Mixed Material Collections
Mixed-material collections are now standard across Haringey, including green box collections, public recycling banks and recycling facilities for flats and estates.
- What can be recycled?
- How is the recycling collected?
- Where is the recycling taken?
- How is the recycling sorted?
- Where does the recycling go after sorting?
- Is everything really recycled?
Mixed-material recycling boxes and recycling bins can be used to recycle:
- drink cartons
- plastic bottles
- plastic pots, trays and tubs
- plastic bags
- food tins and drink cans
- glass bottles and jars
All of these items are put into the same container, so there is no need to sort them out. We simply ask that residents rinse out all containers first to make sure they are free of food, and that lids are removed and disposed of in a refuse bin (as these cannot be recycled at the moment).
For more detailed information on what can be recycled, please refer to the relevant page for the service you receive:
Mixed-material recycling is compacted in the vehicle when it is collected, which removes the air that is often trapped in items like plastic bottles and cardboard. This makes the recycling collections more efficient, as recycling can be picked up from more households before the vehicle needs to be emptied.
On the green box collection service, dual-compartment vehicles collect the mixed-material recycling in one side and organic recycling (food and garden waste) in another. On other mixed-material collections we use a single-compartment vehicle to collect all of the material. These vehicles look quite similar to the trucks used on refuse collections, but they are exclusively for recycling services.
The mixed-material recycling is taken to a special sorting facility (called a materials recovery facility, or MRF) in Edmonton.
The North London Waste Authority (NLWA), the statutory waste disposal authority for Haringey and its neighbouring boroughs, arranges the contracts for the sorting of the recycling. At present, these contracts are held by Biffa (Greenstar) and Bywaters, but the majority of recycling from Haringey is processed through the Biffa MRF.
The recycling passes through several different devices within the materials recovery facility (MRF), each of which is designed to pick out particular materials or items. For example, paper and card are separated through devices which can push these lighter materials above the rest of the recycling, electromagnets and eddy current separators pick out the metals, and infrared-guided air jets sort out the plastics. Some hand sorting is also undertaken to pull out materials that the automatic processes have missed.
The sorted items are sent to different re-processing companies to be recycled into new products. The location of these companies varies, depending on the prices being offered for the different materials. Some will be in the UK, others will be in Europe, and some materials will be exported to parts of Asia.
When sorted recycling is sent abroad, a process called 'backfilling' is used. This involves the recycling being loaded onto container ships that have brought products from where they were manufactured in Asia to where they will be sold in Europe. These ships would normally sail back to Asia without any cargo, so by loading the sorted recycling onto them the recycling industry is able to make use of what would otherwise be wasted capacity. This also means that the recycling is supplied to the parts of the world where there is the most demand for raw materials to make new products.
All materials that can be separated for recycling will be sent to re-processors, and the operators of the MRFs undertake extensive background checks and spot-audits of their facilities (including those abroad) as they recognise that the public, government agencies and the media are keen to understand where recycling goes.
However, some material that passes through the MRF will not be recycled. This normally consists of items that were put into recycling containers which cannot actually be recycled, such as polystyrene, plastic film, hard plastic items and so on. This material comes out of the end of the sorting process, and will be sent for disposal through landfill or energy-from-waste. At present, only about five percent of material collected in recycling boxes, bags and bins in Haringey turns out to be non-recyclable.
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