What happens to my recycling after it’s picked up?

At the North Hinksey Parish Council meeting in May 2011, Cllr Ag McKeith relayed a question from one of our residents, who sought reassurance that the recycling effort was still working, even with the sound of breaking glass she heard as the men picked up the bins near her home.

I spoke with Clare Kingston, the Office in charge of recycling for the Vale, plus did a bit of my own sleuthing, and learned a few valuable things:

  • Vale recycling rate shot up from 38% under the old scheme to 70% with the new one, making our recycling rate one of the best in the country!
  • More information about what happens to your recycling is planned for the next issue of Unvaled. The current issue is available on the Vale’s new website www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk. Search for Unvaled.
  • The service provider, Verdant, will soon be offering arranged site visits, so we’ll be able to see for ourselves how the recycling centre processes our stuff.

Blue Peter, ever the champion of explaining how things work, joined a recycling collection in the midlands, which works much like ours. Watch and see the recycling at Greenstar’s super MRF (Materials Reclamation Facility) at Aldridge, near Birmingham, which is where the Vale’s residential collectibles for recycling end up:   http://www.biffa.co.uk/about-biffa/media-centre/videos.html

On the video, you’ll see that a load of mixed recycling (plastic, glass, paper, cardboard, metal all together) is dumped into a giant feeder bin that’s processed by high tech machines and computers, helped by people who make sure things go where they should. For example, as the mixed material passes through on a conveyor belt, people first pick out the light-weight plastic (shopping bags, loo roll or bread wrappers, cling film, etc) and toss them up a giant hoover to be gathered and re-used. Giant cogs shake up the materials to extract the cardboard. The glass breaker machine yields small pieces of glass and sends it to manufacturers of glass products. A magnet-based machine separates steel from aluminium.

Once I saw this video, I understood why crisps and sweets wrappers can’t be recycled: they’re bonded metal and plastic that can’t be separated. It’s the same for the blister packs that tablets come in. And it’s thoughtful to make sure your recycling is clean.

Sometimes we might find aspects of the rubbish and recycling collection annoying. But if we keep in mind how each household’s efforts contribute to the overall success, then it’s a good trade-off. Every time we fill a green bin and set it out for collection, we save taxpayer money, natural resources, and precious landfill space.

What you can recycle: http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/services-and-advice/recycling-rubbish-and-waste/household-collections/recycling/what-can-i-recycle