How to start recycling?
Your local authority is responsible for providing sites for recycling household waste. Most Local Authorities provide recycling banks at “bring sites” for recycling newspapers and magazines, aluminium cans, glass and textiles. Some also provide for a wider range of material. These sites may simply be a collection of recycling banks at a suitable location (where car parking is provided) or may be a dedicated “civic amenity site” or “household waste and recycling centre.
Some households may not be within easy walking distance of a recycling bank and you may need to use a car, with the associated energy and pollution implications. Try not to make a special car journey to recycle your waste, or better still, walk to the recycling banks! Your local authority can direct to your nearest facility.
Local authorities may also provide kerbside collection schemes and some provide home composting bins for householders to compost their organic waste. A total of 35% of households now have some kind of kerbside collection scheme. Householders are provided with separate bins in addition to the normal black bag or wheeled bin provided for general rubbish. Clean, dry, separated materials for recycling such as paper, aluminum and plastic are placed in the containers which are then collected – either on the same day or a different day to the normal refuse collection. Kerbside schemes make it easy and convenient for householders to recycle, and reduce the need for separate journeys to the recycling centre. Successful schemes in many local authority areas have demonstrated that kerbside collection is an effective method of increasing recycling rates and diverting waste from disposal.
What happens to the collected material?
After you put your waste materials in the recycling bank or container they are usually taken to a central depot where the materials are sorted, bulked up and baled for onward transportation. Usually, even if materials are separated fully by the householder, there is still some further sorting to be undertaken as there is likely to be a small amount of contamination with other materials. The depot is often a Materials Reclamation Facility (MRF). These may be “clean” MRFs or “dirty” MRFs.
Clean MRFs accept recyclables which have been separated from normal refuse (but they may arrive as a mixture of recyclables, for example, glass and cans). Dirty MRFs accept mixed rubbish (rather than separated recyclables) from households or businesses. The simplest sorting techniques at MRFs are manual, employing people to pick out materials from a raised belt. However, mechanical sorting systems have developed considerably over recent years, and continue to develop.
The bales are sent to re-processors such as paper mills, glass-makers or plastic reprocessing plants where the material is processed for use in other applications or processed directly into a new product. In Ireland we send most of our waste abroad to be recycled as we have not yet developed many reprocessing facilities Some materials such as aluminum and glass can be recycled indefinitely, as the process does not affect their structure.. Other materials, such as paper, require a mixture of waste and raw material to manufacture a new product. With material such as plastic, the waste is converted into a granulate or pellet which is then used in the manufacture of a recycled or part-recycled plastic product.