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How your recycling is processed

All of our waste is sorted and processed in the UK.

Aluminium can, tins and aerosols

Bales of aluminium cans are collected from site, then shredded into pieces the size of a walnut in a 1,000-horsepower shredder. The shreds are then passed through a double magnetic drum separator to remove any steel that may have been mixed into the bale. Any lacquer or paint on the aluminium is removed by blowing hot air (around 550°C) through the shreds on a slowly moving insulated conveyor.

After being de-coated, the aluminium shreds are fed into melting furnaces containing submerged stirrers that create a vortex in the pool of molten aluminium and drag the shreds quickly down into the melt. The molten metal is transferred into a holding furnace, where it is treated to remove impurities before casting the aluminium. Ingots are cast by tilting the holding furnace and pouring the molten metal into a casting unit. The metal is treated in a two-stage process to remove any remaining microscopic, non-metallic particles and gases, with chemical composition and metal cleanliness tested on each cast. As the metal flows into the moulds, it is chilled by jets of cool water pumped around and through the base of the mould. The aluminium ingot solidifies gradually during the casting process, which takes approximately three hours. This is then re-used as cans throughout the UK, and abroad.

Steel cans, tins and aerosols

Cans are sent into a furnace where they are mixed with molten iron. Oxygen is blasted into the furnace, which is heated to a temperature around 1700°C. The liquid metal is then poured into a mould to form large slabs. These slabs are rolled into coils and used to make new products such as a new bike, car, bridge, paperclip or cans. The product is then sold within the UK.

Cardboard

Cardboard is graded into either brown cardboard or mixed paper/cardboard. The next step in the recycling process is to add water to create a pulp. The pulp is screened to remove any contaminants, such as paper clips and staples, and washed to remove glues (for example the glue from envelopes). Ink is also removed from the paper and cardboard during the washing process. The processed product is then recycled into a number of cardboard based packaging products.

Paper

The loads are pulped and fibres are then screened. The load is then moved to floatation tanks where the fibres are cleaned and de-inked. The product is then dried and recycled into various grades of paper.

Plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays

The recycling process of HDPE bottles starts by breaking apart the bales and grinding the bottles into small flakes. Often the bottles have been separated by colour beforehand. These flakes are then washed and floated to remove any heavy (sinkable) contaminants. This cleaned flake is then dried in a stream of hot air and may be boxed and sold in that form. More sophisticated plastic plants may reheat these flakes, add pigment to change the colour and run the material through a pelletizer. This equipment forms little beads of plastic that can then be reused in injection moulding presses to create new products. The plastic product is sold within UK and Europe.

Foil containers

Foil trays go through a similar process to aluminium cans and are then sold as raw aluminium within the UK and abroad.

Liquid food and beverage cartons

Cartons are processed through a wash plant, segregated and all recyclable materials are extracted. These raw components are then used to create future tetrapak products.

Contamination from the co-mingled collection

Waste goes from the processing site goes as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). 50% of RDF goes to the Netherlands and 50% goes to Sweden.

Credits:

Created with images by Tobias Tullius - "untitled image" • BRRT - "softdrink can drink" • PublicDomainPictures - "cans drinks ice" • Aleksander Naug - "Spray Paint Cans Berlin" • chuttersnap - "untitled image" • Arcaion - "scrap archive files" • Simson Petrol - "Pollution" • Oscar Söderlund - "untitled image" • Stepan Kropel - "untitled image"

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