far more energy in their making than recycling, melting and making new items will, and therefore can save considerably.
Manufacturing one brand new aluminium drinks can from raw materials would use the same amount of energy as it would take to make twenty cans from recycled drinks cans, and the drinks can when recycled could be back for sale on the shelf within six weeks.
This can happen repeatedly and some 60% of drinks cans on the shelf today have been recycled.
Glass is also a high energy requirement for its manufacture, and is 100% recyclable, and can be used and reused time and time again.
Most households segregate a certain amount of their solid wastes into separate containers for collection or taking to municipal waste stations.
This normally differentiates between materials, with large receptacles for most, i.e. Cardboard, wood, metals, clothes etc.
Rubbish that is still mixed can be taken to a Material Recycling Facility (MRF), where they will be separated, sorted and sent onwards for reprocessing and recycling.
MRF sites receive dry materials, this excludes food or garden waste, and in most circumstances are not involved in further processing or washing, only the separation of the recyclables.
The process is becoming increasingly sophisticated and automated, using a number of devices as the materials are conveyed by.
Magnets remove metals, optical sorters measure the composition of plastics and separate them accordingly. Paper, glass etc. Are identified by weight.
There is still a human element present as the sorting goes on to ensure that there are no residual impurities before the materials are bulk stored, either baled or loose bulked before being transported to recycling plants or to manufacturers.
Recycling obviously uses some resources such as energy, and generates costs, and commodity market conditions dictate the cost-effectiveness of recycling, but what cost earth’s resources?